Amy Dixon Special Correspondent
We gardeners always seem to have an eye on the sky and a pulse on the local weather. This hobby and our livelihood are very much tied to the temperatures, rainfall, and four seasons we are blessed with in North Carolina.
So, now that our cool spring has finally given way to consistent warm weather, it’s officially time to plant all things tender. I’m sure many of you have already planted annuals and summer vegetables, but I like to wait until around May 1st, so the soil has a chance to warm up a bit. I’ve found that peppers, okra and basil don’t take off very quickly if the ground is cool, so it’s best for me to hold my horses until the temps get warm enough to make me sweat.
I’m very keen these days to add more bulbs and annual colors each summer because I like to see what will grow best in what locations. And because of the abundance of shade in my garden, I always experiment with plants to test their limits of sun exposure. I found that I could grow beautiful wavy petunias in the morning sun, but the dahlia tubers grow long and offer very few flowers.
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One thing I encourage everyone to do more of is mix in a healthy dose of annuals with your perennials and shrubs. Whether using torenia, impatiens or coleus in shady locations or vibrant reds, yellows and pinks in full sun, annuals can really boost established beds with color and lushness. ‘interest. And as a bonus, many annuals are pollinator magnets, providing a wealth of food for hummingbirds, butterflies and bees.
Last year I planted giant zinnias, cuphea, pentas, gomphrena, lantana, tropical milkweed and asiatic lilies in my pollinator bed which dramatically changed the dynamics of this garden space . I saw more diversity in the butterflies that visited, and my neighbors’ bees were working on the flowers all summer and fall.
I have a few tips when it comes to mixing annuals into established areas – be aware of their size, how quickly they can spread, and how some of them can reseed themselves.
When working in annuals, bulbs and tubers, just be sure to plant them according to their size at maturity. You don’t want fast-growing annuals outgrowing established perennials or overstepping their boundaries. A few years ago I made the mistake of over-planting Tithonia rotundifolia in a pollinator bed, thinking it wouldn’t grow as big as it did. Well, those Mexican sunflowers ended up swallowing nearby fennel and dill, leaving them with very little sunlight. I would also recommend using single plant supports with some annuals (like cosmos), which can easily collapse on neighboring plants.
With warming temperatures, I’ve seen a lot of annuals from last year resurface, but not in a good way. Cleome is always bad at reseeding, one I’ve been fighting for several seasons now. A cardinal climber topiary was the centerpiece of one of my seasonal beds at work – and it magically reappeared last week.
Morning glories are such a wonderful plant, and I have grown them in many different gardens over the years. But they tend to hang around from year to year, growing where I just don’t want them to be. Other weedy annuals include cuphea, acorn flower, amaranth, nicotiana, and celosia. I have found that some herbs and vegetables can also seed themselves, such as tomatoes and arugula. A fellow horticulturist mentioned that Malabar spinach and salsify are also aggressive self-seeders.
If I haven’t mentioned this before, remember to plant more bulbs each spring and fall. Mid to late spring is the perfect time to get the promise of lots of summer color by digging a few holes and dropping in a bulb or tuber. Gladioli give both height and nostalgia to a garden and make excellent cut flowers. Oriental and Asiatic lilies are spectacular, with most giving off a pleasant fragrance.
Crocosmia, cannas, lycoris and dahlias are also available now, each adding a different dynamic to your summer garden. Dahlia tubers are especially nice because they can provide a spectacular range of colors for flower arrangements. From dinner plates to pom poms, dahlias have the wow factor we all crave.
A great opportunity to get your hands on healthy dahlias is coming up very soon. The Central Carolina Dahlia Society is hosting its inaugural tuber sale at 10 a.m. May 14 at the Winston-Salem Fairgrounds Home and Garden Building at 414 Deacon Blvd., Winston-Salem.
The sale will include labeled tubers, potted tubers, dahlia seedlings and some mystery tubers.
CCDS President Jimmy Speas has been growing award-winning dahlias for years and encourages all gardeners to plant a few in their gardens.
“Dahlias are a must for the home garden because they are easy to grow, have few pests, produce flowers of every color except true blue, and the size of flowers and size of plants can satisfy any wish list. of any gardener,” Speas said. .
The CCSD was founded and organized last year and is doing well. All of the dahlias in the sale were grown, stored and donated by members, which will help fund CCSD’s educational programs. I can guarantee they will have the best selection of tubers available, all grown locally. And as with all of our local plant sales, be sure to arrive early for the best selection.
Now that you feel like summer is officially on the horizon, go ahead and plant. I fully opened the floodgates to my summer planting last week, and it’s so energizing. Have fun and enjoy this wonderful planting time.
Amy Dixon is an assistant horticulturist at Wake Forest University’s Reynolda Gardens. Questions about gardening or story ideas can be sent to her at www.facebook.com/WSJAmyDixon or firstname.lastname@example.org, with “gardening” in the subject line. Or write Amy Dixon c/o Features, Winston-Salem Journal, 418 N. Marshall St., Winston-Salem, NC 27101.