DEAR JESSICA: I have yellow Stella de Oro ever-blooming daylilies lining my driveway and in clusters in the backyard. After they pass their first initial bloom, I have to thin them out several times during the season by pulling the dead stems and older leaves that have turned brown to encourage continued blooms. This can take up to 30 minutes per plant and is very time-consuming with 20 of these in my yard! I was wondering whether it is possible to instead cut them back after the initial bloom so they can regrow for a better second bloom. They have rebloomed every year beautifully; I’m just looking to cut back on the tedious thinning and removal of dead foliage during their extended season.
— Laurie Aprea,
DEAR LAURIE: Stella de Oro has been among the most popular daylilies since its introduction in the 1970s. It has a nice, stout habit, reaching just 12 inches tall with a spread of 12-24 inches over time, but that’s not the only reason gardeners clamored for it. Its main allure was that it was the first reblooming daylily available. Others have joined its ranks since then, but Stella de Oro remains the darling of the daylily garden.
To get the most of that reblooming action, however, plants should be deadheaded, which means the seed heads that remain after a flower fades should be removed. If this isn’t done, plants will direct their energy into seed production instead of reblooming. This is not necessarily an effortless job, given the number of plants you have, but spending a half-hour on each plant is way out of the ballpark.
For starters, there is no reason to remove older leaves (aside from aesthetics). And if you bring a pair of pruners out with you, you can simply snip off each old stem at the base and move on. Even spending a full five minutes per plant seems excessive; with a dozen or so stems on each, this could be done in about a minute per plant, once every two weeks or so.
You can certainly remove yellowing leaves if you feel compelled to, but removing healthy leaves or cutting back entire plants is a no-no: foliage is necessary for food production, and without leaves during the growing season, your plant would weaken and possibly die.
DEAR JESSICA: Do you know the name of this plant? The cuttings were given to me, and it is growing nicely in my yard.
— Nancy Padilla,
DEAR NANCY: That looks like Fuki, aka Japanese butterbur (Petasites Japonicus), a large herbaceous perennial in the aster family. It thrives in moist, even soggy, soil, so is found near streams and ponds in its native Asia and Europe.
Depending on variety, its heart-shaped leaves can grow to 3 feet wide, and it can cover a lot of ground in little time. Because it can be quite aggressive, I can’t recommend growing it anywhere except in a container, unless a bamboo barrier is installed to keep roots from spreading to other parts of the garden. Even then, if you were to change your mind, it would be nearly impossible to eradicate.
To care for it, provide at least partial shade, keep the soil consistently moist and divide it every third or fourth spring.
Tomatoes in my garden are a recent summer crop for me. I was strictly a petunia-in-flowerpots lady until my daughter-in-law presented me with a souvenir packet of seeds from her vacation in Tuscany in April 2015.
I thanked her and thought, “Now what do I do with them?”
In June, I literally threw the seeds in a Sandy-damaged patch in my backyard, never expecting any germination. They must have been magic seeds. I soon had thriving tomato plants with strong stems and healthy leaves I recognized from my childhood garden in Brooklyn.
I had a harvest of wonderful heirloom tomatoes of various colors and shapes that I shared with friends. Someone told me to save the seeds, so I dried a few, put them in an envelope and kept them in my basement over the winter.
Motivated by last year’s success, this “novice tomato farmer” again put some of those seeds in the same spot. The prolific seeds defied my amateur skills and produced plants laden with clusters of crinkly Italian tomatoes that will soon ripen and provide me with a scrumptious salad.
I can honestly say I do not give my fertile plants any special care. I hose-water if it doesn’t rain. But during my morning visits, coffee mug in hand, I do lovingly whisper, “buon giorno” to my Tuscan tomatoes.
— Florence Gatto, Bellmore