Saturday, June 11, 2011

Summertime in the Garden

By: Casey Calhoun, Organic Gardener at the White House
From Flowerbed of State, Book 1 of the White House Gardener Mysteries by Dorothy St. James

Let me tell you what, the gardens are keeping me busy here at the White House. The volunteers—a group of darling older society ladies—are wonders, but they need directing or else they’ll wander off like a clutch of baby ducks.

We’ve planted our summer annual display around the north fountain that includes geraniums, marigolds, salvias, lilies, foxglove, hollyhocks, and petunias. It’s quite a colorful show. Naturally, we chose shades of red, white, and blue. Around the south fountain we’ve tried something new, a planting of bright red double knockout roses. These easy-care disease resistant roses should save both time and money while looking great all summer long.

To help you along in your garden, here’s a page from my to-do list:

  1. Plant summer annuals and vegetables by June 1. (Done!)
  2. Create outdoor container displays using tuberous begonias and lilies to adorn the south entrance. (Done!)
  3. Water roses during hot days.
  4. Plant autumn-blooming crocus, dahlias, and gladiolus for fall displays in the East Garden.
  5. Stay ahead of the weeds. Mulch garden beds to inhibit further growth. (The mile-a-minute weeds kept popping up in the gardens, so I used a layer newspaper under the mulch to deter their growth.)
  6. Pinch back chrysanthemums to 6” high until mid-July to keep them blooming.
  7. Monitor azaleas for leaf galls. Galls can be easily removed by hand.
  8. Plan now for the First Lady’s fall vegetable garden.
  9. Next month: Rejuvenate impatiens by pruning back within inches of the ground to give new life to the plants through late summer and fall.
  10. Next month: Cut back herbs such as basil, mint, oregano to keep the plants from getting leggy and unsightly.
  11. Next month in the greenhouse: Sow flats of mums, salvias, and asters for the fall planting around the north and south fountain.
  12. Next month in the greenhouse: Sow flats of calendulas, alyssum, poppies, and candytuft seeds to plant in the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden in September.

And as always, I’m keeping a sharp eye out for aphids, hornworms, and a certain destructive puppy named Milo.

What have you been doing in your garden this spring?


Dorothy St. James writes the White House Gardener Mysteries for Berkley Prime Crime. Flowerbed of State was published May 3, 2011 (LAST MONTH!) Be sure to grab your copy while they're still available! Visit with Dorothy on the web or at Facebook. Or follow her on Twitter.

"Credible characters, a fast-paced plot, and a light look at political life in Washington, D.C., will delight cozy fans." ~ Publishers Weekly

"This spunky new romantic suspense series is an obvious pick for readers who enjoy Julie Hyzy's "White House Chef" series (Buffalo West Wing), but also think of gardening mystery series such as Rosemary Harris's (Slugfest)." ~ Library Journal

Order Flowerbed of State from your favorite bookseller.


  1. All I've done is bought a book about perennials. These are wonderful tips. Thanks so much,
    Casey. Do you moonlight?

  2. I want a Casey in my garden! And you'd be handy in a mystery too. Oh wait ... that's right. You are!

  3. I want Casey in my garden, too. But she's so busy in DC she hardly ever gets to come back to Charleston.

    Janet, I rarely pull weeds. Some of my favorite plants in my yard came in as weeds including the blanket flowers and the bright yellow blooms on the morning glories.

    As for my garden, I had a bunch of aphids early in the season, but the lady bugs came along and took care of it for me.

  4. Casey, can you come help me, too? I managed to get my annuals and veggies planted by June 1st, but that's about all I've been able to get done so far. It was cold, then blisteringly hot, and now it's constantly wet. But that's Chicago for you. I just added a couple of veggie plants again today. They were for sale at the local Farmer's Market and I couldn't resist!

  5. Planted flowers and I"m loving them!!!

  6. Julie, send some of the rain my way. We've been having a drought down here.

    Misa, I planted several kinds of flowers this year but I'm still waiting for them to bloom. The vegetables and weeds are being much more cooperative.