News

The Ultimate Dining Guide for Hummingbirds

May 20th, 2013

Hummingbird flying among the flowering garden plantsThe ultimate dining experience for hummers is a well-stocked hummingbird garden. Sure, they will flock to your feeders if that is their only option, and in the earliest days of spring or the dog days of summer, your feeders may be absolutely necessary for their survival. However, nothing pleases hummingbirds more than offering them a nectar-filled all you can eat buffet.

The ideal hummingbird bistro includes an assortment of blossoms in an array of colors, especially red. Hummingbirds can see red from far away, while most other critters, including birds and bees, can't distinguish red at all. Therefore, hummers somehow know that if they see a red blossom, it probably hasn't already been picked over, and they head right for it. They actually will check out any red objectyou should see how they flock to our red gazing balls!

But, of course, once you put out the eat sign, you have the smorgasbord ready. Plant a variety of different blossoms, especially tube-shaped blossoms that hang and cascade. The hummer is just about the only creature that can extract pollen from a tubular blossom, so it's like putting out an exclusive dish for them at the buffet.

There is a lot of overlap between the favorite plants of butterflies and hummers, so you will probably find your yard also becoming a gathering place for butterflies, with the hummers darting from flower to flower, while the butterflies flutter about leisurely.

Stocking Your Hummingbird Buffet

There are hundreds of plant species that hummingbirds love, but you will want to narrow down your selection to those that will do well in your Zone.

You'll also want to aim for a garden that will have something blooming in it from the beginning of spring until the first hard frost. By considering the bloom times of different plants, you can come up with a mix that will achieve this goal. To make it easy for you, we have grouped the list below according to bloom times, and have also indicated Hardiness Zones within each description. (If the text indicates a plant will be perennial in certain Zones, that also means it is ideally suited to those Zones.)

Hummingbirds are driven by sight more than smell, so the showier the blossoms, the more interested they will be. As mentioned earlier, they like red, and some gardeners also recommend orange. In the list below we have linked to red varieties, but you don't need a solid red garden to have lots of hummingbirds. Just be sure to provide a decent showing of red and perhaps orange, and then go for whatever color mix suits your fancy.

Variety is always a good idea, so mix it up by offering the hummers a combination of bushes, shrubs, perennials, and annuals. The bushes and the perennials will be the foundation of your hummingbird garden, while you can change the annuals as you wish, to alter the overall appearance or create a new color scheme.

One note of caution: please don't use chemical pesticides or fertilizers in your hummingbird garden. Hummers are such tiny, sensitive creatures that their systems can hardly handle the red dye some people put in the sugar water of their feeders, let alone strong chemicals. We know you want them to be around for a long, long time, so please be sure that the blossoms they feed on are not laced with anything toxic.

To learn more about hummingbirds, read Make Your Back Yard a Hummingbird Hilton, Our Seven Favorite Hummingbird Feeders, How to Get Your Backyard Humming, and The Care and Feeding of Your Hummingbird Feeder. Within these articles you will find links that enable you to track the hummers' migration and to report your first sightings. There's even a link to a video of a hummingbird snoring!

Hummingbirds will return year after year to a spot they like, and they will tell their friends, too. So when you create a hummingbird garden, the time you invest will reap many delights for years to come, both for you and for the hummers.

For continuous blooms throughout the entire growing season, we suggest you plant a variety of bushes, shrubs, perennials and annuals. The bushes and perennials will be the foundation of your hummingbird garden, while annuals can be changed to create a different look each summer. To help you make your choices, here is a month-by-month guide to what will bloom when and for how long:

 

March to April

Hummingbird dinning on a Chaenomeles flower

Chaenomeles (Flowering Quince): deciduous shrub, bonsai trainable, drought-tolerant, deer resistant and ideal for cut arrangements. Ours produce neither thorns nor fruits. Chaenomeles will bloom from early spring to early or mid-summer. Hardy in Zones 5–9.

Hummingbird feeding on a Canna flower

Canna: tropical, trumpet-shaped blossoms, lily-like foliage, needs 6-8 hours of sun and a warmer winter location, but is suitable for containers. Blooms 90 days after seeding from mid-summer to first frost. Annual in Zones: 1-6, perennial in zones 7-1.

Hummingbird feeding from a Cleome flower

Cleome (Spider Flower): Plants grow sturdy 4-foot stems topped with unique flower blossoms. Blooms throughout spring and fall until the first frost. Hardy in Zones 2a to 11b, annual in Zones: 2a-8, perennial in Zones: 9-11b.

