Sparrow and Finch Gardening Ken Druse edits the garden at the beginning of the summer

Ken Druse edits the garden at the beginning of the summer

SUMMER IS HERE, meaning a new list of chores to keep the garden in top shape throughout the season. Succession sowing vegetables is what we are doing, but the early salads and spinach will soon fade. We have probably already replaced the pansies with summer annuals.

There’s more to do around the rest of your garden.

There are also some summer pruning tasks and a plan to reduce self-seeders, like celandine poppy (Stylophorum Diphyllum), so there isn’t too much. Some perennials need to be trimmed.

My friend Ken Druse is a gardener and author who has written 20 books on gardening. He says that much of the work is not a full-scale cleaning but editing. With his help, we’ll be discussing this topic today.

You can listen to my podcast and public radio show for June 26, 2023, using the player below. Subscribe to future editions of my podcast on Apple PodcastsSpotifyStitcher. You can also browse through my archives here.

Ken: Yeah. It blooms and then turns black. I don’t think you’ve noticed it before.

Margaret: Yeah, absolutely.

Ken : You can cut it back that far to about two inches. It will have a new flush of beautiful growth.

Margaret: Yeah. For me, perennial geraniums are the best, as I depend on them a lot. I use The big root geranium for the groundcover. It can be used in almost any environment, including dry shade. This kind of extends from bloom time, which is in early May, to the end of June. Then you can choose to either really trim it down with hedge shears or just to pick it out [laughter].

Ken : Close your eyes. Right. While you say that, I think that’s an excellent idea. I should do this [laughter], but I don’t.

Margaret: Right, right.

Ken, I’ve let that plant alone because it grows so well.

Margaret : I’ve got a few places where the width is a little narrower. It’s on the front of the bed, near and narrower, not super-narrow. But when it’s stretched out to its full height and width in late June, it kind of billows out and up, making the space seem dwarfed. It’s not in proportion. It’s out of proportion. The rest of the time, it will be tight.

Ken: Ding, ding, ding. Garden forensics. You probably have more sunlight than I do. However, you don’t likely grow this in full sun. But I don’t get full sun. I was thinking about stretching, etc., and then I realized that mine were growing on a rock wall.

Margaret: Oh, that’s funny.

Ken : It doesn’t really elongate. It’s probably compacted and dwarfed because it doesn’t have a lot of soil or moisture. It does well. Although it’s a garden of flowers, I don’t mind.

 Margaret: I also grow “Samobor” Geranium Phaeum [foliage details, above].

Ken: [Makes rude noise. It’s funny,

Margaret: What is the noise you make when I mention one of my favorite plants?

Ken : Amazingly, it’s your favorite. I bought mine at RobinParer oh my gosh, 20 years ago. It was “Samobor,” the one with a really nice zone of the leaf.

Margaret : It’s actually samovar, not like a coffee maker [laughter].

Ken: Oh, ‘Samobor.’

Margaret: ‘Samobor.’

Ken : Now, I know. The first year, I had a black zone. Next year, I had about 20 plants that were almost all green. Since then, I have been weeding out that plant. It’s a weed to me. This year, I will try to only deadhead the plants and remove them when they are in my way. It’s everywhere. It’s funny that a plant could be a favorite of yours and a snare for me.

Margaret: Right. For me, “Samobor,” with the chevron-like pattern of purple-y-black on the leaves of this typical type of geranium-like foliage, is my favorite.

Ken: Espresso. It’s not the machine that we are talking about, but rather the color.

Margaret: [Laughter. ] Right, right. Espresso is good. For me, the results have remained consistent. I do see some variation, but it’s not much.

Ken: Amazing.

Margaret : They’ve been in my house for 25 years or more. It hasn’t spread very far. It’s beautiful because it has a purplish tint to the leaves. I like it mixed with purple heucheras or other groundcovers.

When it blooms, it will push the flowers up super high, almost knee-high above the mounds of variegated leaves [above], and then the whole plant falls apart. You have to trim the flower stalks to create a new mound or at least a flush of fresh foliage. It’s a “must-do” job for me because it looks so bad. It’s not optional.


Ken : There are flowers along the spike, maybe about the size of pennies, but it’s very beautiful colored. I love browns. They’re cute and have an eggplant-like color, but they also make little fruits and spill their seeds. Then they choke their neighbor.

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