Gardening From Southern California

by Gerald Burke
by Gerald Burke


Gerald Burke is a freelance travel and horticultural writer. He spent 35 years in the seed business, 30 of them with Burpee, and is a member of the Garden Writers Association and the North American Travel Journalists Association

August 20, 2006

Started plants of cosmos, set in the garden this month will continue to bloom through the winter in mild climates.

As late summer arrives our flower gardens often look as though they might need a transfusion. The hot weather of late June, July and August isn’t easy on many of our ornamental plants, even the hardy heat lovers such as marigolds and zinnias. Petunias often look wilted, both from heat and smog, phlox doesn’t look happy, melampodium even looks a little tattered, and only portulaca looks content with the heat and dryness.

What to do? One of the best things is to go to the nursery, look over the bedding plants there, and pick the best looking ones to set into the flower garden. True, these bedding plants were grown by the wholesalers in a climate different from inland areas, but they’re usually fresher, younger, have had a good start in life with constant feeding, and with that strength and aggressiveness of the young, they’ll make an immediate difference in the flower garden.

Marigolds and zinnias, especially the dwarf kinds, will go well transplanted into flower beds and borders now. Tall kinds may not fare as well, but look for any marigolds in the Janie series, single Disco Mixture, Happy Days Mixture, the Nuggets, and Jaguar Mix. Dwarf zinnias such as the Star Series, make tidy borders and edgings. The Profusion series, all of them All-America Selections Winners, in cherry, white and orange will bloom fully in a very short time and will spread to around 18 to 24 inches in no time. The Dreamland Hybrids come in the greatest assort
ment of colors, but you’ll probably only find the mixture in the nursery, and it will include, ivory, pink, yellow, scarlet, and coral and they’ll have big four inch flowers on compact plants.

Renewing some of your petunia plantings makes sense this month and next. For hot inland areas, petunias are all year beauties. Look for the ones that spread—the Wave and Ramblin’ Petunias, to cover large areas. Celebrity is one of the best of the floribundas with flowers that equal the grandifloras and a good color range in compact plants. The Cascade series have probably the biggest flower in petunias and they’ll be in bloom in the nursery so you can choose your colors easily. And started cosmos set in now will bloom all winter long except in the mountains.

And for quick color for those dry spots in the garden, get some more portulaca, or moss rose, that now comes in many colors including white, yellow, fuchsia, orange, scarlet and a mixture. Try the Sundial Hybrids since they’ll stay open later in the day as the days shorten and will continue to bloom and grow well up until November.

Whatever you do, don’t let your flower garden fade away just because summer heat is still with us for a couple of months.

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