29 January 2015

Indian Pink, Pink Root, Worm Grass, Spigelia marilandica

Said to be the most beautiful woodland native plant in the US, Woodland Pinkroot is a plant worth seeking out. And, adding this hummingbird native to our shade gardens will take effort.

The seeds are not available from any supplier. Woodland Pinkroot plant divisions are for sale in various sizes from tiny plugs to 4-inch pots. Purchasing and planting a few starter pots will turn into a colony over time since they spread by underground rhizomes.

There are 50 species of Spigelia, which is spelled Spigela in some catalogs and references. They are annual and perennial plants that grow in moist woods and thickets in North and South America. All of them have hummingbird-attracting trumpet shaped flowers in colors from red to purple with yellow accents.

Spigelia marilandica is native to the US from the east coast through OK and TX. The common names include Woodland Pinkroot, Native Indian Pink, Pink Root and Worm Grass.  The marilandica in its name refers to its being first discovered in Maryland.

Cold hardy in zones 5 through 9 and Heat zones 9 through 2, Pinkroot is an ideal selection for bright shade where the soil stays relatively moist.  Each Pinkroot plant forms a clump of perennial, stalkless, mid-green leaves about 4-inches tall. With the flower clusters, the plant grows to 24-inches tall.
One commercial plant supplier, NorthCreek Nurseries (Northcreeknurseries.com) sells plugs to nurseries but not to gardeners. Nurseries purchase the plugs and grow them larger to sell to the public. They call Spigelia (Spi-geel-e-a) “One of the most striking and beautiful of the native perennials ... A very hardy plant for gardens and containers … A favorite of butterflies and hummingbirds, it is at home in the bright woodland or sunny border.”

Operation Ruby Throat (www.rubythroat.org) is dedicated to supporting hummingbirds in the Americas.  They recommend Indian Pink. “It is under-used by hummingbird gardeners but is an excellent plant for a yard with tall, established trees that cast light shade beneath them.”

Plant Delights Nursery (www.plantdelights.com) and Prairie Nursery (www.prairienursery.com) offer 3 or 4-inch pots by mail ($9 to $17). Plant Delights calls the plant “Little Redhead”.

At one time Spigelia marilandica was plentiful, growing in moist places in all the states along the eastern US.  Henriettes herb books (www.henriettes-herb.com) called it Carolina Pink.  In the 1800s it grew “in dry, rich, soils, and on the borders of woods in the southern states”. 

In order to use Spigelia marilandica medicinally it was collected into bales and sold to doctors who made the rhizomes and roots into bittersweet preparations. Though no longer widely used, its name Worm Grass refers to its being used to treat ringworm and tapeworm. Eating the plants’ roots is no longer recommended.

To grow Spigelia marilandica gardeners should replicate conditions similar to their native preferences. Whether you grow it in containers or in beds, site selection is important. Bright shade at the edge of a wooded area, alongside water or near irrigation is ideal.

The plants emerge fairly late in the spring, so it is best to mark the area where they are planted so you can watch for them the first year or two. A more satisfying butterfly and hummingbird patch of flowers would come from planting them in swaths so when they bloom from late spring through early summer there would be a consistent supply of open flowers.

One native plant observer in Northeast Arkansas (http://ozarkedgewildflowers.com) says it grows not only in rich, moist woods but in deep woods, with a preference for rocky sites. 

Spigelia marilandica plants will be available at the Master Gardeners’ plant sale during Daffodil Day at the Thomas-Foreman Historic Home, March 28 from 10 to 2.

27 January 2015

First Crocus bloom Jan 27

In the  cold fall months faithful gardeners plant spring blooming bulbs, coming inside to warm their cold-numbed hands between the bags of bulbs and corms that have to go into the ground.

When the Crocus bulbs begin to bloom in January and February no matter how cold and snowy the weather, we get our reward.

