Sunday, April 25, 2010

Heirloom plants and Annuals

As time goes by, gardeners are becoming increasingly interested in establishing heirloom varieties within their flower plantings. Perhaps it is the nostalgia of remembering Grandmother's flower beds, or perhaps it is simply that one tires of keeping up with the latest trends. Whatever the reason, heirloom flowers are 'hot' this year.

Among the favorites is the ever faithful Hollyhock. Since its arrival from Asia several centuries ago, it has been a staple in both cottage and traditional gardens. A tall, sturdy plant, the charming Hollyhock has a place in every garden. The spires of climbing flowers come in a wide variety of colors which embrace deep purple, all of the pinks to yellow and creamy white. The large, deep green, fuzzy leaves first appear as rosettes and then open to become a pleasing heart shape. Hollyhocks bloom from June to September providing a summer of beautiful color at the back of the garden. Most bloom the second year better than the first so it is wise to cut back the plant in the fall while keeping a few inches of the stalk. The flowing year, leaves will emerge robustly in the early spring allowing for flowering to commence ahead of schedule.

An often overlooked plant that thrives in partial shade is Comfrey. Comfrey has been cultivated in the East since 400 BC as a healing herb. The word 'comfrey' is derived from the Latin meaning 'grow together' which reflects the early use of this lovely plant to aid in knitting broken bones. Both Greeks and Romans used it to stop heavy bleeding, treat bronchial problems, and heal wounds. Poultices were made for external wounds and a tea was consumed for internal ailments. Although the instructions for planting state it needs 'full sun' it will not live in our climate if planted in the sun. It needs filtered light making it a wonderful showy planting for semi-shady places in the garden.

It is time to plant the annuals. Lasting only one season, they are the fillers necessary for every garden. Experts recommend that an established garden have 70% perennials and 30% annuals, making annuals a very important addition. When purchasing them, buy the smaller six or eight packs instead of their larger more expensive counterparts. They will grow rapidly over several weeks to be the size of the larger plants and they will adapt easier to their new surroundings as youngsters. This year remember to purchase some Mexican Heather. Also called False Heather, it originated in Guatemala and Mexico and is quite drought tolerant and loves the sun. Planted in either a garden spot or a pot, it will grow quickly and bloom with tiny lavender flowers until frost. The butterflies love it!

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