June in the garden … a cultivated eye

Gardening is an antidote to the rigors of daily life, and container gardening continues to be an excellent way to introduce “outdoor decorators” to the joys of growing plants. Budding green thumbs will have a terrific opportunity for creativity, beauty and great fun in the garden

Novelty is the green industry’s driving force. “Wave” petunias, successfully grown since 1995, have branched out into “Easy Wave.” “Double Wave” and the all-new “Shock Wave” petunias, the biggest “little” thing to join the wave petunia family. Particularly impressive is their ability to bounce back from stressful conditions, including rain and overhead watering, to stay looking gorgeous all season long. These little flowers may look sweet, but they are tough plants. Ivory, rose and pink shades coupled with vibrant purple and pinkveined blossoms give it a solid mass of highvoltage color.

Forget the boring dinner party you were hosting on Saturday night. Instead, invite your friends and neighbors over for a “potting party.” Tell your guests to bring over the soil, seeds or plants and to meet you in the garden. And while delectable aromas waft from the grill, you and your friends can enjoy gardening and talk about the new biodegradable pots on the market. They are processed from recycled scrap materials like rice and wheat straw, corncobs, bamboo and reeds. The pots can resist any amount of rain, heat, freezing and thawing Mother Nature throws at them. They are so natural, you can even plant them. And when they have reached the end of their life cycle, after serving you for years, they will quickly break down into nutrient-rich organic matter in the landfill. Look for these great pots at your garden center.

Follow these steps for a great look in a sun-drenched location: • Choose a clean hanging basket or container with drainage holes. Fill it with new, good-quality potting mixture. • Space plants evenly in the container. • Water so the container stays moist at all times, but make sure there is good drainage. Six hours of direct sunlight is best for most annuals. • Fertilize weekly with an all-purpose fertilizer or incorporate some extendedrelease fertilizer (Osmocote) into the potting mix when planting. • Stand back – or better yet, sit back and enjoy.

Do you have a space-challenged garden? Dwarf evergreens are the answer for a sophisticated look. Dwarf or slowgrowing conifers are durable by nature and have been successfully used in rock gardens, troughs, container gardens and around water features. Some of these new “kids” on the block are bonsai metasequoia, also known as dawn redwood, growing only 3 inches per year. Other notable dwarf varieties are picea abies, a miniature Norway spruce, chamaecyparis “Cumulus,” a cypress growing less than 1 inch per year, “Dragon’s Eye” pine featuring a burst of gold inside each clump of dark green needles, “Golden Whorl,” a dwarf Hinoki false cypress with fringe-like foliage, and a miniature blue spruce, taking years to reach 2 feet. Is it difficult? You decide. These exquisite plants like well-drained soil, water and protection from severe winter cold. If planted in a container, the nourishing, moisturizing and insulating properties of Mother Earth are being withheld, so you have to pay attention to fertilizer, water and winter insulation to allow your plants to survive in a container for many years.

Put out the welcome mat and entice hummingbirds and butterflies to visit your garden. To watch ruby-throated hummingbirds is a sheer delight. In a flash of color their aerial acrobatics remind us that our gardens provide more than just a beautiful place for us to relax. Create an attractive haven for those whirlwind visitors by adding shrubs, perennials and annuals that provide essential shelter and nectarrich blooms.

Gaillardia are butterfly magnets and flower

profusely even in our

hot and humid area.

Their 3-inch blooms on

compact plants draw

feasting fritillaries until October. Coreopsis “Heaven Gate, a lovely pink version of our native tickseed, tickles your ankles and coupled with gaura “Pink Lady,” sedum and salvia, it will make your garden an inviting oasis for butterflies. The 5-foot-tall and wonderfully scented nicotiana (tobacco plant) with its clusters of white pendulous flowers is also a powerful attraction. Sow it from seeds, even now and you will have bloom until late October.


nother new item on the market is a

mulch called Softscape, “The Next Generation.” After years of development, mulch manufacturing has perfected a system to produce ribbons of wood similar in size and appearance to pine needles. They are then colored, using a new colorant formulation, which is forced into the fibers of the wood. These colored ribbons of mulch are then fed into a hot air dryer, which dries the fibers and kills any pathogens or weed seeds that may be present. The result is beautiful lightweight mulch, made entirely from natural forest products, environmentally safe and very light in weight, lasting several years.

It’s time to: • Apply organic mulch to beds to conserve moisture, stabilize soil temperature and control weeds. • Pinch annuals and perennials and deadhead to encourage compact lush growth. • Continue to plant warm-weather flowers. • Fertilize lawn if you have not done so this spring. • If watering is needed, water deeply and early in the day. Frequent shallow watering encourages weeds and a vulnerable root system. • Do not mow if grass is wet, it encourages spread of disease.

“What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.”

– R. W. Emerson

Gotti Kelley, past president of the Navesink Garden Club, serves on the board of The Garden Club of New Jersey.