Replace drowned plants, prune spring shrubs

         If the pruners
have been burning a hole in your garden glove, go ahead and trim up the lilac,
forsythia, viburnum and other spring-blooming shrubs, if needed. Waiting to
prune risks the removal of next spring’s flowers.

pruning is the selective removal of
branches for specific reasons, none of which fall into the “make be a ball” or
“make me a tabletop” category. Pruning corrects branches crossed or rubbing
against each other, are dead or they exhibit errant growth. Some shrubs may need
to be pruned for size because they are growing into the house or encroaching a
sidewalk. If the mature height and width of the shrub is considered at planting
time, you may never have to prune to control size.

Hard to find zinnias

         A lot of
gardeners have not been able to find their favorite zinnia plants at many
garden centers. MIAs are zinnias favored for cut flowers, such as State Fair
Mix or Cut and Come Again.

         Zinnia seeds
practically sprout at the word dirt, so buy a seed packet or two of these
annuals and direct sow seeds in the soil now for flowers in a month or so. Some
gardeners sow zinnia seeds every week to 10 days to extend their cut flower
joys. The butterflies will thank you, too.

butterflies love zinnias
Swallowtail butterfly visits zinnia. Photo courtesy National Garden Bureau/

Hard to find milkweed

         Also scarce
this year are many types of perennial milkweed (Asclepias), especially swamp (A.
) and common (A. syriaca).
Butterfly weed (A. tuberosa), or as I
like to call it, butterfly flower does seem readily available. Common and swamp
are preferred by monarch butterflies for egg laying and caterpillar munching.

milkweed is a little more complicated to grow from seed. It needs a period of
cold, called stratification, in order to germinate. Seed packets provide good

Rain, rain, rain

         A lot of my
plants are looking pale, especially the leaves of those I’ve had for a while.
Indianapolis’ extended rainy season has taken a toll on a lot of plants,
especially annuals.

         All of this
rain results in fast growth of lush green. The seemingly constant rain washes
nutrients from the soil. It probably wouldn’t hurt to give plants in containers
an extra shot of fertilizer.

         Some plants are
just plain miserable, especially sun-lovers like lantana and geraniums, which
may actually be drowned and starved for sunlight. All of this rain also
promotes fungus disease on begonias, impatiens and other plants, causing them
to rot or develop fuzzy leaves. If any of these describe your plants, go ahead
and replace them because they won’t likely come back. Garden centers still have
decent selections to get you through the season.

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