Hummingbird drinking from a flowering Lantana plant

Lantana: free flowering, tender perennial, suitable for indoor and outdoor containers, sun-lover, drought- and salt-tolerant. Lantana will bloom from late spring through October or November. Hardy in Zones 8–11.

Hummingbird pollinating a Weigela flower

Weigela: highly adaptable, trumpet-shaped blossoms, fragrant with low pollen (ideal for allergy sufferers), and deer resistant. Weigela will bloom from early spring to early fall. Perennial in Zones 4–8.

 

April to May

Rufous hummingbird enjoying a visit to a Columbine plant

Aquilegia (Columbine): blooms late spring, early summer, drought-tolerant in partial shade, deer resistant. Perennial in Zones 3–9.

Hummingbirds love Digitalis plants

Digitalis (Foxglove): perennial or biennial, wide variety of colors, prefers moist soil, puts on a dramatic and flamboyant display. Blooms late spring to late summer. Perennial in Zones 3–9.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird enjoying Fuchsia flowers

Fuchsia: annual, hanging blossoms ideal for hummingbirds, prefers partial shade, well-suited for containers, striking and tropical-looking flowers, blooms mid-spring to mid-fall. Hardy in Zones 10-11.

Hummingbird eating from a Impatiens flower

Impatiens: annual, partial sun to full shade preferred, perfect for container growing, wide variety of colors and forms, blooms late spring to early fall. Hardy in Zones 9 –11.

Annas Hummingbird dinning from a Honeysuckle flower blossom

Lonicera (Honeysuckle): deciduous vine, wonderfully aromatic, blooms from spring through fall and its fall berries attract migratory songbirds. Lonicera will bloom from mid-spring though October or November. Perennial in Zones 4–9.

Hummingbirds love Lupine flowers

Lupinus (Lupine): extremely adaptable, stunning planted en masse, popular for cutting gardens, fragrant and colorful, blooms late spring to summer. Hardy in zones 4–11.

Hummingbirds love the flowers of Petunia plants

Petunia: extremely versatile annual, light and sweet fragrance, low maintenance, fantastic variety of colors and forms, good for containers and beds. Blooms throughout spring until the first hard frost. Hardy in zones 9–11.

Hummingbird ready to feed on a Salvia flower

Salvia (Meadow Sage): disease- and pest-free perennial, blooms spring to fall, drought-tolerant, grows in poor soils and looks beautifully dramatic in cut arrangements. Hardy in Zones 7–11.

 

May to June

Hummingbird dinning on a Butterfly Bush

Buddleia (Butterfly Bush): low maintenance, drought-tolerant once established, fragrant and great for cut arrangements. Buddleia will bloom from mid-summer to early fall. Perennial in Zones 5–9.

Hummingbirds love Monarda flowers

Monarda (Bee Balm): is a fragrant perennial in the mint family and ideal for shaded, naturalized areas. It attracts beneficial predatory insects and pollinators. Blooms from early summer to early fall. Hardy in Zones 4–9.

 

June to July

Male Calliope Hummingbird drinking from an Agastache plant

Agastache (Hummingbird Mint or Hyssop): perennial in many climates; heat, drought, wind and rain tolerant, deer repellant, aromatic and nice in cut flower arrangements. Will bloom from early summer to mid-fall. Perennial in Zones 6–9.

Male Ruby Throated Hummingbird eating from a Penstemon plant

Penstemon (Beardtongue): drought-tolerant, tubular blossoms, perennialtolerant to below 0°, deer and rabbit resistant. Blooms from mid-summer to late summer. Hardy in Zones 3–8.

Hummingbird drinking from a Phlox flower

Phlox: available in creeping and garden varieties, easy to grow and care for, semi-evergreen foliage and a nice addition to fresh cut arrangements, blooms mid-summer to fall. Hardy in Zones 4–8.

We wish you a gorgeous hummingbird garden teeming with these marvelously entertaining and amazingly energetic little gems.

Our Annual Annuals Sale Is On!

May 20th, 2013

Potted Annual Plants for SaleOur yearly Annuals Plant sale is here just in time! Choose from our selection of easy-care flowers such as Impatiens, Fuchsias, and Geraniums, and make your home the envy of your neighborhood. All our annuals (around 400 varieties!) are 25% off through 5/31.

If you’re looking for a prolific bloomer that spills vivid color over the sides of your planters, try Calibrachoa or its larger cousin, the Wave Petunia. Both are available in a literal rainbow of colors. For a tropical look, add Mandevilla to your patio planters.

