A GROWING CONCERN: Time to get your bloomers in a bunch

IT’S MAY AND yesterday was my favorite holiday of the year!

Spring and I get to do one of my favorite jobs — top 13 list of summer bloomers.

Like a kid in a candy store, I get to dream of what selections I would take if the bins were flung wide open.

Before we begin, a strong point must be made. In urging everyone to get flower boxes and hanging baskets I feel compelled to explain a basic but necessary chore.

If you want these plants to survive they must be watered daily. Even if it is raining- water them daily!

The number one reason why plants in baskets do poorly or die is lack of water.

To compensate for the leaching of nutrients by this daily watering you should water every five days with a water-soluble fertilizer.

A complete care and maintenance column for your boxes, containers and baskets shall appear in a few weeks, but for now water, water, water, pinch, pinch, pinch.

And now back to the sweets.

Back in January, we said everyone’s summer garden should include dahlias (the best blooming cut flower plant available to you), lilies and, of course, the magnificent sweet pea.

1. Impatiens. There is no better summer annual. Impatiens come in tall, medium, even super compact miniatures. They bloom more than any other annual, and few if any bugs or diseases, require no deadheading and love the shade.

If that wasn’t enough, they naturally mound and shape themselves to the location and are available in any color you want.

It’s the best plant around for shade, to boot.

2. Lobelia. I truly adore this summer annual.

Being cool tolerant, lobelia can be planted at the end of April (if hardened off to outside weather) and will last until November.

It requires only a cut back around the end of July to ensure a spectacular September and October.

Like impatiens, it has few, if any, cultural problems and requires no deadheading. More important, here is your source of blue flowers in all the various hues.

3. Bronze leaf fibrous begonias. Begonias as a whole are wonderful but the bronze foliage types of fibrous begonias are a real showstopper.

Here is a plant to give your yard a professional look.

4. Dusty Miller. Or as I like to call them, a living highlighter pen.

Dusty Miller has brilliant white foliage, and when used either in a border or an accent spot groupings, this white color makes all other plants blooms show their true brilliance.

Dusty Miller can be planted in May and used all year. When summer is over it accents your mums (fall) then kale, (winter) makes nice texture in a Christmas display and then is alive now for a white backdrop with your bulbs.

5. Zinnias. If you are looking for orange-orange, red-red, yellow-yellow flowers, zinnias are bright prolific plants.

They are superb for cut flowers and come in plants from 4 inches to 4 feet in height. Try a cactus-type, flowering Zinnia for a real attention grabber.

Keep in mind that with zinnias, you deadhead this plant.

Old blooms left alone will rot away the plant eventually.

6. Blue salvia. Okay, all salvias, but especially the blues or bicolors. These plants can be perennial here but at least are cool tolerant.

Their vibrant spikes of bloom combined with their shade tolerant quality make these a garden must.

7. Celosia (cockscomb). This plant has it all! Celosia is ideally suited for cut flowers and exceptionality useful as a dry flower.

In the garden, these plants offer an interesting array of colors (apricot, salmon, burgundy) along with an unusual flower head and texture.

Deadheading this plant is a must.

8. Nasturtium. Here is the plant for those of you who want vast amount of bright flowers over a huge area.

If that isn’t enough, nasturtium tolerates poor soils (not that any of us have this condition after last week’s column).

Nasturtium comes in dwarfs, doubles, variegated foliage, and with aphids, so be prepared.

9. Cleome. Here is your tall dramatic plant that will add visual interest to the garden. The flower head develops in an unusual way.

On top of that, the plant tolerates dry summers and feeds butterflies.

Lasting into fall, cleome is a self-sowing annual.

10. Tuberous, pendulous, rex begonias. If you have these items you already know — and if you don’t, it’s time to learn how beautiful these plants are.

These begonias have breathtaking color and flowers along with classy foliage. Dug up in the fall, they will last for years, only getting better.

11. Potato vine (ipomoea). Get exotic, go a little wild and intersperse a few of these in your yard. This creeping plant will hang over the wall, planter and basket.

Mix the varieties Blackie and Margarita for a botanic garden look. Try at least one plant.

12. Seaevola. From down under, this striking blue pendulous plant is unbeatable for the thousands of flowers it produces until November.

Drape over any vertical area with a wall of blue. Plant it as a hanging basket and you will become my good friend.

13. Mandevilla. If a romantic mood is a desired effect, a pot or trellis of mandevilla is the answer.

Glossy green foliage adorns this plant as it covers itself with three inch trumpeted flowers.

You must put this plant in a foliar feed program for optimum results.

Buy these plants in the coming week and condition them to the outdoors.

And condition yourself to … 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 [email protected] (subject line: Andrew May).

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