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Choose these plants now for summer arrangements

By NANCY BRACHEYBy Nancy Brachey
Nancy Brachey
Nancy Brachey writes about gardening for The Charlotte Observer's weekly Home & Garden section.

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  • Ask Nancy

    Q. I have several Knock Out roses that are full, huge and beautiful. One is showing signs of powdery mildew. What is the best product for eliminating this problem?

    The cool, damp spring seems to have brought out the powdery mildew, a fungus. A popular choice to deal with it is Ortho Funginex. You can also try Neem oil if you prefer a more natural product.

In springtime, it isn’t hard for a gardener to pick a bouquet for the house. A stem or two of azalea, spiraea or rhododendron does the job quickly. But, come summer, we look to cut annuals and perennials to arrange in vases.

Many kinds of flowers lend themselves to this, but some are better than others chiefly because of longer bloom time. But personal tastes in color and style also play a big role in making selections. So with those two things in mind, you can march merrily into the garden centers to make your choices.

Here are four things to think about as you go about this happy job.

• Aim for a mix. Besides color and length of bloom, you have to think about the shape of blooms. An arrangement made up entirely of round daisies or the spikes of snapdragons or salvias is not so interesting as one with a good mix. And, please, do not obsess about colors. The colors of garden flowers blend beautifully. Some, such as blue, yellow and white, or red, purple and yellow, are outstanding.

Round, daisy-shaped flowers include Shasta daisies, black-eyed Susans, coneflowers and coreopsis – just a few of the good flowers for cutting in summer. Combine them with good spikes of color, notably of blue, red or purple salvias; snapdragons; or something both spiky and feathery such as celosia.

• Plant some foliage. This is not something to overlook when planning for cutting. Many kinds of hardy ferns – including cinnamon, autumn and Japanese – bear foliage that looks great in flower arrangements. So do the leaves of hostas, especially the younger, more tender ones. Rosemary also looks good in an arrangement and adds a nice scent. With a range of hostas of varying size, you can select the right one for the scale of the bouquet you are making.

• Bank on long-bloomers. Some perennials, such as the Becky Shasta daisy and the many kinds of perennial salvias, are important both for their beauty and their long season of bloom. So are the black-eyed Susans. Plus, you can extend your season by planting several kinds of Shastas. Most annuals, particularly zinnias and marigolds, naturally bloom a very long time, given good care and regular removal of spent flowers.

• Give them prime position. The practice of creating a separate cutting garden is rarely done now because of lack of space, time and energy. Flowers for cutting will do especially nice work amid azaleas, forsythia, spiraea and other spring-flowering shrubs that have gone green for the summer or simply in a flower bed used in all seasons.

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