We guarantee your satisfaction with our plants. They arrive alive and ready to plant.

Use coupon code AAPS13 at checkout to take advantage of this 25% savings, while supplies last!

Lantana Plants on Sale

May 16th, 2013

Potted Lantana Plants for Sale

All Lantana On Sale 'til May 31!

The lovely Lantana will be one of the first shrubs to bloom in the spring and will often bloom right through to the first frost. Well-suited to growing in the South, many of our customers in the North love them so much they grow them in large containers or on the sunniest side of the house and lovingly protect them throughout the winter.

 They just can't wait to see those colorful blossoms come springtime!

The Lantana (lan-TAH-na) has been hybridized through the years to produce woody shrubs that don't require a lot of care. No longer do you have to remove the fruit in order for reblooming to happenthey just do that all by themselves! The new breeds of Lantana also are widely adaptable to various soils, have an extended blooming season, and are exceedingly drought and salt tolerant once well established.

Carefree, eco-friendly and beautifulwhat more could you possibly want?

Ohyou want them cheap?

They are all 15% off! 

Our Bandana Lantana grows more compactly than many other Lantana varieties, while the available colors are simply glorious! The Bandana Lantana is well-suited to growing in containers and even in hanging baskets, most trailing up to 36 inches. In fact, some of our Yellow Lantana Plant for Salecustomers grow Bandana as a flowering groundcover. You can choose from a variety of fantastic colors, with some cultivars exhibiting four colors, all in one blossom and all at the same time!

Our Carolina Lantana has an improved mounding growth habit, with some varieties trailing up to 4 feet. Most Carolina cultivars will yield bicolor blossoms in hues from creamy yellow to peach to hot pink and brilliant reddish-orange. Carolina Lantanas seem to have a more decidedly tropical personality.

Contrary to popular belief, the Lantana doesn't have an unpleasant aroma; the leaves, when crushed, can emit a somewhat pungent, citrusy scent.  Just don't walk on them! 

Our Son Lantana Series is the most shrubby. Reaching heights and widths of three to five feet, these well-branched and compact woody shrubs can be one of your perennial foundation plants in the southern zones and grown as a large, containerized shrub in the northern zones. Many of our gardeners on the cusp of the north and south grow them as a tender perennial, covering them with a plant protection cover and/or mounding a thick layer of straw or mulch at the base of the plant.

And finally, we have more Lantana, which do not fall into a specific breeder's series, but are no less beautiful or carefree. You should see the Lavender Trailing Lantana on this page!

Lantanas today are not the invasive species the wild lantanas were; many of today's hybrids having no seeds (fruit) at all or sterile seeds. Their tropical beauty is so loved it encouraged Lantana growers to breed options that would be non-invasive while preserving the fantastic colors and growing habits, sometimes with remarkable improvements in the species.Potted Pink Lantana Plants for Sale

So, here's your chance to experience the charming Lantana for yourself,

or to add to your Lantana collection.

 Just enter discount code 15LAN0513 at checkout

and enjoy your new Lantanas! 

Premium Plants On Sale Now!

May 9th, 2013

Potted Premium Perennial Plants on SaleWhen Short on Patience or

 

Time, Plant our Premium

 

Plants

 

…And Save!

 

Our Premium Plants are plants that have had an extra year of growth. Grown and shipped to you in larger pots, not only are the roots more developed, but these premium-sized plants will grow larger than ever and bloom in the very first year.

Are you landscaping a new home or upgrading existing landscaping?

PREMIUM PLANTS provide a more mature look, right out of the pot.

Are you planting for a wedding or other special backyard occasion?

PREMIUM PLANTS grow quicker and bloom sooner.

Do you prefer an instantly mature garden bed over waiting for seedlings to grow?

PREMIUM PLANTS provide instant ‘green' gratification!

Is your thumb less than green?

PREMIUM PLANTS arrive larger, with a better-developed root system.

 

All Premium Plants on Sale

15% OFF!

 

Our Premium Plants may be YOUR answer

to having the most beautiful garden you've ever had.

ALL of our Premium Plants are On Sale until May 15, 2013:

Just enter discount code PP0513 at checkout

and reap the fantastic savings!

