For The Answer
Weekly Express-News Article
By Calvin R. Finch, PhD, SAWS
Water Resources Director, and Horticulturist
When gardeners from the North visit we brag about the fact that we can have 12 months of color in our landscape. This part of the year is quite often one of the toughest times to have blooms, but there are actually quite a few. Here are some to look for in your neighborhood. Some can be planted now and provide immediate blooms for your landscape.
In most landscapes the cool weather annuals such as snapdragons, dianthus, and calendula have stopped blooming for a while, but they will reload some time this month and have their best bloom from late February through May. Fertilize them now with slow release lawn fertilizer to fuel the reblooming. Stocks, pansies, cyclamen, and primula have not had the same respite. They are blooming now and will continue until May.
Most of the cool weather annuals are on sale at retail nurseries right now. They are in full bloom and can be transplanted into the garden or your containers for instant color. They will last for three – four months so can be a reasonable investment if the price is right.
Dianthus are an especially good buy because they often will bloom until mid-June. Trim them back after the flash of blooms in April for the early summer bloom period.
Paperwhites were slow to bloom this winter, but they are always one of the first flowers to bloom after the new year. They can be fertilized as well, but the key to long-term survival of paperwhites is to let the foliage decline to brown before they are trimmed. Naturalized daffodils are closely related to paperwhites and should be treated the same. They perform best when planted in the late autumn in full sun or half sun. Some of the daffodil varieties that naturalize (return every year) are campernelle, gold specter, trevithian and peeping tom. King Alfred is beautiful, but it does not return in our gardens.
The cemetery iris are also blooming now in landscapes in our area. I include both the white and blue early iris as cemetery iris. They have lasted for generations on old homesteads and cemeteries. Obtain rhizomes from someone who is thinning their beds and plant them in full sun so that the top of the rhizome is level with the soil. The best time to plant them is in October or November, but they will survive if planted anytime during the year. In addition to their long lived toughness attractive foliage and orchid like blooms, iris are not eaten by deer in most neighborhoods. Do not mulch iris, they can tolerate drought, but not soggy soil.
Flowering quince comes in two versions – dwarf and full size on our market. They produce an orange pink flower on a plant with attractive leaves and stems. Quince prefer acid soil so for a long life of plentiful blooms they need a bed enriched with organic material mulched and treated liberally with chelated iron several times per year.
at the nursery at this time of the year are spectacular. Unfortunately after being subjected to a
Gerber daisies are blooming now. They are a beautiful flower that comes in pinks, whites, yellows, lavenders, and other pastel colors. The foliage is also lush and attractive. Plant Gerber’s in containers or the garden in morning sun. They prosper in similar weather conditions as geraniums so they will sometimes freeze back and often decline in the summer heat. This time of the year, however, the flowers are hard to beat for showiness.
citrus trees have also fared well this winter.
Some are blooming now. In my
landscape, the Meyer lemon and Mexican limes in half whiskey barrels are
blooming. They have attractive evergreen
foliage and beautiful flowers. The
fragrance is also very pleasant. Team
the citrus up with stocks and not only will you have early blooms, but very
fragrant early blooms. Satsuma, arguably
the most productive and most suitable citrus for the
Rosemary is not usually planted for its flowers, but many are blooming right now. The small, light blue flowers cover the plant if it is growing in full sun. They are especially noticeable in neighborhoods with deer. The hungry pests do not eat rosemary. Prostrate rosemary is a great groundcover for full sun in deer country. Both the upright and prostrate versions are excellent xeriscape plants.