Category Archives: Summer

I’m Only Humid

A gardener’s zest for yard work can wilt in August. We’re only “humid” and I understand. Yet in August some of the best entertaining days in the garden are for us to enjoy. From Rudbeckia to Sedums to Buddleia the landscape continues to entertain. With a little TLC and the willingness to wet our “plants” the landscape can reward our senses like an ornamental grass and its wispy dance in the warm summer breezes.

Echinacea provides long lasting summer color

Echinacea provides long lasting summer color

I love the month of August and it’s the gateway to some of the best gardening months of the year. This is no time to throw in the “trowel” on the yard and garden. Besides, now is the time we are rewarded with the fruits of our labors harvesting the tomatoes and peppers we lovingly planted months ago.
August is a great time to rejuvenate our flowering landscape annuals and give them a kick in the plants! Chopping back stretched, tired or leggy annuals and then feeding with a water soluble fertilizer will give them new life.

Begonias put on a show in the shade of the summer heat

Begonias put on a show in the shade of the summer heat

They’ll kick back into gear and produce a new flush of growth and color well into October. Mums and Asters become available starting in August to supplement your rejuvenated annuals for continuous color. In addition ornamental grasses take center stage in August and September as drought and heat tolerant extroverts in your yard. This is also the month for panicle Hydrangeas like PG, ‘Limelight’ or ‘Little Lamb’ to take center stage in the landscape with their stunning cone shaped blooms. Easy to grow and reliable they put on a show in August and September.

Annabelle Hydrangeas nod in the summer breeze

Annabelle Hydrangeas nod in the summer breeze

August is also a month to think about having that lawn you’ve always wanted. The best time to seed or over seed or establish a new lawn is mid August to October 1. The soil is nice and warm and if you kill unwanted vegetation grass seed will establish nicely as we head into fall. I still believe August 15 to October 1 is the best time of year in Michigan to establish a little “lawn” and order. Remember also that newly hatched grubs do most of their damage to a lawn in August and September, especially if the lawn is thirsty. If you did not apply a grub control in July you still have time this month while the young grubs are feeding near the surface. If you apply now you shouldn’t have to apply next spring.

Establish some "lawn" and order in August

Establish some “lawn” and order in August

Keep vegetable plants like tomatoes well watered so they keep producing and be watching for those miserable tomato hornworms on the plants. Head outside in the evening hours with a bucket of soapy water and pick them off the plants to drown their sorrows in your bucket of soapy water. Plenty of water at the base of your tomatoes and the calcium supplements you added earlier in the season will avoid the unsightly blemishes and “zippering” of the fruit you long to pick.
Unfortunately this also the month to be vigilant in inspecting under decks, patio furniture, mailboxes and other hiding areas for European Paper Wasps. These unwelcome guests pack a wallop of a sting when disturbed and have become much too common in our late summer landscapes. Look for the “paper”-like nests attached to railings or under patio furniture and spray from a distance with a knock down stream of wasp control spray.

The color of blue in these Hostas under the deck add to the cooling effect of shade

The color of blue in these Hostas under the deck add to the cooling effect of shade

Don’t let your enthusiasm wilt in the heat of August. We’re only “humid” and the garden party has just begun. See you in September.
Rick Vuyst


What about those Coneflowers

What about those coneflowers in the heat of summer? So many new varieties of coneflower or Echinacea have been added in the past few years. Talk about a reliable long lasting bloomer for the hot month of July into August. Easy to grow in a sunny spot with warm brilliant colors, Echinacea or Coneflower is a great choice to add a splash of color to the summer landscape!

Colorful Coneflowers!

Colorful Coneflowers!

