The fourth week of May means it is time for some pruning if you have spring flowering shrubs such as rhododendrons, forsythia, quince or viburnums that have already bloomed.
You can shear azaleas and heathers back by a few inches all over the plant to encourage more branching and more flowers. You can control overgrown rhododendrons by removing one-third of the tallest branches or shortening the entire shrub right after the plant finishes blooming.
The end of May is also a good time to aerate, fertilize and then add lime to your lawn if you haven’t done so yet this spring. Learn to leave the grass clippings on the lawn to return valuable nitrogen to the soil and help to shade out weed seeds. The secret to having a tidy yard and not collecting the clippings is to mow more often and use a mulching mower that will chop those grass blades into tiny pieces that can fall back into the soil.
There is good eating ahead for anyone who visits a nursery this month as some new plants are available that will make you rethink how you enjoy your landscape — and eat your meals.
• Raspberry Shortcake — a compact plant perfect for containers:
This new raspberry plant does not need a pollinator, will not sprout wild vines that need supports and is happy contained in a pot. The berries are full sized and ready to harvest the first summer so that even apartment dwellers with just a bit of a sunny deck or patio can be enjoying the fruits of very little labor.
• Blueberries – perfect for urban farmers:
New blueberry varieties are now available in dwarf and compact forms as well as unusual colors such as blueberry “Pink Lemonade.” Blueberry plants can thrive in container gardens if you remember that they love moist, acid soil. Keep them well-watered and fertilize with a plant food made for rhododendrons, camellias and azaleas. Blueberry plants do not like lime near their roots.
Q. My new house sits on an empty lot and I am overwhelmed about where to start landscaping. What one piece of advice would you give to someone new to the area — or new to gardening?
A. Start at the front door — and work your way all around the house. By breaking a landscaping project up into smaller chunks you can slowly envision and design separate areas as smaller gardens. Once you add some pots of color near the front door and you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment. Then choose small and compact evergreens to spread around the property. Evergreens will make up the winter skeleton of the landscape. Fill in with flowering shrubs and small trees arranged in layers around the house. Finally add groundcovers and splashes of color.
To learn more about what to plant where, pay attention to the plants that do well your neighbor’s landscape, visit public gardens and go on lots of garden tours this summer. (The Enumclaw Garden Tour is June 22)
Creating a landscape or garden will open the door to a whole new way of finding beauty in the world.
Marianne Binetti is a syndicated columnist.