Color for Cooler Days

Friday, September 23rd, 2016 by Jenny Watts
    • Lettuce can be planted from starts for a quick fall crop.
    • Tree collards are delicious winter vegetables. Set out plants now.
    • Apples, pears and other fruit trees can be planted in the fall from containers to get a head start on next spring.
    • It’s time to divide overgrown perennials that bloomed in the spring or early summer. It’s also a good time to choose and plant some new varieties.
    • Cover crops should be planted in the garden as soon as you pull out summer crops. They will feed the soil and prevent erosion over the winter.

Color for Cooler Days

As the petunias and marigolds wind down, and chilly nights come on, it’s time to clean up the flower beds and plant some new flowers for the cooler months. Snapdragons, calendulas, stock, pansies, violas, primroses and chrysanthemums are the best choices to keep your garden and containers colorful.

Snapdragons come in a variety of sizes and colors. They range from 8-inch tall “Floral Carpets” to 36-inch tall “Rockets.” The color range spans all the pinks, reds and lavenders as well as yellow and white. Although they are sold as annuals, in our climate they will winter over and rebloom profusely in early spring.

For mass plantings, plant medium and dwarf varieties 6 to 8 inches apart and tall types a foot apart. Give them a sunny location with good garden soil that is well-drained. Snaps look very nice when interplanted with delphiniums, irises and daylilies.

Calendulas are very easy to grow. They are sometimes called winter marigold, though they are not marigolds at all. They grow in the sun and come in all shades of yellow, gold and orange. They like cool weather and will provide lots of color between now and next summer.

Stock is well-known for its wonderful fragrance. Flowers come in lovely rich colors of pink, purple, rose and white. Most flowers are double, and set against their gray-green foliage, they are beautiful. They make wonderful cut flowers, mixing nicely with snaps to have a riot of color as well as fragrance.

Pansies and violas 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; some have “faces” and others are solid colors. Both pansies and violas have many new varieties with two or three colors in each flower making a very colorful statement.

English primroses are the best bedding plants for shady areas in the winter. Their flowers sit in a cluster directly in the center of the plant, some on central flower stalks and some with lower flowers on individual stems. The color range is incredible, covering red, blue, yellow and all shades in between.

If primroses are started early enough they will bloom in the fall. All plants will bloom from February through April, putting on a terrific show of color. If planted in a spot that receives shade in the summer, they will become well-established and be bigger and more beautiful next winter.

Chrysanthemums make some of the best cut flowers around. They last up to two weeks in the vase, and give fresh color to the garden when nearly all other perennials have finished their show for the year. In your garden, they will grow 2 to 4 feet tall, and have long stems for cutting.

Fall-blooming mums come in a dazzling array of colors. The “fall colors” of yellow, gold, rust and magenta are very appealing. But they also come in pink, white, purple and lavender. Choose colors that will compliment your indoor decor or the color of your house.

Perk up your garden with cheerful fall bloomers.

Edible Flowers

Monday, April 12th, 2010 by Jenny Watts
    • Tomatoes can be set out with protection. “Season Starter” will protect them down to 20°F and will give them a warm environment during the day.
    • Plant sunflowers now from seed or plants. Choose either the multi-stemmed kinds for cut flowers or the giants for edible seeds.
    • Dahlias come in a wide variety of colors and shapes. Plant the roots now for flowers this summer.
    • Put up hummingbird feeders this month and enjoy these colorful and entertaining birds.
    • Last chance to plant asparagus roots this year. This delicious vegetable will keep producing for up to 20 years.

A Feast of Flowers

Many of the plants we grow for their flowers were once grown for their flavors as well. Today, cooking and garnishing with flowers is back in vogue. Many restaurant chefs and creative home cooks garnish their entrees with flower blossoms for a touch of elegance.

Common edible flowers include nasturtiums, Johnny-Jump-Ups, borage and chive blossoms, calendulas, bachelor buttons and carnations. Lavender, daylilies and lilacs have edible flowers as well.

Nasturtiums are among the most delicious edible flowers, with a mildly spicy flavor. Stuff whole flowers with savory mousse and use leaves to add a peppery tang to salads. Johnny-Jump-Ups make lovely garnishes and decorations and have a faint wintergreen taste that can be used in salads, drinks and soups.

The dainty star-shaped, sky-blue flowers of borage add a cool cucumbery flavor to the salad. Use in punches, lemonade, and sorbets. Chive blossoms, in lavender-pink, have a subtle onion flavor that goes well with salads, eggs and potatoes.

The bright yellow and orange flowers of calendulas, which prefer the cooler days of spring and fall, have a spicy, tangy, peppery flavor and add a golden hue to foods. Pull out the flower petals and add them to salads, rice dishes, eggs and cheese.

Bachelor’s buttons have a sweet to spicy, clove-like flavor and are used as a garnish. Carnations have a spicy, peppery, clove-like flavor. Use the surprisingly sweet petals in desserts.

English lavender has a sweet, floral flavor. Flowers look beautiful and are tasty with chocolate cake or as a garnish for sorbets or ice creams. The flavor of lilacs varies from plant to plant. They are very fragrant, but slightly bitter, with a distinct lemony taste. Use the newly opened blooms to add their sweet fragrance to cookies, cakes and salads.

Daylilies bloom in yellow, orange, red and many shades in between. Each blossom lasts only a day, but the plants bloom so profusely that they are attractive for a long time.

They are valued for their delicate flavor that is sweet and crunchy, like a crisp lettuce leaf. Pick daylily flowers in the afternoon. Wash them in cool water and pat them dry to use in soups and stir fries or tossed in a salad.

Do be cautious about eating flowers. Allergic reactions are always possible with any new food, so sample sparingly the first time you try any edible flower. It is possible that people who suffer from hay fever will have a bad reaction from the pollen, so it may be best to skip the edible flowers.

For best flavor, use flowers at their peak. Flowers that are faded or wilted will taste bitter. Perk up your summer salads and hot dishes with some of these edible flowers.

If you choose seeds or starts of these plants this spring, you will be harvesting their tasty flowers later this spring and summer.