Echinacea adds color to a hot summer landscape

Echinacea adds color to a hot summer landscape


More Flower to you

"Dew" you love Roses like I "dew"

“Dew” you love Roses like I “dew”

Prairie Sun Rudbeckia

Prairie Sun Rudbeckia

Flowering Maple or Parlor Maple (Abutilon)

Flowering Maple or Parlor Maple (Abutilon)


By late June their are a lot of great blooms to choose from in the landscape! As we head towards early July it all goes “Ka-Bloom”

We Rose to the Occasion

We “Rose” to the occasion!
Invite some royalty to your garden party this summer. The rose has long been the queen of the summer time garden. Roses have been symbols of love, fame, beauty, war, and celebration and have quite a history. From use as confetti at celebrations to a source for perfume, they “rose” to the occasion in good times and bad.

Own Root Roses

Own Root Roses

A lady with expensive taste and a love for gardening and roses, Napoleon’s wife Josephine established an extensive collection of roses at Chateau de Malmaison, an estate seven miles west of Paris in the 1800s. While Napoleon was out fighting his battles and making his conquests, Josephine was busy spending his money on the chateau and extensive gardens with a particular interest in roses. He was none too pleased with her floriferous spending habits but you can’t tell me he didn’t appreciate a stroll through the rose garden.
No one ever promised you a rose garden, and if some of your previous attempts met their Waterloo you might be hesitant to try them. Maintain your “composture” because help is on the way!
We Rose to the Occasion

We Rose to the Occasion

Roses today are enjoying a resurgence in popularity specifically shrub, landscape or what we call “own root” roses. Today’s time pressed homeowners are demanding of their landscape plants and roses are no exception. Landscape or shrub roses provide a long season of blooms and color from June to November. Very resistant to disease and problems and loaded with flowers June to November, they have excellent winter hardiness. Own-root roses are not grafted so it’s the same plant below the ground as above. They can do what a rose has always wanted to do and that is growing new canes from the root system. Therefore you get many more canes and lots more flowers on a hardy easy to grow plant. Simply put today’s varieties “rose” to the occasion.
There are many “own root” or shrub roses available to today’s homeowner from the “Drift” series
Drift Roses

Drift Roses

of groundcover roses to “Easy Elegance” roses they are a workhorse in the landscape. Varieties like “Knockout” and “Carefree Delight” or “Nearly Wild” and “Home Run” or “Yabba Dabba Doo”. I have some Proven Winners “Home Run” roses in my yard and they have continuous blooms and great disease resistance to both black spot and powdery mildew. They are heat tolerant, cold hardy with no winter covering and require no deadheading. I give them a general pruning back a couple times a year and that’s it!
For true success I recommend you plant them in a good sunny spot. Roses are sun worshippers. A minimum of 6 hours of sun a day or more will work. Shrub roses like any rose bush appreciate morning sun to help dry the foliage. Some attention to the soil will certainly help. Roses are heavy feeders so stay grounded my friend. I like to feed them with a dry feed around the base a few times a year. Rose Tone works well for feeding supplemented with a water soluble feeding now and then. Incorporating organic material into the existing soil at the time of planting is important to improve the structure of your soil and top it off with a one to two inch layer of mulch at the base. When the weather gets hot and sunny this summer they’ll appreciate a soil that has some moisture retention capability and yet well drained.
I very “mulch” encourage you to add own root or shrub roses to your landscape. They are not the work laden examples we’ve seen years ago of a few leafless stems with a bloom at the top. They go “Ka-bloom” in the garden and will impress your neighbors and friends. I know you can do it you “rose” to the occasion.

Vacation Planning Website

Wanted to share with you a great website for my “all things horticultural friends” planning to do a little traveling this summer. Interested in seeing a “shoe tree” or giant raspberries? How about a giant apple, ear of corn or the Jolly Green Giant muscular and tall (55 ft.) from consumption of all those healthy vegetables? Tree BikeHow about the ever popular bicycle eaten by a tree on Vashon Island Washington? You can go out on a limb and form your own theories on how it got there. Check it out and begin dreaming of eating an ice cream cone this coming July while having your picture taken next to the world’s biggest watermelon.

