Double Play Big Bang Japanese Spirea
Garden Chores for June
In This Issue
Hello Fellow Gardeners,
There are some badly behaved plants out there. These plant bullies easily take over a garden in very little time.
Why-oh-why do we plant these bullies?
It’s either because we are unaware of their aggressive behaviour, they were recommended for a difficult spot where nothing else grows or they are just really cute.
I must admit I love the look of bluebells. They remind me of my childhood in England where masses of their blue flowers carpet the ground.
Before I planted them in my garden in metro Vancouver, I knew they were invasive. Little did I know how naughty they really are. Oh, it was fine for quite a few years, but now they have run amok. They grow everywhere including under existing plants, like the rose in my front garden. I hope I didn’t miss any when I dug under it to pry them out. I had a feeling that the rose was embarrassed about the indignity of it all, but I’m sure it was quite relieved not to be sitting on a bunch of bluebell bulbs.
It’s this time of year I remove all their seed heads, which is quite the task as they are so plentiful. I also dig them up if they are in totally the wrong place like the veggie garden or muscling in on some other plant’s space, like the rose. They are not easy to dig up as the bulbs lie deep in the soil. A long narrow shovel helps immensely.
At least I can control them unlike some plant bullies that are incredibly difficult to control. Bishop’s weed (Aegopodium podagraria) also referred to as ground elder is one of them. It’s not fussy where it grows: between bricks, pavers, lawns, tarmac. One of my clients has it in every garden bed. We discussed at length how to kill it, but it had gained too much ground and was firmly established. To kill it would be extremely labour intensive, difficult and rather dodgy. Using herbicides repeatedly might do the trick but it would kill all the surrounding plants, compromise the natural ecosystem and be harmful to the owners and their dog.
I pondered what to do, and finally concluded that is best to leave it be. After all it is a nice-looking groundcover that provides a continuous, repetitive form and colour throughout the garden. Because ground elders are low growing and green, using it as a groundcover for some taller shrubs makes sense.
Sometimes you’ve got to admit when you are beaten and instead of condemning the bully, embrace him. If you do have a plant that has run amok in your garden and you are at your wits end trying to get rid of it, consider accepting it. Just yank it out where it is overtaking other plants. This will give you more time to enjoy your garden.
This spring my usually overtly robust climbing rose, Tropical Lightning, was struggling to grow. I waited for the spring emergence of lush new leaves, but it didn't happen. Instead, most of the canes were dead or dying. I assumed that suffering from winterkill. After I cut off all the dead, sickly and spindly stems I mixed in some compost, granular organic fertilizer with lots of goodies and gave it a drink. It was only then I figured out what was wrong when the soil started to move, But it wasn't the soil moving; it was ants, lots and lots of ants. Well, that explains the demise of my poor rose. Darn ants.
Although ants are a source of food for many species and are part of a healthy ecosystem, I don’t want them undermining my climbing rose – literally. Their nests are a complex tunnels that interfere with plant roots. The ants have to go.
An easy way to get rid of ants is to keep the soil moist as they prefer dry soil, which I did. The rose appreciated it but the ants persisted. I used a combination of methods including borax, diatomaceous earth, and upped the watering, but it was the ant bait that finally worked. Once the ants were gone, it didn't take long for new leaves and canes to appear. Yay!
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STAGE 1 LAWN WATERING ALLOWED:
Even-numbered addresses on Saturdays
Odd-numbered addresses on Sundays
Automatic watering: 5 am – 7 am
Manual watering: 6 am – 9 am
Watering trees, shrubs and flowers is permitted any day from 5 am to 9 am if using a sprinkler, or any time if hand watering or using drip irrigation. All hoses must have an automatic shut-off device.
Edible plants (veggies, fruits and herbs) are exempt from regulations
STAGE 1 LAWN WATERING ALLOWED:
Even-numbered addresses on Mondays
Odd-numbered addresses on Tuesdays
Automatic watering: 4 am – 6 am
Manual watering: 6 am – 9 am
Watering trees, shrubs and flowers is permitted any day from 4 am to 9 am if using a sprinkler, or any time if hand watering or using drip irrigation. All hoses must have an automatic shut-off device.
Edible plants are exempt from regulations
Special permits are available that allow more frequent watering of newly planted lawns. Contact your local municipality for more information. For Metro Vancouver click here.
June PLANT COMBO
This plant combination is low maintenance, drought tolerant, and is perfect for sunny locations. These perennials dislike wet soils and don't perform well if it's too shady. In the background, the purple-blue flowers are cat nip (Nepeta). The yellow stonecrop (Sedum) flowers arise from low growing succulents that form an evergreen mat. The grass on the lower right is a Mexican feather grass(Nassella (formerly Stipa) tenuissima).
