7/20/2012 10:00:00 PM Column: Heat-loving plants and vibrant green lawns
Courtesy photo Unlike an old-fashioned vinca, Cora vinca is a heat lover that reblooms in heat-loving style.
Ken Lain The Mountain Gardener
It's been ages since the last spring snow when it seemed as if our pansies would keep blooming forever. These days, working the garden during the heat of the day, you end up as hot and sweaty as your uncle's sauna towel! Spring plants look equally heat-whipped or altogether dead - that is, if you haven't already pulled out last-gasp pansies, violas, and other spring bloomers. Now is the time to fill in those empty spaces with fresh new heat-
loving summer plants.
I have two suggestions for some hot summer color to brighten gardens from now through the season's end. One is a new annual and the other an unusual perennial making a debut at garden centers this month. Both will light up any garden with some pizzazz and sunny Southwest style.
Cora vinca - Heat-stressed spring bloomers can't take the summer heat like Cora, which is not your grandmother's periwinkle that faded prematurely. This ever-blooming annual laughs at 100 degrees by showing off even more flowers. Cora stands tall, cleans herself for continuous non-stop flowers, and with blooms in seven different colors is sure to suit every garden's palette.
Heatwave hyssop - This spicy licorice-scented perennial attracts humans and hummers alike. Its eye-catching lavender-pink flowers hover over the aromatic green foliage. It makes an excellent companion plant or replacement for Russian sage, and is far less likely to spill out of its allotted space in the landscape. This knee-high show-off is the perfect plant for landscape hotspots, delivering years of summer long color.
If you've been thinking of adding a patch of green for the dog, or that perfect play area for the kids, I offer you my foolproof program to picture-perfect lawns. This simple plan of action eliminates the need to thatch, aerate or add iron. The lawn will be so healthy and lush that weeds wouldn't dare grow among the blades for fear of being smothered! At the start of the season, I start with two nutritional supplements that bring out the most in a grass lawn: Soil Activator and All-Purpose Plant Food.
Starting in March, spread Soil Activator over the entire lawn. This will coax existing grass out of its winter dormancy, destroy thatch buildup and force deep healthy roots. In April, reach for my specially formulated All Purpose Plant Food 7-4-4. A 20-pound bag will cover 2,000 square feet and work the magic necessary for a thick, verdant lawn. Rotate these two products every other month through the growing season for the best-looking lawn you've ever grown. The last application in November will keep the lawn green until the harshest cold in February. Come March of next year, begin the regimen again. Just make sure the blade is sharp on your mower because you'll need it to keep after all that lush green growth!
Sadly, some established lawns look crusty and dry. Assuming there are no insect issues like grubs or cutworms, there's a new product that helps your lawn absorb more water. Aquaduct cuts through the first crusty layer of soil so water can penetrate more deeply into the soil. It really does make a difference and reduces the amount of water needed to hydrate a lawn.
There are three lawn seed mixes used at this altitude. Quick Start lawn seed is a rye grass blend that produces a grass that is a water hog and much more delicate than other grass mixes. Consequently, it has limited use and only should be used when a special occasion requires an almost instant green lawn. Used mainly for over-seeding, this mix is good if your home is hosting a wedding, family reunion, or an open house in two weeks and the lawn must look good NOW.
A Full Sun lawn seed is a mixture of bluegrass and rye grass for a picturesque lawn that mows perfectly, is soft to the touch, and stays green 11 months out of the year. Referred to as the "Prescott Blend" by old-time gardeners, this variety has its drawbacks. It does not withstand heavy foot traffic, so is not for those of you with dogs or the entire pack of neighborhood kids playing on your lawn. It also uses a lot of water, but WOW does it ever look good all the time!
My preferred grass seed mix is the Heat & Drought blend. This fine mixture of fescues stays green like the full sun mix, but is very deep-rooted, sending roots 2-3 feet into the ground. Deep roots mean that hardy Heat & Drought lawns need 30 percent less water than a bluegrass lawn and stand up better to heavy traffic. It is the only variety to use if kids and pets will be frequent users of the lawn.
The start of the monsoon season is a good time to reseed, extend and start a lawn. Ask for my garden guide, "Steps to Starting a New Lawn" which has easy-to-follow instructions. It is free and made to ensure local lawn success.
This morning's free garden class is about lawn success. It begins at 9:30 and takes place in Watters' back greenhouse. Yes, the garden guide to the "Steps to Starting a New Lawn" will be given to every participant. Can't make it today? Join us next Saturday when the class topic will be "The Joys of Gardening in the High Country."
Until next week, I'll see you in the garden center.