 

 

Make Your Back Yard a Hummingbird Hilton

April 18th, 2013

A hummingbird feeding on some flowersThis is peak season for hummingbirds but if you want them to be your guests, you'll have to offer some hummingbird hospitality. This means providing them with the same services you'd expect in a good hotel: appealing food and drink, and a comfortable place to sleep. When you translate that into the world of hummingbirds, all you have to do is prepare a sugar solution and put it into a well-designed feeder. That's their food, drink, and lodging right there.

Wait a minute, you might say. You talk about lodging, but I didn't even know hummingbirds sleep, let alone sleep on a hummingbird feeder.

Yes, these flying miracles with hearts that beat up to 1,000 times per minute and wings that carry them as far as 6,000 miles over the course of a year, do stop and snooze. And one of the places they've been known to snooze is on the perches of hummingbird feeders. Just check out this one-minute video on YouTube. (Amazing what you can find on YouTube: there's also a one-minute video of a hummingbird snoring.)

So the key to having hummingbirds visit your yard is simply to put out feeders and fill them with sugar solution. In a previous article we discussed hummingbird feeders, the information still holds up and we stand by our recommendations.

Today we'll go into detail about the sugar solutionhow to make your own and the right way to use it. This might seem a simple matter, and it is in certain ways, but if you don't do it right, the hummingbirds simply won't come, or, even worse, they could be harmed.

Sugar Solution

You've probably heard a fancier name for it: hummingbird nectar, but there's actually no such thing. Hummingbirds extract nectar from flowers but nobody sells flower nectar. However, the ingredient in the flower nectar that nourishes the hummers is sucrose, and white table sugar is 100% sucrose. Since flower nectar is approximately 20% sucrose, all you have to do to create a viable substitute is make a solution of 1 part sugar to 4 parts water. Bring it to a boil to eliminate any bacteria or mold, and when it cools down to room temperature, you're ready to go.

Hummingbird sitting on a feederBut here are some details to keep in mind: use the purest water available and choose a brand of granular white sugar that contains no preservatives or additives (Domino, for example), and DO NOT substitute brown sugar, honey, or any other kind of sugar or sweetener. This is critical. For example, hummingbirds can die from the mold that will start to grow if you substitute honey.

And another thing: DO NOT add red dye to your sugar solution. It is true that hummers are attracted to the color red, but you'll be pouring your solution into a red feeder anyway, so the addition of red dye is unnecessary. More important, the systems of the hummingbirds are so delicate and sensitive that it could do them harm over time. Hummingbirds feed 5-8 times an hour and they consume up to two times their body weight in nectar and insects every day. If their daily diet includes red dye, that could mean a lot of dye over time, perhaps enough to hurt them. So it's best to err on the side of caution and avoid it.

You'll want to change the solution in your feeders every two or three days. If you see no signs of mold or fermentation (odor, or change in the color of the solution) you can get away with doing it less often. But the hotter the weather, the faster the solution will spoil; during very hot spells you might even need to change the solution every day.

Before you add your sugar solution to your feeders, rinse them out thoroughly. At least once a week clean them with some soapy water and a bottle brush; some people use white vinegar. After you've filled up your feeders, refrigerate any unused solution; it should last for about a week but you should use it as soon as possible.

Creating a Hummingbird HabitatHummingbird-Nesting-Material

Much more important than avoiding red dye in your sugar solution is to avoid pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides in the area where you're offering hummingbird hospitality. The tiny kidneys and livers of the hummingbirds simply can't handle any toxic substances, so it's essential that you offer them as pure an environment as possible.

What will give your back yard value-added appeal in the eyes of your little bejeweled patrons is the presence of their favorite plants. In a previous article we discussed four such plants: MonardaButterfly BushLantana, Zinnia and Fuchsia. We would also like to suggest Salvia and Sage as additional plants for your hummer garden. Hummingbirds will want to dine out at these fine nectar-bearing plants and you can be sure that they will appreciate the enhanced ambience those blooms provide in your back yard as much as you do. For a list of plants that will bloom all season long, read our blog article: The Ultimate Dining Guide for Hummingbirds.

Another help in creating the prefect backyard for your hummingbirds is to offer them nesting material. If you don't have access to a prepackaged supply, they will also use moss, cotton fluffs, bits of willows, soft plant pieces, dryer lint, and leaf hairs.

Hummingbirds don't make reservations, but to see the travel itinerary of the ruby-throated hummers, visit hummingbirds.net. In the meantime, roll out the grass carpet and follow our hummingbird hospitality advice. You may soon find that your back yard has turned into a Hummingbird Hilton.

What Flowers Do Not Need A Lot Of Sun?