South Delta Garden Club 2023 Garden Tour
Sunday, June 25, 10 am to 4 pm.
Self-guided tour of 10 private & distinct gardens in Ladner & Tsawwassen. Advance tickets $30 May 10, tour day tickets $40 (if available), cash only. Tickets at certain retailers click here.
The BC Fuchsia and Begonia Society promotes fuchsias, begonias, Pelargoniums (geraniums), African violets, streptocarpus, gloxinias, coleus, ferns and other shade-loving plants. The society meets at 7pm, 2nd Wednesday each month at St. Timothy's Church Hall, 4550 Kitchener Street. We offer knowledgeable speakers, plant displays, plant sales, refreshments and friendship.Join our plant growing enthusiasts. Click on Fuchsias & Begonias to learn more. Email email@example.com to attend a meeting.
June Garden Stars
June Garden Chores
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Walk the Garden: The garden changes quickly from one day to the next during the summer. Take note to stake floppy plants, pick off bugs, snails and slugs, spray with soap and water if necessary. For more click on Garden Inspections.
Boulevard & Street Trees: Don't forget to water city trees on and around your property. If you would rather not hand water, consider using watering bags. Placed at the base of each tree, the bags are filled with water, which slowly seeps into the ground. Watering bags are available at most municipalities or look for them in hardware stores and garden centres.
Tame crowded plants: As plants grow, garden beds often become crowded when plants overtake their neighbour’s space. Cut back any offending stems to provide more space, sun and air to ones that have been overtaken.
Lawns: It’s the wrong time of the year to repair lawns or to plant a new one. Wait until fall when conditions are more conducive to success.
Planters: Keep them watered and fertilized. To do both at the same time, add ¼ to ½ the amount of recommended water-soluble fertilizer (kelp, fish etc.) every time you give them a drink. Place a drainage tray at the bottom of pots to act as a reservoir to reduce watering.
Watering Hanging baskets: Hanging baskets, especially moss types, dry out quickly and often must be watered twice a day. To perk up overly dry plants, dunk the basket or planter in a bucket of water until it stops bubbling. For more on growing in containers click here.
Bluebells: To stop seeds from popping up everywhere, remove their flower stalks. To permanently remove them, you must dig up the bulbs, even the wee ones – such fun!
Planting: Finish up planting asap before it gets too hot and dry. Avoid planting in the heat of the day, instead wait until late afternoon. Water thoroughly, including the surrounding soil. For more on planting click on Planting Know-How.
Stop Weeds with Mulch: After weeding, lay 3 inches of organic mulch on top of the soil and around plants. Don't put landscape fabric under the mulch, as it defeats it’s many benefits. For more on mulch click here.
Compost: The more you add to the pile and turn it, the sooner all your kitchen scraps will become compost. An adequate amount of water is necessary for the magic to occur. Ideally it should feel like a wrung-out sponge. Add water when necessary and if it’s too wet, add torn up newspaper or dried leaves. Don’t add meat products, dairy, fat or any cooked food. For more on composting click here.
Cuttings: It's easy and fun to make new plants by sticking pieces of stems in some soil. This method of propagation is quick, efficient and works with most plants, from tomatoes to trees and shrubs. Take cuttings in the morning when plants are fresh and full of moisture. Click on Cuttings to learn more about the different types of cuttings.
Boring Garden? Visit your local plant centre for summer flowering plants and ones with great foliage. Another simple option is to brighten the garden with decorative planters full of flowers.
Heather: Cut all the stems back once they finish flowering to keep plants compact. Don’t cut back into the woody growth, as the stems may not regrow. For more on heathers click here.
Harvest: Don’t forget to harvest all your delicious produce. Check daily as they ripen quickly. For more on harvesting click here.
Harvest But Keep Planting! Once you've harvested short term crops such as lettuce and radishes, plant beans, corn, melons, cucumbers, squash, zucchini seeds. Or buy starter plants of your favorite veggies at garden centres.
Grow More: For continuous and prolonged harvests, sow seeds of the same crop such as beans every 2 weeks. To earn more about successive planting click here.
Crop Failure? There's still time to give it another go by planting more seeds and/or planting starter plants. Garden centres and nurseries should still have some in stock.
The Basics on Growing Veggies click here.
Rhubarb & Asparagus: Stop harvesting this month as they need to build up reserves for next years’ crop.
