by: Dave Egbert
The weather is great, the sun is warm and the trees are all in full leaf! Garden centers, big box retailers, and even the local supermarket are overflowing with young colorful bedding plants and veggies starts. So let’s grab a basket full of flowers and get planting, right? Sure, go for it, have fun! But remember that spring buds don’t always become summer blooms. What I mean is the temptation to fill your garden up with flowers that are blooming right NOW may mean that LATER, when the summer heat sets in, you will be setting yourself up for a dull, colorless garden.
Many spring flowering plants only have a brief bloom period. Pansies, violas, primrose, and ranunculas bloom during cool weather when days are shorter. Once the first hot days set in, they begin to slow down, some like ranunculas which are perennial bulbs go dormant and will return next spring. Others, called annuals, die off and you will need to replace them with something else for summer. So what now?
The best thing to do is to plan ahead to add a mixture of plants with varied blooms times. In any bed I plant I intentionally plan for something to bloom in spring, others to bloom in summer, and others to add color late in the year after September and beyond. I also plan to add plants that don’t all go dormant in winter since I don’t want the beds to look like a graveyard after the first frost.
So how do you add plants for different blooms times? Well first, don’t fill up the whole bed at once. Leave room to add plants as they come into bloom and come available in stores over the season. In a typical bed, I might leave room to add daylilies, verbena, gaillardia, and asters as they start to show up at the garden center. I might fill in some spots around slower growing shrubs with some quick-t- bloom annuals like dwarf zinnias or callibrocoa. Callibroacoa is one of my all time favorite bloomers. It has flowers like tiny petunias, in blue, pink, red purple and gold, that are trumpet shaped born in a multitude on low plants. Callibrocoa are heat tolerant and good in beds or pots, even hanging baskets and bloom well into fall.
Another idea is to consult online sources that offer pre-planned gardens. Pre-planned beds are drawn out for typical sizes of garden beds and are designed for different types of exposures and climates. Pre-planned gardens often include plants that will bloom at various times to present an ever changing colorful picture in your yard. Some great examples of pre-planned gardens are provided monthly in the pages of Garden Gate Magazine, and the High Country Gardens catalog. Their guest designers will tackle real-life situations and offer colorful solutions to provide year round interest.
Once you have a plan you like, start shopping your independent garden center or consult online shopping sites to fill in the plant lists from your pre-planned site plan. If you decide to add some plants to existing beds at home, looks for plants with a long season of interest. That may not just be blooms, but should include interesting or colored leaves, seasonal change like bright fall foliage, or evergreen foliage.
Some of my favorites to add color beyond Spring include Verbena, Peroviskia, Aster, Gaillardia, Zauschneria; which is sometimes called California Fuchsia for it’s red tubular flowers that are hummingbird magnet in fall. I always try to add a few background or middle ground shrubs to contrast with the perennials. I love using dwarf Rhaphiolepsis, hardy Gardenia, Japanese Boxwood, and in dry gardens the Vine Hill Manzanita, Arctostaphylos ‘Howard McMinn’.
Here are some sources for great pre-planned gardens.
Subscribe to Garden Gate Magazine to be treated to a whole year of planting ideas and plans at www.GardenGateMagazine.com. Garden Designer Lauren Springer Ogden and plantsman David Salman offer pre-planned gardens with packages of live plants ready to go that are ideal for creating drought tolerant, heat resistant gardens at www.HighCountyGardens.com.
Questions/Comments Please contact Dave Egbert via firstname.lastname@example.org. Or visit www.firesafegarden.com for more tips and ideas for your garden. ■