April 13th, 2013

Hanging basket of flowers that only need part sun to growI have flower baskets that face east, so not much sun.  What do you recommend for a flower that does not need a lot of sun and has a vine or drape to it?  I’m in N.C.  Thanks. Pat J.

Answer: If you are limited on sun, generally less than 6 hours per day, there are some really nice colorful foliage plants available these days and they can be more dependable than flowers! There are several options in our Annuals section that would make great shade containers.

I garden with a lot of shade, and some of my favorites for sun/part share are: Abutilon; Bacopa especially the Snowtopia because it’s a nice trailing variety; any of the Begoniathe old standard Angel or Dragon Wing series are always great, but the newer Bonfire series are spectacular as well; and of course the Fuchsias are marvelous. One newer introduction, a variety of  Euphorbia, has tiny nonstop blooms that look a lot like Baby’s Breath and it makes a great filler plant or an entire basket on its own! Impatiens are a natural for the shade, and there is a new variety, Torenia, that will also tolerate some shade.

For pure leaf interest don’t forget about the Sweet Potato Vines. Coleus are also perfect for brightening up shady areas, but some can get quite large, so you would want to check their mature size before considering them for a container. Plectranthus has some interesting leaf texture, as does Persian Shield. For tall, spiky interest use a Dracaena.

Don’t be afraid to look at some of the Perennials, as well. There are many that make terrific options for containers. Start with Hosta,  Heuchera and, Hedera. At the end of the season just put them into the ground to overwinter.

Happy shoppingand happy gardening!
Karen

What is the Ideal Soil Temperature for Sowing Vegetable Seeds?

April 9th, 2013

Sowing vegetable seeds in the garden soil

You have spent the latter part of the winter looking through seed catalogs and surfing online garden sites. You've ordered your vegetable seeds and grumble when it's snowing again or when the nighttime temperatures are still causing your furnace to kick on way too often. If you're anything like us, you can't wait for the day you can get your hands dirty in the garden.

We know the feeling and we also know how hard it can be to be patient. For many gardeners, the time to plant seeds into the garden is still a ways away, while some warm-climate residents are already happily crawling around on their hands and knees as they sow the seeds for this year's garden. (We're jealous!) We thought we would pass along the optimal soil temperatures for sowing vegetable seeds outdoors.

However, there are some vegetable seeds that are best sown indoors and are rarely started right in the garden. For various reasons these seeds will germinate best and produce premium crops when sown indoors and then hardened-off and transplanted outdoors:

  • Broccoli: is best germinated indoors at temps of about 85°F, 6 weeks before you plan to transplant

  • Celery: is best germinated indoors at 75-85°F. These tiny seeds are very hard to sow without overplanting and will have to be carefully thinned to the strongest plants.  A handheld seeder is really handy for these dust-speck-sized seeds.

  • Kohlrabi: is best sown indoors for a spring crop, but can be sown outdoors for a fall crop with soil temps of at least 70°F.

  • Peppers (hot & sweet): are best started indoors at 80°F about 8 weeks before transplant

  • Tomatoes: are best started indoors at soil temps of 70 to 90°F, and then transplanted outdoors when soil temperatures are consistently above 50°F.

Chard is an exception to almost every rule: its seeds enjoy and germinate best in cooler temperatures. As soon as you can work the soil, sow your chard seeds.

The following seeds can be sown directly into the garden when soil temperatures reach a minimum of 40°F:

  • Beets

  • CabbageSowing vegetable seeds with a garden seeder

  • Endive

  • Herbs

  • Parsley

  • Potatoes

  • Turnips

  • Radish

  • Spinach

You can sow the following seeds when soil temperatures reach a minimum of 45°F:

  • Leek

  • Mustard

  • Peas

These vegetable seeds prefer slightly warmer soil and can be sown when soil temperatures are a minimum of 50°F:

  • Carrots

  • Cauliflower

  • Lettuce

  • Onionssmall hand seeder sowing vegetable seeds

  • Corn

These veggie seeds will germinate best when soil temperatures are at least 60°F:

  • Beans

  • Cantaloupe

  • Cucumber

  • Gourd

  • Kale

  • Pumpkins

  • Squash

It may seem late in the season, but these seeds prefer it warm and should be sown with soil temperatures at a minimum of 65°F:

  • Chicory

  • Okra

  • Popcorn

And last, but definitely not least, these seeds really like it warm! Sow them when soil temperatures reach a minimum of 70°F:

  • EggplantThermometer for testing soil temperature

  • Watermelon

  • Kohlrabi (fall crop)

Keep in mind your soil will not necessarily be the same temperature as is shown on your outdoor thermometer. Soil holds and releases heat at varying levels depending upon a number of factors. Your soil may not even be the same temperature as your neighbor'sespecially if you use compost and your neighbor doesn't. You may use mulch, or over time you may have built your soil to a healthy, fertile level. It IS true that dark soil will hold both heat and water more efficiently; dark soil = healthy soil (in most cases). We recommend you purchase an inexpensive soil thermometer to ensure better germination results on direct-sown vegetable seeds.