If you did not get any Crocus bulbs in last fall, put them on your calendar for Oct-Nov 2015 planting. Their tiny flowers are guaranteed to bring a smile in late winter-2016.

posted from Bloggeroid

21 January 2015

Garden-pedia tells all

Garden-pedia is a new little book of gardening terms from St. Lynn's Press this month.

The preface of 6 full pages of heartfelt recommendations by over two-dozen garden writers compels you to want to find out what lies in the rest of the book. And, what you'll find is sort of a Wikipedia for new gardeners - in short, an ideal gift for anyone who has been gardening for just a few years or is just starting out. 

If you are reading along in a book or on the web and come across the word angiosperm, this little gem will tell you that it is, "A flowering plant whose seeds are housed within an ovary." And, that heading is followed by a couple of paragraphs that clearly describe angiosperm as the opposite of gymnosperm, plants "whose seeds are not protected in an ovary".

Moving through the alphabet, you'll find bramble, compost, fragrant, ground cover, inflorescence, metamorphosis ... well, you get the idea.

This one is an easy to hold paperback size at 8 by 8 inches and 224 pages. The list price is around $17 and on the Internet it is available for around $14. Pick one up for a friend or a family you know.

18 January 2015

Black Ammi - plant from seed

Carrots have many relatives in the Ammi plant family, with Queen Anne's Lace probably being the best known. My favorite is the Black Knight Ammi which has actually deep purple flowers. They grow to 5-feet tall in our perennial bed and usually have to be staked. It's a hardy annual that sometimes re-seeds a little in our zone 7.

Black Knight Ammi in our garden
It's amazing that I got a photo of it without a pollinator - bees, skippers and butterflies love the flowers.

Florists use a lot of Ammi as bouquet filler but mostly use the white and green varieties. This beauty, also called Black Knight Daucus carota var. sativus makes a wonderful cut flower.

At the end of the season I collect seed heads and put them into a container without a top. Over the winter, I remove more and more dead material so I'm left with seeds, small stems and some chaff. Eventually I end up with what you see in the CD container here.

Since they prefer 55-degrees for germination, the seeds can be sown outside in the fall and protected but it's easier for me to start them in the garden shed and plant out seedlings in the spring.

The seeds are small so don't need much soil on top of them so I put the seeds on top of the soil with some of the chaff and gently stir it around to get a little potting soil into the mix. Then, gently press them into the soil and water.

Black Ammi seedlings take patience - I planted the first set of seeds a month ago and the first true leaves are just now emerging.  There are 22 species of Daucus carota (all wild carrots are included) and I should probably branch out to see if I love the other 21 as much.

Where to find seeds
S G Seeds offers 100 for $5.92
Seedman offers 30 seeds for $2.25

Poison warning: Wild grown Queen Anne's Lace and deadly Hemlock flowers look a lot alike. The leaves of Queen Anne's Lace and of course the entire Hemlock plant are poisonous. I've made a lovely jelly of Queen Anne's Lace flowers - the process and final product are similar to rose hips jelly.

15 January 2015

Seed Sources - the 2015 list

If you have a warm, well-lighted place for seedlings, Jan-Feb is perennial seed starting time and Feb-Mar is annual seed starting time. In our area, there are only a few stores with seeds in Jan. so catalogs and internet sites are our best bet for planning, dreaming and ordering.

Whether you need chickens, coops, deer fencing, seeds, tubers, plants, containers or fertilizer, there are plenty of companies to choose from.  It seems that new vendors pop up on Amazon and EBAY every week.

Here are some tips before you shop: Look for open pollinated varieties if you want to avoid GMOs. Disease and insect resistant hybrid varieties are widely available from larger companies. If you see something at a new site, search for other sites that may sell the same item but have been in business longer.

Always click through to see shipping and handling fees because they vary widely from one vendor to another. Most seed sellers offer an online newsletter, publish a blog, or email information about sales to subscribers.

