I have an area in my yard that I can see from my den, and I tried planting roses there so I could enjoy them from the den. It didn’t work because the ground is in a low spot that stays soggy a lot of the time. Because of its location on my property and how the land is sloped, it would not be easy to bring in dirt and raise the ground. Do you know of any pretty plants that will work in soggy soil?
My short list includes liatris, American beautyberry, ironweed, black-eyed Susan, Virginia sweetspire, calla lily, cinnamon fern, turtlehead, canna lily, sweetshrub, ginger lily and Joe Pye weed. And this is, indeed, a short list because there actually many more plants that can not only survive but thrive in areas where soggy soil is common.
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It is easy to find plenty of other plant choices for wet growing grounds – simply do an online search for “rain gardens.” A gardening technique that has caught on with environmentally conscious gardeners, rain gardens are areas in the landscape designed to catch storm runoff from roofs, driveways and other hard surfaces. Not only does this slow the rush of water into drainage systems, but these retention areas also filter out pollutants and excess fertilizers. To aid in the filtration process and keep such sites from simply being ugly puddles of mud, water-tolerant plants are added. To make such an area look more natural and more interesting, I suggest using a merry mix of different perennials and woody ornamentals, rather than picking just one plant.
Cucumbers too sour
Last year, I grew cucumbers for salads. I used Marketmore, a variety that, after doing research, I thought would suit my needs. However, the picked cucumbers tended to be too bitter for my taste, so could you suggest a sweet variety for me to try this year?
Among the many choices I could suggest, Marketmore would be one, because I don’t think the bitterness was a problem with the cultivar but rather its cultivation.
First, for the best-tasting cukes, pick early and often. In other words, don’t wait for cucumbers to reach their maximum lengths and beyond to harvest. Using Marketmore as an example, its cukes are listed as 8 inches long, so start picking when they hit around 6 or 7 inches in length. If you wait to see how big the cucumbers can get, you will wind up with a bitter bite from their over-mature taste.
In addition, the soil cucumbers are grown in must be kept evenly moist. This means the garden ground should be organically enriched and well-worked at planting time, with mulch added on top to help prevent wide fluctuations in ground moisture. And, when the rains don’t come, water them. Skipping these chores will increase stress on the plants – and the chances of you puckering up to tart cukes.
When to snip a rose
In last month’s column, you suggested cutting back a Lady Banks rose in the spring to keep it in order. I am thinking you mean after it blooms in the spring, correct? I love this bush, but it definitely needs to be gently disciplined.
Yep, right after the flowers fade.
The question I answered concerned a Lady Banks rose that had no blossoms (because the gardener was snipping back the maturing canes on which flowers form in the fall), so the timing for him to properly prune was basically any warm spring day. The Lake Banks rose is a beauty, but it can become a large beast over the course of a long growing season, so taming it with timely springtime trimmings helps keep it in bounds – and in blooms – as it matures.
L.A. Jackson is the former editor of Carolina Gardener Magazine. Send your garden questions, including the city where you garden, to: firstname.lastname@example.org.