Stars in the Garden

Saturday, June 26th, 2010 by Jenny Watts
    • Dress up for the Fourth! Red, white and blue petunias, verbena or combinations of these with lobelia, geraniums, impatiens and salvia will make a nice display for the Fourth of July.
    • Plant fresh herbs from young plants. Basil, rosemary, thymes, mints and sages are just a few ideas.
    • It’s time to set out Brussels sprouts for fall harvest. Plant lettuce every two weeks for fresh heads all summer.
    • Check young trees and fruit trees for suckers and water sprouts. Rub suckers off as they appear and cut water sprouts off apple and pear trees.
    • Roses are in their glory now. Choose a new rose bush or climber to add to your flower garden or brighten up a wire fence.

Plant a star in your garden

One of the most popular landscape plants in California is known as star jasmine. Actually there are two star jasmines. The commonly planted one is Trachelospermum jasminoides, and the other is the Asian star jasmine, T. asiaticum.

Star jasmine has long been prized for its wonderful fragrance. It normally blooms through June and July with scattered flowers on through the summer. The flowers are about an inch across and are borne in clusters at the ends of the branches. The glossy, dark green leaves make an attractive contrast.

Star jasmine is a plant that can be trained to do almost anything you want. It will climb a trellis, spill over walls, climb fences and drape from hanging baskets. It is also a very graceful ground cover forming a thick cover about 18 to 24 inches tall.

Since it is slower growing than most vines, it is far more suitable for the small private garden or backyard. It can be grown in a large container for many years. Let it grow up a trellis to make a screen for the patio.

To cover a fence or wall, set the plants about 3 feet apart and start them in the direction you want them to grow. They climb by twining, but you may have to tie them to a trellis to start them growing up. As the plants mature, they grow faster, and can be trimmed lightly to keep them from becoming woody.

Asian star jasmine sends out long trailers on young plants and can be trained right away. It is more hardy to cold, but the flowers are a little smaller and more cream-colored than its cousin.

If you want to plant star jasmine as a ground cover, set the plants two feet apart. Use a diamond-shaped planting plan to assure good coverage as soon as possible. Any shoots that seem to grow straight up should be removed so that growth can go into the trailing shoots.

It is best to plant star jasmine where it receives afternoon shade. Hot sun can burn the leaves. Keep them well watered and weeded. A program of feeding every spring and late summer will help them grow and cover as soon as possible. It is slow to take off growing so if you want to cover an area quickly, you might want to start with a larger plant.

Both star jasmines are good-looking all year, and make a nice backdrop for other flowering plants. Use star jasmine near an entry or along a walk so you can enjoy the wonderful fragrance of their star-like flowers.

Fall is for Planting!

Thursday, October 2nd, 2008 by Jenny Watts
    • Garlic cloves can be planted now. Choose from Early White, Late Pink, Spanish Roja or Elephant Garlic. Keep them watered and weeded through the winter and you will harvest healthy large bulbs next June.
    • 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.
    • Bulbs, bulbs, bulbs! It’s time to plant tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, crocus and many other flower bulbs for beautiful blooms next spring.
    • Plant snapdragons, pansies and violas for color this fall, winter and next spring.
    • Rose of Sharon, with its hibiscus-like flowers, is a lovely summer to fall bloomer in our climate. It grows 6 to 8 feet tall in full sun or part shade, and makes a fine, small patio tree.

Heavenly Hyacinths

The Hyacinth family is relatively small compared to other bulbs. Native to the Mediterranean region and South Africa, they were made famous by the Dutch in the 18th century. In fact, they became so popular that 2,000 kinds were said to be cultivated in Holland, the chief commercial producer, at that time.

The common, or Dutch, hyacinth has a single dense spike of star-shaped flowers ranging in color from pure white to yellow, salmon, pink, blue, purple, and near red. Colorful as its flowers may be, the true joy of the Dutch hyacinth lies in its delightful, pervading fragrance. Even a few bulbs suffice to instill the garden with a heady scent.

The peculiarities of the soil and climate of Holland are so favorable to the production of hyacinths that Dutch florists have made a specialty of growing them. Virtually all hyacinth bulbs available in this country are imported from Holland.

Plant bulbs 4 to 6 inches deep and 6 to 8 inches apart, in a sunny, well-drained area in beds and borders. They are especially appropriate for formal plantings. Plant a few near a doorway so the heady perfume can waft inside each time to door is opened.

For a more informal look, mix hyacinths of various colors with tulips, daffodils, pansies, primroses and other spring-blooming flowers. They make excellent cut flowers.

Few plants are better adapted than the hyacinth for forcing in pots. By starting them in early September, they can be forced into bloom as early as Christmas. To keep up a succession of bloom, others should be potted every few weeks through November.

When planting, the pot should be loosely filled with enough planting medium so the top of the bulbs will be even with the top of the pot. Place 1 hyacinth bulb in a 4-inch pot, 3 bulbs in a 6-inch pot, and as many as possible in larger pots. You can also grow them in hyacinth vases, special glass vases with a pinched neck and bulb-sized “cup” at the top.

Either way, you need to keep them in a cool, dark place (from 35° to 48°F) for 13 weeks to establish roots. Then bring them into the light and they will quickly send up a flower spike and bloom in 2 to 3 weeks. Hyacinths can be planted in the garden after they are finished blooming. Many of them will flower again after 1 to 2 years.

Planted in clumps of single colors or arranged in masses of contrasting colors, they add a bright and happy tone to the garden. Forced for indoor display, they fill the house with a heavenly fragrance.