Few pursuits are as rewarding as growing your own organic garden. Not only do you get to enjoy the fruits of your own labor, but you have the satisfaction of knowing that the produce you are eating was grown free of chemicals, pesticides and herbicides. Growing organically produces healthy, more diverse ecosystems which are better able to resist significant pest damage… naturally!
A spring-time favorite, growing lupine (Lupinus polyphyllus) provides flower gardeners with a brilliant array of colors. Plants have stiff, erect flower spikes of 1-4 feet that emerge from horizontal foliage. Flowers are similar to those of peas or sweet peas, and grow in large, crowded racemes of deep blue, purple, yellow, pink or white. Found growing wild throughout most of the northern United States. Short-lived perennial.
Easy to grow, lupine thrives in cool, moist locations. It prefers full sun to light shade and average soils, but will tolerate sandy, dry soil. Plants develop long taproots, so loosen the soil to a depth of 12-20 inches, using a roto-tiller or garden fork. They will not grow in clay.
Tip: For dramatic results, mass lupines in the border or scatter them throughout the cottage garden. (more…)
One of the most beautiful summer-flowering plants, home gardeners are growing lilies (lilium) for their exquisite trumpet-shaped blooms. Stems are strong, upright and unbranched, 1-6 feet tall. Flowers are large, beautifully colored in both bold and pastel shades, and often fragrant. May be grown individually in formal or naturalistic settings or en mass. Small species make excellent container plants, and all are a perfect addition to any border. Blooms from late spring through early autumn, depending on species.
Plants thrive in full sun or partial shade and prefer moist, well-drained soil and excellent air circulation. Most lilies perform poorly in extreme heat. (more…)
A biennial or short lived perennial, flower gardeners enjoy growing hollyhocks in borders or against walls where the striking flowers stand above all else. The classic variety (Alcea rosea) has graced outbuildings and farmsteads for more than a century. Single blooms of white, light-pink, pinkish-red, magenta and burgundy on 6-9 foot stalks. Blooms the second year and re-seeds.
Hollyhock prefers full sun to partial shade and rich, moist soil to thrive. Prior to planting, work in plenty of compost or well-aged animal manure.
How to Plant:
Sow outdoors just beneath the surface of the soil one week before last frost. Seeds will germinate in 10-14 days. Space plants 18-36 inches apart. Water regularly during dry conditions to keep them blooming. Fertilize a couple times during the season with an all-purpose fertilizer. When flower stalks fade, cut to the ground. (more…)
Summer bulbs are the perfect addition to the flower garden. They combine perfectly with annuals and perennials, offering a uniqueness that completes the scene. Gladiolus with their dramatic swordlike leaves have sturdy flowering stems 1-5 feet tall. The elegant flowers come in ravishing shades of every color. Home gardeners particularly enjoy growing gladiolus for cuttings.
Tip: For best results, take cuttings when at least 3 of the “florets” on the stem have opened. They will continue to open in the vase.
Gladiolas require full sun and regular water during growth and bloom. They should be planted in a sandy soil, rich in organic matter as soon as the soil is warm in the spring. Provide protection from the wind if possible. (more…)
By Kim Haworth
My grandmother had a small nursery in Napa that specialized in growing fuchsias. I remember the pots of glorious flowers hanging along her driveway. As I grew older, and taller, I was able to reach the hanging baskets bursting with flowers and buds and, I’m ashamed to say that I spent many a delightful clandestine moment popping the fat buds between my pudgy fingers. Of course if I was caught, there was hell to pay, but the gratification of holding that soft, living tissue between my fingers and giving it a gentle squeeze, then being rewarded with the resounding popping sound was irresistible. It was a very tactile, but guilty, pleasure.
Dearie, as everybody called my grandmother, finally persuaded me to keep my hands to myself, and in doing that, gave me a deep respect for nature.