Potatoes: To protect potatoes from turning green and to get more spuds, hill soil around the growing stems and over the base of the plants. Harvest ‘new’ potatoes when plants are in flower. Either harvest the entire plant or use your hand to pluck out a few. For more on spuds click here.
Cauliflowers: As cauliflower heads form, fold the leaves over the heads to keep them white.
Wisterias: Summer pruning of wisterias is essential to control their aggressive growth and to encourage flowering. Pune all side shoots so only few buds (nodes) remain. Flowering spurs should develop in a year or two. Repeat this process again in winter.
Pruning & Bird Nests: Before pruning trees, shrubs and hedges, make sure there are no nesting birds within.
Evergreens: Prune or shear your cedar hedges and other conifers when the new growth turns a dark green.
Deadhead: It’s not necessary to pinch off dead flowers but it does help with a plant’s appearance, and in some cases, they will rebloom (lungwort, veronicas, zinnias, marigolds, petunias, alyssum, salvias).
Coleus and Dusty Miller: Pinch off blossom spikes as they form to prolong the life of the plants. Since they are annuals, they kick-the-bucket once the flower.
Caterpillars: Tattered, chewed and rolled leaves with green, brown or black droppings are signs of caterpillars. To control, handpick, spray with soap, or use bacillus thuringiensis (Bt, thuricide) It is a bactericide that only kills caterpillars so avoid applying it near butterfly gardens.
Corn Earworms: To prevent corn earworms from eating the tasty corn kernels, use mineral oil. Within a week of when the cobs develop, place a couple drops on the silks of each corn cob.
Slugs & Snails: Slime trails and tattered plants are a sure sign that they have been prey to hungry mollusks. Click on Slugs & Snails for numerous control methods.
Earwigs: Create a trap for them by mixing 1 part soy sauce with 1 part olive oil in a small plastic lidded tub. Make 3 or 4 holes an inch from the rim around the container large enough for the earwigs to enter. Bury the container, just up to the holes. Check every few days and discard any victims and replace the solution when necessary.
Tomatoes need at least 8 hours of direct sunshine, a stable amount of soil moisture and rich soil that drains freely. Additional food is required for healthy plants and lots of luscious fruit. Remove suckers asap, remove excess stems and provide adequate support so plants don’t topple. There's lots to learn about tomatoes. Here's some links you might find helpful.
Easy Peasy Lawn Care
It’s a common misconception that lawns need copious amounts of fertilizer and water to be green and healthy. Here are low maintenance solutions to improve your lawn and to deter those nasty grubs.
Watering: Due to summer water restrictions in Metro Vancouver, lawns are only permitted to be watered one day a week. This means you must make the most of that one day. Keep the sprinkler on for one hour on each area of lawn. I have my sprinklers set up on a timer (from Canadian Tire) that switches from one zone to another. The hoses are left out on the lawn attached to a timer to make watering the lawn easy.
Mowing: Mow long and frequently. Raise the mower height so it cuts the grass at 2.5 to 3 inches. The longer grass prevents chafer beetles and leatherjacket (cranefly grubs) adults from laying their eggs. Shorter grass means smaller roots that suffer from heat and drought. Mow often so only 1/3rd of the grass blades are cut off at each mowing. Leave the cuttings on the grass if they are short and don’t clump as they provide nitrogen as they decompose.
Feed: Generally, fertilizer companies recommend high nitrogen fertilizers every four to six weeks, which is totally unnecessary and causes more harm than good. Synthetic fertilizers have excessive amounts of nitrogen, which spurs on lush delicate growth at the expense of the roots. The lawn is more prone to diseases, insects and environmental stresses such as drought. When selecting a lawn food, opt for organic. They are lower in nitrogen (the first number on labels) and have more of a balanced ratio between the other two elements phosphorus (second number), which encourages roots and potassium (the second number) that stimulates roots and hardiness. Organic fertilizers also include iron, calcium and other micro-nutrients beneficial to plant health.
Apply fertilizers three times a year: low nitrogen (ex: 6-8-6) in March or April, high nitrogen (ex: 7-3-1) May or June and a high potash (4-4-9) in September.
For more on feeding lawns click here. Click on the following links for more information.
Summer tips & Saving Water
All plants including trees, cedar hedges, and shrubs need water during the summer. Don’t rely on rain; it’s never enough. Current Metro Vancouver watering restrict watering to once a day, but note that it only applies to lawns, not the rest of the garden. Watering the garden with sprinklers is permitted in the mornings from 5 am to 9 am. Hand watering and drip irrigation is permitted at any time.
