by Ken Lain, the mountain gardener
How big can a single flower blossom be? The rare corpse flower of Indonesia can be up to three feet across, but there are far more fragrant and more readily available giant flowers we can grow in our own backyards. Assess your garden situation and then choose from these big, bold bloomers:
Itoh Peony – Common English peonies bear the large blossoms that thrilled our grandmothers, but Itoh peonies can sport blooms up to ten inches across with an aroma that fills the entire landscape. This new variety is not only bigger, but each bush produces up to 50 blooms. Deeply divided foliage adds to the character of these plants. Very drought hardy, the only way to kill this peony is with too much water.
Oriental Poppy – Long tap roots help poppies establish long lives in our spring gardens. Blooms in excess of seven inches in diameter are not unheard of on these plants. Pamper poppies with local full sun and excellent drainage and they will bloom and thrive.
Hydrangea – Hybridizing for bigger blooms continues to improve the species. Most of us know that Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle,’ with its 12-inch flower heads is still a stunning staple in many shade gardens. However, ‘Incrediball’ has increased in popularity, as it also blooms on new wood, but its stems won’t flop over under the weight of rain-soaked blossoms. A sheltered site with some shade will help to keep hydrangeas in the limelight throughout the growing season.
Dinner Plate Dahlia – Gardeners who’ve successfully grown dahlias in the past, will find that cultivating a Dinner Plate variety like the ‘Hamari Gold’ cultivar, won’t be difficult. Like many large flowers, dahlias thrive on more of everything: more sun, more water, more feeding. Remove side buds to enable plants to direct all energy into producing one giant flower. Stake plants for support, and expect blooms to mature in late summer.
Orienpet Lily – A hybrid of trumpet and Oriental lilies, Orienpet lilies are increasing in popularity as new cultivars hit the market. Fragrant 10-inch blooms appear in late summer on sturdy five-foot stems. Try ‘Big Brother,’ a spectacular pale yellow variety that lives up to its name.
Amaryllis – Red amaryllis blooms are popular during the winter holidays, but this gift plant comes in a number of colors and forms. Larger bulbs produce larger plants and even larger flowers, so splurge on premium bulbs from trusted nurseries. ‘Double Record’ with red and white streaking produces striking eight-inch flowers for indoor enjoyment.
Sunflowers – Known for their giant blooms, not all sunflowers are created equal when it comes to size. ‘Mammoth’ is an heirloom variety that reliably produces 12-inch flower heads packed with oil-rich seeds. ‘Sunzilla’ is a newer hybrid bred to grow a sturdy 16-foot stalk that will support its 18-24” diameter blooms. Although sunflowers are drought tolerant, constant moisture and rich soil will yield the most abundant flowers.
Hibiscus – Exotic flower lovers, rejoice. Although tropical hibiscus plants can sport 10-inch flowers, they won’t tolerate a whiff of frost. The hardy Mallow Hibiscus, or Moscheutos, survives winters well below zero and also boasts flower diameters of more than 10 inches. Some varieties feature bronze or purple foliage which boosts ornamental value, like the gorgeous pink-flowered ‘Summer Storm.’
Moonflower – Only night owls will be able to appreciate the nocturnal blooms of the moonflower, which swirl open at dusk to reveal six-inch white flowers. If you nick and soak the seeds, germination occurs in as little as a week. Combine the fast-growing vines with morning glories, and you’ll please hummingbirds and hummingbird moths alike.
English Rose – If roses haven’t been your ‘Go-To’ for large blooms in the past, it’s time to get acquainted with the new English shrub roses. With petal counts of 140 or more per bloom, these large cupped flowers are vase-fillers with old world fragrance to spare. Roses like the Easy Elegance series, Knock Out, and Flower Carpets give the most reliable re-bloom. These roses are also nearly disease-proof, meaning there’s little worry about an unsightly mildew breakout blighting the landscape.
King Protea – Protea plants lend an exotic flair to any tropical flower arrangement, and King Protea, Protea Cynaroides, plants produce the largest flower heads of them all. Also known as “sugar bush”, these South African natives may grow outdoors as evergreen shrubs in USDA desert zones 9+ and warmer. The artichoke-like flowers may grow up to a foot across.
Celosia – The otherworldly coral shapes of cockscomb Celosia make for eye-catching garden focal points, but add to that the velvety texture and footlong size and it’s guaranteed as a staple for the cut flower garden. Cockscomb plants are easy to grow from seed, and they tolerate humidity as well as dry soil.
Butterfly Bush – A single flower panicle of Buddleia may be up to 18 inches in length, with each panicle comprised of hundreds of densely packed florets. The nectar-rich flowers will attract an endless parade of butterflies over its blooming cycle, which usually stretches into four months.
Camellia – For Southern gardeners, there’s nothing quite like the charm of a camellia bush in the late winter garden. In our mountains, be sure to plant an Ice Angel series Camellia for cold hardy toughness southern camellias can’t begin to imagine.
If you like this blooming column you will really like next week’s free gardening class.
WATTERS’ SATURDAY MORNINGS GARDENING CLASSES ~ Free to all
July 21 @ 9:30 am ‘Containers that Bloom Like Crazy” – This class will show how to choose the right containers and how to determine the best plants to fill them. Lisa Lain, who has decades of experience with container gardens, will be spearheading this class. Much good information ‘midst a lot of fun!
July 28 @ 9:30 am ‘Perennial Flowers – Blooms that impress’ – July is the ideal month to add perennials to our landscapes. Students will be shown how to design seasonally for gardens of non-stop blooms. Notable mention will be given to the native and heat-loving flowers that bloom without any care at all.
August 4 @ 9:30 am ‘Easy Grow Roses’– There are so many different roses to choose from–more than our grandmothers ever knew! Learn the differences between hybrid tea, floribunda, shrub, and carpet roses. Talking points will include the best rose varieties, care, and placement for non-stop blooms. For local gardeners who want more fragrance & color in their yards.
August 11 @ 9:30 am ‘Herbs from Garden to Table’ – Summer is the best time to add herbs to our gardens. Special guest instructor Deborah Maranville, chef, and owner of Natural Healing Garden, knows her herbs. She uses them to create health-centered food choices that focus on utilizing local produce and turning it into delicious organic food. Join Deborah for a tantalizing cooking demonstration that will focus on the best techniques to get our home garden herbs to spice up our home cooking.
Until next week, I’ll be helping local gardeners with selections of truly BIG flowers here at Watters Garden Center.
Ken Lain can be found throughout the week at Watters Garden Center, 1815 W. Iron Springs Rd in Prescott, or contacted through his website at WattersGardenCenter.com or FB.com/WattersGardenCenter