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GARDEN FANATIC:Summer dog days are upon us

“The most overcast winter I ever spent was a summer in Laguna.” "” with apologies to Mark Twain

“If only I could have a puppy...” "” Harry Nilsson

The “dog days of summer,” are upon us, although the expected warm and clear days have been rather scarce. There is, however, plenty to do for avid gardeners, as well as those of us not quite so committed.

Our gardening list includes watering our trees and shrubs as deeply and infrequently as possible and fastening all plants that require staking in preparation of the Santa Ana Winds.

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Spent flowers and seedpods should be removed and bluegrass and fescue lawns cut taller than in spring. Vegetables, lawns, and flowers should be fertilized with regular, mild feedings. And pests, such as weeds, insects and diseases should be dealt with responsibly.

After the rush of spring blooms, it is difficult to maintain color from shrubs, which often become quite drab by midsummer.

Enter the bedding plant, the savior for those of us who enjoy the “idea” of flowers and enjoy a splash of color in the garden. From a practical point of view (which means not overburdening ourselves with uncongenial work), bedding plants are easy to buy, easy to grow, and are the easiest way to a colorful garden.

By designing your garden with flowers of colors that please you, your garden will be appealing and renewed. Keep your flowerbeds and containers well-filled and neat by removing spent or dead flowers and foliage, and your entire garden will appear tidy and well tended.

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Cosmos, Cosmos bipinnatus, is one my favorite plants for the summer. Planted in full sunlight, it blooms in white, pink, rose, lavender, and crimson. Varieties vary from 2 to 8 feet in height.

An all-purpose summer annual, Sweet alyssum, Lobularia maritima, displays colorful white, pink, or purple flowers in borders, rock gardens, hanging baskets, and anywhere else there is at least a little sunlight. Reaching 1 foot in height, the flowers will bloom all year from self-sown seeds in Laguna.

Garden Sage, Salvia officinalis, has lovely blue or white spiky flowers and grows in full sun. Fairly drought resistant, it requires well draining soil. With a maximum growth to 1 1/2 feet, this sage should be cut back after blooming and fertilized regularly. The flowers are fragrant in cut arrangements, and the leaves can be used for seasoning.

Mounding into your garden, Dwarf Cup Flower, Nierembergia hippomanica violacea, has saucerlike blue flowers. It requires sun and good soil, with average water. Less than a foot tall, Nierembergia is a great border or container flower.

Lisianthus, Eustoma grandiflorum, is a terrific cut flower. Originally introduced from Japan, the tulip-shaped flowers are available in purplish blue, pink or white.

The dog days of summer will become a reality for friends Merri and Kerri in Danville. They’ve agreed to adopt a couple of our puppies, after visiting Catharine in Loreto. I know that somewhere beyond Laguna and Baja, Ross and Buster could not be more pleased. See you next time.


  • STEVE KAWARATANI is happily married to award winning writer, Catharine Cooper, and has two cats and eight dogs for now. He can be reached at (949) 497-8168, or e-mail to
  • plantman2@mac.com.


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