By MELINDA MYERS
Don’t let the summer heat keep you indoors. Now is a great time to dress up those garden beds in need of a facelift.
Always start by calling 811 and they’ll contact all the appropriate companies who will mark the location of their underground utilities in your work area. This helps eliminate the danger and inconvenience of accidentally knocking out power, cable or other utilities while you create a beautiful landscape.
And remember to look up as you begin this process. Avoid planting trees and large shrubs under overhead utilities. These small transplants may grow into the wires when they reach their mature size. This can cause a hazardous situation and result in severe pruning that leaves you with an unnatural looking plant.
Now that you know the areas to avoid, start looking for opportunities to add color, texture and a bit of bird and butterfly appeal to your landscape. Identify areas in need of seasonal color, winter interest or screening to mask bad views.
Tuck fall blooming annuals among other plants to provide instant color for your fall – and where weather permits – winter garden. Hardy pansies provide nectar for late season pollinators and many will survive even colder winters and return next spring. Dianthus, stock, snapdragons and sweet alyssum also thrive in the cooler weather. Add these to containers or use them to fill voids in the garden.
Add perennial flowers for multiple years of beauty. Consider those with several seasons of beauty and nice foliage all season long. Look for features like long bloom time, attractive seedpods and fall color. Walker’s Low catmint, threadleaf coreopsis, and Rozanne geranium are a few examples of long blooming, low maintenance plants. End the growing season with flowers like goldenrod, mums and asters or colorful foliage like perennial geraniums, hosta and amsonia. Include some ornamental grasses such as switchgrass and prairie drop seed that add motion and texture to the garden all year round.
Include trees and shrubs to provide year-round structure in the garden. Look for those with colorful or interesting bark like red twig dogwoods, paper bark maple and Heptacodium that provide year-round interest. Look for flowering plants like viburnums, St. John’s wort, summersweet and repeat blooming lilacs. Set the fall landscape ablaze with chokeberries, witchhazel and maples. And brighten up the winter landscape with holly and winterberry or the interesting form of Harry Lauder’s walking stick, redbud and weeping trees.
Once the plants are in the ground be sure to provide a bit of tender loving care. Water thoroughly whenever the top few inches of soil are crumbly and moist. Spread a layer of shredded leaves, evergreen needles or woodchips over the soil surface to conserve moisture, suppress weeds and keep the roots cool and moist. Keep mulch off the crowns of plants and trunks of trees.
Your efforts this summer and fall will be rewarded with a beautiful landscape all year round.
(Melinda Myers has written more than 20 gardening books, including Small Space Gardening. Myers’ website is www.MelindaMyers.com.)