Sally Mullins

We are well into August and are finding her cooler days an unexpected treat. We have even gotten some rain here and there.

Those never-ending dry, hot August days are not at all missed.

Take some pictures of annuals in containers and areas in your garden with plant combinations you like so you can recreate them next year. I promise you won’t remember them if you don’t.

Make your garden look neater by trimming any yellowed leaves, especially around your daylilies. Take a look around for any struggling plants.

If they’re annuals, cut them back, water well and wait to see how they respond. If they don’t do any better, make a note not to buy them again or to put them in a different place next year.

If you have underperforming perennials, they may perk up with a little light pruning, watering and some fertilizer. Always remove any dead or diseased plants and leaves and dispose of them in the trash so they don’t get mixed in with dead fall leaves.

We found fungus on one of our small magnolias and she died. I have no excuse, I just wasn’t paying attention. Larry was down in that part of the garden and realized she was full of brown leaves with mildew on them.

Even her branches were dead. We completely covered her with a white trash bag to contain any disease that might infect other plants and Larry cut her down at ground level. Then we threw the bag in the trash.

Fortunately, no other plants were affected. Our other magnolia, Jane, has grown a lot this year and she is putting out flowers periodically as is her habit. Losing the small one was a high price to pay for my negligence. A wakeup call for me.

Consider planting some new shrubs or trees this fall. Last year it wasn’t a good idea since the cicadas were expected, but this year should be fine.

While you’re walking in the garden, think about size and color, or even just a foliage plant to fill in a bare spot. If you have time, visit a nursery and see what’s available and how much it costs.

Now, I fully understand the nurseries will be full of new varieties in the fall, but at least you can get an idea of what’s out there. I find gardening is all about old favorites used in different ways and new ways of doing things.

Many times, I see plants I had before but forgot about using. A trip to the nursery just to look, always results in worthwhile ideas for me, especially when it involves a new creative design or color combination.

When you’re cutting flowers for bouquets, don’t be afraid to add unusual foliage to your arrangements. I am personally partial to ornamental grasses. They make a wonderful contrast in shape to Iris and lilies. Stems from a Scotch broom (Cytisus) or winter jasmine make a nice addition also.

Coneflowers (Echinacea) have different colored centers depending on the cultivar and with the outer petals removed they are a good addition to any orange or yellow flower bouquet.

Even the green centers before they’re fully developed are attractive. Use your imagination as you walk through your yard.

It’s important to keep your bird feeders and birdbaths clean. This is especially true for your hummingbird feeders.

Ours need filled nearly every day and it’s a simple thing to just run the tops under the faucet every time they get filled.

A bit of petroleum jelly on the metal hanger keeps the ants away and for whatever reason, ours melted off so we added more this week.

Our bird bath is electric but it easily snaps off so Larry can take it inside to clean. A clean water source is vital for the birds.

Snapdragons, tall phlox and delphiniums should be pinched back after blooming to encourage new growth and blooms. If you want snapdragon or delphinium seeds, let a few flowers die on the stems so the pods develop.

The pods need to be dry before you snap them off, so give the pods a shake. If you can hear the seeds rattle around inside, they’re ready to be removed. Otherwise leave them on the stem until they dry completely.

Phlox, however, are not as neat and tidy and you will have volunteers everywhere unless you deadhead the flowers. But, it’s a simple matter to save the seeds.

When the flowers turn brown and die, cut the tops off and carefully shake the seeds into a small container. Be sure to save all your dry seeds in a well marked envelope or pill container.

It’s time to gather your moonflower seeds also. Keep an eye out for tomato hornworms on your moonflower plants. And yes, they are in the same family as the tomato.

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