Although fuchsias are just getting ready to go into their dormancy period, I thought I would take this opportunity to tell you a little about this hardy and rewarding native to wet, mountainous areas of tropical America. Fuchsias are considered a woody shrub, some are deciduous and some are evergreen. (more…)
One of the very best for attracting butterflies, growing echinacea, or the purple cone flower (Echinacea purpurea), adds a flashy touch of color to the late summer landscape. Not particularly attractive alone, it’s best to plant echinacea among a low growing perennial bed where the showy flowers will stand above other foliage. Perennial, 3-4 feet tall.
Grows well in full sun or light shade and blooms heavily from July through September. Will tolerate clay soils but thrives in well-drained average soils. Tolerates heat and drought.
How to Plant:
Echinacea is easy to grow from nursery stock, seed or division. Sow outdoors 1/2 inch deep when a light frost is still possible. Seeds will germinate in 10-20 days. (more…)
Native to England, home flower gardeners are growing delphinium for their beautiful, feathery leaves and tall spires of blossoms that bloom all summer long. Available in almost any color, they add grace to borders and are spectacular when planted along a fence. Plants grow up to 6 feet tall. Perennial.
Note: Plants, seeds and foliage are all poisonous; please use caution.
Delphinium do best in sunny locations with cool, rich, well-drained soil. Prior to planting, work a couple shovelful of compost and a dry organic fertilizer into the soil. Delphiniums are one the first perennials to show new growth in the spring and will tolerate some frost.
How to Plant:
May be propagated from divisions or from seed. If planting from seed, sow outdoors two weeks before the last frost, just beneath the soil surface. Seeds will germinate in 14-21 days. Water well throughout the growing season and feed with fertilizer to keep plants strong. Remove faded blooms immediately after flowering. Plants may require support, depending upon how tall they grow.
Tip: It is best to chill seed for a week before sowing (stick them in the fridge). (more…)
By Kim Haworth
Late summer brings up some of my favorite flowers. The first growing dahlia I ever met was in a hillside house I rented in Mill Valley. We had moved in during the winter months and were enchanted by the multiple surprises the garden revealed as winter turned to spring, then summer. One of the lovely things about moving into an older home is the opportunity to see the garden unfold, it’s rather like a surprise package.
The dahlias in Mill Valley were bright yellow and the tubers must have been in the ground for many years, because the flowers were the size of a dinner plate. They were the spidery shaped blooms, called ‘cactus form’ that looked like sunbursts. Magnificent! When we moved, I tried to take the tubers with me, but I’m afraid I did the plant a disservice. It never regained it’s former glory after the transplant. (more…)
Native to Mexico, Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatu) were first discovered by Spanish plant collectors and sent back to Europe in 1799. Cosmos were not introduced to the commercial seed trade until the late 1800′s and did not gain popularity until new early-blossoming varieties were developed in the early part of this century. Growing cosmos adds beauty to gardens, especially when planted in a random pattern or used as a border. Excellent in floral arrangements, too! Half-hardy annual, 4-5 feet tall.
Easy to grow, cosmos thrives in full sun and will flower more abundantly in poor soil than in rich. Requires little water and little attention. Excellent for xeriscaping (water-conserving landscape design).
Tip: Cosmos attracts beneficial insects and butterflies to the garden. (more…)
First noted on the Pacific coast by Dr. Johann Friedrich Eschscholtz, who was the leader of a Russian expedition in 1815. This West Coast wildflower was officially designated the state flower of California on December 12, 1890. Home flower gardeners growing California poppies are rewarded with a spectacular, long-lasting display of lively colors. Self-seeding annual, 12-16 inches tall.
Plants do best in full sun and will tolerate poor soil and some drought.
How to Plant:
Direct seeding is preferable, as poppies do not like to have their roots disturbed. Sow in early spring when the soil is still cool and light frost is possible. Can also be sown in the fall just before the ground freezes. Seeds will germinate in 10-15 days. When flowers fade, trim off spent blooms. To use as cut flowers, sear the cut end with a flame or dip in boiling water. (more…)