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Fabulous Flowers and Fillers

Central Oregon has plenty of summertime sunshine and warm weather, so it is no surprise that we spend a lot of time out in our yards, on our decks and enjoying our patios. It is also no surprise that we love our flowers and are willing to spend a considerable amount of time filling up our perennial beds, borders, patio pots and hanging baskets with the best there is to offer.

There has never been a time with so many choices and exciting colorful and textural options. Let’s take a peek at some of the newest and best that local garden centers have to offer. But first, here are a few basic tips to set your garden up before you bring home the flowers, to better ensure fantastic results.

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Getting Started

First, consider the location of your plantings, determined by tolerance to sun or shade. The labels identifying each plant’s ideal sun/shade preference should make this task easier. Next, consider the soil required to satisfy the plant’s needs for optimal performance. It is best to work into the existing planting bed soil a minimum of three inches of organic compost. This task should be repeated every spring to replenish last season’s spent soil. The next step involves adding nutrition that will feed your plants all summer long. Work a well-blended granular organic fertilizer such as Cold Climate 5-7-2 (the numbers show nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium levels) into the amended soil. For containers, raised beds, patio pots and hanging baskets, I recommend a rich, organic potting soil enhanced with the same fertilizer you applied to your border beds. Organic fertilizer will last much longer with minimal leaching, and provide season-long results.

Now that we have our location identified as sun- or shade-friendly, and our soil prepared and charged, the fun is about to begin. Long gone are the days when we simply filled areas with a single variety of flower. We now have options, offerings and guidance to create spectacular combinations of so many colors, textures and foliage variations. If you sometimes struggle as to which colors work well together, a quick Internet search will reveal the secrets of color-wheel mixing. I personally love to combine colors that are monochromatic, further tying them in with surrounding colors such as that found on chair fabrics, house trims and other home-exterior hues.

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2015 Summertime Season Top Picks

Today’s savvy gardeners are looking for more diverse floral presentations and dramatic displays while still staying in budget and holding maintenance down. Plant breeders seem to be working around-the-clock as they create new and exciting cultivars, with longer blooming times and less maintenance, to better satisfy today’s gardeners.

Leading the varietal charge are the spectacular selections of super petunias and Calibrachoa—single flowers as well as doubles in a myriad of colors and form. In particular, check out the newer ‘Crazytunia’ and ‘SuperBells.’ ‘Blackberry Punch,’ ‘Rise & Shine’ and ‘Coral Star’ will dazzle your eyes! The stately spiky and fragrant selection called ‘Stock’ should be an absolute must for your beds and borders. For mass plantings, nothing beats the non-stop color of zinnias. From short border types to taller versions, this large family of bloomers deserves your attention. In particular, the newer ‘Zahara’ is a standout for maintenance-free, season-long performance. For a daintier look, try mixing in a few Diascia or Nemesia. These little guys put on quite a show. If you see the variety ‘Tiny Mice,’ an instant smile will fill your face. A newer geranium is one called ‘Caliente.’ This top-notch performer is a cross between a zonal and an ivy, and provides magnificent large blooms the entire summer season. Shady selections might include the intricate blossoms of ‘Butterfly’ impatients, ‘Million Kisses’ or ‘Summer Wings’ begonias, and some of the newer, somewhat hardy fuchsias, with striking blooms and very unusual and non-typical foliage colors. Cooling it down a bit, try the often-overlooked Browallia, which offers clean green foliage topped with striking blue flowers all summer long.

As you arrange patio pots and hanging baskets, try a plant called Dichondra—a trailing foliage plant dressed with silver-gray, illuminating tiny leaves that really help set off your color combos, plus visually break up the plain sides of your plant container. The draping habit of Japanese forest grass Hakonechloa, with vibrant yellow strappy leaves, makes a stunning presentation, especially when mixed with purple and orange flowers. The oversized leaves and trailing habit of tropical sweet potato vine have been a hit since it was introduced a few years ago. With colors of dramatic black to chartreuse, these plants will supercharge your plantings. Often times, I have even added a fruiting strawberry plant to baskets and planters, appealing because of shiny, clean foliage, decorative runners and occasional vibrant red fruit.

When it comes to putting a little wow in your combinations, look no further than some of the new and spiky leafed Dracaena. ‘Cherry Sensation’ and ‘Dance Can Can’ will bring a whole new dimension to your garden and potted plantings. Heuchera, more commonly called coral bells, are a must for dramatic foliage color, including deep purple, silver gray and lime yellow. I add a few Coleus to my less-than-sunny locations. ‘Keystone Copper’ and ‘Henna’ will really grab your visual attention when you see them inter-planted with other colorful shade-loving annuals. I also love to incorporate the dark green and interesting foliage of button ferns, plus the airy and trailing habit of asparagus fern. Last but not least, try adding a plant or two of short-tufted blue fescue—in particular, ‘Boulder Blue.’ For the final jolt, grab a container or two of ‘Fiber Optic’ grass.

The time has now come: go out there, take the pick of the plants, smile bright and plant with confidence. Happy looking, picking and planting.

I’ll see you out in the garden!

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