April 27, 2004 > Garden Color in May and June
Garden Color in May and June
by Pat Kite
If you want instant flower color in May and June, check your local nursery for lavender, penstemon, chrysanthemum, gaillardia, and coreopsis. All thrive in a sunny yard, patio tub or balcony decorative pot. LAVENDER is a personal favorite, with aficionados priding themselves on having more than two dozen cultivars, including Lavandula viridis with pale yellow flower heads, and the cinnamon-scented Hidcote pink. But if you want easy-to-find, no-fuss lavenders, the deep purple Spanish (L. stoechas), violet French (L. dentata), and classic perfume English (L. augustifolia) will do for fragrant starters. A Tri-City perk is that most lavenders thrive in our difficult clay soil. However, should you pot them up, be kind and use a commercial mix. Water when soil is almost dry to touch, and omit the fertilizer. If summer breezes causing a hankering to make lavender and orange salad, lavender baked custard, potpourri, lavender hair conditioner, or a lavender broom, visit your nearest big book store or library and check the craft and cooking sections.
For hummingbird fanciers, PENSTEMONS (P. gloxinioides) make a vibrant welcome sign. There are reds, purples, blues, white, and mixtures, all from 2 to 4 feet tall. Like lavender, penstemons need sun, but give them a tad more shelter. Use commercial potting soil for containers. All penstemon soils need regular water, especially at first, and always in pots. But not soggy soil. Contrary to popular belief, there are CHRYSANTHEMUMS that smile in spring and summer, not just in fall. Look for "Painted Daisy" or "Pyrethrum." These hardy bushy perennials get to 3-feet tall, with a plethora of large daisy-like flowers in scarlet, light red, pink or white that look wonderful massed in a vase. Give them sun, a tad of shelter, clay soil mixed with organic matter, and adequate water. As a note, organic gardeners make an insecticide from dried pyrethrum daisies. For how-to, research in Rodale's "Handbook of Natural Insect and Disease Control."
If you like orange hues as well as reds, look for hardy GAILLARDIAS, whose yellow, bronze, maroon or bi-colored daisy-like flowers had ancestors admired by pioneers in covered wagons crossing the American West. An alternate name is "Indian blanket," because of the softy downy leaves. Gaillardias usually stay about 3 feet tall, but there are shorter varieties. Some are perennial, coming back year after year, and some are annuals. Keep soil slightly moist, and don't overfeed. It does seem as if daisy-like flowers abound in May and June. Add COREOPSIS to your mˇlange, with offerings aptly titled "Moonbeam" and "Golden Shower." Several coreopsis will naturalize, and if you have a wide sunny garden spot, their meadowy appearance makes a delight. Coreopsis are also superb cut flowers, or you can just bring a blooming container plant indoors for a few days to create a golden table decoration. Use standard potting soil if potting up, or mix potting soil with garden soil for ground installation. Regular watering, but no overdosing. Cut off dead flowers to prolong bloom. To get a global view of May/June bloomers, and whet your floral appetite even further, meander through the pleasant pathways of the 40-acre Strybing Arboretum in Golden Gate Park, 9th Ave. and Lincoln Way. Wear good walking shoes and take a snack if you want to picnic within the Arboretum.