Growing Morning Glory

Morning GloryA favorite! Home flower gardeners are growing morning glory (Ipomoea) for their vibrant colors, including purples, reds, pinks and blues. This vining plant is often found covering old wire fences where their delicate flowers greet you with the morning sun. Reliably self-seeds each year. Plants grow to 15 feet if given proper support. Self-seeding hardy annual.

Site Preparation:

Choose a planting site that has full sun and moist average soil. Working some compost or old animal manure into the soil will help.

How to Plant:

Morning glory is easy to grow from seed. Plant outdoors 1/2 inch deep after the last frost. Keep moist while germinating. Seeds will germinate in 5-21 days. Seeds can be slightly chipped and soaked in warm water for 24 hours before planting for better results. Thin plants to 4-6 inches apart. Provide support so the plants can climb. If you have trouble getting morning glory started, make sure the planting site is in full sun and that the seedlings never dry out until they become established. Provide organic fertilizer rich in phosphorous two or three times during the growing season. (more…)

Growing Marigolds

Growing MarigoldsMarigolds (Tagates erecta) are a hardy annual plant ranging in color from pale yellow to deep orange and rust. There are many varieties of this popular garden favorite from miniature to giant. Growing marigolds in and around vegetable gardens can also help prevent insect damage.

Site Preparation:

Marigolds like full sun and a rich, well-drained soil. They are easy to grow, however, and will tolerate average to slightly poor soils. Generous amounts of compost and organic matter will improve the health of your marigolds tremendously. Keep the soil moist, but not wet.

How to Plant:

Sow marigold seed directly in the ground and cover with about 1/4 inch of soil. Water thoroughly. Thin to 8-18 inches apart after they have sprouted. Marigolds can also be started early indoors for transplanting outdoors about six to eight weeks before the last frost date. (more…)

Growing Lupine

Growing LupineA spring-time favorite, growing lupine (Lupinus polyphyllus) provides flower gardeners with a brilliant array of colors. Plants have stiff, erect flower spikes of 1-4 feet that emerge from horizontal foliage. Flowers are similar to those of peas or sweet peas, and grow in large, crowded racemes of deep blue, purple, yellow, pink or white. Found growing wild throughout most of the northern United States. Short-lived perennial.

Site Preparation:

Easy to grow, lupine thrives in cool, moist locations. It prefers full sun to light shade and average soils, but will tolerate sandy, dry soil. Plants develop long taproots, so loosen the soil to a depth of 12-20 inches, using a roto-tiller or garden fork. They will not grow in clay.

Tip: For dramatic results, mass lupines in the border or scatter them throughout the cottage garden (see Flower Gardening 101). (more…)

Growing Lilies

Garden LiliesOne of the most beautiful summer-flowering plants, home gardeners are growing lilies (lilium) for their exquisite trumpet-shaped blooms. Stems are strong, upright and unbranched, 1-6 feet tall. Flowers are large, beautifully colored in both bold and pastel shades, and often fragrant. May be grown individually in formal or naturalistic settings or en mass. Small species make excellent container plants, and all are a perfect addition to any border. Blooms from late spring through early autumn, depending on species.

Site Preparation:

Plants thrive in full sun or partial shade and prefer moist, well-drained soil and excellent air circulation. Most lilies perform poorly in extreme heat. (more…)

Growing Hollyhock

Hollyhocks A biennial or short lived perennial, flower gardeners enjoy growing hollyhocks in borders or against walls where the striking flowers stand above all else. The classic variety (Alcea rosea) has graced outbuildings and farmsteads for more than a century. Single blooms of white, light-pink, pinkish-red, magenta and burgundy on 6-9 foot stalks. Blooms the second year and re-seeds.

Site Preparation:

Hollyhock prefers full sun to partial shade and rich, moist soil to thrive. Prior to planting, work in plenty of compost or well-aged animal manure.

