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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Planting spring

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Lorraine Sutton shows some customers what flowers will best serve their purpose as they get spring fever and the urge to plant.
(T-G Photo by Mary Reeves) [Order this photo]
Oh, the weather is warm, the sun is bright, and everyone with a green thumb is itching to exercise it. Even some of us without green thumbs are yearning to see spring colors blooming across the landscape.

Geraniums are hardy sun-lovers that will bloom for beginning gardeners. Hanging baskets and window boxes make it easy to grow geraniums, even in apartments.
(T-G Photo by Mary Reeves)
So far, we've had daffodils and dogwoods, some early azaleas and irises, besides the usual fields of grape hyacinth, spring beauties, buttercups and violets. For the colors that last all summer, look for vinca and lantana, geraniums and petunias. But you might not want to get those beauties in the ground just yet.

"Mother's Day is the best time to plant," said Loraine Sutton of M&L Greenhouse. Mid-April around a greenhouse is a lot like the middle of April around a tax accountant's office -- busy, busy, busy.

"As soon as we get past these 'little winters,' you can plant annuals that will give color all summer," she said.

The little winters are Redbud Winter, Dogwood Winter and Blackberry Winter, so named because the cold snaps come when those plants are blooming. Before she opened her greenhouse in 1979, Loraine was given that bit of Mother's Day advice from another experienced gardener.

"I've watched it over the years, and she was tight," she said. "People want to get started in April, but there's always that last little cold spell. Sometimes it's only a day, but that's enough."

The Concord blue primrose is another flower that provides beautiful blooms, but this relative of the African violet requires a little more care than others.
(T-G Photo by Mary Reeves)
The vinca and lantana, she said, are especially sensitive to the cold.

Of course, with a greenhouse, she can keep her plants thriving and ready for you when you are ready to plant. She has some tips for first-time gardeners, whether they are putting in a bed by their house or starting a container garden on their apartment balcony.

"Don't over-water," she said. "That's the biggest mistake first-time gardeners make. Only water when it gets dry. Ferns need a lot of moisture on the foliage, but only water the roots when they are dry."

Repotted plants are more hungry than thirsty, said Loraine, and need to be fed a water-soluble fertilizer/plant food all along. Even those specialized potting soils that come with fertilizer embedded need to be supplemented with liquid fertilizer, she said.

Petunias are a spring favorite for many. They are hardy and love full sun -- but with most varieties, you'll need to 'deadhead' the blooms as they fade to keep others coming on strong.
(T-G Photo by Mary Reeves)
Getting all that color into your life doesn't require being a master gardener. Many of the bright blooms are user-friendly flowers for the first-time grower.

"Marigolds and Zinnias are easy and they love full sun," said Loraine. "Geraniums, lantana. Petunias can be easy if you get the wave petunia -- they won't 'deadhead; you to death."

You aren't even limited to flowers, for that matter.

"Calladiums are very colorful and they can be in sun or shade now," she said. "And they won't be dropping leaves or blooms and you don't have to deadhead them."

But the main thing to remember, as spring surges along, is patience. Not impatiens, which can also be planted soon, but patience.

"Don't get too excited," said Loraine. "People are frothing at the bit to get something in the ground -- but the safest day to plant is Mother's Day."

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