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Southern Gardening - Potpourri for April

 

Not too long ago a small child told me there were 2 holidays this April – April fool’s day and Easter. How cute is that statement.

One of my favorite expressions is “April showers bring May flowers.” This is my rule of thumb in the garden setting as to when I sow seed and set out small plants. Usually by mid March to late March, the chances of a hard freeze dissipates, so I begin sowing seed and setting out plants for spring and early summer garden. Once these seedlings and plants get established before the heat of the late spring and summer months, the less problems down the line. Good care including the right soil, correct amount of light, water, fertilizer, and weed free environment will produce stronger and healthier flowers. Some people advocate heavy mulch in the beds to conserve water in the summer, but I only mulch those areas of the beds which will lay dormant in order to smother weeds which lessens the task of weeding. The mulch I prefer is pine straw since this will rot down and enrich the soil. Some seeds that I have sown include Cleome, Zinnia-Pacific Giant, Alyssum for a snowy white border, and Cosmos. Except for the Alyssum, the others, which are at least 3-4 feet in height, make a dramatic show towards the back of the beds. I also have sown Old-fashioned Poppies and Larkspur last fall for late spring bloom. How do I know where these seeds have been sown? I look at my flowerbed plan that I keep nearby in a desk drawer.

When I gave myself a critique of last summer’s flowers, I will plant more Pentas or Egyptian Star-Cluster. A Victorian-age perennial, with vibrant colors of pale pink, white, deep red,and bright fuschia, has an added value for attracting butterflies. Pentas are of medium height and grow best in a hot climate. They are available in garden centers and at big box store garden departments. Try to plant them now and you will have large swaths of color until they freeze. Lamb’s ear or stachys is one of my all time favorites for the front border of the beds. A hardy perennial with long hairy gray-green fleshy leaves lends much texture and interest to the beds. They are drought tolerant, and will die back when they are over watered.

Plant of the Month – Melampodium

This is one of a very few flowers that has the same name for both the common and the official name. What a great hot summer mounding filler for the flowerbeds. It has been named one of the top 10 summer flowering annuals of all time. With buttery small yellow flowers, which do not hold its dead heads, produces masses of daisy-like flowers from summer until fall. The foliage is a deep dark green and forms mounds 2-3 feet in height. It does require heat to thrive, something we certainly have plenty of.

Happy Gardening and Happy Easter

 

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