How Should I Start Lemongrass

April 5th, 2013

Lemon Grass Plant Growig In A ContainerI would like several potted lemon grass plants for my patio. Should I start indoors now? How long will they take to grow 5-6 feet tall? Should I buy the stalks and start myself or just get the plants at a greenhouse? Thanks, Julie M.

Answer: You can start the lemongrass indoors from cuttings.  If you search our blog you will find several articles talking about this.  We do sell healthy starter plants, and these will be ready to go outside as soon as you’ve passed your last frost date. You are in Zone 5a, which means that date should be somewhere mid- to late May. If the plants are growing in pots they are not likely to reach their full size of six feet but should grow tall and full by the end of your growing season. Plants can be brought inside and overwintered as well, if you have a sunny, draft-free location.

Happy gardening!

Karen

Usher in Spring 2013

April 1st, 2013

Have We Got a Flower (or Two) for You!

Nothing adds charm to a home like flowers.  Check out these spectacular bloomers and start imagining your environment surrounded by these bursts of color:

Blizzard® Blue Ivy Geranium

Blizzard series ivy geraniums are perennials with large, single, self-cleaning blossoms amassing in clusters. A vigorous grower, these lavender-blue blossoms will profusely cover the mounding and trailing foliage. Great for containers, deck boxes and window boxes, these ivy geraniums are also fantastic for dressing up that retaining wall. They will spill (up to 20 inches) and thrill even in the sunniest spots; Blizzard ivy geraniums are one of the most heat tolerant ivy geraniums.

Sun Parasol® Giant Carmine Kingâ„¢ Mandevilla

Sun Parasol Mandevillas are natural climbers and will take full advantage of trellises, arbors, fences, and even other plants and trees, as long as they provide an avenue for climbing. In the absence of vertical support, Mandevillas will cascade, often up to 20 feet! The Giant series of Sun Parasol Mandevillas have larger blossoms and coarser growth than the original Sun Parasols but with the same exceptional garden performance and long-lasting flowers. Giant Carmine King is as red as red can be and will attract hummingbirds, butterflies and all manner of beneficial pollinators to its 5-inch flowers. It's truly amazing how quickly these annuals will grow in just one season!

Cheyenne Spirit Mix Echinacea

Echinacea is a drought-tolerant, showy, blooming herbaceous perennial available in a plethora of forms. The entire plantits roots, stalks, blossoms and leavesare often used as a naturopathic, botanical remedy to boost the immune system and lessen the effects of the common cold and flu. Its flowers can be used as live garnishes on dinner plates, desserts and salads. Its blooms invite butterflies to visit and its seed heads are considered a treat by migrating and resident birds. Our Cheyenne Spirit Mix is an award winner, here in the U.S. and in Europe. This colorful collection blooms the very first year in vibrant hues. If you only have the space to plant one kind of perennial, this is the one; its blossoms make the most colorful and long-lasting bouquets, while in the garden Cheyenne Spirit is tough and resilient, surviving the most adverse weather and climatic conditions with grace.

Usher In Spring with These Flowering Plants!

Crackling Fire® White Begonia

The Crackling Fire series of Begonias is making begonias a household word. This begonia series puts an end to the difficult-to-grow characterization, being bred for its free-flowering nature, its tolerance to drought, its adaptability to varying light, its compact growth habit and its robust and incredibly beautiful, self-cleaning blossoms. What's not to like? And when it comes to white begonias, our Crackling Fire White Begonia plant should be at the top of your list of annualsthe burgundy stems, verdant foliage and pure white blossoms with frilly yellow centers combining for a simply stunning, over-the-top, display. And you hardly have to do a thing!

SunPatiens® Electric Orange Impatiens

SunPatiens Impatiens put an end to phrases touting the annual beauty of impatiens as long as they are planted in shady gardens. These impatiens were bred to perform in full sun and sweltering heat, doing so admirably; they display more vigor and profuse flowering in cool and shady environments than all that have come before them. SunPatiens Electric Orange is an immensely versatile, compact variety, ideal for mixed containers, edges, borders, mass plantings, hanging basketsyou name it!  Self-cleaning and completely immune to powdery mildew, you can look forward to flamboyant color, rain or shine.

