Around the Garden

Hot Diggity Dog

By Chris Cohan

It’s July and the Fourth is past. Leftover hot dogs are in the freezer. My hands, stiff from pulling weeds, feel relief wrapped around a morning mug of coffee, I ponder the age-old question: “Why are hot dogs sold in packages of ten, while buns are sold in packages of eight?”

The question gnaws away at me while I’m on my knees weeding the garden. Weeds, like lemmings, willingly march forth to their death by my yanking. They never quit. There are pretty ones, admittedly. Like an executioner with a conscience I contemplate letting some survive. A decision I live to regret days later as they have grown mightier and more difficult to slay.

Oh, the soft spot we gardeners have for any healthy plants. Regardless, of the difficulty they will eventually cause. Once again, I steel my resolve, head down, hands forward yanking with unbiased fervor. My back aches and my hands are cramped but my garden is tidy…. for now.

It is July, and the garden is looking good. Stately Hollyhocks, reaching to the sky, are covered with long lines of bloom. Their leaves show no signs of rust, yet. They are a vision of old-fashioned coziness set snugly by a garden gate.

Faded pale pink flowers dust the perimeter of the native rhododendron. Annabelle hydrangeas are lighting up the shady corners of gardens with their humongous bright white flowers.

Phlox are starting with leaves still unblemished. Remember never to water late in the day or upon the leaves to control mildew and fungal infections. Try mixing 1 teaspoon of baking soda, a few drops of liquid soap in 1 quart of water for a natural fungicide spray; works on phlox and roses, as well as vegetables and fruits. Cultivate a tablespoon of it around the base of tomatoes to reduce their acidity.

Daylilies could be dubbed the perfect perennial. They come in a color palette ranging from deep purple to pale white. Tall or short, they work well in front or back of borders. The flower shapes vary and some even have a fragrance. Then, there are early-, mid-, and late-season as well as repeat bloomers to consider. Once established, they are carefree.

Stella D’Oro is the most popular ever-blooming daylily. When the first wave of blooms wane — as they are now — keep them blooming by removing faded flowers — pronto!

There are many amazing daylilies to consider, from diploid, triploid to tetraploid varieties. Most are in the first category, with two sets of identical chromosomes.

Some remain as traditional diploids while others are bred or morph into triploids of eccentric interest. Who is to say which is right? Like someone who starts life running track ending up sporting high heels and lipstick to Daring Deception, a triploid re-blooming cross that’s a real pleaser. Abandon tired mores to welcome and embrace beauty where you find it.

Catmint began the season as modest mounds of gray leaves, which are now covered in large spreads of blue flowers. Remember to clip the spent flowers to call forth fresh bouquets of blue.

The large feathery flowers of Astilbe are in bloom, along with pink coneflower and bright white daisies. Black-eyed Susan is in the batter’s box, waiting its turn to flower.

Hot dry days are fast approaching. Remember to water early and less often but for longer periods of time. Mulch, of course, but no more of those volcano-like mounds up trunks of trees and shrubs. You will only guarantee disease, infection, and loss of plant material. Maybe it is time for mulch interventions with City, schools, and neighbors for them to cease and desist.

Remember, you are the maestro of your ever-evolving garden concert. Create your own horticultural melody. Start with clip, prune, weed, mulch, water, and improvise. The only question that remains is: “Why are hot dogs sold in packages of ten, while buns are sold in packages of eight?”

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