August to-do: Annual glory, iris division, peony cuts, beetle appreciation, fresh veg, shearing shrubs

Lately in our own garden and those we tend, we've been:

 

Appreciating annual flowers      Marveling: Beetles
Dividing irises                               Nibbling the veg
Cutting down peonies                 Learning by doing

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Appreciating annual flowers

 

A late summer garden can become wan, tired and picked over. When others say their gardens have come to that yet we're still enjoying ours, it's because we kept the annuals well watered during summer drought, deadheaded and also clipped back whenever they got a bit rangy. How full, fresh and colorful they are now.

At our Detroit Zoo Adopt-a-Garden beds, that's just in time for the busy season of back-to-school field trips.

Thanks to water and regular clipping, the red salvia, purple perilla, and bronze fennel -- representing flames, embers and smoke in our campfire theme bed (above) -- will look fresh and colorful well into October. So will the "pond and stream" (below) of cold-tolerant annual blue salvia.

Thanks to water and regular clipping, the red salvia, purple perilla, and bronze fennel -- representing flames, embers and smoke in our campfire theme bed (above) -- will look fresh and colorful well into October. So will the "pond and stream" (below) of cold-tolerant annual blue salvia.

Dividing irises

Hoo boy, are we glad we tied some string around the clumps of bearded iris to help us keep track of which color flowers are where in the bed. Otherwise we would never know which were which now. And what smart cookies we were to use a photo to remind us where we intended to plant them in the gardens at the Detroit Zoo.

Hoo boy, are we glad we tied some string around the clumps of bearded iris to help us keep track of which color flowers are where in the bed. Otherwise we would never know which were which now. And what smart cookies we were to use a photo to remind us where we intended to plant them in the gardens at the Detroit Zoo.

In May this year we decided that at iris-dividing time we would put white irises in the left foreground where Judy Storrs is standing, yellow on the right at little Lily Koen's spot, and peach in the middle by Michele Armstrong.

In May this year we decided that at iris-dividing time we would put white irises in the left foreground where Judy Storrs is standing, yellow on the right at little Lily Koen's spot, and peach in the middle by Michele Armstrong.

Too bad we forgot to include a color tag in each segment of the bed. So although we could be sure segment A plants are all one color, segment B another, we didn't know if A plants were yellow or white, or peach. Also, we took the photo of Judy, Michele and Lily to remind us where we wanted to plant our iris divisions, but forgot to bring it with us on iris dividing day.

Ah well, the best laid plans gang oft aglee! So we kept plants from each segment segregated as we divided, then simply planted a three color cluster at several sunny places in the garden.

Maybe we'll sort it out next May!

Master Gardener Adopt-a-Garden volunteers Kari Grady and Debi Slentz guide volunteer Karen Thompson through her first iris division. "Throw out any roots that have soft spots..." (Close up on iris divisions and handling soft rot in Iris allowed in the kitchen.)

Master Gardener Adopt-a-Garden volunteers Kari Grady and Debi Slentz guide volunteer Karen Thompson through her first iris division. "Throw out any roots that have soft spots..." (Close up on iris divisions and handling soft rot in Iris allowed in the kitchen.)

Adopt-a-Garden volunteer Phil Gigliotti collects a few divisions of the iris Grady, Slentz and Thompson are working on and is advised by Grady, "Pick up some from each of those other two piles so you have all three colors, but don't ask us which color is which!"

Adopt-a-Garden volunteer Phil Gigliotti collects a few divisions of the iris Grady, Slentz and Thompson are working on and is advised by Grady, "Pick up some from each of those other two piles so you have all three colors, but don't ask us which color is which!"

Cutting down peonies

...that have discolored foliage. We clip them all the way to the ground, and rejoice if the stem we cut is not discolored inside.

...that have discolored foliage. We clip them all the way to the ground, and rejoice if the stem we cut is not discolored inside.

A clean, white core means we removed it before it transmitted its fungal infection to the root.

A clean, white core means we removed it before it transmitted its fungal infection to the root.

For more on peony problems:
• See What's Coming Up 51. (Page 3, above.)
• Also check What's Coming Up 111 (page 14, left) from your own files of back issues or
• Use our CD Potting Up Perennials, or
• Consider helping us post that issue sooner.
Sponsor us with a request for more peony info.

Do we wonder if those peonies we cut now will survive early cut-back? No worries! If we need assurance, we just clear some soil from the base of the stems, see the buds set there and know we're already "on" for next year. See the decayed spot indicated by the orange arrow? That's where an infected stem base once attached.

Do we wonder if those peonies we cut now will survive early cut-back? No worries! If we need assurance, we just clear some soil from the base of the stems, see the buds set there and know we're already "on" for next year. See the decayed spot indicated by the orange arrow? That's where an infected stem base once attached.

You'll have more flowers and better looking foliage if you protect those underground buds from infection as they push past such spots in spring. Do it by removing suspect stems now, reducing the fungus' presence.

You'll have more flowers and better looking foliage if you protect those underground buds from infection as they push past such spots in spring. Do it by removing suspect stems now, reducing the fungus' presence.

Marveling at Nature

It's a lifelong discovery

This skittery-fast blue-black ground beetle is one of the good guys we encounter, a predator of other insects. When it flees as we dig in the garden or overturn rocks, we let it be.

This skittery-fast blue-black ground beetle is one of the good guys we encounter, a predator of other insects. When it flees as we dig in the garden or overturn rocks, we let it be.

To read more about ground beetles and see a picture of its larval stage (equally beneficial, and fearsome to behold), check this Iowa State University bulletin. Scroll down past the descriptions of destructive cutworms and white grubs to reach the beetles.

 

Nibbling through the veg

Well, perhaps chowing down is the better description. We try, but often fail to keep our hands off our clients' vegetables as we work. Nothing better than broccoli just snapped from the plant, a cucumber still warm from the sun...

Loving to learn by doing

Many of those who volunteer with us at the Detroit Zoo first came to learn at a Garden by Janet & Steven session. If you prefer hands-on learning, too, come join us at the zoo or your choice of other locations. Watch and/or give these activities you see here a try. Click for more about what goes on and how to get involved in a Garden by Janet & Steven session.

Why do we offer free workshops? To share what we know. Also, there are perks in it for us, like many hands making light work if people choose to help drag and bag prunings. Here, Carolyn Reidel, Jim Ranieri, Judy Fritzsche and Nancy Ranieri manned the over-the-fence end of the branch brigade when we pruned at Ray Wiegand's Nursery's fabulous display gardens.

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