Stunning bloomers, water-wise planting and more this week in the garden

Stunning bloomers, water-wise planting and more this week in the garden

5 things to do in the garden this week:

1. One of the most — if not the most — stunning plants at this time of year has the look of a fiery waterfall and it is worth planting as an accent in a highly visible location. It is also appropriate for container growing or for spilling over a wall. It is known as firecracker plant or coral fountain (Russelia equisetiformis). The most widely planted variety has hot, reddish-orange, cylindrical blooms with fluted tips, but there is also a memorable variety with coral flowers. The species name of equisetiformis evokes horsetail (Equisetum hyemalis), a primitive non-flowering species, and yet the two plants, although unrelated, do have similar foliage.

2. July is not a month for planting unless you are prepared to vigilantly address the water needs of your newly installed specimens. If you are planting a tree, dig a hole the day before and fill it with water. Prior to planting, fill the hole with water again and allow it to drain through. Meanwhile, make certain that your tree’s root ball is well-watered to the point of saturation while still in its container. After planting, build a berm or circular hill of earth around your tree, where the enclosed area is 2-4 feet in diameter, depending on your tree’s size. Water the enclosed area to just under the height of the berm. Once that water has soaked in, repeat the procedure again. Early evening, once the heat of the day has passed, is the best time to plant at this time of year.

3 Leaf miners are tiny moths that, in their larval stage, burrow into leaves and create tell-tale squiggly tunnels. On most plants, leaf miners are not a problem and do not affect their health. However, in recent years, leaf miners have begun showing up on citrus trees, where their leaf burrowing may be problematic, especially on trees less than four years old. Since leaf miners are attracted to flushes of new growth, it is recommended that citrus be pruned no more than once a year — since pruning stimulates new growth — where leaf miners are a problem. In the same vein, suckers (from the trunk) and water sprouts (from branches), whose fresh succulent growth is attractive to leaf miners, should be rubbed or snipped off as soon as they appear.

4. Did you ever want to grow a pussy willow tree? A neighbor of mine is growing one in half-day sun and it is blooming now. Those soft, silky protuberances are male flowers or catkins. If you find a pussy willow (Salix discolor) stem in a flower arrangement, you can root it in water – just keep the bottom few inches of the stem submerged for a few weeks – and then plant it in your garden. Incidentally, pussy willow is a dioecious species, meaning trees are either male or female and thus the flower for which the plant is famous is found exclusively on males.

5. Spider flowers (Grevillea species) — in ground cover and shrub form — are among the most reliable bloomers you will find. Most have finished blooming now but some, such as the hybrid Peaches and Cream, bloom on and off year around. Grevilleas, which are native to Australia, find water and fertlizer equally loathsome and are consistently victimized by too much coddling. It is as though their leaves, as prickly as juniper scales, are meant to serve as a “hands off!” warning when it comes to their care. For a vast collection of Grevilleas, visit Jo O’Connell’s nursery (australianplants.com) in Casitas Springs near Ventura.

Please send questions and comments to joshua@perfectplants.com.

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