In the garden: Think spring -- new growing season

By WANDA CHURCH

There are two varieties of daffodils blooming in my garden now valiantly trying to lure me into gardening mode, but the thermometer is having greater influence on these frosty mornings. While walking around my garden in early afternoon, I can see tulip leaves pushing out of the ground and new growth on many annuals, as well as violets peeping from under their blanket of leaves. I am filled with joy and anticipation of a new growing season.

It’s also a time (before it gets too hot) to do some heavy work in preparation for wonderful things to come. The chores of raking, cleaning and spading up the garden plot, amending the soil, and checking/repairing the watering system are very important jobs to do now for a successful garden.

A flower garden can lift your spirit and warm your heart. It brings color to your garden and sunshine indoors when you cut a bouquet. Take some time to plan for the flowers you enjoy and also those that are suitable to our climate. If you are a senior, you may be pleased with perennials, which can be chosen for color, drought tolerance and attractiveness to bees, hummingbirds and other pollinators. You have to plant them only once and they will continue to bloom year after year without re-planting. Of course, they will require some maintenance such as fortifying the soil and perhaps some pruning and thinnng.

Examples of colorful perennials to grow here are lavender, salvia and bee balm. Rosemary is a wonderful, easy-care herb, which gives color, fragrance and a good cooking ingredient close at hand. The bush is fragile so don’t let the dogs or repairmen step on it. Tuck in some allium, dianthus, penstemon and violas among your taller perennials to give a lush look to the area. Some old desert standby perennials are Shasta and gallardia daisies and coreopsis. Many gardeners have had good luck with mums and geraniums if the winter is mild or they have a protected area.

There are gazillions of bright showy annuals to decorate your garden from early spring to late fall, beginning with bulbs through to tall daisies in the fall. You can grow them in the ground or in pots to locate where you want them. To create a stunning effect, try mixing different flowers in the same pot or area. With an eye for color combinations, put purple and lavender pansies together or combine an upright plant in the center of a pot and a trailing plant around the edges. Mix pale and dark yellow or rust marigolds together and add white alyssum. Scatter a mix of zinnias for a burst of color in the heat of summer. Grow a variety of sweet peas on a trellis near your favorite rose and hollyhocks near the back fence with late daisies in between. The combinations are endless!

When growing flowers from seeds remember that to germinate seeds in-ground you need to sow them when the soil warms to about 55 degrees F. Germination takes from 10 to 14 days and maybe even longer, depending on the fluctuation of day and night temperatures. Keep the soil moist and make sure your plants get 12 hours of light (including dawn and dusk) each day.

Most of all, do not despair! You will be rewarded.

Story First Published: 2013-02-13