Organic Gardens

Few pursuits are as rewarding as growing your own organic garden. Not only do you get to enjoy the fruits of your own labor, but you have the satisfaction of knowing that the produce you are eating was grown free of chemicals, pesticides and herbicides. Growing organically produces healthy, more diverse ecosystems which are better able to resist significant pest damage… naturally!

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 borders or scatter them throughout the cottage garden (see Flower Gardening 101). (more…)

Lilies

Garden LiliesA favorite! Lilies with their large, attractive flowers add a splash of color to wherever they’re planted.

Sunlight: Full sun to partial shade
Maturity: 70-120 days after spring growth
Height: 1 to 6 feet
Spacing: 8 to 12 inches apart in all directions

One 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.

Lilies may be grown individually in formal or naturalistic settings or en mass. Smaller species make excellent container plants. Blooms from late spring through early autumn, depending on species. Hardy perennial. (more…)

Hollyhock

Hollyhocks Impressive plants — up to 9 feet tall — with large single and double blooms provide old world charm to gardens.

Sunlight: Full sun to partial shade
Maturity: 365 days or more from seed to flower
Height: 4 to 9 feet
Spacing: 18 to 36 inches apart in all directions

Home flower gardeners enjoy growing hollyhocks in borders or against walls and fences where their spectacular flowers stand tall above all else. The classic variety (Alcea rosea) has graced outbuildings and farmsteads for more than a century. Very attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds.

Showy blooms of white, light-pink, magenta and burgundy completely cover 4 to 9 foot stalks. Hollyhocks are considered a biennial, that is, they grow foliage the first year and flower, form seeds and die the next. Plants easily self-seed to provide an endless supply of blossoms. (more…)

Gladiolus

GladiolusGrown from corms, gladiolus — available from miniature to giant — are favored for their large, showy blossoms and classic, spiky stems.

Sunlight: Full sun
Maturity: 70-95 days from corm to flower
Height: 2 to 5 feet
Spacing: 4 to 6 inches apart in all directions

Gladiolus with their dramatic sword-like leaves have sturdy flowering stems that grow up to 5 feet tall. The trumpet-shaped flowers come in shades of almost every color and are the perfect backdrop to garden beds. Home flower gardeners particularly enjoy growing gladiolus for long-lasting cuttings and floral bouquets.

Summer bulbs, like “glads,” are the perfect addition to the flower garden. They combine beautifully with annuals and perennials, offering a uniqueness that completes the landscape. Try planting over several weeks in spring to create brilliant displays of color throughout the summer months. Smaller varieties can be grown in containers where space is limited. Tender perennial often grown as an annual. (more…)

Fuchsia

FuchsiasBy Kim Haworth

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…)

Echinacea

Growing EchinaceaOne of the best flowers for attracting butterflies, purple cone flower is easy to grow and adds color to the late summer landscape.

Sunlight: Full sun to partial shade
Maturity: 90-120 days from seed to flower
Height: 36 to 48 inches
Spacing: 12 to 24 inches apart in all directions

America’s grasslands are home to a brilliant array of flowers and echinacea, or the purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), is one of the best. These hardy perennials, with their large daisy-like flowers, make a lovely, water-wise choice for borders, native-grass lawns and xeric gardens.

A cottage garden favorite, growing echinacea creates an impressive display of color, especially when planted among shorter perennials where the showy, purple, pink and white flowers stand above other foliage. Plants bloom heavily from July through September and are popular with both bees and butterflies. Perennial, 3-4 feet tall. (more…)

Delphinium

DelphiniumShowy spikes and beautiful colors — even blue — make delphinium a favorite focal point in many gardens.

Sunlight: Full sun to partial shade
Maturity: 85-125 days from seed to flower
Height: 2 to 6 feet
Spacing: 12 to 36 inches apart in all directions

Native to England, home flower gardeners are growing delphinium — also known as larkspur — for their beautiful feathery leaves and tall spires of blossoms that bloom all summer long. Available in almost every color, they add grace to borders and are spectacular when planted along a stone wall or garden fence.

Delphiniums can be difficult to grow even under the best of conditions. However, both tall and short varieties have long been a favorite in cottage-type gardens, mixed perennial beds and floral bouquets. Impressive plants with showy single or double flowers grow up to 6 feet tall. Short-lived perennial. (more…)

Daisies

Shasta Daisy“She loves me… she loves me not.” Whichever way the petals fall, one thing is certain. We all love daisies.

Sunlight: Full sun to partial shade
Maturity: 90-120 days from seed to flower
Height: 24 to 36 inches
Spacing: 12 to 24 inches apart in all directions

Home gardeners everywhere are growing daisies. The simple white flowers with yellow button centers stand tall, gracing our landscapes with abundant blossoms, long after other flowers are fading away (see Summer Flowers for Color).

Beautiful both in the garden and as cut flowers, daisies are hardy, drought-resistant, and provide years of gorgeous, old-fashioned blossoms. The popular Shasta daisy, a good variety for high altitude, low water locations, is probably what most people think of when they think daisy. Hardy perennial, 2-3 feet tall. (more…)

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…)

Cosmos

CosmosFern-like leaves and abundant, daisy-shaped blossoms make cosmos a lovely choice for borders and background.

Sunlight: Full sun to partial shade
Maturity: 65-90 days from seed to flower
Height: 24 to 60 inches
Spacing: 12 to 18 inches apart in all directions

Growing cosmos adds beauty to summer gardens, especially when planted in informal beds or used in mixed borders. Flowers come in striking reds and oranges or paler crimsons and cream. For arrangements, cut flowers shortly after bloom and place immediately in cold water. Shorter varieties are perfect for containers. (more…)

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