These resources have been verified

Alpine Seeds, www.alpine-seeds.com (rock gardens)
Amishland Heirloom Seeds, www.amishlandseeds.com (interesting beans)

Artistic Gardens, www.artisticgardens.com, 802-748-1446 (40-cent packs)

Baker Creek, http://rareseeds.com, 417-924-8917

Botanical Interest, www.botanicalinterests.com, 877-821-4340

Bountiful Gardens, www.bountifulgardens.org, 707-459-6410 (heirloom, untreated and O-P)

Burpee, www.burpee.com, 800-888-1447 (supplies, seeds). Owns Cook’s Garden seeds, www.cooksgarden.com

Chiltern Seeds, www.chilternseeds.co.uk (English garden)

Diane’s Flower Seeds, www.dianeseeds.com

Dixondale Farms, www.dixondalefarms.com (Intermediate day onion sets)

Eden Brothers, www.edenbrothers.com (non-GMO seeds by the pound)

Evergreen Seeds, www.evergreenseeds.com (350-Asian vegetables)

Ethnobotanical Catalog of Seeds, www.jlhudsonseeds.net (unique, hard to find)

Fedco Coop seeds and Moose Tubers, www.fedcoseeds.com, 207-873-7333 (discounts now)

Fruition Seeds, www.fruitionseeds.com, (organic, non-GMO)

Garden Medicinals and Culinaries, www.gardenmedicinals.com, 540-872-8351 (herbs)

Gourmet Seed International, www.gourmetseed.com, 575-398-6111. Same as Italian Cook’s Seed and Italian Seed and Tool

Granny’s Heirloom Seeds, Bolivar, MO, www.grannysheirloomseeds.com (homesteading)

Hazzards Seeds, www.hazzardsgreenhouse.com (8,500 varieties)

High Mowing organic seeds, www.highmowingseeds.com, 888-735-4454 (free shipping)

Hometown Seeds, http://hometownseeds.com, 888-433-3106 (wildflowers)

Jelitto Perennials, http://jelitto.com (unique German perennials)

Johnny’s Selected Seeds, www.johnnyseeds.com, 877-564-6697 (tools, seeds)

Kitazawa Seed, www.kitazawaseed.com, 510-595-1188 (Asian vegetables, Safe Seeds)

Native Seeds, http://www.nativeseeds.org (arid-adapted vegetables)

Nichols Garden Nursery, www.nicholsgardennursery.com, 800-422-3985 (seeds, sourdough making)

Onalee Seeds, www.onalee.com (shop by season, color & sun-shade)

Park Seeds, www.parkseed.com, 800-845-3369 (seeds, plants, trees, fruit, supplies). Park also owns DollarSeedStore, Park’s Gardens, Jackson & Perkins & Wayside Gardens

Pine Ridge Gardens, www.pineridgegardens.com, 479-293-4359 (native & pollinator plants)

Pinetree Garden Seeds, www.superseeds.com, 207-926-3400 (seeds, dried herbs & cosmetic making supplies)

Renee’s Garden Seeds, http://reneesgarden.com . Also owns Cornucopia Garden Seeds http://www.cornucopiaseeds.com (less variety than Renne’s but value-priced seeds $1.79 to $1.99)

Richter’s Herbs Canada, www.richters.com, 800-668-4372 (“Wholesale for Everyone” pricing on individual plants and plug trays)

Sample Seed Shop. http://sampleseeds.com, 716-871-1137 (small packets $1.25)

Sand Hill Preservation Center, www.sandhillpreservation.com, 563- 246-2299 (heirloom seeds and unique chickens)

SandMountain Herbs, www.sandmountainherbs.com (herbs, medicinals) owns www.herb-roots.com (herb plant roots ready to plant)

Seed Savers Exchange, www.Seedsavers.org, 563-382-5990 (Non-profit, untreated seeds)

Seeds from Italy, www.growitalian.com, 785-748-0959 (tools, soaps, generous seed packs)

Seeds of Change, www.seedsofchange.com, 888-762-7333 (organic supplies, seeds)

Select Seeds, &www.selectseeds.com, 800-684-0395 (seeds, plants, antique and cottage garden)

