Each year that Blossoms Garden Center is open, owners Lora and Matthew Weatherbee grow their business to accommodate more customer requests. This year a new growing house was added.
"We are really proud of what we grow," Matthew said. "This year we are growing several Proven Winners that gardeners may not find other places."
Proven Winners are patented plant varieties that cannot be commercially propagated without a license. The company selects new varieties that are tested for two or three years before they are offered. Superbells calibroachoa, Diamond Frost Euphorbia and Soprano Osteospermum are a few of the many familiar Proven Winners varieties.
City Line Hydrangeas are new dwarf hybrids from Germany that grow from 1 to 3 feet tall in sun or part shade.
"The City Line hydrangeas are compact and perfect for containers if gardeners do not have a lot of ground space. Blossom's carries City Line dwarf Berlin, Paris, Vienna and Venice," Lora said.
Hydrangeas grow best in well-drained soil amended with peat moss, compost or leaf mold. Fertilize early in the spring and keep the watered all summer. Prune hydrangeas immediately after they flower. Other hydrangea varieties that will be available include Oak leaf Little Honey with white flowers in the summer and red leaves in the fall and Alice, which grows 5 feet tall and wide with white summer flowers.
"Most perennials can be planted in March," Matthew said. "Even if we would have another April freeze like last year, the perennials should be fine in the ground."
This year you can grow heat-tolerant Munstead English Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), which blooms in late spring and summer. It is a perennial that will increase its footprint the following year. It is attractive to butterflies and used as cut and dried flowers. If you want it to live through the winter it has to have dry feet so plant it on a slope and amend the soil with sand, chicken grit or crushed oyster shell.
Among the hundreds of annuals and perennials at Blossom's, some other customer favorites include:
• Shasta Daisy (Leucanthemum) — perennials that come back reliably in almost any soil. They start blooming in late spring and will continue to bloom for weeks if the fading flowers are kept cut off.
• Other popular daisies — Silver Princess is a late-blooming dwarf that grows only 1 foot tall and blooms with white flowers and Snow Lady grows 8 to 12 inches tall, blooms July to September, with 2-inch white flowers with yellow centers. Snow Lady is a 1991 All America Award winner.
Muskogee gardeners plant lots of Lobelia Queen Victoria or Cardinal Flower. It has 36-inch tall purple-bronze foliage and red flowers in June, grows best in moist part-shade, attracts butterflies and hummingbirds.
Asters are rewarding as they return every year to bloom in late summer and early fall and bring butterflies to the fall garden.
East Indies Aster Wartburg Star (Aster tongolensis) has a lavender flower with a gold-yellow center.
Wartburg Star grows to 18 inches tall and wide in well-drained soil in full sun.
A smaller aster for part-shade, Happy End Alpinus aster, is compact with pink flowers.
"Some of our best selling plants last year were flats of angelonia (heat-tolerant snap dragons), osteospermum (African daisies), and begonias," Matthew said.
"As far as annuals, we anticipate that last year's favorites will once again be popular such as the sweet potato vine, Million Bells, lantanas, osteospermums, red geraniums, and Wave petunias. But we are also trying some new things like red Hawaiian Ti."
Million Bells have 1-inch, trumpet-shaped blooms that attract hummingbirds until frost without any special care. They can be used as groundcover or trail from hanging pots in the sun. This year Matthew and Lora grew a variety of mixed-color baskets because they were a customer favorite last year.
They also grew a variety of large, ivy geraniums in hanging baskets in assorted colors.And, customers love hanging ferns for their porches.
"We have 400 Muskogee-grown, 12-inch hanging Boston ferns ready for sale," Matthew said. "In addition, the larger Kimberlee Queen and Macho fern varieties are ready in 12-inch patio pots.
"Most of the annuals, including banana trees, will be ready and available on opening day. A large shipment of tropical plants such as hibiscus, mandavilla, and allamanda (golden trumpet vine) will not arrive until mid-April after the threat of frost has passed."We also order plants for customers who want annuals and perennials we do not have in stock when they come in," Matthew said.
"Lora creates patio pots and special arrangements for customers every year and she can help them design plantings for their pool areas and porches."
The Weatherbees are active in their work for Muskogee Garden Club's civic projects such as the downtown Broadway planting. Matthew is on the board of directors for Muskogee Parks and Recreation Department and is on the committee to build a butterfly house garden and education center in Honor Heights Park later this year.
Muskogee Garden Club's March 20 meeting will be at 6 p.m. at Blossoms the night before the garden center opens for the spring. Matthew's talk will be on container gardening. Guests and visitors are welcome.
For more information, call 683-0581.