» Archive for June, 2015

Bright and Sunny Marigolds

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015 by Jenny Watts
    • Attract hummingbirds to your patio this summer with hummingbird feeders, so you can enjoy their iridescent beauty and charm. The new Big Gulp™ holds 40 oz. and is easy to fill.
    • Azaleas, camellias and rhododendrons can be pruned now without sacrificing next years bloom. Ask at your nursery if you need help.
    • Paint trunks of young fruit trees with Tree Trunk White. This will keep the soft bark from sun-burning which leaves cracks for borer insects, the most common cause of death of young apple trees.
    • Earwigs are out and about and hungry. Control them with the new “Sluggo Plus”, which has the natural, bacteria-based spinosad added to the original iron phosphate formula.
    • Stake or cage tomato plants before they get any larger.

Bright and Sunny Marigolds

Marigolds have a long and rambling history traveling from their native Mexico, where they were used and admired by the Aztecs, across the ocean to Europe and African and finally back to America. Through their meandering journey, some varieties became known as African marigolds and others as French marigolds.

Since the 1920s marigold breeding has developed hundreds of new varieties. The glorious marigold flowers come in all the colors of the sun – brilliant yellow, bold orange, rich gold and russet tones, and bright white. Their diversity of flower types and drought tolerance make them a very valuable bedding plant for summer gardens.

African marigolds are both the largest marigold plants and the largest flowers. Standing up to 3 feet tall, their large, fully double flower heads can be 3-5 inches across. They come in yellow, gold, orange and primrose (light yellow) and make fine cut flowers.

The largest of these are the Crackerjack marigolds. This is a fine, open-pollinated heirloom variety that will bloom all summer with hardly any attention. The Lady and Perfection series offer plants that grow 18-24 inches tall with blooms that measure 3-4 inches across. The Inca and Antigua marigolds are a little shorter, at around 14-16 inches tall with sturdy stems and flowers up to 3 inches across.

French marigolds are a different species of marigold and offer more variety of flower shape and color. They are bushy and compact with small flowers, up to 2 inches across, and a neat overall appearance. The plants usually grow 8-12 inches tall, and the flowers vary from single to semi-double to fully double. They come in both solid and bi-colored types in yellow, orange and mahogany-red.

You’ll find regular French marigolds with names like Yellow Boy or Janie Orange. The semi-double types are often bi-colored with red and yellow flowers and names like Durango Bee or Safari Red. The ruffled petals give them a very showy appearance.

A third type of marigold has flattened petals in a single layer with a central tuft. They are called Signet marigolds and Disco is a popular mix. They bloom early and abundantly on compact plants with delicate, lacy foliage, and are excellent for edging beds and in window boxes.

Triploid marigolds are a cross between African types and French types. Since they set no seed as they mature, the plants will produce flowers continuously over a long season. Zenith and Nugget marigolds are triploids.

All types of marigolds prefer full sun and grow in almost any soil with dry to moderate moisture. While the marigolds are an attractive addition to the garden, research studies have concluded that they aren’t effective in reducing insect damage on vegetable crops.

Enjoy this versatile flower in your flower beds and borders.

Butterfly Bushes

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015 by Jenny Watts
    • Calibrachoa, or Million Bells, look like miniature petunias and come in many unusual shades and blends. Plant them in full sun for a profusion of flowers from spring to frost.
    • Mulch blueberry plants with aged sawdust and feed with cottonseed meal or an acid fertilizer.
    • When you plant your vegetable garden, why not grow a little extra to donate to the Willits Food Bank this summer.
    • Set out zinnias, cosmos, impatiens and begonias for lots of colorful flowers all summer long.
    • Star jasmine is an evergreen vine that prefers some shade. The fragrant blossoms fill the June air with their sweet scent.

Bring butterflies to your garden with Buddleias

Buddleias, commonly known as butterfly bushes, are fine shrubs for the garden. They have large, fragrant, colorful flowers that attract a flutter of butterflies into your summer garden. Their long summer bloom gives them their other common name, summer lilac.

These eye-catching plants are loved by butterflies. When the blossoms are open, you can be sure that butterflies will be abundant. Monarchs, swallowtails, fritillaries and many other nectar drinkers are attracted to the fragrant flower clusters. Hummingbirds also visit Buddleias, so plant them where you can enjoy them up close.

Buddleias can be used in many different ways. Compact types are nice in the perennial or mixed border, for small gardens or for large containers. Larger types, which grow 8-12 feet tall, do best in the background or as part of a tall shrub border.

These are very forgiving plants. They take almost any well-drained soil, and can stand considerable drought. Although they flower best in full sun, they will also bloom in light or filtered shade.

Standard Buddleias grow as wide-spreading, open shrubs. They work best as background plants. The flowers come in 6-8 inch long clusters at the ends of the branches beginning in July and continue until frost.