Fire Spinner Delosperma

Delosperma, more commonly called Ice Plant, can withstand and adapt to just about any soil or weather condition, except constantly wet feet, which is a great reason to grow it. Our Fire Spinner Ice Plant is something special indeed, combining all its positive, easy-to-grow attributes with color that can only be described as unreal. Starting at the center of each blossom is the yellow eye that is normal for most Delosperma, but that is where normalcy ends and fantastic begins. A gauzy, opaque white halo surrounds the yellow center, which is then surrounded by rings of radiant hot pink, magenta and bright burgundy before each petal ends in fiery orange. And then there's the fact they are drought and salt tolerant and deer do not find them palatable at all. Wow! Sounds like a dream come true, especially for someone whose green thumb hasn't fully developed yet. Use this gorgeous and carefree plant as a filler in containers, as a flowering ground cover or just about anywhere or any how you choose.

Yes, Spring Will ArriveSooner Than You Think!

Carolina Fireworks Lantana

You may have heard the myth about Lantanas having a less-than-pleasant fragrance. Let us put that to rest before we pass along all of its positive attributes. It is actually the leaves that some consider unpleasant, the somewhat citrusy fragrance being released when they have been crushed or stepped upon; in fact, this perennial plant is a butterfly, honeybee and hummingbird magnet! Would those nectar lovers flock to a plant that smelled bad? Carolina series Lantana's positives are many: they will lend a tropical ambiance wherever they are on display; they are exceptionally heat and drought tolerant and with their fantastic trailing habit will make a stunning ground cover when planted en masse and they adapt well to container life, looking nicely mounded on top while trailing up to 4 feet, in the case of Carolina Fireworks. This cultivar will be covered with masses of fiery-looking clusters in hot red and yellow.

SuperBells® Lemon Slice Calibrachoa

Calibrachoas are the un-sticky answer to sticky petunias, the blossoms very similar to the pretty petunia, though smaller, and without the stickiness petunias are known for. Self-cleaning and flowering non-stop from April through the first frost, the colors are stunningly vibrant. Additionally, the blossoms and foliage will stand up much better under the stresses of adverse weather than the average petunia. SuperBells Lemon Slice was bred by Proven Winners® and will produce hundreds of lemony-yellow and white-starred blossoms throughout the course of its long growing season. You can almost smell the lemons!

Limelight Hydrangea

Hydrangeas are an old plant, probably a favorite of your grandmother or great grandmother, but becoming a preferred choice once again as newer cultivars become available. A preference, too, of honeybees and butterflies, this perennial bush will normally bloom pink or blue, depending on the pH of your soil. You can plant hydrangeas and be surprised when they bloom, or you can buy an inexpensive pH tester to determine the acidity of your soil (greater than 7.0 will produce pink blossoms; less than 7.0 will produce blue). You can also adjust the pH of the soil your hydrangea is planted in to produce your preferred color, though that can take several years to accomplish. Our Limelight Hydrangea however, is not your grandma's hydrangea! Its flowers emerge uniquely chartreuse in color, turning pastel greenish-white before finally turning a vibrant pink in the fall. Amazingly drought tolerant and a profuse bloomer, growing up to 8 feet in height and breadth, you will want to ensure there is plenty of room to show off your own Limelight hydrangea.

Paprika Heuchera

All Heuchera are perennials grown for their foliage, but our Paprika Heuchera has some of the most vibrant and unusual coloration you will find on Coral Bells (the more common name for the Heuchera plant). Always covered with a kind of gauzy, white sheen, her larger-than-average leaves will change color from dark paprika-red to palest peach and every hue you can possibly imagine between those two extremes. Widely adaptable, you can grow Heuchera in full sun to full shade, in just about any kind of soil. It even prefers to dry out between waterings. Our Paprika Coral Bells will produce tiny bell-like, white blossoms in the spring, though they are quite insignificant when compared to the drastic coloration of the foliage. Having shallow roots, Heuchera is amenable to container growth and makes an exceptional filler and spiller; however, you can also plant this perennial as a fantastically brilliant ground cover, to drape over a retaining wall or to provide color when your perennials or annuals have taken a break or stopped blooming.

