When July rolls around, that first flush of spring flowers is over, and even some of the early summer plants are finished too. If you haven’t planned ahead you may be looking at a lot of green right now, and if that sounds like your garden, now is the time to do something about it. After all, July is often the month you spent more time in the garden than any other year – warm but not sweltering, the evenings are long, and school is over. It is time for play and eat supper outdoors around the barbeque, so you want your garden to look great.
What to Do in Your Garden in July
- Choose and plant shrubs that bloom now, for greater color
- Deadhead your flowers, to keep them blooming longer
- Keep up the water – dryness stops flowering, as well as browning your lawn
- Raise the height of your mower – your lawn stays greener and free of weeds
- Finish pruning spring flowering shrubs – for more blooms next spring
Smart Choices will Increase the Flowers
There are several ways to get more flowers into this important month. One approach is to look for plants that flower longer, or keep on flowering, of types that are otherwise often over by the end of June. Take roses. Many varieties are spectacular in June, which is accurately often described as ‘rose month’ in many climates – blooms in May are normal in warmer zones. But most of them stop blooming after that, perhaps coming back again in September. So if you love roses (and who doesn’t?) then simply by choosing the right varieties you can have plenty of blooms all summer too.
The simplest way to achieve this is to plant Knockout Roses. These have been around for a while, but not everyone has seen the light. Not only are they highly resistant to diseases (so forget the weekly spraying ritual), they are also the longest blooming roses in the world. At first these was just the original red – a handsome rose, but with an open center that doesn’t say ‘rose’ to many people. Today the range has expanded, and there are pink, white and delicious creamy yellow, and in fully double blooms too. All are between 3 and 4 feet tall and planting them is an ideal way to keep color coming through July in your garden. Need more height? Simple, but a tree-from Knockout Rose, which has the bush mounted on a short trunk, giving you a plant that 5 to 6 feet tall – perfect for the middle of a bed, or in a large pot.
If, on the other hand, 4 feet is too tall, then take a look at the Drift Roses. Not yet as well-known as Knockouts, these beautiful plants form low mounds of small blooms, in a whole host of colors, with several shades of pink, plus red, white and yellows. These are wonderful for edging a walkway, or planting in boxes, where there continuous blooming will keep your July garden inviting and colorful week after week.
These popular shrubs are known more for flowering in August and even September, but if you choose right, and pick early-blooming types, you can enjoy them in July too. In warmer areas this may be the ‘normal’ hydrangea month for you, so careful choice is not so important. Hydrangeas are great garden plants, because they bloom in shade, where most other plants won’t.
Sometimes the oldies are still the goodies, and the Annabelle Hydrangea is certainly that. An improved form of an American native hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens), it might look a lot like its Asian cousins, but it is much hardier – to zone 3 – and so it’s a great choice for colder zones. Even in the coldest areas it will be in bloom by July, and whenever it starts it keeps on going for months and months. Its huge white globes of flower shine out of the shade, and they look both lush and cooling. Cooler weather in fall will turn them gorgeous shades of ever-deepening pink, and this shrub holds up against any newer, exotic form.
Deadhead – it’s the Secret of Great Gardeners
If you have neighbors whose gardens are always in bloom, chances are they are doing one thing you aren’t, and that is deadheading. Plants only flower to make seeds, so if we take that chance away, they will keep on trying and trying. Deadheading is just what it sounds like – removing the spent flowers as the petals fall. Do it early, or seed heads will quickly form. Besides making your plants look tidy and much more attractive, it encourages continuous blooming better than just about anything else (although, guess what, regular fertilizer makes a huge difference too). From roses to crape myrtle, and with your flowers like daylilies and lupins too, deadheading really works. Always remove just the flower, and no more than the first leaf below it on the stem, as the dormant flower buds are waiting right there, and if you cut further down they will take longer to form, or won’t form at all.
Dry Plants Shut Down
Many plants are drought resistant, but with flowering plants it can come at a price. Some, like roses, stop flowering when it gets dry, even if the plant itself is happy enough. There are others of course, like Crape Myrtle, that revel in heat and dryness, and keep blooming and blooming. If you are in naturally hot and dry areas, choose plants that not only survive drought, but that keep going through it. For the others, if you can keep watering, then your blooms will continue to come. You can save water by using a slow-running hose at the base of those plants that need it most, rather than watering the whole bed. Make sure you mulch around more sensitive plants in spring, to conserve moisture.
In some areas it is no longer acceptable to water your lawn, but if you can, it certainly makes the garden so much more enjoyable if you are on a green lawn.
Adjust Your Mowing Height
Speaking of lawns, a good way to avoid browning, or at least delay it, and reduce its severity, is to set the blade of your mower higher, at 2 to 3 inches high. This shades the roots and reduces water loss from the soil, and it definitely keeps your lawn greener longer. Research has also shown that this is the single most effective way to reduce weed penetration into your lawn. Maybe you want to keep doing it throughout the seasons, even if your lawn won’t look quite as well-groomed?
Prune Spring-flowering Shrubs
Finally, before sitting back and enjoying your garden in summer, make sure you have pruned all those shrubs that flowered back in the spring. Many of them, like forsythia, philadelphus, white-flowered spirea and weigela, should have all the branches that flowered removed back to a lower new shoot. You will be amazed how much more bloom you get, and how much better your shrubs look, if you do this.