Charlie’s Late February Newsletter
I’m on the road to the Connecticut Flower & Garden Show this weekend. I’m speaking on Sunday, February 25th on Container Gardening. If you’re around Hartford, Connecticut, stop in and say hi and get a hit of the smells and sights of spring!
Speaking of smells, scented geraniums are a great way to add a beautiful flower to your container or yard and one with a great fragrance. I talk about growing these here.
One of the more exotic vegetables that we grow every year is the globe artichoke. While commercial globe artichoke production mostly happens in California, you can grow them even in a northern climate by choosing the right varieties and chilling the seedlings. I tell you how in this newsletter.
One of the up and coming native perennials that I’m seeing more and more in gardens is gaillardia. This small plant produces daisy-like flowers in colors from yellow to deep red. It blooms on and off all summer in our zone 5 garden and new varieties are good in containers, too. Check this perennial out.
Finally, I’m doing one more webinar this spring. I’ve lead a few gardening tours to England and always fall in love with the English Cottage Garden. But you don’t have to live in England to grow this type of garden in many parts of our country. My webinar will be April 5th at 7pm EST and run about 1.5 hours. I talk about the webinar here and the fact that you don’t have to be present to participate! Read on.
As the temperatures swing wildly, remember it’s still February. Don’t get ahead of yourself with seed starting or planting. I’m telling myself that, as much as you! Until next time I’ll be seeing you… in the garden.
- Vermont Garden Journal Radio- This week; Seed Starting
- Connecticut Garden Journal Radio- This week; Flower Shows
- In the Garden (WCAX-TV CBS)- This week; Easy Houseplants
- Where’s Charlie Speaking? February 25, 2018 , Connecticut Flower & Garden Show, Hartford, CT
Many gardeners love the zonal and ivy leaf geraniums often grown in containers and hanging baskets. But there’s another group that should get equal attention in gardens and pots; scented geraniums. Scented geraniums are in the same Pelargonium family. They have attractive, colorful flowers but their true calling card is the scented leaves. These plants are great to rub and smell as you walk by, or used in making teas, cakes and drinks. Like other Pelargoniums, they are tender perennials and only overwinter outdoors in warm climates. But they are easy to bring inside in cold winter areas to survive the winter in a basement or window, and then moved outdoors in spring.
‘True Rose’ is a nice rose-scented geranium selection with rose-pink flowers. It grows 2 feet tall and wide. The leaves are used in perfume making and baking. ‘Rober’s Lemon-Rose’ has oak-shaped leaves, pink flowers and a citrus- like scent. It’s great for sachets and cooking. ‘Chocolate Mint’ has pink flowers, and green and burgundy colored leaves with a chocolately-mint scent. It’s not candy, but will entice you to go by some.
Plant scented geraniums in containers, beds or in the garden in full sun on well-drained, fertile soil. Since the leaves need to be rubbed to smell fragrant, I like to keep them in pots or beds close to the house or where I’ll walk by them often. It reminds me to stop and smell the geraniums! Geraniums like heat, which is another reason to grow them in containers especially in a cool summer climate.
Although they are drought tolerant once established, scented geraniums like having a consistent supply of moisture. They also will grow best in compost-amended soils. I like to add some fertilizer when watering to keep them flowering and producing new stems. Harvest in the morning when collecting leaves and flowers. That’s when the oils are the highest in the plant. Snip off entire branches and not just individual leaves so you don’t deform the plant and will encourage new growth.
It’s easiest to purchase plants to get started. Once growing, geraniums are also easy to propagate yourself from stem cuttings so one plant can quickly become many with a little planning and work.
I love globe artichokes. I remember first eating them in Castroville in Coastal California and thought they were amazing. I especially liked it when I went to a local restaurant and had artichoke soup, fries and bread! But you don’t have to live just in coastal California to grow and enjoy your own ‘chokes. These perennials can be tricked into sending up flower buds or artichokes the first year even in a short season climate by growing the right varieties and giving seedlings the right temperature conditions.
