A GROWING CONCERN: Dress your yard to impress with these varieties

THIS PAST WEEK (including Mother’s Day weekend), I’ve been planting an array of cool-tolerant flowers, biannuals and perennials at various clients’ properties.

Another truck is due in June 7 with warm-soil-loving plants such as impatiens, geraniums, celosia, zinnias and marigolds.

So with people buying plants, here is an extended list of my favorite flowers for the summer garden:

1. Statice (full sun): Yes, statice makes for an ideal bedding plant. Great as a cut flower and unbeatable as a dry flower, statice adds dimension to the garden.

Foliage is low and ground-hugging, with flower stalks towering 12 to 24 inches above the plant.

It is very easy to grow in full sun and well-drained soil. Flower stalks must be harvested for summer to mid-fall blooms.

2. Impatiens (full shade to partial sun): Want a plant that has thousands of blooms and gets no diseases and no bug problems? One that comes in every color, including bicolor and stars?

Do you want a plant that can be 3 or more feet tall or as short as 4 to 6 inches?

Would you like a plant that naturally mounds to any shape?

Get impatiens. Get flats, not packs, of impatiens.

All your neighbors and friends will thank you.

3. Pansies (filtered light to full sun): Bright, prolific and now perennial or biannual, they bloom all year here. Any color, any flower size — a perfect way to keep your summer bed blooming in winter.

New colors such as antique shades just beg to be tried.

4. Godetia (half to full day sun): Here is the bedding plant everyone must get.

This is a member of the evening primrose family and thrives in cool weather.

Godetia provides great, long-lasting cut flowers with a profusion of 2-inch, upward-cup-like blooms in an array of pastels, soft reds and burgundies.

Godetia plants are perfect as a border, mass bed or in containers. You must cut back for all-season flowering.

It will grow well in full sun or part shade but really wants a light soil with lots of peat moss and perlite.

5. Salpiglossis painted tongue (mostly sun): Along with godetia, you must try this poor man’s orchid.

The exotic, veined, single and bicolored 2-inch flowers are displayed in a full spectrum of color. They bloom all season long on 15- to 20-inch-tall plants.

Great in the mixed annual bed, salpiglossis makes perfect pots or color spots.

Again, this is another plant that thrives in cool climates when planted in sun or part shade. Salpiglossis prefers well-drained soil.

6. Cosmos (mostly sunny): I don’t know why this superb plant has not taken over more of the market.

New varieties exist in height from 1 to 5 feet. The varieties are extremely prolific and bloom well past October. They are also available in most colors.

Cosmos thrives in well-drained soils, is drought-tolerant and seems to like neglect.

Superb as cut flowers, cosmos can be used in borders, backdrops or mixed into the garden as showy color spots. It has very nice, daisy-like flowers.

7. Caladiums (filtered light, light shade, no direct sunlight): Caladiums don’t bloom; they grow beautiful, large, heart-shaped colored leaves. These leaves are available in numerous color combinations such as white and green, red and pink, red and white, red-veined, burgundy and other like colors.

Caladium leaves are great as greens in a flower arrangements and grow better when one harvests the older, larger leaves. They are unbeatable when used as mass plantings under trees for a truly exotic look.

And if you want, the corm can be dug up and stored for next year. If you are looking for something new to impress your friends or neighbors, try caladiums. You won’t be disappointed.

8. Ipomoea, or sweet potato vine (full sun): Ipomoea is a foliage plant with heart-shaped leaves.

Use it for a dramatically long, sweeping effect such as trailing off ledges, rocks, borders or edges. Colors range from black to lime green and include a very stunning tri-color.

It likes sandy soils but can be grown in heavy soils if worked well and 5 to 6 inches deep.

9. Celosia (partial to full sun): Celosia is an ideal cut flower that is prized for its ability to be dried.

Celosia comes in very tall varieties (over 4 feet) or short border plants (6 to 8 inches). They are most notable for their off-colors such as apricot, wine, fiery red and even bronze leaf.

A unique variety has flowers that look like small brain coral.

Be sure to deadhead this plant.

10. Bronze-leaf begonias (partial sun or filtered light): There are tons of begonias available to the gardener, and just because I choose the fibrous type doesn’t mean you should overlook the pendulous tuber begonias for your baskets and window boxes.

The bronze-leaf types are spectacular. Their foliage color offers a unique color shade and matches well with their iridescent blooms.

They are unbelievably prolific, require little maintenance and are disease- and bug-free.

Perfect as a mass planting, they also serve well in pots, are perfect by themselves in baskets and are great in mixed beds.

11. Lobelia (sun to half shade): My favorite bedding plant and perfect for the Peninsula because of our cool climate. It also blooms into November.

Available in more shades of blue than you thought possible, lobelia comes in a wide range of pastels, many with striking eyes.

Lobelia likes sun to half shade and well-tilled, rich, sandy, easily well-drained soils.

This is suited for baskets, pots, containers or anywhere you want an overhanging lip of flowers.

12. Nemesia (partial shade to full sun): This is an extremely coveted plant for cool climates. This very showy, compact plant bears a multitude of 1-inch uniquely shaped flowers.

Known for their stunning arrangement and compact growth habit (6 to 8 inches tall), nemesia is a show stopper when used en masse, as short border or in pots.

Make sure it has well-tilled soil.

13. Snapdragons (partial to full sun): Snapdragons give charm and a Victorian look to your yard. These plants just keep getting better as you cut them back, harvesting the magnificent blooms as cut flowers.

Biannual in nature, snaps are another plant that will last into winter and are already in bloom now.


Andrew May is an 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@peninsula dailynews.com (subject line: Andrew May).

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