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 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…)

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…)

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