Garden Alert, Mid-June: Harvesting, Staking and Thinning Perennials

No point to complain about hot, so instead I’ll confess that once again I have failed to candy the green sweet cicely seedpods. They’re still tasty, like fennel seeds, but much bigger and sweeter. And they’re still tender enough to stir into the fish stew. But there’s only about 3 days a year when they’re brand new, juicy as well as crunchy – THIS year, there were probably only 2 days, or maybe 2 minutes, – and once again I missed it.

No use crying over spilled cicely when there is so much tying up to do. Even without as much rain as would be good, the heat has forced a lot of explosive growth, perfect for falling down in a thunderstorm. Connecticut Yankee delphiniums, for instance, which in spite of their reputation for sturdiness are just as flop-prone as Pacific Giants. Mine grow in a group of 5, so I can minimize the staked-up-tight look by using slender stakes inside the borders and a cats cradle of supportive string, but…well, just plain old but. Anyone who struggles with delphiniums knows what I’m talking about , and everyone else should grow larkspur instead and not get into this mess.

If you haven’t done it yet, be sure to get out there and thin overgrown clumps of perennials: phlox, coreopsis, monarda and the like, in order to increase air circulation and cut down on the mildew. Remove from a third to a bit over half of the stems, cutting them off at ground level. While you’re in manicure mode, this is also the time to cut back top growth on Shasta daisies, late asters and chrysanthemums, in order to encourage branching. Also don’t forget to keep pinching the basil.

If you’re like me, you’re walking through the garden immersed in a cloud of obligation: oughta weed, oughta prune, oughta mulch, oughta finish planting this ton of stuff that is not planted yet. All true. Nevertheless. This is also the time to garden tour. There is always something to be learned, almost always something to enjoy in other people’s gardens, and if you choose them through the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days Directory, it’s pretty hard to go wrong. The Northeast edition lists dozens of gardens in our area or close enough to be easy day trips. Available wherever good books are sold, or through the conservancy itself:

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