Sky Fire Garden, www.skyfiregardenseeds.com (heirlooms, $2 packs, personalized seed packs for events)

Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, www.southernexposure.com, 540-894-9480 (993-vegetable listings, non-GMO, organic)

Territorial Seed, www.territorialseed.com, 800-626-0866 (seeds, grafted vegetable plants, supplies)

Thompson and Morgan, www.tmseeds.com, 800-274-7333.  (New varieties, flowers, vegetables, trees)

Thyme Garden Herb Co., www.thymegarden.com, 541-487-8671 (650 seed varieties for organic herb, flower, ground covers)

Tomato Bob Heirloom Tomatoes, www.tomatobob.com owns & www.heirloomtomatoes.com. (hundreds of varieties)

Vermont Bean Seed Co, 
www.vermontbean.com, 800-349-1071 (vegetable seeds, plants)

Whatcom Seed Co, www.seedrack.com, (palms, bonsai, cycads)
Wild Things Nursery, www.wildthingsnursery.com  (OK native plants)

White Harvest Seed, 
www.whiteharvestseed.com, 866-424-3185 (heirlooms)

13 January 2015

Begonias - International Database

The International Database of the Begoniaceae is online, free and open to the public. It is a work in progress but promises to be a reference resource for all of us who love and grow begonias.

Click on the "Links" tab and check out the begonia societies around the world, plant sources, and seed sources. Then there is the Begonia Links page to peruse with its links to vendors, associations and all things begonia.

One feature of the database's website is the complete reproduction of the book, "Down to Earth with Begonias " by Peter Sharp. It's incredible! I scrolled through some of the pages and can't wait to have time to read it word for word.

11 January 2015

Wasps visit pollinator gardens

European wasps discouraged in Australia
Pollinator gardens are all the fashion as we have become alarmed at the demise of pollinators world-wide. Gardeners are cautioned to not plant pollinator-attracting plants near doors, where children play and where pets rest. 

Insect Identification's site has a page of photos to help clarify what's buzzing. National Geographic says there are 30,000 identified wasps, "Wasps make up an enormously diverse array of insects, with some 30,000 identified species."

The coolest photos I found of wasps is at this link to Nottinghamshire Social Wasps. Not to be missed!

Karl Foord, Extension Educator at the University of  MN posted many photos in his article about wasps visiting his pollinator garden plants at this link.  Click over to read his delightful blog post and photos about various wasp visitors.

Excerpt: "The garden has been continually patrolled by a great black wasp (Sphex pensylvanicus). This wasp is perceived as a black streak that weaves its way around the different plants in the garden searching for prey (photos 2 & 3). It only rarely lands to fuel up on nectar at a Culver's Root plant (Veronicastrum virginicum) seen here with a golden digger wasp (Sphex ichneumoneus) (photo 4). It sometimes hassles other residents. I have seen it touch the back of bumblebees who fly in response but are not harmed. It had an encounter with a hummingbird but both went their separate ways."

Blake Layton wrote a piece for State by State Gardening at this link. He asks if wasps are friends or foes, focusing on paper-wasps.

Layton concludes, "In this case, we viewed the wasps as foes because they were interfering with our research, but most gardeners and farmers consider wasps as friends when they are preying on caterpillar pests. Some organic gardeners and farmers even place special structures in their landscape to encourage wasps to nest there and help control caterpillar pests."

In our Muskogee garden, I've sadly seen them decimate a hatch of butterfly caterpillars and could only sigh, knowing that it was too late to do anything about the cycle of nature.

Larvalbug Bytyes is a wealth of insect information and photos. Jusk click to this link to be impressed.

Galveston TX Master Gardeners call Great Golden digger wasps beneficial insect in their blog entry at this link

Their plea to homeowners to avoid destroying digger wasps concludes, "Unfortunately, homeowners, who have these foraging wasps around their landscape and dig holes in their lawn, usually reach for a can of insecticide. Great Goldens are benign, do not defend their nests, are not aggressive and definitely do more good than harm. Hold that can for a moment and realize that like many other wasps, the Great Golden Digger Wasp is quite beneficial to both gardeners and farmers. So please leave them alone to do their job."

