All About Gardening and Gardening Q & A by Pernell Gerver

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"The Best Summer Perennials"

In springtime it's easy to have a lot of color from perennials. In May and June there is certainly no shortage of bloom. It's later on in the season, when the spring-blooming perennials are but a memory, that there is a need for color.

That's where the summer-blooming perennials enter the picture. A well-planned perennial garden or mixed border should include a combination of spring-, summer-, and fall-blooming plants so that there is always something in bloom.

Summer-blooming perennials can be used effectively planted next to spring-blooming annuals, perennials, or bulbs to continue the sequence of bloom later on in the season. Click on the plant's name to order it from Pernell Gerver's Online Store.

A new, summer-blooming perennial I'm excited about is Campanula 'Sarastro.' This new campanula is a shorter, more compact improvement over other campanulas. It bears very-large, three-inch-long, dangling blue bells that are borne in clusters at the tips of its stems. The flower stems are held upright and stand slightly above the foliage. It begins blooming in early summer and continues to bloom all summer long. It's not uncommon for it to bloom four or more times throughout summer and into fall. It spreads slowly by underground rhizomes to form a handsome, round mound a foot and a half wide or more. If you've never grown campanulas, you should grow this one and if you've grown campanulas, you should grow this one!

Another new perennial I really like is Stokesia 'Color Wheel.' It begins blooming in late spring, producing branched flower stems that continue blooming into early summer. The flowers are very striking. Each flower opens pure white, then fades to lavender and finally purple. At any one time, there are as many as five different-colored flowers on the plant at a time, producing the "color wheel" effect. Strap-like foliage forms a clump about 10 inches high. Flower stems reach two feet tall.

Rock soapwort is a trailing plant that blooms in early summer. At a quick glance, it resembles moss phlox, but it blooms much later. Its low, creeping stems bears hundreds of tiny, bright-pink flowers. When in full bloom, the flowers completely cover the foliage. It grows just two inches tall, but it spreads two to three feet across. It's a good choice for planting atop a wall where its stems can cascade over the edge. It's also a good rock garden plant.

Coreopsis 'Sweet Dreams' is a summer-blooming perennial that bears bushels of small, daisy-like flowers. The flowers are pale pink with a deep-pink center. It's a color breakthrough in coreopsis. It has lacy, finely-divided foliage that forms a clump 18 inches high and wide. Coreopsis grows well in a sunny spot in the garden and tolerates drought.

Candy lily 'Dazzler' is a lesser-known summer-blooming perennial. The foliage of this interesting perennial resembles iris or gladiolus. It forms a clump of upright leaves that stand about a foot high and spread a couple of feet across. In midsummer it bears dozens of star-shaped flowers on slender flower spikes that rise above the foliage. Flower colors include a mix of bright red, orange, yellow, purple, and pink - many with freckled blooms. It grows well in sun to part shade.

Scabiosa 'Butterfly Blue' is a perennial with a very long bloom period. It actually begins blooming in late spring and continues through summer and right to frost. Two-inch-wide blue flowers are borne atop thin flower stems that rise a foot to a foot and a half above the foliage. The foliage is gray green and finely divided and forms a low mound about a foot wide. One of the best perennials for season-long bloom, it grows well in sun to part shade.

Pernell Gerver's Gardening Q & Aby Pernell Gerver

"Use Underground Animal Repellent to Rid the Garden of Voles"

Q. Over the past few years I've been having a problem with voles in my garden. I thought at first it was moles, but I read in one of your columns a while back that moles don't eat plants so I know my problem is voles because plants are actually disappearing from my garden! Also, every fall I plant tulip bulbs, but the next spring only a few actually come up and bloom. What can I do to get rid of this animal pest before it consumes my entire garden? Thanks!

A. Voles are very destructive rodents that damage the garden in several ways. First, they tunnel right at the surface of the soil and you know you have voles when in spring when the snow melts you see tunnels on top of the ground. The ground looks like it was carved out. That's vole damage and I've noticed a marked increase in voles here in western Massachusetts over the last several years. Many readers and people who've come to my Workshops describe vole damage in their garden.

As the voles tunnel through the lawn and garden, they eat whatever is in the way, often devouring entire plants. A plant that's been eaten by a vole can be pulled right out of the ground because the roots have been completely eaten. As voles tunnel through the garden, they also eat bulbs like tulips and that's probably why most of your tulips don't come up in spring.

The best way to get rid of voles in the garden is to spray Underground Animal Repellent. It's an organic, all-natural repellent that repels both by odor and taste. In addition to voles, it also repels rabbits, groundhogs, squirrels, and chipmunks from flower gardens, lawns, landscaped areas, and vegetable gardens. It's very long lasting and one application will last a couple of months. It doesn't wash off in rain, either.

I've used Underground Animal Repellent in my garden for a couple of years and had great success. Every year I would plant about 100 tulip bulbs and in spring maybe a dozen would come up. Last fall, when I was planting my tulip bulbs, I sprayed Underground Animal Repellent on the bulbs, in the planting hole, and on top of the soil once the bulbs were planted and this spring I had 100% of the tulips grow and bloom.

Click here to order Underground Animal Repellent from Pernell Gerver's Online Store.

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