» Archive for November, 2013

Smiling Pansies

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013 by Jenny Watts
    • Bulbs, bulbs, bulbs! It’s time to plant tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, crocus and many other flower bulbs for beautiful blooms next spring.
    • Chrysanthemums can be planted in pots or flower beds for bright and cheerful flowers to enjoy this fall.
    • Look for rich, bright colors in the foliage of deciduous trees and shrubs. Japanese maples, fothergilla, snowball bush and maple trees are beautiful right now.
    • Ornamental cabbage makes a dramatic planting in flower beds over the winter.
    • Crimson clover, fava beans and rye grass will fortify your garden soil over the winter. Seed these crops as you compost your summer vegetables.

Smiling Pansies

“If a man has two pennies he should buy a loaf of bread with one, which will sustain his life, and a flower with the other, which will give him a reason to live….. Chinese Proverb

The happy faces of pansies have appealed to gardeners for centuries. Developed from three wild species, the modern pansies have large flowers, beautifully marked “faces” and a wide color range. They add color to the winter and spring garden over a long season.

Pansies are low-growing flowers that are nice for borders and look very pretty in containers of all kinds. Their heart-shaped, shiny green leaves cover the ground and the flowers rise above them on six-inch stems.

Pansy flowers can be up to three inches across and come in a wide variety of colors: violet, purple, blue, pink, red, orange, yellow, white and many new bicolors. The Matrix series is impressive with a wide color range and a no-stretch habit. Ultima Radiance Pink Pansy features beautiful pink flowers with white faces, yellow eyes and deep purple streaks. Not all pansies have faces. Delta Pure hybrids have solid colored flowers in bright yellow, red, blue, white and other colors.

Significant breeding improvements in recent years have produced hybrids that bloom longer, show better heat resistance and cold tolerance, and display a wonderful range of colors and patterns. Pansies have become more popular as gardeners have seen how well they preform through wet, wintery weather. Pansies are unaffected by a covering of snow, and pop right back when the snow melts.

They are good companions for spring-flowering bulbs. By choosing colors that compliment the bulbs you can create some very pretty living bouquets. Blooming over a longer season than the bulbs, they will fill in and provide color as the bulbs are finishing their cycle.

By planting pansies now, you get to enjoy their big, beautiful blooms all fall, often throughout the entire winter, and then again from early spring until the summer heat sets in. Ideally, plant your pansies where they’ll get some shade in the summer, but lots of sun when the trees soon lose their leaves and the weather cools. Then they’ll get the benefit of that cooling shade when the trees leaf out again in spring and the weather warms up. Remember, pansies love sun, but don’t like heat. 

Violas, which are the smaller cousins of pansies, also have some interesting new hybrids. The Sorbet series includes Lemon Chiffon, in soft yellow and white, Orange Duet with charming violet and orange flowers, and Peach Melba, with peach and yellow petals tipped with red. They are dense and neat, spreading to 12 inches across.

The flowers of all pansies and their cousins, violets, violas and Johnny jump-ups, are wonderfully edible. Use them to decorate your salads and cakes, and those tasty flowers will add color and a mild wintergreen flavor to your creations.

The “old fashioned” pansy has many new varieties to bring color to your pots and flower beds this fall and winter.

Camellias for Fall Flowers

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013 by Jenny Watts
    • King Alfred daffodils, those big, showy, golden, trumpet-flowered daffodils, can be planted now from bulbs for glorious spring flowers.
    • Transplant shrubs that need to be moved this month. It’s also a good time to transplant natives.
    • Broadcast wildflower seeds and annual ryegrass on hillsides to stop erosion and give you lots of flowers next spring.
    • Compost falling leaves to make excellent garden mulch by next season.
    • Cut asparagus down to about two inches above the ground once all of the foliage has died. Mulch asparagus beds with three inches of well-rotted manure.

Camellias for Fall Flowers

Camellias are well-known for their large, perfect-looking flowers that bloom in the springtime. These are Camellia japonica and are indeed magnificent shrubs. But they have a lesser known cousin, Camellia sasanqua which is a fine shrub with stunning fall and winter color displays. They vary from tall, bushy shrubs to low, spreading ones making a wonderful hedge plant, a superior container plant, or even an effective ground cover.

The flowers are smaller and less showy than the common camellia, but they make up for it with a profusion of bloom. By planting both types of camellias, you get a very long season of bloom, extending from November through May.

Camellia sasanquas are generally rather open and informal. Some varieties have a loose, open habit and pliable stems with a graceful form. They can easily be espaliered on a fence or trellis for a dramatic effect. Many varieties grow only 2-5 feet tall and wide, while others, like the December-blooming ‘Yuletide,’ are quite compact and upright.

The flowers of sasanquas are about 2-3 inches across and may be single, semidouble, or double, usually with a central burst of bright yellow stamens. They cover themselves with blossoms that just keep coming for weeks. Their delicate rounded and often frilled petals range from pale shell pink, rich rose, and vibrant white, to fiery red. Individual flowers last but a short time, but as they fall they are replaced by many more. Many have sweetly-scented flowers as a bonus. They stand out through the winter against glossy, dark green foliage.

Camellia sasanqua can be planted in sun or shade, but avoid intense heat and reflected light. It makes a fine container plant, and some varieties can be used as ground cover shrubs.

All camellias need careful planting. Most failures occur from planting too deep. Dig a hole twice as wide as the root ball and 1 inch shallower. Mix in one part compost to every 3 parts of native soil, and fill in around the root ball. After planting, the root ball will stick up 1 inch. Fill in around the sides of the root ball with the soil mixture, making a watering basin, but do not put soil on top of the root ball. Add mulch to cover the root ball and surrounding soil. This method insures that the plant will have good drainage, and the roots will be able to breathe.

Their cultural needs are similar to rhododendrons and azaleas as they prefer a rich organic and acidic soil and filtered shade. But Camellia sasanquas will also will take considerable sun if kept moist through the summer.

Look for beautiful, fall-blooming camellias now. They make a nice addition to the winter landscape.