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The Big Lie

Posted on 08 July 2011

hydrangeas

by Paige Patterson

For all of us who work in the garden trade, the 4th of July is the day we all take a deep breath and collapse. Most of our clients have everything installed and are now focused on things like discovering the most affordable lobster salad and improving their various swings – tennis, golf, or hammock. Not for them another trip to the local garden center, they’re done. Luckily, for the rest of us, it’s the time when some of the best plants are just starting to show up, as are some great deals.

My garden has suffered some significant losses. Bee balm decimated by deer. Agastache weeded out by an over zealous helper. Roses that didn’t survive the winter. Wherever I look I see a space that could be filled in, or improved or addressed. Now I don’t transplant at this time of year, but I certainly start putting a lot of plants into the ground.

Clients are always surprised when I tell them I’m doing massive planting at home, they tell me I’m not supposed to be planting things in the heat of the summer – that it’s too hot to plant. They tell me fall is a better time to plant than July. I just laugh. It’s not too hot for the plants I explain; maybe it’s just too hot for the people doing the planting. Every plant out there would prefer to be put in the ground right now as opposed to staying above, the soil will hold more water than the pots they’re presently living in and it’s cooler too. Plus, I have an irrigation system, so they’re all going to get plenty of water. Piffle on this no planting in the summer silliness.

July is also when it pays to be a little knowledgeable about plants since select spring bloomers go on sale now. Roses are on sale lots of places, and if you know how to pick a healthy plant, you can get great deals on David Austins that are going to keep blooming all the way until the first hard frost. There’s a bunch of Claire Austin roses at Marders that no one else has. His first white climber (actually a clotted cream color that’s to die for) and they’re large plants. I’m going to claim at least three. Another garden friend came home with a bunch of mildewed phlox. Sure it’s not great looking now, but everyone’s phlox looks disgusting after all the rain and the no-sun spring we had this year. Next year they’re going to have an amazing flower show for just a fraction of the price.

This is also a great time to get a magnolia or other past bloom trees for less. Plus there’s a whole bunch of stuff that the nurseries are just getting in. Unusual echinaceas, a slew of agastaches (I think Pink Haze is awfully pretty) and the crape myrtles haven’t even started to bloom yet.

Plus, thanks to our wonky spring, the hydrangeas are really just starting. As you might have gathered if you’ve been following along over the weeks, I have a hydrangea problem. I’m an addict. And I’ve never been able to pass up a new hydrangea. The newest ones to follow me home this year are from the Forever and Ever series. Like Endless Summer, they bloom on both old and new wood, so the bloom season is totally extended, plus if someone inadvertently prunes them (something you really shouldn’t do) they’re still going to bloom the following year. I got one bred in Japan called Together that is compact with double florets that’s amazing. And another Dutch one that has the most incredibly large mops (12” wide – unusual in a reblooming hydrangea) called Blue Heaven that is totally on the money with its name.

There’s also a new paniculata cultivar (those are the ones that have big fluffy white flowers that look like soft ice cream cones) called Vanilla Strawberry that White Flower Farm is totally sold out of but which just arrived at some of our local nurseries. Not for the all white garden, these flowers turn from white to pink and then to deep raspberry very quickly so the whole bush really looks like bowl of strawberries and vanilla ice cream at all times. Yum.

I actually think the whole myth of it being bad to plant in the summer was started as an evil plot by people in the trade to make sure we got a break and could get all the really good stuff for ourselves.

So go ahead and wait for the fall if you want to, but by then, I’ll have already gone and found the best stuff and thrown it in the trunk of my car. Sorry!

Paige Patterson will confess seeing someone’s roses grown with a whole bunch of chemicals made her a little envious – those roses were off the hook.

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