Alabama Gazette - The people's voice of reason

Potpourri for March

 

The month of March brings in windy, kite-flying days, and much activity in the garden scene. March is the official month of Spring, and the harbinger of warm balmy weather. The dormancy of most trees and shrubs is broken with a burst of buds on the limbs and stems. We have already seen the flowering of the majestic Japanese magnolias, the fragrant old-fashioned Kiss-me-at-the-gate, beautiful camellias and sasanquas. Every time I see these flowers, it makes me so grateful I live in the south. The narcissus and daffodils are having a banner year and add to the spring fragrance. So far this year we have had more than our share of rain. After planting larkspur, zinnia and cleome seed in beds filled with fresh garden soil, I watched in horror as the dirt and, along with it, the seed, floated over the border stones out into the grass. So, I just repeated the task. I do not know what will come up or where.

Below is a list of suggestions of what to plant this month:

1. Geraniums-- This is the perfect weather to plant these showy plants which will bloom until the dog days of August and beyond. I have wintered mine over from last year, and, after cutting them back by half, planted them in my pot garden. I call them greedy plants as they love to be fertilized about every 10 days. I use a time-release fertilizer such as Osmocote, and, afterwards, a liquid fertilizer such as Peter's or Miracle Gro. The most prolific bloomers would be the ones that are in the red and orange group. The ones with the least blooms would be the whites. Geraniums can be rooted very easily in water or moist soil.

2. Dianthus-- These plants love cool nights and days. I planted a few trays in November and when the 25 degree cold spell hit, these plants kept on blooming and did not miss a beat. After a bloom cycle, it is good to take some garden shears and cut the tops off. They will get a little ratty looking in the summer, but if you put them in the shade, they will survive the summer heat, and revive themselves in the fall. Like geraniums, Dianthus do well in pots and in the

garden. They come in a variety of colors, and some are two- toned. What a great addition to any spring border.

3. Pansies-- These are always a favorite and so very easy to grow. The yellow varieties take less sunlight than the other colors, so plant them in areas of the garden that will be more shady when the deciduous trees put out their leaves. The tiny Johnny Jump-Ups look so delicate and fragile, but do not let looks fool you. These are hardy souls and can take most anything Nature can throw their way.

4. Phlox-- Perennial Phlox can be the main stay for the garden in the late spring and all summer. I usually find mine at Petals from the Past, a nursery, in Jemison, Alabama. White, lavender, pink, reddish pink, fuchsia, and darker shades of lavender color the beds. They are especially good flowers for the beds because of their height which is around two feet. They do require full sun and should be planted in clumps of three or four to make a dramatic statement. Very slightly fragrant, they can be cut and used in flower arrangements. If you go to Petals from the Past to make this purchase, request the Givhan Phlox. My husband, Dr. Ed Givhan, found these plants in the wild, collected the seed and grew them. Givhan Phlox proved to be better suited to the south as more heat resistant and can be relied upon to come back year after year. It is nothing short of a superior variety.

5. Loebelia-- There are over 400 varieties of this plant. They can be found in garden centers and nurseries, and if you see them, buy them. I like to use them in pots as accent plants, and in the garden border in large clumps. The neon dark blue blooms in the front of the bed makes a sharp contrast with any other flowers there. They bloom for a couple of months and usually do not last all summer due to the heat.

6. Blue Salvia-- The mealy cup variety is a perennial that champions the garden with spiked blooms from late Spring through frost. It also can be cut for indoor flower arrangements and has an interesting gray-green leaves.

7. Begonias-- Later this month it should be fine to plant begonias. These plants do much better planted in early spring than in the heat of the summer. Be careful when fertilizing for if the fertilizer gets on the leaves it will burn them. I like a liquid fertilizer for begonias.

PLANT OF THE MONTH--SCABIOSA

This flower is associated with old fashioned grandma's gardens along with Bachelor's Button and Carnations. A long- lived perennial, it likes well drained soil, but also tolerates lime or a slightly higher pH than neutral or acid soils. They come in a variety of colors, with the blue, S.caucasica, being the most well known. Scabiosa is also a great cut flower and flowers all summer long. It is noted that one needs to divide them every 3 years. Also if one removes the dead heads, it lengthens the flowering period. It is a great taller flower which grows to about 3 feet. The only pests that may invade are slugs. Using lime or slug bait will get rid of them in short order.

GOOD GARDENING.

 

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