How to Plant:

Sow outdoors just beneath the surface of the soil one week before last frost. Seeds will germinate in 10-14 days. Space plants 18-36 inches apart. Water regularly during dry conditions to keep them blooming. Fertilize a couple times during the season with an all-purpose fertilizer. When flower stalks fade, cut to the ground. (more…)

Growing Gladiolus

GladiolusSummer bulbs are the perfect addition to the flower garden. They combine perfectly with annuals and perennials, offering a uniqueness that completes the scene. Gladiolus with their dramatic swordlike leaves have sturdy flowering stems 1-5 feet tall. The elegant flowers come in ravishing shades of every color. Home gardeners particularly enjoy growing gladiolus for cuttings.

Tip: For best results, take cuttings when at least 3 of the “florets” on the stem have opened. They will continue to open in the vase.

Site Preparation:

Gladiolas require full sun and regular water during growth and bloom. They should be planted in a sandy soil, rich in organic matter as soon as the soil is warm in the spring. Provide protection from the wind if possible. (more…)

Growing Fuchsias


My grandmother had a small nursery in Napa that specialized in growing fuchsias. I remember the pots of glorious flowers hanging along her driveway. As I grew older, and taller, I was able to reach the hanging baskets bursting with flowers and buds and, I’m ashamed to say that I spent many a delightful clandestine moment popping the fat buds between my pudgy fingers. Of course if I was caught, there was hell to pay, but the gratification of holding that soft, living tissue between my fingers and giving it a gentle squeeze, then being rewarded with the resounding popping sound was irresistible. It was a very tactile, but guilty, pleasure.

Dearie, as everybody called my grandmother, finally persuaded me to keep my hands to myself, and in doing that, gave me a deep respect for nature.

Although fuchsias are just getting ready to go into their dormancy period, I thought I would take this opportunity to tell you a little about this hardy and rewarding native to wet, mountainous areas of tropical America. Fuchsias are considered a woody shrub, some are deciduous and some are evergreen. (more…)

Growing Echinacea (Purple Cone Flower)

Growing EchinaceaOne of the very best for attracting butterflies, growing echinacea, or the purple cone flower (Echinacea purpurea), adds a flashy touch of color to the late summer landscape. Not particularly attractive alone, it’s best to plant echinacea among a low growing perennial bed where the showy flowers will stand above other foliage. Perennial, 3-4 feet tall.

Site Preparation:

Grows well in full sun or light shade and blooms heavily from July through September. Will tolerate clay soils but thrives in well-drained average soils. Tolerates heat and drought.

How to Plant:

Echinacea is easy to grow from nursery stock, seed or division. Sow outdoors 1/2 inch deep when a light frost is still possible. Seeds will germinate in 10-20 days. (more…)

Growing Delphinium

DelphiniumNative to England, home flower gardeners are growing delphinium for their beautiful, feathery leaves and tall spires of blossoms that bloom all summer long. Available in almost any color, they add grace to borders and are spectacular when planted along a fence. Plants grow up to 6 feet tall. Perennial.

Note: Plants, seeds and foliage are all poisonous; please use caution.

Site Preparation:

Delphinium do best in sunny locations with cool, rich, well-drained soil. Prior to planting, work a couple shovelful of compost and a dry organic fertilizer into the soil. Delphiniums are one the first perennials to show new growth in the spring and will tolerate some frost.

How to Plant:

May be propagated from divisions or from seed. If planting from seed, sow outdoors two weeks before the last frost, just beneath the soil surface. Seeds will germinate in 14-21 days. Water well throughout the growing season and feed with fertilizer to keep plants strong. Remove faded blooms immediately after flowering. Plants may require support, depending upon how tall they grow.

Tip: It is best to chill seed for a week before sowing (stick them in the fridge). (more…)

Growing Dahlias

DahliasBy Kim Haworth

Late summer brings up some of my favorite flowers. The first growing dahlia I ever met was in a hillside house I rented in Mill Valley. We had moved in during the winter months and were enchanted by the multiple surprises the garden revealed as winter turned to spring, then summer. One of the lovely things about moving into an older home is the opportunity to see the garden unfold, it’s rather like a surprise package.

The dahlias in Mill Valley were bright yellow and the tubers must have been in the ground for many years, because the flowers were the size of a dinner plate. They were the spidery shaped blooms, called ‘cactus form’ that looked like sunbursts. Magnificent! When we moved, I tried to take the tubers with me, but I’m afraid I did the plant a disservice. It never regained it’s former glory after the transplant. (more…)

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