Campanula 'Sarastro' rated at the top in Chicago Botanic Garden trials. (Photo courtesy Terra Nova Nurseries)
One of the most tempting plants at garden centers is the bellflower, which always seems to be blooming.
Bellflowers (Campanula) are long-blooming perennials or biennials. In general, the plants spread by underground rhizomes, making some of them extremely invasive, so be careful about your choices.
It’s not too late to pick up a few buds for your best gal or guy to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Roses, tulips or any bouquet of cut flowers will do the job. And, with today’s tight budgets, consider buying just a few flowers instead of dozens.
“Don’t spoil things by saying, ‘I couldn’t afford a dozen,’ ” says Sally Ferguson, who represents the Netherlands Flower Bulb Information Center in Danby, Vt. “One perfect flower is symbolic. It shows you’re deep, get it? If one perfect flower’s symbolic, two are mythic!”
Mimosa inspires color trend. © Fotolia
In keeping with the theme of change, the Pantone Color Institute has picked mimosa, “a warm, engaging yellow” as the 2009 Color of the Year.
Forget about all those negative meanings of yellow, such as cowardly or sickly. Instead, think positive.
“The color yellow exemplifies the warmth and nurturing quality of the sun, properties we as humans are naturally drawn to for reassurance,” said Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, which has been setting the standards of colors used in paints, inks, fabrics and other design elements for 45 years. “Mimosa also speaks to enlightenment, as it is a hue that sparks imagination and innovation.”
Two bulbs set the scene during the holidays – amaryllis, with its large trumpet like flowers atop a sturdy stalk, and paperwhites, a very fragrant daffodil that perfumes the room.
Center stage — Amaryllis growth stages from bulb to flower. (Photos courtesy Netherlands Flower Bulb Information Center)
Amaryllis (Hippeastrum) and paperwhites (Narcissus tazetta) are readily available at garden centers and online and mail order merchants. Buy the biggest bulbs you can find. Here are some more tips:
- Pot it in a container that is slightly larger than the bulb is wide. Use a high-quality soilless potting mix that drains well. The top half of the bulb should be above the soil line. Water thoroughly. Place the bulb in a warm, sunny window. Allow the soil to go dry between watering.
Flower on — ‘Mainacht’ or May Night salvia blooms throughout the summer in a sunny garden. (Photo courtesy Bailey Nurseries )
We hear all the time about planning the perennial garden so that something is in bloom all the time. When Perennials Bloom by Tomasz Anisko (2008, Timber Press, $59.95) removes any guesswork. Anisko, a native of Poland, is the curator of plants at Longwood Gardens near Philadelphia.
With scientific research and record keeping, Anisko has chronicled the flowering time of 450 herbaceous perennials through several seasons. The result is a fairly precise range of when specific plants bloom and their peak times. The book breaks down the blooms by cultivars, too.
Babywing pink begonia (Photo courtesy Proven Winners)
Three low-maintenance annuals are definitely worth growing this summer.
Babywing begonia is a subdued cousin of the fabulous dragon wingbegonia, all the rage a few summers ago and still on the list ofall-time great plants. Babywing’s (Begonia x hybrida) green leaves are smaller, but its pink or white flowers are just as large and showy.
The plant is heat tolerant and does not need deadheading. Babywinghas a mounded growing habit and will get up to 15 inches tall and 10inches wide.
Babywing does great in sun or shade. You do not have to remove thespent flowers, called deadheading. Grow in containers, window boxes orin the ground. Allow to dry out between watering.
Summer cooler - Vining geraniums, such as 'Pink Blizzard,' thrive in hanging baskets. (Photo courtesy Fischer USA)
Sometimes I think we’re plant snobs.
Geraniums (Pelargonium) seem to be at the bottom of the wish list for many gardeners because, well, they are geraniums — ordinary, old fashion, boring. Throw in reliable, easy and rewarding and you wonder why they are shunned.
For the common geranium, sometimes called zonal, you can buy plants grown from seed or made from cuttings. I opt for the more expensive cutting geraniums because they are so much showier that their seed-grown siblings. Seed geranium flowers are loose and a bit spindly, but work well in a mass planting.