It's not too late for container gardens
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It's not too late for Spring Planting Service

Sometimes people feel like they missed the proper planting time and decide it's not worth bothering because they're late. When container gardens are well cared for, they will easily last through the end of September. Why pass up on having a beautiful patio for the rest of the summer just because you are running a little bit late?  If you still need plants, I'm still planting! (In fact, I'm still working on the planters at my own house.) Please contact me right away.

By the way, if you've misplaced your instruction manual for the hose-end timer, you can find programming instructions on my website.

Annual? Perennial? or something in-between?

We love to label and categorize things. However, as much as we like to put things in neat boxes, not everything seems to fit perfectly. It's difficult to perfectly categorize plants as well. After my comment about Dianthus in April's newsletter, I've been asked some questions regarding how plants are categorized. I had commented that Dianthus is generally sold in the nurseries as an “annual” but in our area “short-lived perennial” is a more fitting label. To try to clear up the confusion, here's a short summary of why plants are categorized one way or the other.

Botanically speaking, annuals are plants that complete their life cycle within a year. The seeds germinate, the plant matures, flowers and dies in one year. Only the seeds continue the species from one year to the next. Since they complete their life cycle in one year, you will have flowers and mature foliage relatively quickly. Bringing annuals indoors for the winter will not help; their life span is no longer than one year. Examples of annuals include marigolds, pansy, impatiens and petunias.

Perennials are plants that need at least two years to complete their first life cycle. They usually germinate and produce vegetative growth the first year. In the second and subsequent years they'll produce flowers and seeds. Perennials go dormant (die back to the ground) after flowering, but reappear the following season from the same root stock. Examples of herbaceous perennials are Peonies, Shasta Daisies and Daylilies.

Somewhere in-between
Within these two broad groups there are several sub-categories and some plants which blur the lines. Some plants are categorized as "short lived or tender perennials" such as Thread-leaf Coreopsis - they may only reappear the following season if planted in a protected space or only for a few years. Some plants (like Dianthus) will flower in their first year but will also reappear from the same root stock. Geraniums are actually perennial plants in warmer climates but are grown as annuals here because they grow and flower so quickly. Some annuals, like Cosmos, are so reliable at reseeding themselves it's hard to tell they aren't perennials. To further complicate the matter, some plants are classified as biennial - plants which require two years to complete the life cycle and then die. Examples of biennial plants are Hollyhock and Foxglove.

If you've ever been confused about a plant's classification, that's because it is confusing! 

Get to Know These Plants

NicotianaANNUAL: Flowering Tobacco / Nicotiana

With its sweet 5-petal flower and wide range of available colors, this relative of commercially used tobacco is anything but hazardous to your health! The plant breeders have hybridized Nicotiana alata so that it is compact, growing only about 12” tall; holds its flowers upright and open all day; and has vibrant and predictable colors. However, the pleasant scent of Nicotiana has diminished greatly from the original species – you must sniff closely to smell them at all.  Grows best in dappled sunlight but will perform in full sun with sufficient water.

Salvia or Sage  / Salvia nemerosa

The most common cultivar of Salvia nemerosa is ‘May Night’ which has long spikes of dark purple flowers. Salvia is drought tolerant, thrives in a hot, sunny spot and is deer and rabbit resistant. To keep the plant looking neat and blooming, the first flush of flowers should be removed when spent. The second flush will come from lateral (side) whorls and will be slightly shorter. After the second set of flowers is spent, the plant can be cut back hard. It will often bloom again in the fall. Attracts bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and (occasionally and unfortunately) aphids. Salvia is part of the mint family and there are many types of Salvia in a variety of color and sizes.

Mockorange / 
Philadelphus cornarius

If you somehow didn’t see a Mockorange shrub covered in white blooms, you can’t help but notice the strong fragrance of the flowers. Mockorange may only bloom for a few weeks in early summer, but those weeks are filled with their delightful scent. Otherwise, the Mockorange is a somewhat nondescript, ordinary shrub growing to about 5’ tall and wide. Dwarf cultivars are also available. It is highly adaptable to many different growing situations and is drought tolerant. Philadelphus cornarius and all its various cultivars are good selections for the xeriscape garden. Mockorange blooms on the new year’s growth; therefore, it should be pruned in late winter or spring before growth starts (February or March). The woody stems of Mockorange are very strong. When pruning, use a long handled lopper and be sure it’s sharp.
Ever wonder where I get my information? Here's my resources:
  • Armitage, Allan M. Herbaceous Perennial Plants, Second Edition. Champaign, Illinois: Stipes Publishing LLC, 1997.
  • Crockett, James Underwood. Annuals. New York: Time-Life, 1971. Print.
  • Ellis, Barbara W. Taylor's Guide to Annuals. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1999. Print.
  • Flint, Harrison L. Ortho's All about Flowering Trees & Shrubs. Des Moines, IA: Meredith, 2002. Print.
  • Gordon, DeWolf P., Jr. Ph.D., et al. Taylor's Guide to Perennials. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1986. Print.
  • Hessayon, D. G. The New Bedding Plant Expert. London: Expert, 1996. Print.
  • Hughes, Megan McConnell, et al. Better Homes and Gardens® Flowering Trees & Shrubs. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2012. Print.
  • Peschke, Donald B., Publisher. 108 easy-going, easy-growing flowers!, a supplemental to Garden Gate magazine. Des Moines, Iowa: August Home Publishing Company. 2006.
  • Whiting, David, et al. "Pruning Flowering Shrubs, CMG GardenNotes #619." Colorado Master Gardener GardenNotes. Fort Collins, CO: Colorado State University Extension, 2011. Print & Online.
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