Story last updated at 4:24 p.m. Thursday, June 20, 2002

Fantastic weather provides push to perky perennials

The Kachemak Gardener

Rosemary Fitzpatrick
Egad! Do you believe this weather? It is magnificent, albeit too dry. Always a catch when it comes to Weather. But the perennials are bursting from the ground in their eagerness to make the most of Homer's short growing season. I am delighted.

This is the fourth growing season at this location and what a difference four years can make. The trees, shrubs and perennials are settling in. I can actually hear the leaves rustle in the wind. There was only one spruce left standing on the property when all was said and done and that tree is looking significant. Lush. Sturdy. Everything else has been brought in and planted with glee.

Three of the four honeysuckle, Arnold's Red, took a beating this winter. Here I thought I was planting a truly tough shrub that could take absolutely anything. Wrong. There are honeysuckles out there that are 20 years old and died this winter. So I should consider myself lucky that they are here at all. The bottom third on three of them was in full leaf but the top two-thirds were devoid of foliage. When I fiddled around with the buds they looked like there was life so I was waiting for something to happen. Patience is not my forte.

So I went to John and Johnnie Reid of Reid's Greenhouse, about Mile 7 East End Road, and asked them what they thought I should do. As usual they had a solid answer and were ever so willing to share their hard won information. John said that I was right, the branches were neither dead nor alive but "damaged" and the shrub would be better off without them. My next question was fielded by Johnnie. I wondered about the astounding amount of growth that my Rosa glauca (formerly Rosa rubrifolia which I like better) put on last year. There are canes that are at least 8-feet tall, achieved in just one season. Should I cut it back? No, says Johnnie, if I were to do that I would be altering the growth habit and would end up with a knob of foliage at the end, which would look rather ridiculous. The canes shall be left as is.

So I went on a pruning binge. Not pruning really, but cutting off deadish branches on honeysuckle, caragana, ninebark, Amur maple and the Henry Hudson rose which is close to demolished. Actually everything looks much better. For a while there all I could see were the dead branches. Things look much neater and greener and livelier. Bravo!

I seem to have managed to hand pick the leafrollers off the delphiniums. But the infestation was light. The Pyola (canola oil and pyrethrin) has arrived and I will use that if all else fails. It is, supposedly, an organic method of killing a variety of pests, leafrollers and aphids being on the list. But I plan on using a blast of water for aphids and continue picking leafrollers. If I can't keep up then I shall resort to the Pyola.

The delphiniums are actually gaining size this year. I am so delighted. But that means I really must stake them. Just in case you have not staked yours, consider getting after that task. I have a penchant for the Pacific giants and they truly do reach astounding heights. But if the wind blows and rains come, down they fall into a heap of broken dreams. Don't let this happen to your delphiniums. They have a hallow stem and really can't take much in the way of wind. Stake for stability and enjoy their glorious blooms as long as possible. And remember: delphiniums make great cut flowers and dry quite successfully. What more can you ask for?

I can't quite figure out these bleeding hearts. I planted eight of them two years ago. I lost one this winter and the others are all coming up at different rates. Some are so huge so fast that I didn't get a chance to give them any support. They really need some support, they tend to fall apart from the middle and droop all over the place. I planned on giving them peony hoops with the grid but couldn't find any locally. By the time the ones I ordered through the mail arrive it will be way too late. But they are so lovely and bloom for so long. I just wish they were more uniform in size.

The lilacs and mockorange are doing just fabulous. I am so impressed. The Mt. Baker lilac (white) is actually blooming and smells like a lilac. I am in heaven. The mock orange (Philadelphus lewisii "Blizzard") are covered with buds, the anticipation is almost too much. The irises are also loaded with potential blooms. What a year. So far.

Paris, our Jack Russell terrier puppy, has not destroyed as much as I thought she would. I was ready for the worst but she took a liking to one day lily, ate it to the ground and that was that. She is definitely running through the carrots and beets with absolute abandon. I don't think I will even bother to replant. I didn't even attempt floating row covers this year. Can you imagine a puppy with floating row covers?! I took life with a puppy into consideration this growing season and scaled way back on annuals. There are definitely going to be holes here and there, the lushness of last year won't be repeated this year but she is pure fun. She can make laying in a potato patch look like the most comfortable spot on earth.

Note: Homer Garden Club tours begin this Sunday. Meet in the parking lot of City Hall and plan on carpooling. We will be visiting Sarah LaQue, Jordan Hess of Alaska Growers Tree Nursery and Shirley Forquar.

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