Water! It’s important that all plants receive adequate amounts of water during the summer – including trees, shrubs and hedges. Make your life easier by setting up sprinklers hooked up to timers that are attached to outside faucets. Timers are available where garden products are sold.
Hand water new plants and those that are wilting. Give them a good long soak. Water the soil around the plants, not the plant. Water deeply and thoroughly so it puddles a few times.
Mulch. Apply at least 3 inches on top of the soil and around plants. If the soil is dry, give the area a good watering before laying down the mulch. To learn more about mulch click on Mulch & Mulching.
Living Mulches: Cover the ground with low growing plants suitable for the growing conditions ex: sedum for sun, Japanese spurge for shade. For more information click on Living Mulches - Groundcovers
It’s best to water in the morning. Avoid watering mid-day and in the evening.
To learn how to water more efficiently and effectively click on Watering Tips & Techniques
Watering on a slope? Water runs off sloped land without being absorbed. To water efficiently, set up the sprinkler so it has a gentle flow for 20 to 30 minutes. Wait for 20 minutes for it to soak in, then put it on again for another 20 minutes. Repeat until the ground is wet to at least an inch.
For more details click on Drought Gardening.
What to Prune In June
There’s no need to hack everything back. If plants are looking good, then don’t bother. It is a misconception that plants need to be pruned to bloom. If that was the case, the world would have been flowerless before we came along.
The first rule of thumb when pruning is to cut off diseased, broken, weak, spindly, old branches, suckers and watersprouts.
Pruning is a good way to make spindly shrubs fuller - but do so after flowering. Don’t go crazy cutting off too much off at once; only remove ¼ off from all growth immediately after blossoms fade, not before.
Wait until after flowering to do remedial pruning such as the removal of stems that grow inwards toward the centre of trees and shrubs.
Don’t cut all the limbs from a tree or the tree gods will haunt you in your dreams forever more, and so will I.
For more on pruning click here.
Fruits In June
In June, apple trees abort excess fruit, but it still maybe necessary to thin out the remaining fruit so they have space to develop.
Fruit Thinning: Inspect fruit trees (apples, pears etc.) after they abort their excess fruit during ‘June Drop’ and thin any remaining overcrowded fruit clusters and the runts.
Raspberries and Cane Fruit: Stake the new canes of raspberries, blackberries and other cane fruit. Cover ripening berries with row covers or nets to protect them from animals. Wilting raspberry canes may not be due to drought, but raspberry cane borers. Cut back the wilted canes at least 6 inches past where the wilting has stopped. Check the cut off stem and there should be a wee bug in there.
Grapes: Too many grape clusters produce teeny weeny grapes. Prune off every other cluster or more for fewer clusters and larger grapes. For more on pruning grapes click here.
Strawberries: Harvest ripening strawberries before the slugs get to them by checking them daily.
June Rose Care
To ensure continuous blossoms and healthy plants, water regularly and apply 3 inches of organic mulch on top of the soil. Don’t allow soil to dry out.
Prune off faded flower clusters to encourage more glorious blossom. Don't just pull off the flowers, cut the stem off directly above a 5 leaflet-leaf.
Water and feed roses after each flush of blooms. Feed by mixing in some compost, well-rotted manure, kelp or an organic fertilizers into the soil.
Climbing Roses: canes to their support as they don't If possible, train the stems horizontally along fences for even more flowers.
Click on the following links for more on roses.
How to Grow Roses - Types of Roses - Easy Roses - Climbing Roses - Rose Sawfly -
Portland's Rose Test Garden - Rose Insects & Diseases -
Pruning Roses - Rose Bloom Balling
Aiding & Abetting Pollinators
Provide nectar and pollen by planting more flowers; the more the merrier. Give butterflies a treat by placing out overripe bananas, cut oranges and other fruit in the garden. Place pebbles, colourful glass beads or marbles in a shallow dish, then add water so they can drink without drowning. Don’t use insecticides, including organic types and soap and water, as they kill all insects they come in contact with, including pollinators.
