It is a flagrantly fragrant and flowery time. I am often asked my opinion concerning good choices for flowering trees for the garden. With pink flowering dogwood, 'Kwanzan' or weeping cherries, and flowering crabapples so common around the Island, I usually recommend a visit to the Polly Hill Arboretum to observe in person the diversity and variety there. But three smaller trees that I am very taken with seem to be chronically overlooked, which I would like to rectify. Possibly it is due to lack of dramatic autumn color. The three are Japanese styrax, Styrax japonica, covered in bloom now with overpoweringly fragrant, pendant bell-like flowers; also in vanilla-scented bloom now is the native fringe tree, Chionanthus virginicus; and Crataegus laevigata 'Crimson Cloud,' a wonderful, May-blooming English hawthorn adorned with glossy scarlet fruits in autumn.
Insect pests are emerging: snails, slugs, mosquitoes and biting gnats. One remedy for snails and slugs is the trapping trick, where one puts downs boards or bricks and turns them over to find the slithery ones seeking shelter on the underside. Small containers of beer or near-beer work, sort of. The recent waves of wet weather, challenging for line-drying laundry purists, accurately demonstrate my wry axiom: if your peonies are loaded with bloom, it is going to rain. Wet weather also confirms the wisdom of staking.
One person's way to stake
There are many proprietary systems of powder-coated staking such as peony rings, etc. They often promise more than they deliver, they are tricky to use, and they are expensive. Bamboo stakes, jute twine, the clove hitch, plus practice, are the elements needed for a good staking job. Often the hardest thing about staking is the contortions required.
I use the clove hitch (as useful in a garden as on a boat) often since one goal of staking is, naturally, unobtrusiveness. A knotty bundle of twine attracts attention to itself; the clove hitch is slim. Practice by making two loops running the same way close together in a piece of twine; then bend back the right one over top of the left one and slip over the stake. Or check a knot book.
Place stakes of the proper size and thickness for the job around the plant to be staked. Usually three or four are sufficient, but a large clump of something needing support may use many stakes. Angle them in gently near the base, keeping in mind that some plants may have below-ground structures - tubers, fleshy or woody roots - that may be damaged by piercing. Position the stakes in line with the stems, not catawampus, to deceive the eye.
Eyeball a length of twine that will encircle the plant in question, and then some. Make a clove hitch and slip it over the first stake. Bring the end around back toward yourself, putting a half hitch around each stake you come to. Make a small "slippery" clove hitch where the ends meet, preferably around a stake.