We are constantly refilling the nursery shelves with flowering annuals and perennials as many get their hands dirty for their first time.
There are so many great garden choices to enjoy. Penstemon, salvia, sea lavender, calibrachoa (million bells) and alstroemeria are some of the showiest and most flowertastic plants to install in a Diablo Valley garden or landscape.
First and foremost, you’ll need happy, healthy soil for flowering plants. Whether in a container or in the ground, the soil needs to be dark and loose.
Work in rich soil conditioners to existing soil. Choose a product that looks like potting soil, smells a bit like manure and doesn’t have too much visible wood.
Penstemon is one of the simplest, yet attractive evergreen perennials available. Depending on the selection, expect penstemon to grow roughly 2-3 feet tall and wide. Trumpet-shaped flowers appear in rows along dark green stems. Penstemon has a color for every palette: reds, pinks, white, purple and many bi-colors. This perennial blooms May through October and attracts hummingbirds.
Salvia is a huge group of woody and herbaceous perennials. The woody selections have tiny, two-lipped flowers in pinks, red and lavender, while the herbaceous selections have tight stacks of teeny flowers that stand above larger green leaves.
Herbaceous means that the plant completely dies back in the autumn and returns in the spring. Herbaceous plants live for many years and are frost-proof. Some favorite salvias to consider are Hot Lips with red and white bi-color blooms, leucantha (commonly called Mexican sage) with fuzzy, purple flowers and white tips, and May Night, an herbaceous selection that reaches 2 feet tall and wide and creates a stunning impact in any full sun garden bed.
Sea lavender is an old-fashioned plant that folks have seen on walks through the neighborhoods for years. It has large, lettuce-like, dark green leaves. Stems stand 18-30 inches tall and hold purple flower clusters that can be as large as 6 inches wide. Bees and butterflies use the flower clusters as landing pads. This evergreen perennial is nearly everblooming. Occasionally, the winter gets too frosty and some sea lavender may succumb to the cold temperatures, but the rewards are worth the risk.
Calibrachoas are a type of petunia that don’t get sticky and seldom suffer from petunia bud worms. Million bells are best planted in raised beds, hanging baskets and containers because they create a desirable cascade. The color selections are outrageous, with so many fun combinations. The plants only last two or three years. But they are so awesome that you can just get another once your original dies. Million bells flower March through October. They require hard prunes occasionally and like regular fertilizer formulated for blooms.
The perfect perennial
If alstroemeria weren’t so expensive, it would be the perfect perennial. Azalea-shaped flowers surge into waves of blooms all growing season long. Alstroemeria is available in standard and dwarf selections. They can be divided and shared, and they serve as great cut flowers.
There are many amazing perennials to grow, but this list of plants features nearly sure things. As you peruse garden centers, ask to see these selections. They do great around here.
Nicole is the Garden Girl at R&M Pool, Patio, Gifts and Garden. You can contact her with questions or comments by email at email@example.com