Tips to Great Flowers

11/13/2012 | Ken Lain, mountain gardener Landscaping, Uncategorized

Mother’s Day weekend is the time when blooming plants really start to color our flower gardens. If you have struggled to keep plants alive and blooming maybe there is something you haven’t realized. That is that you are not buying a plant; you are buying a root. This is especially critical to understand when gardening in arid climates.

Plants with 6-pack size roots take only hours to dry, wither, and die in our mountain soil. There is absolutely no room for error when a plant’s root is a cubic inch in size. The larger a plant’s root the more moisture will be retained and the faster the plant will grow. Bigger truly is better when planting in Arizona.

Try buying fewer plants this spring, but upsize each of the plants’ roots to gallon sized or larger and watch your thumbs take on a rewarding shade of green. Reducing garden mistakes is the goal of any gardener and this one tip will give you much more of an edge toward each plant’s success.

Take advantage of designers’ work. Late last year growers collaborated with floral designers to mix and match plants that grow well and look great together. These showy Mother’s Day baskets are stunning, with plants mature enough to keep on growing. In walking the greenhouses this morning, I saw that some of these baskets spread out to almost four feet wide!

For some WOW factor in the garden, raised beds, or containers try planting these showoff type designer baskets directly in the ground. Neighbors will remark how green your thumbs are compared to others on the block. One designer flower basket spreading 3’-4’ in the garden makes an instant statement, and is far easier to care for than a bed full of 6-pack sized plants that will take a month or more to look good. Many of these Mother’s Day baskets are featured at sale prices so a lot of color can be had for under $30.

Think about how you want your flower gardens to look. Do you like a formal or informal style? What colors personify your style or mood? Which plants should you put in the different areas of the beds? The answers to these questions are dictated by each gardener’s personal tastes, likes, and dislikes. Fortunately, it’s hard to make a mistake with flowers. If you find you don’t care for a flower as it progresses, move it!

Discover the pleasures of flower gardening as you learn that dark colored flowers, such as red and purple, look great up close, but get lost when admired at a distance. Bright and light colors of solar yellow, white, bubblegum pink, and all lavenders seem to glow from afar. Have fun as you develop that flower garden that is just right for you!

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A new easy-to-grow petunia has found its way to garden centers this year and is worthy of some garden space. Ramblin’ Petunias provide mountains of deep jewel-toned flowers that easily can fill big gardens and large containers! With individual plants growing to 3′ across, this petunia creates a ground hugging carpet from ramblin’ waves of color in Lemonade, Blue Rhythm, Limbo Red, Prism Gold, and Neon Rose. It’s the perfect flower for Mother’s Day baskets, planters, and window boxes. This annual is smothered in so much color that it makes any walkway, border, or landscape inescapably cheery! It truly is a lot of plant for our gardening dollar.

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Bean Advice – Before planting beans, line the trench or coat the seed with a granular inoculate. Sold as ‘Fix-N-Grow’, these beneficial soil bacteria allow bean roots to soak up more nitrogen from the soil, thereby increasing the plant’s production. These all-natural bacteria greatly reduce the amount of plant foods needed in the soil. One package is good for all garden beans, cow-peas, limas, soybeans, and sweet peas. This is a garden specialty item and only found at garden centers, but the increased benefits are well worth the $2 – $3 of additional expense.

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Facebook question of the week – “My lawn still has a lot of dead grass in it. I fertilized it about a month ago with a heavy dose of nitrogen, but it still doesn’t look as good as my neighbors’ yards. What should I do?”
Answer: A cool-season lawn should look green most of the year, but lawns need more than nitrogen in spring. Here’s my secret: Every other month, beginning in March, rotate applications of “All Purpose Plant Food 7-4-4” with applications of “Soil Activator”. This combination will produce incredibly green results and reduce the need for aeration and de-thatching. Start with my “All Purpose Plant Food” and water it in well. The following month use the “Soil Activator”. Be prepared, though . . .your lawn mower will need to be really sharp to take on your lawn’s luxuriant new growth!

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Preparing the first flowerbeds of the season is as exciting today as it was when planting the first beds years ago. It was and still is so much fun, great exercise, and a sure stress releaser. I truly lose myself when planning and planting flowers. It can be a challenging but always exciting adventure in gardening.

The vegetable garden is complete with tomatoes starting to form, squashes are setting, and the beans starting their climb. As of this weekend some of the plants are knee high. A photo will be posted on my Facebook page later this week at . Take a look and share your own photos on this social gardening site.

Until next week, I’ll see you in the garden center.