Red wasp at AustinBug.com

Wasp stings hurt as most of us know from personal experience. York County VA blogger, Kathy VanMullekom wrote in this blog entry that "it's screaming time" when they get you.

Her family doctor looked at the swollen bite and said, ""They're usually pretty sore and red for a while. Continue taking an antihistamine, and try putting over-the-counter strength hydrocortisone cream on the area periodically. This should help. Ice is also helpful. You can take Motrin or Aleve as needed for the pain and swelling, also. It should gradually improve." Dr. Kent Willlyard with Tidewater Physicians Multispecialty Group Patrick Henry Family Medicine.

Attack Gardener on the Daily Kos has a great article about all things wasps at this link.

These excerpts will encourage you to click over to the link to read his/her piece of good writing about garden thugs and pollinators: "In years past, when my gardening enthusiasm outran my common sense, I loved to buy new plants with no idea where I would plant them, what conditions they liked or what I might do if they especially liked the conditions I gave them. This led, as you can no doubt imagine, to an eclectic mix of delicate darlings and rabble rousers rubbing shoulders indiscriminately, much as I imagine a Democratic convention must function."

"Mountain mint is one of the best nectar plants for wasps and bees that I have ever seen and I mean that literally. Oh, sure, I have lavender plants all over the place, annuals on every corner, even flowering shrubs, but I have never seen the sheer volume and diversity of pollinators in one place as I've seen on this plant.
Paper wasp nest
Here's a sampling of the flying population I found in my mint patch. Mind you, my pictures are only showing individuals. With one exception, the honeybee, there would be multiples of every one of these, every day. The sound of buzzing wings alone was amazing!"

I had to remove a wasp nest from the vegetable garden a couple of summers ago and it made me sad that some died. But, after three swollen stings I had to take action.

08 January 2015

Coleus seed starting

Coleus Kong Lime Sprite is a new introduction from Ball Seed for 2015 and we're going to give them a try from seed. The seeds are expensive at about $2 apiece so we will be especially careful with them.

Introduced at the California Spring Trials the Kong Coleus are in a class all their own. You can click on this link to see the other new coleus introductions for 2015.

Many coleus varieties are advertised as being sun tolerant but in our area that means morning or half day unless you can baby them.

Karl Blume gets the credit for discovering Coleus in Java in 1853 and there have been many coleus fads over the years. I recall that in the 1970s in CA no home was without its obligatory container of coleus.

Ray Rogers' 2007 book, "Coleus: Rainbow Foliage for Containers and Gardens", is my go-to reference. If you've ever grown coleus and noticed that it has square stems, you automatically know that it is some member of the mint family.

Rogers points out that any coleus grown from seed is likely to be a prolific seed-producing variety and to realize that they will need to be pinched back to prevent seed formation.

With that said, he recommends starting the seeds 4-to-8 weeks before the average last frost for your area. Here that's April 15 so seed-starting would begin Feb. 15 at the earliest.

What's needed is shallow containers (3-inches is enough) with really good drainage, medium-textured seed starting mix, a super-fine material (vermiculite) for covering the soil surface before putting seeds on top, etc. The seeds need light to germinate so if the container is covered for germination warmth, use clear plastic or glass covering.

Disperse the seeds evenly but not densely over the surface, Rogers says. And, do not cover them.

Coleus seeds need: An even amount of moisture, a soil surface that never dries out, tepid rather than cold water, bright but indirect light, 60 to 75 degrees,as well as daily checking for germination and moisture needs.

Seeds take 4 to 14 days to germinate and if you are using fresh seeds, the germination rate will be very high. Within 2 or 3 weeks, the seedlings will be ready for their growing containers. Plan ten weeks from seed starting to planting outside according to this chart from IA State.

Coleus' preference for dry feet extends from seedling throughout mature plants in the garden and containers. Keeping the soil soggy around them causes insect infestations and wilting.

