Q. I had a huge bed cleared out that had been choked with daylilies, sedum and coreopsis, all over 14 years old.
The bed (50' x 15') is behind my fish pond. It gets full sun from noon until almost 6. I would like to try something entirely different. My deck looks down on it, so I'd like to find something bright, but a variety of things.
That is a big bed, so a neat mulch over it would help as you plan and plant your new flower bed. Don't expect to do this overnight. When I think of looking down on a garden, Japanese and Siberian irises, Becky Shasta daisies, trumpet daffodils and swaths of chrysanthemums or asters come to mind. These also have the value of blooming at different times of the year, which is one of the most important things to consider in a flower bed close to your deck. Think of this bed in thirds: one third each for spring, summer and autumn. Mixing perennials from this varied palette will keep the garden interesting. Before the clear-out, you basically had a summer garden.
I also think this bed requires structure from a woody plant, perhaps one of the new hydrangeas such as Endless Summer or Blushing Bride, or the marvelous Knock Out roses that prosper so well in our climate. I know there are a lot of Knock Out roses planted in the Piedmont, but they give a lot and for a very long season.
With these woody plants as the framework for your bed, you could take your time, making choices to meet your goals of something different and varied through the season.
Q. In April, I planted three Encore azaleas. They seemed to be doing well, but in the middle of June, they were invaded by Japanese beetles.
The beetles went inside the plants, and by the time I discovered them, a lot of damage had been done. I began dusting the plants with Sevin, and that has kept the beetles at bay. However, the plants have damaged leaves. Should I prune them?
No. The value of Encore azaleas is their ability to rebloom. The foliage damaged by the beetles may be preparing to produce new blooms in the weeks ahead. New growth should conceal the damaged leaves. Just weigh the benefit of having undamaged plants versus the appeal of azaleas in bloom this fall. You could pick off some of the most severely damaged leaves here and there to improve the appearance, but don't cut back the tips, which is where the new flowers should emerge.
Oleander and heat
Q. With all the hot weather we continue to have, can oleander survive in the Carolinas? I live over the border in South Carolina just southwest of Charlotte. I have seen it growing on the coast of Georgia and also in Phoenix.
Gardeners have had good luck with oleanders in the Piedmont over the past 15 years or so. That is because we have much warmer winters now than in the '70s and '80s. As long as the winters stay mild, it should do fine with removal of any foliage that gets burned by winter weather in the teens. Plant your oleander in a protected area to keep cold winds from hitting it. On very cold nights or if a late freeze is forecast in spring, cover it with a sheet.