‘Tavor’ is a new improved version of the standard variety for cool climate growing, ‘Imperial Star’. It produces up to 8 nice -sized artichokes on 3- to 4-foot tall plants. ‘Wonder’ is a new hybrid variety that grows strong and fast with good production. ‘Colorado’ Star’ is a nice purple artichoke that adds color to the garden and dinner dish.
Start these seeds indoors 6 to 8 weeks before your last frost date. Once the seedlings are large enough, transplant into 4 inch pots. It’s important to induce flower bud formation in spring by exposing the older seedlings to 10 days of 45F to 50F temperatures. However, protect them from the cold and don’t let them get touched by frost. Once they have been vernalized, the flower buds will form and you’ll get good production this year.
Artichokes like to grow in full sun on well-drained, fertile soil. I grow ours in raised beds amending the soil heavily with compost. I also keep them well watered to grow bigger and healthier plants. It seems the stronger the plant, the more artichokes I get.
Consider growing artichokes as ornamental plants as well. We plant some in our flower gardens. The attractive leaves and plant shape make it a perfect contrast to flowers such as daylilies, echinacea and rudbeckia. In warm winter climates the plants will overwinter and produce for a few more years depending on the conditions. Even on zone 5 and 6 climates, if you mulch the plants heavily in fall, the roots sometimes will overwinter and regrow. For an added treat, let some flower buds open into a bright pink thistle flower.
One of the native perennial flowers that’s getting a facelift recently is gaillardia or blanket flower. Gaillardia can be an annual or short-lived perennial that’s worth growing for its colorful, cheery flowers that bloom throughout the summer. Gaillardia is often found in wildflower mixes because it will self-sow. Newer selections aren’t as prolific, but offer some nice colored blooms. Most grow between 1- and 2-feet tall and the daisy-shaped flowers bloom for months. ‘Arizona Red Shades’ features deep burgundy colored flowers. ‘Arizona Apricot’ has yellow to orange colored blooms. ‘Sunset Snappy’ has a mix of burgundy colored flower centers with yellow edges. ‘Sunset Mexican’ is mostly yellow with a burgundy center.
Gaillardia are drought tolerant plants, once established, and bloom best in full sun. They make great additions to the flower border, but also pollinator gardens, butterfly gardens, meadows and containers. Bees, birds and butterflies love the blooms. While deadheading is a good idea to increase flower production, leaving the flowers to form seed attracts small birds to your garden providing much needed food. Chances are you’ll still have plenty of seed left to self-sow.
In the garden pair gaillardia with coreopsis, salvia, sedum, and clumping grasses. Since gaillardia likes the sun and heat, grow it with other drought tolerant plants such as liatris and yarrow. It also dresses up beds with daylilies and crocosmia providing a nice contrast to those leaf shapes and sizes. Grow compact gaillardias, like ‘Goblin’, in containers with cascading plants, such as petunias and alyssum, and tall spiky flowers such as phormium and dracena. It makes a nice filler plant in a container between these two different plant shapes.
Grow species gaillardia on hillsides and meadows and let them naturalize. Although the mother plant may die out after a few years, it will self-sow readily producing color in that area for years. Mow down the plants in late fall after the seeds form.
In Our Garden: Cottage Gardening Webinar
I’m back with another webinar. These are fun! It’s a great way for me to help gardeners get information on various topics and answer gardening questions about their yards. Plus, you don’t have to travel to flower shows or garden club meetings to see and hear me. All you do is turn on your computer and there I am.
My next webinar is on Cottage Gardening. It will be a live presentation on Thursday, April 5th from 7 to 8:30pm. Of course, you don’t have to be present to see the webinar. Just sign up and I’ll send you the recording a few days after the live presentation.
Cottage Gardening is all about growing perennials, annuals, herbs shrubs and even small trees together in a garden in a way so they cascade and flower into each other. It looks like organized chaos, but the result is color, texture and interest from spring to fall as different plants come in and out of bloom. I think it gives the garden a more natural feel and while it does require maintenance, I find it’s mostly trimming, removing and thinning plants to direct the growth. It’s more working with Mother Nature than trying to impose your will.
So check out my webinar page and I hope to see you in April. Sign up now for the early bird discount.