05 January 2015

Bachelor Button Flowers are Cyanus segetum syn. Centaurea cyanus

Bachelor Buttons are a much loved summer-flowering plant. But when you say Bachelor Button which one do you mean?
Centaurea americana

These are all called Bachelor Buttons: Gomphrena globosa, Centaurea cyanus and montana, Ranunculus aconitifolius and Tanacetum parthenium.

Seed and plant cataloges are inexact and mish-mash all of these together but in case it's useful: Centaurea cyanus is a blue lavender flowering plant that matures at 1-2 feet tall. Centaurea americana has pink flowers and matures at 3-4 feet tall. Centurea moschata has several flower colors and matures at 2-3 feet tall.

Centaurea americana is an unusual Arkansas-Texas native that was discovered by Nutall. It grows 2-feet tall with 5-inch feathery purple-pink flowers in Aug. Expect them to need 4 months from seed to maturity when they can be harvested for dried flowers. Available from Select Seeds.
Plants for a Future Bachelor Buttons

The ones I love are Corn Flowers, Centaurea cyanus or C. moschata. The flowers can be blue, pink, lavender or white and the varieties include deep purple/"almost black", mauve and a frilly white. Old-fashioned ones were all tall and now you can get dwarf, too. Their other names include Basktetflower, Bluebottle, and Boutonniere flower.

No matter what you call them, they are long lasting cut flowers, great edible flowers for salads and garnish, and used in teas such as Lady Grey. And, due to modern farming techniques, they are no longer considered invasive weeds in corn fields.
Centaurea cyanus Classic Artistic

These flowers are all a great choice for new gardeners, children and anyone gardening in difficult soil because they are easy to germinate and grow with little care. The flowers were found in the tomb of King Tutankhamen who died in 1340 B.C. so they've been around a long time.

The tall varieties are terrific for the back of the border or in mass plantings where you want to attract pollinators such as butterflies. The flowers have been used to dye sugar and linens, the tender shoots are eaten.and the dried flowers are used medicinally.
Centaurea Imperial Bride White

Swallowtail Gardens offers a mixed-color pack of Centaurea cyanus that includes bi-color flowers. 200 seeds $2.49. They also offer a color combination they call Classic Magic, which is a Fleuroselect Novelty Award Winner. The colors are rose to mahogany with some bi-color flowers. Plants grow 3 feet tall and about a foot wide so plan for a plant that large and when you are thinning the seedlings leave at least a foot between plants.

In case you want to mass-plant them for a summer wedding or your white garden, seeds of Bride White can be found as Centaurea cyanus Imperial Bride White and Centaurea moschata 'The Bride'.

Also look for Centaurea cyanus Florence Series for a uniquely beautiful choice that grows only one foot tall.
Centaurea cyanus ClassicRomantic

Plant the seeds outside in a sunny spot around the time of your area's usual last frost. Cultivate the soil, removing all the weeds and sprinkle the seeds on the prepared surface. Press the seeds into the loose soil and lightly cover with 1/4 inch of dirt. 
Centaureua cyanus seedling

Water the planted area gently so the seeds don't wash away. Keep them moist and they will come up in a couple of weeks.

To plant the seeds indoors to have plants ready to grow, start them a month before your area's last frost date and keep the seedlings at 65-degrees.

Although Bachelor Buttons are annuals,completing their life cycle in one summer, they will drop seeds at the end of the season and new plants will grow from those seeds. Allow the seeds to ripen until October before collecting them for sharing.

Despite the confusion in the naming they are worth planting and enjoying, no matter which height or colors you choose.

03 January 2015

Daffodil Day 3.28.15 - Daffodil Theme Judged Art Show - Muskogee OK

As part of Muskogee Garden Club Daffodil Day on Mar 28, 2015, this art contest will accept daffodil-themed art entries in any media. All ages welcome. No email submissions.
Thomas-Foreman Historic Home

In order to qualify, submissions must be delivered to Three Rivers Museum by March 21 with the artist's contact information.

