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Question: What perennials have pretty blooms but don't need much water?
Answer: There are lots of drought-tolerant perennials -- more than you might think! Some of our favorites include:
Catmint (Nepeta selections)
Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
Bearded iris (Iris selections)
Wine cups (Callirhoe involucrata)
One note about drought-tolerant perennials: Most need to become established before they're truly drought tolerant. That means regular watering the first year or so in the ground -- after that, the plants usually get settled and require little to no extra water.
Question: I'd like to block my neighbors from viewing my deck. Any inexpensive and eye-catching ideas?
Answer: There are several things you can do. One is to put up lattice panels in strategic positions; grow vines up on the lattice to help soften the look.
Likewise, you could also plant columnar shrubs, such as 'Skyrocket' juniper, which only get about 3 feet wide but up to 15 feet tall.
Or, grow tall, fast-growing annuals in big containers on your deck. Some, such as castor beans, sunflowers, or kiss-me-over-the-garden-gate, can grow 15 feet tall or more in a single season and cost only a couple of dollars if grown from seed.
Question: What perennials will go with the blue-gray color of my evergreens? I can't think of what will go with the steely-blue color.
Answer: Because color is so subjective, we checked with the editors at Better Homes and Gardens for what they plant with blue spruce and other evergreens.
Susan Appleget-Hurst of Better Homes and Gardens magazine uses 'Purple Robe' smokebush [Cotinus], 'Lime Mound' spiraea, and burgundy impatiens with her blue spruce. "The spruce is such a cool color and the purples and spiraea really warm it up," she said.
Jane McKeon of BHG's Country Gardens magazine said, "I'd go with yellow -- yellow and blue are such a great combination." She recommends Coreopsis 'Zagreb' or black-eyed Susan.
Doug Hall of BHG's Garden, Deck & Landscape magazine said, "For anything silvery or blue, combine it with pink flowers and burgundy foliage. Try a Japanese maple with burgundy foliage and a pink shrub rose."
James A. Baggett of BHG's Nature's Garden magazine said, "I love chartreuse with blue. My Tiger Eyes sumac would look great. I also like blue salvia with it -- those three plants would really work nicely together."
Jarret Einck, art director for BHG's Nature's Garden would choose shades of dark purple. "They'd create some variation, but keep the whole planting cool."
Question: I just moved into a home and the entire yard is in deep shade. Is there anything I can do to get grass to grow?
Answer: That's a great question -- but unfortunately, there may not be a good answer. Lawn grasses are sun-loving plants. At best, the types you see sold for shade are shade tolerant, not shade loving.
You can try a shade mix of lawn grass or sod -- if you keep it well watered, fertilized, and avoid too much traffic on it, it may take hold. Otherwise, I think your best bet is to select shade-loving groundcovers. (They're a lot less work anyway as they don't require frequent mowing, watering, or fertilizing to keep them happy in the shade.)
Question: I love lilies but don't know the difference between Asiatic and Oriental lilies. Which are best?
Answer: The differences are subtle, but they can be important. Asiatic lilies tend to bloom in early to midsummer and flower in a wider range of colors. A few are fragrant, but most are not. Asiatic lilies are easier to grow -- especially in Northern climates.
Oriental lilies, on the other hand, usually bloom in late summer. Most have large, fragrant flowers in shades of red, pink, and white. 'Stargazer' is probably the best known Oriental lily around.
Which are best? It really depends on your preferences and where you live. Many gardeners think Asiatics are the best because they're easier; other gardeners like Orientals better because they're showier and more fragrant.
Continued on page 7: June Questions