Cooler weather brings blooms back

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 30, 2011

By Darrell Blackwelder
For the Salisbury Post
SALISBURY — The Rowan County Fair is now history, but many people had questions during the event. Various questions about lawns and gardens may interest you. Here are a few that came from the public:
Q: I was by The Medicine Shoppe the other day and their geraniums look better than they have looked all summer. Why do you think they look this good?
A: Other than constant dead heading of spent blooms, temperature is the major factor. When temperatures drop in the fall, they emulate spring temperatures. Cooler weather brings out the best in many summer blooming plants including begonia, impatiens and marigolds.
Q: Is there still time this fall for me to core aerate my lawn and plant seed now?
A: Yes, there is still time to seed or over-seed fescue lawns. Try to get your seeding done by Oct. 30.
Q: Last week you had an article in the paper about mums. Would you tell me how to take care of them once they have bloomed?
A: Garden mums are sold almost everywhere in Rowan County in the fall as temporary flowering pot plants. However, garden mums are perennials and will flower again next year.
After bloom, cut the plant back to a few inches. Frost will kill them back to the ground. Mulch them with about 6 inches of pine straw or bark. The plants will send growth out again and will need pinching two to three times to make the plants more compact. Some cultivars may reach three feet tall without pinching.
Q: I have gourds in the garden. When is the best time to harvest?
A: Gourds can take a light frost, but not a hard freeze. When the rind is very hard and the stem is brown is the best time to pluck them out of the garden. Use pruners to cut the stem, leaving an inch or more of stem and then move them to a cool, dark location to cure. Check often for those that are immature, as they will have soft skin and will decay quickly.
Q: What is that shrub that has those really shiny purple berries now?
A: The shrub you may be speaking of is beauty berry. Beauty berry (callicarpa dichotoma) is a drought tolerant deciduous shrub with showy purple berries in the fall. More recent cultivars of white and pink are also available. It is a favorite of birds and other wildlife for the fall landscape.
Darrell Blackwelder is the County Extension Director with horticulture responsibilities with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County. Learn more about Cooperative Extension events and activities by calling 704-216-8970, Facebook or online at