Beyond Spring

Malus 'Branzam' Brandywine_Crabapple_DBG_LAH_5147Most landscapes look terrific in May and June. The leaves are fresh and new. From pink crabapples to purple lilacs, it seems as if everything is in bloom. The contrast with the lifeless browns and grays of winter is enough to send you cavorting across the  glowing, emerald green lawn.

It’s tempting—irresistible, really—to rush to the local garden center and buy everything with flowers on it. I’ve been subjected to Facebook photos of flowers since March (I have a lot of friends in California), and finally it’s our turn!

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Act Now for Mid-winter Flowers

Crocus_XG-CO_LAH_6312Imagine that it’s wintertime. Anything verdant and green has long turned to brown. Limbs lie leafless. A few berries may yet hang on the shrubs. We’re already eager for spring, but the growing season is still months away. Wouldn’t this be the perfect time to enjoy bright red tulips, or the sweet aroma of blooming narcissus? If you want to enjoy these and other mid-winter flowers, now is the time to start forcing bulbs.

Pretty much any spring bulb can be forced. All we have to do is fool them into thinking that spring has arrived—in the middle of January. To do that, we have to plan ahead—up to 15 weeks ahead.

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Pretty in Purple

LAH_2023Thank heaven for spring bulbs! Just when I can’t bear another day of bleak winter landscape, leafless branches, dried and disintegrating foliage—along come neon-bright crocuses, dancing daffodils, and my favorite, luscious purple grape hyacinths. Not true hyacinths (which are borderline hardy in my 7,000 foot high garden), grape hyacinths are also sold under their genus Muscari. They’re native to southeastern Europe, and are widely cultivated for their early spring flowers in pink, purple, white, or a two-toned combination. Continue reading “Pretty in Purple”

True Blue

Papaver_Blue Poppy_LakewoldGardens-WA_LAH_0564_fsLike many gardeners, I have a “thing” for blue flowers. Lobelia (below), Blue Mist Spiraea, cornflower (Bachelor’s Buttons), and Borage all find a spot in my garden. I’d love to include Himalayan Blue Poppies, hydrangeas, and morning glories but they don’t do as well in my soil and climate. (The poppies need constantly damp soil, hydrangeas need acidic soil to turn them blue plus they’re not hardy enough. The morning glories do well in my greenhouse, but outdoors they usually freeze before them get around to blooming.)

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Autumn Joy

Sedum 'Autumn Joy' @Briargate 10sep05 LAH 089As the growing season winds down we begin to focus on turning autumn leaves, dried grasses, and striking seed heads, but for some flowering plants this is their time to shine. Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ will star in your fall garden.

Plants grow from a single crown, becoming an upright clump 15 to 18 inches tall and 15 inches wide. The succulent, rounded leaves and stems have a gray-blue cast. Stems are topped with large flower heads that start out dusty-pink and become a rich bronze as they age—the ideal colors to complement fall’s russet and gold.

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Help! My Lettuce is Blooming!

Flowering lettuce_BlkForest-CO_LAH_5932My lettuce is blooming. Instead of sweet, tender Buttercrunch and crisp red Prizehead, I have leaves so bitter, even my hens are spurning them. Rats.

At this time of year, it’s common for leafy greens to bloom or, as it’s known in garden-speak, bolt. Long hours of sunlight, combined with torrid temperatures induce flowering. In most cases, there’s nothing to be done. It’s simply time to pull the plants that haven’t yet been harvested and add them to the compost pile.

For example, spinach blooms when days last more than 14 to 16 hours. (Interestingly, spinach will only bloom when days are long.) Warm temperatures will accelerate this process. Dorothy Hinshaw Patent and Diane E. Bilderback explain why this happens in The Book of Garden Secrets:

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Hardy Ice Plant

delosperma_hardy-ice-plant_xg_lah_2583Covering the ground with a solid mass of eye-searing fuchsia-purple flowers, Hardy Ice Plant (Delosperma cooperi) demands a second look. The succulent green leaves glimmer in the sun, giving the plant its common name, while the flowers have glistening thin petals surrounding a yellow center.

Waves of bloom carpet the foliage from late spring until late summer. The show even continues in winter, when plants turn a deep burgundy-red. Other species of Delosperma, with yellow or salmon-pink flowers, are also now available. Some have earned PlantSelect® honors.

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