Ruby Mound Chrysanthemum

Our Ruby Mound Chrysanthemum is a Minnesota mum and a perennial, considered by some to be the best, true-red mum on the market today. Not orangey, with no yellow undertones, Ruby Mound is pure ruby-red, the rich coloration remaining throughout the entire season, not prone to fading as other red chrysanthemums are. This low-growing beauty is ideal for your cut flower arrangements, blooming in the fall, sometimes long after your other blooming plants have quit. You can grow chrysanthemums in containers or beds as long as they get more than 6 to 8 hours of sun daily. They are definitely sun lovers and few plants will rival them for incredible fall color. And you won't have to wait a year for the first blossoms; Ruby Mound mums will bloom profusely the first year, right up until the first killing frost.

Tuberosa Asclepias

If you love the Monarch butterfly, growing Asclepias, otherwise known as Milkweed or Butterfly Weed, is a must. No, it is not a weed, though it may grow like one, which is a good thing. It is also the only plant material the Monarch caterpillar can thrive on, while it is used by both the Queen and Monarch butterflies to lay their eggs. Deer proof, non-invasive and low-maintenance, our Tuberosa Asclepias also does not produce the signature milky-white sap as others of this genus, making it ideal for your cut arrangements; the blossoms are amazingly long lasting in the vase. Use this bright and tall perennial in the center of a round butterfly garden or along the back border where its considerable height and bright green foliage will provide a nice backdrop to lower growing bloomers. You don't have to worry about the deer; they don't care for Butterfly Weed; however, you can look forward to Swallowtails and other butterflies, honeybees and hummingbirds being regular visitors.

 

Do Not Try This at Home

March 30th, 2013

Pumpking plant growing up a tree trunkMost creeping or vining plants will seek some form of support.  And if it's a pumpkin vine, it can apparently latch onto a nearby tree and use it as a host.  That's what this heirloom pumpkin plant did when its seeds were planted close to the base of a well-established redwood, and the wayward vine produced some lovely pumpkins as it ascended the base of this large trunk.

Our customer, Manfred S., shared his story and photos:

Dear Garden Harvest Supply Folks,

We live in a cooperative housing complex in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Have lived here since 1965 and in that time I have planted a lot of shrubs and trees on common property, including a Dawn Redwood just across the sidewalk from our unit.  In the fall of 2011 a friend gave me some seeds, which I forgot to label.  In the spring I planted them near the tree and they grew into large vines that eventually climbed the tree, twined around it and blossomed.  I didn’t know if it was a squash, a gourd or a pumpkin.  Three of the blossoms bore fruit and it turned out to be heirloom pumpkins that grew between and above a fall clematis.  That fascinated the co-op grounds crew and they kept coming by every week to check on their growth.  We finally harvested two of the pumpkins on October 15, 2012.  That’s me with the bald spot wearing the brown jacket.

What an anomaly, to see a pumpkin vine growing vertically and producing large fruit on the trunk of a giant tree!

The tree's bark provided a rough surface for the tendrils of the pumpkin vine to easily attach to, and the girth of the trunk gave the pumpkin plant's large leaves plenty of room to spread out, to get lots of air and light, and to look really lush.  When the plant bore blossoms and then fruit, they too had lots of room to breathe. It's possible the creeping vine even stole some of the tree's nutrients for its own welfare.

Harvesting pumpkins that grew in a treeThat fluke worked out well for the pumpkins but it's not so great for the giant redwood.  Tree trunks, even with thick, mostly dried bark, still need air and light, or they'll suffocate.  This particular tree was covered in ivy before the pumpkin grabbed on for a free ride.  Even that ivy, if dense, could choke out some of the tree's necessary elements for survival.  It's best to keep all tree trunks free and clear of parasitic or freeloading plants.

Although tree bark is a wonderful surface for vines to take hold of, it's not a tree's main purpose to support other growing vegetation.   Luckily, pumpkin plants can grow right along bare soil on the ground, as long as they're not left on wet earth for long periodsand they shouldn't be subjected to harsh windy conditions, which is tough on their sensitive leaves.  Generally speaking, pumpkins will grow in any fertile soil and will thrive anywhere they have room to spread, since vines can grow 20-30 feet long.

Some pumpkin growers in wetter regions build mounds to plant seeds in, so their plants stay on the drier side during rainy periods.  In drier regions, the opposite can hold true, where planting seeds in shallow trenches will catch and retain needed moisture.  As long as pumpkins aren't exposed to frost, and they get full sun and pollination by bees, they'll produce large and healthy fruit in most growing conditions.