Yearning for Continuous Bloom in the
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Every spring I buy so many plants, my family says I'm a
gardening junkie. You would think that after years of this, I'd
have enough perennial flowers, shrubs and trees, but I don't. There
are still times in summer and fall when my yard looks dull and
colorless. Any suggestions? - T.B. -
Two things we can suggest. First, regarding plants to bloom at
all seasons, read right on, below. Second, for a broader and often
more effective strategy for continuous color, click through to Color vs. Bloom.
Many of us are guilty of plant binges, especially when we go out
in search of flower color. Step back and observe the
action at a garden center in May. You'll see people acting like
sharks in a feeding frenzy, snatching anything with a flower on it.
Some of those sharks, sadly, will be us!
In this frenzy, garden center managers are the ultimate
enablers. They showcase spring bloomers and start other plants
early in the greenhouse to bring them into flower weeks ahead of
the natural schedule. So our yards are glorious in May and June but
dull later because they reflect our spring shopping sprees.
Our defense is to make a list before we go and try to stick to
it. We identify
weeks or months when color is needed, and use plant
encyclopedias to find what blooms then.
Over the years and with readers' help we've developed an
extensive list with about 500 bulbs, perennials, shrubs, vines and
trees described by color, height and preferred site, with all the
plants sorted by their time of peak bloom. We use the list to
quickly find some hardy candidates to plug color gaps.
We published the list back in the hard copy days as the chapter
Quest for Color in a book that's out of print except as an
e-book on our CD Asking About
Asters. We've wished to format the list and post it here
on the website but it's a big project that will need the support of
a very generous Sponsor, or multiple Sponsors, or a lot of people
buying copies of our CD.
Right: Formatting, posting and illlustrating Quest for
Color here on GardenAtoZ.com involves at least a week's work,
and probably more since we never simply transfer data from archives
to website. (We have the habit of updating and expanding everything
we post, as well as customizing each of our talks as we present it.
This habit does slow our posting here, but it furthers one of our
prime personal goals -- to keep on growing.)
You can buy a copy of the CD for $20. You can
us and mention in your pledge that you'd like to support
Quest for Color. Either way supports this work for less
than the cost of three more not-quite-right perennials.
Continuous Bloom vs.
Creating continuous color in a garden or landscape is not only a
matter of what you plant but how you tend it, how you capitalize on
plant forms, textures and foliage colors, and also how you manage
the interplay between plants and non-plant elements in the garden.
This is one of our favorite topics so we've written about it many
times and also summarized and illustrated it in:
a perennial bed
• Designing Your Gardens and Landscape, our
• Expert Afield on
- Best fall
• Renovating and redesigning, in Growing
spot, big color
• The presentation or workshop, Continuous Color in the
this presentation for your group
- Download the presentation outline for
all the key points and plant lists
Add air to see a lawn grow deep and rich
Tell me about aeration for a lawn. How, why and when? Is
it a do-it-yourself project? - P.Z. -
Core aeration counteracts effects of heavy traffic or compacted
soil, strengthens grass by encouraging deeper, healthier roots and
can eliminates thatch build-up if the lawn has that problem.
A core aerator rolls across lawn, piercing it with metal tubes.
Each tube extracts a core of soil and drops it on the lawn, much as
would happen if you "walked" a pair of cookie cutters across a
sheet of dough, lifting the cutters and shaking them at each step
to dislodge their contents. There would be holes in the dough and
blobs of material lying near each gap.
Cores deposited by an aerator are deep and narrow, three to four
inches long and 3/4 inch in diameter. After an aerator rolls by,
it's easy to imagine a squadron of strictly disciplined, well-fed
geese have been there. The cores seem to be droppings in straight
lines at six inch intervals. (Photos in Help your lawn.)
Aerating builds thousands of tiny compost pits in your lawn. The
cores it deposits gradually dry, crumble, and are scattered by
mowing or raking. Microorganisms in that soil break down any dead
plant material they encounter, just as they would in a compost
pile. This eliminates thatch -- dead grass blades that mat down and
refuse to decompose on some sites.
Aerator-made holes act first as channels for air and water, then
as little compost pits. Air and water stream in, invigorating roots
at greater depth than before. Lawn clips and crumbs from cores fall
in to make loose, rich compost that stimulates root growth.
Some turf managers top-dress after aerating, spreading a thin
layer of topsoil and fertilizer or compost. This speeds up and
increases root improvement.
A full-service lawn care company can aerate for you, or do it
yourself. The equipment is standard at tool rental shops. Expect to
pay $100 or so to use a tractor attachment or walk-behind core
aerator for a day. You may be able to rent by the hour or you might
split a day's rental between a few neighbors so you can all aerate.
The machines aerate up to 20,000 square feet of lawn an hour -- a
lawn 100 feet wide and 200 feet long.
Don't expect aeration to follow in your tracks if you wear golf
shoes. Solid spikes make holes by compressing soil . That's exactly
what aeration is trying to remedy! Also, shoes don't deposit cores
on the surface to act as top-dressing.
Aerate any time grass is actively growing. Early in spring or
fall can be ideal because the lawn will be just entering a long
cool growing period. Many experts aerate annually in fall, since
fewer weed seeds can seize that opportunity to sprout and become
established in the compost.
Yet the turf tenders at botanical gardens, golf courses and
public parks aerate whenever and however often their lawns need
that care. The lawns at one estate we know are aerated four or five
times a year, after each of the most heavily attended annual
It's smart to reserve an aerator in advance if you want to rent
it on a spring or fall weekend when the demand is high.
Originally published 5/4/96
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