A GROWING CONCERN: Be a smart spring garden shopper

Tomorrow is Easter, and it is not the symbolism of rebirth and resurrection, but death and destruction that is yours for sure if you buy botanical wonders the likes of begonias, marigolds, geraniums, salvia, tomatoes, peppers, squash and impatients too early. Many plant outlets are doing a horrible service by selling these now!

So here is a baker’s dozen of flowering botanical wonders to bring new life to your yard and garden, all of which are ready, abundant and ideal to plant in early to mid-April and beyond.

1. Pansies and violas. The more I use these plants and the new dazzling color offerings, the more I am turning from super fan to groupie.

They bloom all year and, in most cases, for more than a year (bi-annually).

Perfect as a prolific border, pansies and violas co-mingle spring bulbs for a fall visual effect (ah … spring).

2. Sweet alyssum. Here is another biannual that blooms all year and reseeds itself as well. But better yet, sweet alyssum feeds the very earliest of bees and a native non-stinging wasp that prefers to lay its eggs in aphids.

Who doesn’t want an aromatic, highly prolific, bee-feeding flower around their yard?

3. Trailing lobelia. Without question, these are one of my all-time favorite blooming annuals precisely because of how floribundant this plant is.

It has a super victorian effect because of its dainty multi-flowered effect. It is available in a multitude of colors.

4. Snapdragons. Everyone can grow florist-quality cut snapdragons in their garden by getting either the Madame Butterfly or ideally the Rocket series.

These plants adore our cool spring, cool falls and cool summer evenings.

5. Dusty Miller and artemisia. I call these the highlighters because of the intense, pure white color that is produced by pubescence or little white hairs on their leaves. Pure, intense clumps of white make your other flowers colors stand in stark contrast to these plants. So why not highlight your garden?

6. Peas. I will find any excuse to sow sweet peas and edible peas, but only because we are the best place in all of North America to do so. With beautifully scented cut flowers and outrageously nutritious food from a trellis tacked up somewhere, who wouldn’t want these plants?

7. Bracchia. I have seen in numerous outlets plant starts of broccoli, kale, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, kohlrabi, cauliflower, turnips, parsnips and bok choy. This week is the most ideal time to plant this frost-resistant vegetable family for an early harvest. Then plant again in June.

8. Mediterranean herbs. Let’s round off the edibles with these hardy, very drought tolerant, rocky soil loving, pungent, culinary, easy to grow, cool tolerant plants.

Buy now and plant lavender, rosemary, Russian sage, thyme and oregano. These plants look marvelous and taste even better.

9. Columbine/delphinium/lupine. The terrific trio, as I like to call them. All three are indigenous to our Peninsula and so are perfect for your yard. These extremely hardy plants will bloom year after year from April through June and are everywhere.

10. Creeping flax, rock cress, perennial alyssum. Another trifecta when it comes to creeping over the rock wall, hanging perennials.

Again, these three are available in greenhouses and nurseries now, ready and able to be planted, and will give you a beautiful terraced floribunda look.

11. Sedums. A grouping of plants more than 2,700 strong that creep, trail, spread, hang, grow upright and both bloom and have seasonal foliage color. Extremely drought tolerant and heat resistance — think gravel and rock areas.

12. Erysimum. Here is a new plant I have been playing with, and for a perennial, it has a very impressive year-long bloom capability on the Peninsula. Nice, colorful flowers on upright flower stalks, erysimum is an attention-getter with interesting foliage.

13. Rhododendrons and azaleas. Let us finish with a woody ornamental that is also native to the Peninsula. Rhodies and azaleas are such beautiful plants — great for acidic areas by evergreens or in mulch beds. They bloom from January through August, depending on the variety. So buy several, one for each month, and plant right now. Vendors are flush in these items.

Have fun shopping, happy Easter and … stay well all!

________

Andrew May is a freelance writer and ornamental horticulturist who dreams of having Clallam and Jefferson counties nationally recognized as “Flower Peninsula USA.” Send him questions c/o Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or email news@peninsuladailynews.com (subject line: Andrew May).

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