Danny Flanders

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Succulent Patio
Succulents make the perfect patio plant in warm areas like Atlanta that can experience long stretches without rain. This arrangement at the Atlanta Botanical Garden uses the soft edges of Kalanchoe 'Flapjacks' to contrast with the spike-like appearance of Yucca 'Color Guard'.

Are your flower beds and container gardens in need of some mid-summer spiffing-up? Those perky petunias and upright elephant’s ears suddenly droopy and longing for a haircut?

With a little maintenance and a few new plants, you can revive your tired beds and pots in no time, giving the garden that second wind until fall.

Start with a basic cleanup. If weeding and deadheading have gone by the wayside, now’s the time to get a handle on those two chores. After removing all dead flowers and leaves, arm yourself with a sharp pair of pruners and the courage to hack. Cutting back cascading annuals that spill over the sides of containers, such as petunias and potato vine, can revive plants, encouraging new blooms and fuller foliage. Petunias in particular tend to go flat this time of year, so don’t be afraid to cut their stems back by half, then watch the rejuvenation begin! If those zinnias look as if they’ve had too much Zinfandel, help them stand up by cutting back floppy branches.

No one should need reminding about regular watering, depending on rainfall levels where you live. But it’s easy to slack off as the mercury rises and vacations lure us away. Just remember that watering zaps the soil of much-needed nutrients. This is particularly tough on container plants, which often require a daily dousing. So continue with a regular feeding schedule of water-soluble fertilizers for replacing those nutrients.

Finally, remember that even the greenest thumb experiences the “up-and-dieds” – plants that, for no apparent reason, decide to bite the dust. In mid-summer. And usually in THE most conspicuous place in the bed or container! For me, those losses always seem to occur in a symmetrical planting, such as a pair of pots flanking a doorway; invariably a giant fluffy coleus in one of the pots -– only one –- decides to croak. Ugh!

When this happens, you’re pretty much forced to break that promise you made to yourself back in May to not spend another dime on plants this season. Though many garden centers are starting to look picked over as inventories thin, there are still quite a few options for replacing those dead annuals (In general, it’s best to avoid planting new perennials now so they’re not forced to battle heat and dry conditions; wait until fall when conditions are more favorable).

For a splash of color, consider cosmos, marigolds, celosia, salvias, petunias and chrysanthemums. Even herbs such as purple basil and ornamental peppers can spice up a container. Succulents have become extremely popular for their bold texture as well as drought tolerance. And don’t forget tropicals — what we often consider “houseplants” – such as crotons, dracaena and palms.

Here’s to an endless summer in the garden!

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