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Flower

Whether you're planting bulbs, annuals or perennials, flower gardens add a beautiful splash of color throughout the season. While growing flowers is not difficult, there are many decisions that must be made prior to planting. The more closely these choices are based on meeting the needs of your plants, the more likely you are to be successful. Some of the most basic factors to be considered include light, moisture, soil quality and when to plant. Click on the information below to learn 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…)

Growing Cosmos

CosmosNative to Mexico, Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatu) were first discovered by Spanish plant collectors and sent back to Europe in 1799. Cosmos were not introduced to the commercial seed trade until the late 1800′s and did not gain popularity until new early-blossoming varieties were developed in the early part of this century. Growing cosmos adds beauty to gardens, especially when planted in a random pattern or used as a border. Excellent in floral arrangements, too! Half-hardy annual, 4-5 feet tall.

Site Preparation:

Easy to grow, cosmos thrives in full sun and will flower more abundantly in poor soil than in rich. Requires little water and little attention. Excellent for xeriscaping (water-conserving landscape design).

Tip: Cosmos attracts beneficial insects and butterflies to the garden. (more…)

Growing California Poppy

California PoppyFirst noted on the Pacific coast by Dr. Johann Friedrich Eschscholtz, who was the leader of a Russian expedition in 1815. This West Coast wildflower was officially designated the state flower of California on December 12, 1890. Home flower gardeners growing California poppies are rewarded with a spectacular, long-lasting display of lively colors. Self-seeding annual, 12-16 inches tall.

Site Preparation:

Plants do best in full sun and will tolerate poor soil and some drought.

How to Plant:

Direct seeding is preferable, as poppies do not like to have their roots disturbed. Sow in early spring when the soil is still cool and light frost is possible. Can also be sown in the fall just before the ground freezes. Seeds will germinate in 10-15 days. When flowers fade, trim off spent blooms. To use as cut flowers, sear the cut end with a flame or dip in boiling water. (more…)

Growing Calendula

Growing CalendulaReferred to as pot marigolds, growing calendula provides a spectacular display of light yellow to deep orange flowers. Blooms from early summer until frost and has been used for centuries in skin creams to soothe irritations and other inflammatory conditions. Plants are usually low and compact. Self-seeding, hardy annual, 18-24 inches tall.

Site Preparation:

Plants prefer full sun but will tolerate light shade in warmer areas. Calendula (Calendula officinalis) is best planted in prepared garden beds or large containers filled with fresh potting soil. (more…)

Growing Begonias

BegoniasBy Kim Haworth

We drove down to Capitola recently to take photos of fuchsias. Capitola isn’t too far from the Bay Area and there is plenty to see once you are there. My favorite nursery on the coast is Antonelli Brothers, located on Capitola Road just south of Santa Cruz. Antonelli’s specializes in fuchsias and begonias – I guess that’s why Capitola is the begonia capitol of the world. They have an annual begonia festival in town to celebrate these magnificent tubers.

If you have been growing begonias, you know that now is the time to put them to bed for the year. If you are a begonia novice, here are a few tips for preserving your tubers for next season. Anything of value must be treated with respect, and begonia tubers are no exception. As soon as the lower leaves on the plants begin to yellow, stop watering the plants. (more…)

Growing Bachelor Buttons

Bachelor ButtonsNative to Europe and Asia, home gardeners are growing bachelor buttons (Centaurea cyanus) for their many white, red, pink and blue flowers. Also known as cornflowers, these jolly plants will bloom throughout the growing season and their long “silvery” stems make them perfect for cuttings. Discovered in the tomb of King Tutankhamen who died in 1340 B.C. The flowers were woven into a beautiful wreath and given to the King to aid in the afterlife. Self-seeding annual grows to 3 feet high.

Site Preparation:

Bachelor buttons are not particularly fussy and will tolerate most growing conditions providing they receive plenty of sun. They will do well in average, well-drained soils and do not require large amounts of water. Tall plants tend to sprawl without some support and are easily flattened by wind; grow through a peony ring or select a site in a sheltered location.

Tip: For a spectacular effect, plant in combination with red poppies and snapdragons, or mixed with day lilies in a border. (more…)

Saving Heirloom Flower Seeds

Saving SeedOne of the last — and most meaningful — end-of-season tasks is saving flower seeds. We’re not talking about those hybrid seeds you got from the catalog. We’re talking about open-pollinated heirlooms, flowers that have been around longer than grandma. Their names are familiar and come together like words in a poem: Calendula, Four O’Clocks, Morning Glories, Petunias and Poppies.

If you’re lucky, you’ve been saving seed since you were a child, going out with grandma and gathering pods, seed heads or the seeds themselves for careful drying and preserving. Back when, we would put the seeds in grandma’s old pill bottles. Today we put them in tightly-sealed baggies.

Every year, one or two varieties of heirloom flowers disappear from seed catalogs. At that point, if you haven’t saved seed from the flowers you grew the season before, you’re out of luck unless you can find someone who’s saved seed. Some families have made a tradition of gathering seed, going out in the fall and making sure they’ll have their favorite flower seeds available for spring planting. (more…)

Fall Planting, Spring Color

Garden BulbsFall is the time for making sure you’ll have plenty of color in your landscape come spring. Now’s the time to divide perennials, if you haven’t done so in the last few years. If your perennials are showing smaller blossoms or dying off in the center, then dig them up, clip the crowns, and spread them around after cutting out dead and crowded roots. They like room for their roots to grow. Keep the cutting moist until you’ve put them back in the soil. Do this early; don’t wait until there’s a chance that your soil will start to freeze. If there’s a question, wait until early spring, just as the ground thaws and the plants begin to show signs of life. Either way, be sure to add some compost to the soil where they’re planted.

September is also the time to plant bulbs for spring crocus, daffodils, and tulips. Wait until the nights have become cool. The ideal soil temperature for planting bulbs is around 60 degrees. For tight, impressive displays, plant bulbs in a circle. Or just place them where ever you have room and they’ll have enough sunlight to thrive. (more…)

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