Bees congregate in a shallow bird bath to get a drink. For more tips click on Helping Pollinators
For a numbered guide to the specific flower names and for other arrangements go to Monthly Flower Arrangements
Plant of the month
Black Lace Elderberry
Common Name: Black Lace Elderberry
Botanical Name: Sambucus
Cultivar Series: The Black Lace series includes Laced Up & Black Beauty
Plant Type: deciduous shrub
Mature Size: 6 to 8 feet tall and wide
Hardiness Zone: 5 to 7
Foliage: deeply lobed, deep purple almost black
Flowers: fragrant, lemon scented, showy, cream coloured with a pink tinge, tiny flowers in flat clusters (umbels)
Fruit: edible berries (drupes) contain 3 to 5 seeds, blackish-red in autumn
Exposure: sun to part shade, but best in full sun
Soil: soil tolerant but prefers moist, humusy soils, mulch
Uses: attracts butterflies, birds, pollinators, hedge, thicket, marginal water plant for streams, marshes and raingardens, accent, foundation, specimen, containers
Propagation: seeds, suckers, cuttings
Pruning: wait for 2 years after planting, prune in late winter cut off old stems and cut back remaining stems by half
Problems: aphids, spider mites, canker, verticillium wilt, powdery mildew, canker
Comments: Thanks to plant breeders, the common elderberry has been transformed from it’s native rambunctious self to a much better behaved, smaller version dressed in black lace.
The award-winning Black Lace elderberry series foliage is aptly named as their leaves are a deep dark purple and so finely cut, they resemble lace.
Their flowers are impressive, with dense flat flower clusters (umbels), have a pinkish-purple hue that contrasts nicely with the dark leaves.
Unlike the species elderberries, Black Lace sambucus, does not need a compatible pollinator nearby for berries to develop: Black Beauty, Instant Karma or Laced Up. They do produce suckers, but they are not as invasive as their native counterparts. And they are much smaller as they only grow to 8 feet.
The Black Lace series of elderberries becomes leggy and sparse with age. Wait for two years after planting before cutting them back. In late winter remove old, unproductive, weak and spindly stems. Finally, cut off a third from each remaining stems to keep the plant more compact and more floriferous.
The Black Lace series of elderberries prefer a moist, rich soil. Mix in a few inches of compost, SeaSoil or composted manure to the soil before planting. Mulch with 3 inches of organic mulch to prevent evaporation. In hot climates, avoid planting where they will receive hot afternoon sun.
Species and Cultivars
Elderberries are naturally gangly shrubs that are found in the wilds of North America and Europe. They grow along riverbank and lakes as they prefer moist soil. Elderberries spread quickly due to their spreading underground roots that form colonies. This gives them a reputation of being invasive, and rightly so. Plant one, and more will come.
Elderberries claim to fame are their tart berries, either black or red, depending on the species. Birds love them and spread the seeds far and wide, which also leads to it’s invasive nature.
Despite their reputation, their berries are a valuable food source for wildlife and make delicious pies, jams, jellies, juice, liqueurs and wine. They are good for you too. These tart berries are low in calories, and high in antioxidants, dietary fiber and vitamin C. Supplements are available as the health benefits of these little berries are well-known.
Not only are their berries a valuable resource for wildlife, so are their flowers. They provide nectar and pollen for many pollinators. Butterflies and other insect appreciate the flat top clusters of tiny, white fragrant flowers as they give insects a chance to rest as they feed.
Here’s a brief run-down of the different elderberries species.
European elder, black elder (S. nigra): Indigenous to Europe, northern Africa, southwestern Asia. It’s sprawling, weedy and is invasive, especially in the US Midwest. Grows from 8 to 20 feet in height and width and is found in moist to wet soils. Flowers have a musky fragrance and blossom in May to June with flat clusters (umbels) up to 10 inches across. Clusters of small, shiny black berries ripen in late summer and fall. Their dark green compound pinnate leaves grow to 10 inches and are composed of 3 to 7 smaller leaves along a central vein. The leaves have an unpleasant odor when crushed. Grows to 25 feet in height and width. Zones 4 to 7.
American black elderberry, S. canadensis is native to North America to Bolivia and is another sprawling and suckering shrub. It also likes moist to wet soils. Lemon scented flowers up to 10 inches across appear in June, which become dark purple to black berries in late summer. Grows up to 20 feet tall and wide. Zones 3 to 9.
Red elderberry, S. racemosa is indigenous to North America and Eurasia. Flower clusters appear in May and June. They are cone shaped panicles of tiny pink buds that are creamy white when they open. that appear in May to June. Bright red berries mature in late summer into fall. They grow to 20 feet in height and width. Zones 3 to 7.
THE GARDEN WEBSITE INDEX
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for the tropical Gardener
While working in Florida as horticultural consultant, it became apparent that there was a need for a book on tropical shrubs. There are so many wonderful shrubs to choose from, so I wrote a reference book to make the selections easier. Ornamental Tropical Shrubs includes pictures in full colour and information about the plants in point form. So if you live in the tropics and subtropics and need a reference book on tropical shrubs, or you just want to have a look-see click here.
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