Shoe Tree


Stressed out

This past week NOAA confirmed what we already knew….it was hot in July 2012. The average national temperature made it the hottest July on record and hottest month of any month on record. The real story however has been drought. Plants can dissipate heat loads if they can function normally with adequate soil moisture. Due to the heat, leaf stomates can close because of rapid water loss limiting transpirational cooling of a plant. When the plant transpires the water loss has to be made up by the root system and if adequate moisture in the soil is unavailable the plant becomes stressed out. This stress can weaken the plant, reduce yields and make it susceptible to disease or insects. Of course prolonged periods of drought will eventual move the plant from stressed to just plain dead.

Evapotranspiration map

The USDA now has a Evaporative Stress Index showing patterns of water availability and moisture stress across the U.S. Brown colored areas signify higher levels of water stress while green areas denote relatively low water stress. This map shows what my friends in Seattle have been telling me this summer. They’ve had too much rain and it has been cool while we here in the midwest have been roasting and toasting! If you would like to check out the map yourself and learn more here is the link

Living on the “Hedge”

I remember the summer of 1988. Built an above ground pool that summer. A very hot and dry summer just like this year. I remember coming home from work one afternoon and there were so many people in the pool I wouldn’t have been able to fit a leg in the water if I tried. The summer of 2012 feels like 1988 to me.

A little water will provide “Lawn”-gevity

The lawns are just like they were then, a toasty golden brown with shrubs and trees living on the “hedge” looking stressed.


Trees and shrubs need your attention right now with some trickle or deep watering. This is especially true for spring plantings this year without well established root systems. Be watching for wilting or curling leaves. Some older established trees are showing leaf scorch just like they did in the summer of 1988. It’s not just the heat and drought, but wind adds to the problems increasing the rate of transpiration in foliage.

Trees showing leaf scorch

Remember the ability of your trees and shrubs to endure the stress of this season’s weather hinges in part on how healthy they were going into the season and your willingness to deep water them at the base now.

Looks like it may be too late for these Arborvitae

An impulse sprinkler or the hose nozzle you use to water your car isn’t going to work. You need to lay the hose at the base of the landscape plant and soak the soil for any beneficial effect.

Ironic that this appropriately named “Burning Bush” is showing the strain of weeks without water








I’ve had a lot of people lately ask me if their lawn is going to survive the heat and drought. Turfgrass dormancy is a survival mechanism allowing survival up to 4-8 weeks without irrigation or precipitation without significant thinning upon recovery from dormancy. This would be under ideal conditions of no traffic, good sub or parent soil, moderate temperatures, minimal root competition from trees, etc. Survival can be affected by species, age, shade, maintenance, the quality of feeding you have done in the past, the deck height on the mower, traffic, heatand other factors. Raise the deck on your mower and if you can, park the mower until the drought is over.



A shaggy lawn is better than a scalped stressed turf. Remember that dormancy is reversible but death is not. If the lawn goes too long without any water or if it was unhealthy and stressed going into the drought the roots my die causing thinning of the turf. Cool season turf can survive summer dormancy but cannot survive root death.

Cool season lawn dormancy. Remember dormancy is reversible, death is not.

Turfgrasses that are trafficked during drought conditions must be irrigated regularly to maintain performance and prevent widespread turf damage. Lawn areas established in spring or previous fall should be irrigated because they have not yet developed extensive root systems.

Check irrigation systems for improperly aimed sprinklers, defective heads and evenness of distribution, etc. Water in the early morning hours to improve efficiency because of less evaporation from sun and wind. Watering at sunset encourages disease issues.

Limit traffic on your lawn (including mowing) to minimize crushing of the turfgrass leaves and crowns. Avoid the temptation to apply herbicides even though weeds become more obvious in a dormant lawn because they may be the only thing left that is green! Wait until fall to control lawn weeds, a perfect time for weed control.
Remember the fall season is a perfect time for overseeding and feeding thinned lawns. Turf establishment in Michigan is best done between August 15 and October 15 so don’t lose your “composture” if things are looking bleak right now. Your window of opportunity to improve the green green grass of home is coming soon!