Anne Marrison

Gardening in Langley: more water woes

Anne Marrison is happy to answer garden questions. Send them to her via amarrison@shaw.ca It helps me if you mention your city or region.

Dear Anne,

My mint plant growing in a pot in my patio in the shade has grown very tall and has a lot of small mint leaves. Last year I got big mint leaves. The top of every branch has a bushy purple flower. Should this be cut off?

Florence, Vancouver

Your mint plant has small leaves because its energy is producing flowers instead. Insufficient water may be an issue here. Mint is a water lover.

But your garden would benefit enormously if you leave the flowers on the mint. Heads of multiple small flowers are a magnet for honey bees, tiny pollinating bees and beneficial insects of all kinds. If they can’t get flower nectar they’ll starve.

Because of the drought, fewer flowers are available this year so leaving your mint flowers in place will save some little lives. Their youngsters will help seeds and crops to develop next year.

When the flowers die down, that will be the right time to cut your mint back. If we have a warm fall with some rain, you’ll get big leaves again. If the fall isn’t rainy, try to water the mint at least every other day.

Grey water is fine provided you don’t get it on the leaves. You don’t have to struggle with big buckets. Even saucepanful helps with a containerized plant.

Dear Anne,

My Asiatic double lilies are about three years old. This year the foliage started turning brown right away after they bloomed. They’re about three feet tall and looked quite unsightly. Is this a common problem? They didn’t do that in previous years. Do you think they have some disease or nutrient deficiency?”

Another puzzle – though they’re generally double, some of my Asiatic lily blooms came out as singles. Is that common?

Diana Jewell, Mission

My guess about the early-browning leaves is that your lilies are reacting to the exceptionally hot, dry weather we’ve had. Drying foliage has also happened with my native alliums – many allium leaves die back naturally when flowering starts (and sometimes before). But my Allium cernuum plants usually hold their leaves until at least early fall –  but not this year.

If just one of your double Asiatics had brown foliage but the other doubles were okay, I would suspect more severe problems.

But Asiatic lilies have been hybridized and often the hybrids have then been hybridized further with more demanding species and/or other hybrids to get even more exotic colours and shapes.

With hybrids it’s hard to know what exactly you’re dealing with because of the often-convoluted genetic background. It’s very likely your doubles are the product of more intensive hybridization than your other Asiatics

As for your double-then-single flowers on the same plants, this isn’t exactly common – but it’s not abnormal either. Some other plant families do the same thing: begonias and clematis, for example.

Dear Anne,

When can we stop fertilizing our annuals and perennials?

Terry Wong, South Burnaby

Generally fertilizer use should stop in August so that there’ll be no soft green growth to die back in winter frosts. Most annuals will be ready to die back anyway as September starts. Among perennials only autumn flowering ones are ready to keep growing and for these more fertilizer isn’t necessary.

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