Colors range from the true pink of ‘Pink Delight’ to wine-purple of ‘Royal Red’ and dark purple of ‘Black Knight.’ The unusual variety ‘Harlequin’ has bright, variegated leaves and reddish-purple flower spikes. It grows 6-7 feet tall.

Butterfly bushes are a little unruly-looking so they may not have a place in a formal garden. But given sunshine and room to grow, they are a wonderful addition to the yard. They can be used in the flower border or as the focal point for a large open area. They are hardy and easy to grow.

Since standard Buddleias are too big for many gardens, a number of new dwarf varieties are now available. Buddleias davidii ‘Nanho’ grows to only 6 feet tall with smaller leaves and flower clusters.

A new series called Buddleia Buzz™ grows only 3-4 feet tall. They are excellent in containers and bloom over a long season, bringing butterflies and hummingbirds to your patio or deck. They come in all shades of purple. Buddleia ‘Dwarf Snappy Blue’ is another dwarf variety that grows 3 feet tall and 4 feet wide.

In addition, Buddleias make good cut flowers, are mostly allergy free, and are drought tolerant once established. And deer generally leave them alone.

Buddleias bloom on new growth so they can be pruned to control size and shape without affecting the flowering. Deadheading through the summer will produce maximum bloom.

Incidentally, Buddleia is sometimes spelled Buddleja, but both are pronounced “BUD-lee-ah.” Also, they can be invasive and reseed freely in some climates, but they are not known to be invasive in California. Buddleias will also attract bees that will pollinate other plants in your garden.

Don’t confuse butterfly bush plants with butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa). Butterfly weed is a type of milkweed and serves as a host for the caterpillars of monarch butterflies as well as a nectar source. It is a perennial that dies down to the ground in winter.

Plant colorful Buddleias in your garden and enjoy the beautiful butterflies that visit them.

Cool as a Cucumber

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015 by Jenny Watts
    • Ivy geraniums make wonderful hanging baskets for partially shaded spots where they will bloom all summer in their bright colors.
    • Cage or stake tomatoes while still small so that you can train them as they grow.
    • Roses bloom all summer with their abundant flowers in so many different colors. Choose some now when you can see their lovely flowers.
    • Impatiens come in a wide variety of colors. Mix them or make mass plantings of different colors for bold statements in shady borders.
    • Ladybugs are a big help with aphids in your greenhouse or garden. Release at dusk in problem areas.

Cool as a Cucumber

For a heat-loving summer vegetable, cucumbers are about as “cool” as they come. Originally from the hot, dry regions of Asia and Africa, the crisp, white flesh of cucumbers have always seemed refreshing. Now a staple of summer salads in this country, this is one vegetable that should be in every garden.

Cucumbers are climbing vines that are easy to grow. There are many different varieties from the ever popular, round, yellow lemon cucumbers to long and thin slicers. Cucumbers are usually divided into two groups: the smaller, faster growing varieties used for pickling and the longer varieties used for slicing.

There are also “burpless” varieties and “yard-long” Armenians, both with non-bitter skin that you can eat. In addition to fresh eating, cucumbers can be preserved by pickling them, an art that is centuries old. You can pickle any small cucumber, and enjoy them that way all winter long.

Cucumbers will grow well in most good garden soils. They like warm weather and at least 8 hours of sun a day. Since cucumbers are 95 percent water, they need long, deep drinks of water to grow fruit that is not bitter. Temperatures above 100°F can cause bitterness or stop fruit production.

When planting, add compost to your garden soil and use a complete organic fertilizer to help get your cucumbers off to a good start and provide nutrition throughout their growing season. When the vines are about a foot long, side dress with compost or fertilizer which should take effect just as the plants blossom. Stand back and wait for an abundant crop of cool cucumbers.

Most varieties of cucumbers are vines, and they love to climb! Try growing them on a trellis. Cucumbers grown on trellises tend to produce healthier fruits, which are uniform in size and shape, and 2-3 times more cucumbers. They are also cleaner at harvest time and the air circulation provided by the trellis helps prevent diseases.

Trellising cucumbers frees up space in the garden, and you can plant lettuces or other greens under the trellis in the shade provided by the growing vines. Plant the vines 18 inches apart. Cucumbers grown on the ground need more space, so plant them 36 inches apart and space the rows at least two feet apart.

Cucumbers need plenty of water to be juicy and crisp. Plants that do not get enough water produce small, bitter, deformed fruits. Soak the soil deeply when you water.

Pick cucumbers frequently when they are young and tender. The goal of a cucumber vine is to set seeds and if even one fruit is allowed to mature, the whole vine will quickly stop producing. Gently twist or clip off the fruits being careful not to break the vines.

Cucumber vines are not heavy producers, except for lemon cucumbers, which share their abundance all at one time! Expect 1 to 3 pounds per plant, so you may want 6 plants per person, if you are going to make pickles, and 2 plants per person for fresh fruit only.

Plant cucumbers now for delicious, cool fruit this summer.