Everyday Gardeners

Plant. Grow. Live.

April 2011

Our next leg of California Spring Trials was off to a great start. Doug and I zipped from the charming little town of Marina over to Salinas, where we visited the headquarters of American Takii Seed. They’re fantastic breeders of garden plants, including two All-America Selections winners for 2011 (Salvia ‘Summer Jewel Red’ and Kale ‘Glamour Red’). And we saw proof that the salvia is a good plant for hummingbirds — there was already a hummer in the greenhouse drinking from the salvias when we arrived at 8.30. The Takii folks promised they didn’t stage it.

A bed of colorful snapdragons added a lot of spring color at American Takii.

Our next stop was just 10 minutes away — at the show house of Sakata Seed America. They had a dazzling facility that was full of color (and ideas). Sakata is the breeder of many garden favorites, so it was like visiting old friends like Sunpatiens, Profusion zinnias, adorable Kameleo mini gerbera daisies (so cute!), and one of my favorite plants, the SuperCal line of xPetchoa (petunia crossed with calibrachoa). Plus, we had the opportunity to visit with a couple of good friends (Hi Jeanine!) and enjoy a really fantastic lunch.

Sakata set up a cute little display to give garden centers an idea of how to add a little pizzazz!

Our bellies full, we jumped in the car and headed 136 miles south to San Luis Obisbo, where Dummen USA treated us to a stellar show at Edna Valley Vineyard. There we saw a dazzling array of new plant varieties, including new colors to the huge-flowered line of Magnum New Guinea impatiens, and new colors to the Potunia series of petunia. (Look at all of the colors they have in Potunia group!) Dummen is also the breeder of Phloxy Lady phlox, and had reprinted my recent blog post on poster next to their display of new Phloxy Lady colors!

I thought this was a great way to display hanging baskets...in this case the Potunia series from Dummen.

Our last stop of the day was Greenheart Farms (over in Arroyo Grande), known for their roses. [Though it was a challenge getting there; our GPS kept asking us to turn left on roads that didn't even exist. And while cutting through someone's pasture might have been a shortcut, I didn't think the rental car agency would appreciate it very much...] One of the standouts was the Garden Treasures line of miniature roses — they’re adorable, super hardy, and flower like crazy. The folks at Greenheart told us that because of their small stature, you shouldn’t be afraid to use them in place of some of your favorite annuals as edging plants in the garden, mixed containers, etc.

Did you hear about Day 1? And check out tales from Day 3 and Day 4!


It’s Wednesday…that means time to show off some fantastic photos from the BHG Share My Gallery.

First off, an lush, summery from reader mitchell75902!

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Next, a fun entryway from reader rkls

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And third, a simple but elegant container from reader jodavis4025874


Every spring, groups of plant breeders, garden center managers, horticultural brokers, garden journalists, and other plant-loving types flock to California for an event called California Spring Trials. It’s where a number of the big plant breeders show off their new varieties you’ll see in garden centers the following year. This year, Doug Jimerson (editor in chief of gardening for the Better Homes and Gardens brand) and I had the pleasure of attending.

It was a six-day journey that started with us leaving Des Moines, Iowa, for warm and sunny California. We arrived in San Jose on Sunday, and promptly started our adventure, driving south about 60 miles to the seaside town of Moss Landing where we met with the folks from Golden State Bulb Growers and saw their amazing selection of callas (and there were some spectacular varieties — lots of golds, some oranges, pinks, whites, and even a couple that were nearly black) and begonias (in the cool greenhouse, the flowers on some varieties were easily 6 inches across).

The next day we got up early and drove over to Gilroy, where we first met with the folks from Danziger and saw a selection of breathtaking new varieties (as well as some old favorites, including the Littletunia series of petunias) — and their lovely pre-made plant combo ideas (the Mixis).

Then it was time to hit the road and drive over to meet with the fabulous folks at Syngenta Flowers — where we saw tons and tons of plants (including Verbena Lanai Twister Pink), had a great lunch, and picked up a lot of ideas for future stories from their displays.

Look at how cute it was to weave fabric in the roof of the greenhouse!

We were next on the road again for a 25-mile jaunt to Watsonville, where we talked to folks at Pacific Plug and Liner, where we were treated to more great plants from around the world, including geranium ‘Dreamland‘ — as well as some yummy chocolate-chip cookies.

The last stop of the day was another 20 miles to San Juan Bautista, where we met with folks from Thompson and Morgan; ABZ Strawberries, which has really fun varieties such as delicious and beautiful ‘Tristan’, HEM (which offers a really lovely series of annual dianthus), and more.

That was just the first leg of our trip. Want to read more? Check out part two — and then part three — and we wrap up with part four!


mulchpileLast weekend I found a bargain on bagged hardwood mulch that I couldn’t resist. The pile you see at left is only a small portion of the 300 bags that I purchased and spread throughout the perennial beds in my yard. (For those of you who are wondering, that’s a bit over 22 cubic yards of mulch.)

It had been several years since I applied the original wood chip mulch on most beds, and I had two large new beds that never got mulched at all last year. So I was delighted to find such a good deal. The mulch will help keep weeds down, conserve moisture, and keep blooms clean. I find that if I spread it about 2 inches deep throughout the beds, the perennials and bulbs come up through the mulch just fine. This time of year, as the perennials are just starting to poke through the ground, and the early spring bulbs are beginning to bloom, is a great time to spread the mulch. I don’t need to be extremely cautious in spreading the mulch around individual plants; broadcast application works quite well.

To illustrate my point, take a look at these crocuses and irises that I shot in my garden after spreading the mulch. My only regret is that I didn’t buy another 100 bags of mulch, which would have been enough to mulch all of the beds in my yard!

Crocus sieberi 'Tricolor'. The gold and white center of each flower glows from within a lavender corona.

Crocus sieberi 'Tricolor'. The gold and white center of each flower glows from within a lavender corona.

Iris reticulata 'Harmony'. Deep purple falls are splashed with gold on this diminutive gem.

Iris reticulata 'Harmony'. Deep purple falls are splashed with gold on this diminutive gem.

Iris danfordiae. This tiny yellow iris makes a great companion for the yellow chrysanthus crocuses.

Iris danfordiae. This tiny yellow iris makes a great companion for the yellow chrysanthus crocuses.

Crocus chrysanthus 'Fuscotinctus'. I love the contrast of the deep purple streaks on the outer petals with the bright gold interior.

Crocus chrysanthus 'Fuscotinctus'. I love the contrast of the deep purple streaks on the outer petals with the bright gold interior.


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