Daffodil Day at the Thomas-Foreman Home will include a tea provided by Muskogee Garden Club, a plant sale provided by Muskogee County Master Gardeners and a museum tour.

Prize money is being provided by the Muskogee Area Arts Council. 

Art Contest: Liz Wells, Muskogee Art Guild 918-682-4259 
Three Rivers Museum and Thomas-Foreman Home, Sue Tolbert 918-686-6624
Daffodil Day, Martha Stoodley 918.683.2373

01 January 2015

Plan and Plant a Summer Event

Butterflies, dragonflies, herbs and flowers are the big themes for 2015 weddings, parties and outdoor entertaining. Fashion runways this year have been full of floral prints and brides want outdoor themes such as cherry blossom stems, birds and lots of greenery.

January is the ideal time to think about your garden and plan ahead to set the mood. You may want to plant more flowers, tropicals, vining plants, an herb garden, or vegetables in the front yard.

Since the 1990s Ball Horticultural Co. has worked with Pantone Paints to design plant color plans that coordinate with the trendy colors for the year ahead.  The 2015 Pantone color of the year is Marsala which they describe as:  “A naturally robust and earthy wine red, Marsala enriches our minds, bodies and souls.”

They agree with fashion designers that this year’s colors will be soft, cool and nature’s neutrals.  For many, gardens and garden party themes will be part of that fashion trend.

Wedding day color palettes pair plants with the dresses, tablescape and accessory colors; and, even if the garden planning and planting are delegated to a designer or landscape company, it will take some advance planning. Click on the link to see a garden transformation for a wedding by Hortus 5.

For example: The Pantone color combination of medium orange and soft grey is carried out with tangerine flowers such as Sundayz gerbera, Lazy Daze portulaca, Astra Orange osteospermum, Morning Sun calla lily, Silverstar helichrysum, Mighty Velvet stachys and Shadow King Rex begonia. 

Some colors are not available in plants so containers and accent pieces can carry the day.  To use the new Marsala combined with a soft custard yellow and Lucite green, the containers and accent pieces could be in wood tones and sea-green. Marsala-colored plants include: Marquee Box Office Bronze coleus, Easy Wave Velour petunia and Vulcan Red lobelia.

Plants that go with Lucite green include: Marquee coleus, White Lava colocasia and Glitterati Gold Digger geranium. Coleus can be started late-winter from seed or cuttings to be ready for a summer garden party.

Hanging planters add softness to a garden party setting. Ten-inch hanging planters are usually planted with three small (3 or 4-inch) pots 4-to-6-weeks ahead.  Variegated white and green ivy planted around hanging containers this winter will be full by spring and ready to hang with complementary color plants in the center.

From early spring to late fall, there is beauty in the garden. No matter when the party is happening you can plan to make it beautiful.  For example in April daffodils, Azaleas, pansies, and redbuds are in flower.  For summer events, roses can be counted on, along with lilies, cosmos, bachelor buttons, zinnia, sunflowers, etc.

I you dream of a scented garden with lavender and other herbs purchase plants as soon as possible in the spring and put them in larger containers in full sun to fill them out. Keep herb plants protected from hard rain and harsh wind in the early spring.

These plants are easy to grow from seed:  Amaranth, Arugula, Asters, Bachelor’s Buttons, Calendula, Cardinal Vine, Cleome, Cosmos, Becky Shasta Daisy, Dill, Cardinal Climber Vine, Four O’Clocks, Green Beans, Hyacinth Bean Vine, Impatiens, Lettuce, Malabar Spinach Vine, Marigolds, Morning Glory, Nicotiana, Perilla, Poppy, Sunflowers and Zinnia.

All of them come in a wide variety of flower colors, heights, leaf size, etc. Even Marigolds seeds are available in a dozen colors now. Consult seed catalogs for plant colors and height.

Plan ahead and prepare the garden beds this winter whenever the soil is dry enough.  Visit a garden center or order seeds, containers, etc.