Category Archives: Flowers

Hardy Perennials Add Color to Your Winter

If winter finds you longing for those riotous colors of spring and summer, cheer up. You can enjoy a colorful winter that rivals spring blooms and fall foliage for sheer variety and color. There are lots of colorful plants that love the cold, and some even bloom in the snow! Here are just a few to consider.

There are also quite a few hardy vegetables that produce in winter.

Hybrid Witch Hazel

(Hamamelis × intermedia)

Hybrid Witch Hazel

 

USDA Zone 5

Blooms January to March.

Hybrid Witch Hazel reaches 10 to 20 feet, with some reaching nearly the same width. They offer a riot of color in the fall when their foliage turns brightly colored hues that depend on the variety grown. Long, glorious blossoms abound along the branches from deep winter until early spring. The Chicago Botanic Garden has over 20 different cultivars of Witch Hazel hybrids growing side by side in Zone 5. If you’re in the Chicago area, you shouldn’t pass up the chance to see so many different types bloom at once in February.

American Witch Hazel

American Witch Hazel, (Hamamelis virginiana) would make a great complementary planting. Native to the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas and Missouri, it’s hardy down to Zone 3. The roots and bark are the sources of witch hazel extract found in drug stores. Its foliage turns rich yellow in the late fall and it blooms deep purple at that time, instead of in the deep winter.

Oriental Hybrid Hellebore

(Helleborus orientalis)

USDA Zone 5a to 8b

Flowers January to early March.

Hybrid Double White Spotted Hellebore

The perennial hellebore is remarkable for its characteristic ability to bloom in the snow. Even in the depths of winter, the hellebore adds colorful life to a monotonous winter landscape. This might just be the star of your winter show once you see how many colors, details and shapes are available. The hellebore comes in about as many colors as you can dream up. Pink, purple, peach, green and even black, actually a very dark purple. They come with picotee edging, some have contrasting veins and a few have dark or spotted flower centers.

Blooms are profuse, coming in star shapes with singles, doubles and anemones to choose from. There are few garden sights as stunning as a black hellebore blooming against a backdrop of snow.

Helleborus Orientalis

English Primrose

(Primula vulgaris)

USDA Zone 5-9

Blossoms February until April.

This historic favorite is available in a dazzling array of colors, blooms profusely and can take a variety of sunlight conditions. English Primrose averages about a foot tall with clusters of flowers averaging 8-10 inches across.

English Primrose

Winter Honeysuckle

(Lonicera fragrantissima)

USDA Zone: 3-8

Bloom time is February-March.

Winter Honeysuckle

The Winter Honeysuckle shrub offers a profusion of 3/4″ long yellow and white cascading flowers, closely followed by bright red berries in early springtime.

No More Drab Winters

Planting these choices strategically throughout your landscape and garden will keep the sunshine bright colors around all through those long winter months. Garden strolls will be a great attraction for children and holiday visitors. Back inside, you can impress them just a little more with fresh veggies from your indoor winter garden. Gardening doesn’t have to be limited to one particular stretch of the year. You can have bright, cheery color no matter what the season!

Titan Up

The Titan Sunflower (Helianthus Annuus) is a truly fun and astounding plant. Capable of 12-plus feet in height and a flower of up to two feet across, the Titan certainly lives up to its name. Deep yellow color and old-fashioned appearance make for a striking border, fence cover or backdrop.

The Titan seeds we harvested in the fall have now been dried, slow-cured and germination tested. Finally, they’re ready to bring another generation into the world.

Our plants handled the heat well and didn’t require a lot of water, which is actually not surprising when you consider that the sunflower is indigenous to the Southwest deserts and mountains of southern New Mexico, Arizona and northern Mexico. Southwest growers will experience as close to a trouble-free grow as you can hope for, given the harsh conditions of these hot, cold and arid regions.

Sunflowers tend to attract a lot of aphids. While this characteristic has its obvious drawbacks, it also makes the plants useful as a sacrificial barrier or decoy to keep aphids off the main garden. Secondarily, a bonus of aphids can help to draw ladybugs, or serve as a food source to establish ladybugs. Our growing region tends to have a lot of wild ladybugs that seem to be naturally attracted to carrots, sorghum and okra, at least in our gardens.

Most casual gardeners will achieve 8-10 feet tall and one to 1.5 foot blossom diameter. Well-fed, cultivated, groomed and isolated specimen plants can reach over 12 feet tall with 2-foot blossoms.

Squash Your Pollination Issues

To maintain isolation and control over the purity of a particular variety, it may become necessary to cage a plant and pollinate it by hand, to avoid cross-pollination from neighbors, farm crops or volunteer plants in the area. Many times, especially with very popular plants like peppers and melons, hand pollination is the only way to eliminate unwanted hybridization. What are some of your tricks when it comes to isolating special breeds or hand pollinating?

Here are a few tips when it comes to isolating and pollinating squash blossoms, courtesy of Native Seed/Search, a regional seed bank in Tucson, Arizona, where Painted Desert Seed Co. is a member.

http://www.nativeseeds.org/learn/nss-blog/287-squashpollination

Squash Blossom

Torch Your Garden

The Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia Rotundifolia) is a different plant than the better-known Common Sunflower and its developed varieties (Helianthus Annuus). This flower doesn’t produce the same kind of edible seeds, but it does live and thrive just about anywhere it’s temperate. Poor soil, little water and hot sun just make these tough, beautiful flowers even happier, it seems at times.

Mexican Red Torch Sunflower

We have these plants in the full Southern Arizona sunlight for 11-12 hours a day, and all they have done is flourish in temperatures as high as 120 degrees in June and July of 2016. Nary a wilt among them all.

The big bonus is that Tithonia are irresistable to important pollinators like bumblebees, solitary native bees, honey bees, butterflies (Mexican Sunflower is a favorite of the Monarch butterfly) and hummingbirds. And they do well in more temperate climates like the Midwest and Atlantic seaboard, as well. They will need absolutely full sun and little water in those places, however.

In our opinion, you can’t find more trouble-free and effusive color anywhere else. And at the end of the season it will re-seed itself and can be tilled under to improve the soil’s carbon/nitrogen content and its texture. Leaves and flowers are edible as greens, also.

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