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ELAINE CERNY/Special to The Press I’m enjoying this new petunia variety called Midnight Sky.

We may not have had much in the way of nice spring weather, but we’re certainly getting plenty of the summer kind. That’s fine with me as long as the hail and strong winds stay away.

Have you seen the new petunia? It’s called Midnight Sky and has quite a “wow” factor. If it would just shed its old blossoms without needing to be deadheaded it would be just about perfect.

The hummingbirds seem to have come back from wherever they go to nest. We have three different kinds in our area. These are the Rufous, the Black-chinned and the Calliopes. Most of the ones I’m seeing are the Calliope type. It’s hard to believe a bird that weighs the same as a nickel can actually fly across the gulf of Mexico, not once, but twice a year. Calliopes are North America’s smallest migrating bird.

The foxgloves have put on quite the show in the past few weeks. If you want to grow these, keep in mind that they are a biennial. This just means that it takes them two years to bloom. The first year they produce a short rosette of leaves, the second year, they’ll shoot up a tall bloom stock, followed by going to seed and dying. To be sure of continuing the process, be sure to leave some of the seeds to mature.

We have lots of pretty things in our gardens, but there are other local creatures who are downright repulsive. These are leopard slugs. If you have never seen one, you’re lucky. They are really disgusting. Think of a regular slug on steroids, as each of these is 6 to 8 inches long. Don’t be too sure that there are none in your yard as these things are completely nocturnal and come out only at night. You may see plenty of chewed up foliage though. To put an end to their marauding, you’ll need to wait until after dark and then go out with a flashlight. They’re easily seen as they crawl across a sidewalk or patio.

Don’t be squeamish about killing these thugs. Some people use a quick snip with a pair of scissors. Others just stomp them with something. In any case, don’t use the old wives tale of how to kill a slug: with salt. This may shrivel them up somewhat, but if they can make it to water or even a very damp spot, they can reconstitute themselves. You don’t want that.

Your lawn may be looking a bit under the weather lately. To green it back up, give it a nice dose of lawn fertilizer. It’s always a good idea to skip the weed and feed type as the “weed” part will not only kill any weeds in your grass, it will also kill any flowers in the adjoining beds if some is flung that way. Another reason to avoid it is that it can be toxic to things like butterflies and birds.

If your aim is to avoid powdery mildew on your susceptible plants, remember it’s much easier to prevent it than to kill it once it gets a start. Some of the most vulnerable are bee balms and clematis. Spray them now and you’ll have better luck.

If anyone gives you a hard time about all the hard work you do in your garden, just tell them this: “Hey, it keeps me out of the bars!”

• • •

Elaine Cerny has gardened most of her life, starting in 4-H. She has belonged to garden clubs in three states and is currently serving as secretary for the River City Gardeners Club in Post Falls. Her column appears in The Press every other Sunday from early March until late October.

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