Spring has arrived!

What better way to celebrate than to get out in the landscape and get a jump on the gardening season.

Start by checking perennials for frost heaving. Roots forced out of the ground by freezing and thawing soil may be damaged. Lightly press them back into the soil and cover with mulch if necessary.

Remove the mulch from bulb plantings as soon as you see leaves poking through. If you mulched perennial borders last fall, start pulling it away. Remove mulch gradually so plants can adjust to more light and air. Err on the side of caution – it is better to pull back mulch a little later than to remove it too soon.

Clematis vines that don’t bloom until mid-June or after can be pruned now. If your goal is to cover an arbor or trellis, cut the stems back to a healthy bud. If the vine has become a tangled mess or you haven’t pruned your clematis at all for a few years, cut it back to a healthy bud at 12- to 18-inch from the ground. A few examples of commonly-grown varieties that can be pruned now include Ernest Markham, Guernsey Cream, Henryi, Jackmanii, Nelly Moser, and sweet autumn clematis.

To be sure the yellow and red-twig dogwoods are brightly colored next winter, cut back one third of the oldest stems all the way to the ground. While you have pruners in hand, look at the framework of the shrubs while they are devoid of leaves. Prune out any branches growing in odd directions.

Begin cutting back perennials that weren’t cut back last fall. Unless you had problems with disease last year, put plant debris in the compost pile. If you don’t have a compost pile, start one now. Compost improves the structure of the soil so it can better retain nutrients, moisture and air. Compost also attracts and feeds earthworms, and plants grown in compost-enriched soil are more resistant to damage from insects and disease.

A word of caution: do not work in the soil if it’s too wet. As anxious as we all are to start playing in the garden, the structure of the soil can be destroyed if you start while it’s too wet. To determine if your soil is ready, pick up a handful and squeeze it. If the soil stays in a muddy ball when you open your hand, wait several days and try again. If the soil crumbles easily, you’re ready to go.

These are just a few garden chores to get you out in the fresh spring air. Enjoy!

Bounce Impatiens bring bold, bright color back to the shade garden!

When impatiens downy mildew made its way into our area a few years ago, many people stopped planting the walleriana type of impatiens. Wax begonias and shade-loving coleus tried to fill the color gap, but nothing could create the brilliant mass of color like those Impatiens walleriana…until now!

Bounce impatiens have the look of walleriana types – masses of flowers on low spreading plants – but because they are a cross between species of impatiens, they are resistant to downy mildew.

They continue to bloom from late spring until frost in shades of pink to violet and red to white in part sun to shade. The more sun they are grown in, the more water they will require. Like most plants, Bounce impatiens thrive in soil enriched with organic matter.

Impatiens 'Bounce White'Bounce impatiens grow about 18 inches tall and wide. They are suitable for planting in pots, window boxes, hanging baskets or directly in the garden.

If you aren’t already jumping for joy over these new plants, Bounce impatiens ‘bounce’ right back if they start to wilt from lack of water without dropping any of their blooms or buds.

The Planter’s Palette is growing four varieties of Bounce impatiens for 2015 – Cherry, Lilac, Violet and White. Choose your favorite color or plant a mix of Bounce impatiens in your shade garden and enjoy the return of brilliant color!

National Garden Bureau declares 2015 the ‘Year of the Gaillardia.’

Every year, the National Garden Bureau chooses an annual, a perennial and an edible plant to highlight. Selections are chosen because “they are popular, easy-to-grow, widely adaptable, genetically diverse, and versatile.” This year, gaillardias gets their turn in the spotlight.

Individual flowers of gaillardias are exquisite – their petals look as if their edges were gently torn and then lightly stroked with a paintbrush dipped in yellow. A mass of these daisy-like flowers, in colors of red, orange and yellow, incite a riot of color in the perennial border all summer and into fall.

Planting & Care:

Commonly called blanket flowers, gaillardias are easy to grow if given a spot in the garden with well-drained soil and lots of sunshine. If you have heavy clay soil, amend it with lots of compost before planting. Once established, gaillardias rarely need supplemental watering. Mother Nature generally supplies all they need. An extra layer of mulch will help them through their first winter in the garden.

Although they don’t require deadheading, plants will flower more profusely if spent blooms are removed. Deadheading may also lengthen the life of the plant. Divide plants every two or three years in the spring or fall. Seedlings that appear around parent plants can be transplanted to other areas in the garden or left in place to naturalize.

Planting Companions:

Plants with upright spikes of flowers contrast nicely with the mounding form of gaillardias. Try Salvia ‘May Night’ for a cooled-down combo or turn up the heat when it’s planted with Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’. Fine-textured perennials, like Coreopsis ‘Zagreb’ or Sisyrinchium ‘Devon Skies’, contrast beautifully with gaillardias’ coarse foliage.

Gaillardias are also suited for a meadow garden where their cute-as-a-button flowers join a host of butterfly-attracting flowers. They can also add bursts of color to plantings of ornamental grasses. Their non-stop flowering also makes them good candidates for container gardens.

Varieties to Grow:

Arizona Sun boasts masses of fiery orange red flowers ringed with bright yellow. Crimson red blooms, some with yellow margins, cover the compact plants of Arizona Red Shades. Oranges and Lemons sports peachy-orange flowers with lemon yellow edges.

Add a few blanket flowers to your landscape this year to celebrate the Year of the Gaillardia!

Geranium x cantabrigiense ‘Biokovo’ is named 2015 Perennial of the Year!

Geranium x cantabrigiense ‘Biokovo’ is the deserving recipient of the 2015 Perennial Plant of the Year. Every year since 1990, the Perennial Plant Association has chosen a perennial for this award. To win, the plant must be suitable to grow in a large part of the country and require little maintenance. It must be resistant to both pests and disease and have multiple seasons of interest. Finally, the perennial must be easy to propagate.

From late spring to early summer, masses of pink-tinged white flowers cover round lobed foliage. After the initial floral flush, its sweet blossoms pop up sporadically the rest of the summer.

Biokovo spreads by underground rhizomes forming a lush, glossy, mounding mat that limits weed growth. Rarely reaching more than twelve inches tall, it is ideally suited for the front of the border, in rock gardens and to cover ground between shrubs or large perennials.

It grows best in average, well-drained soil in full sun to part shade. The foliage ordinarily remains attractive all season, but can be sheared back to promote the growth of fresh leaves if necessary. In the fall, the foliage contributes brilliant hues of orange and scarlet to the landscape.

And Biokovo is easy to divide. Its shallow roots are easy to dig and move to other spots in the garden.

Undemanding and weed-choking with appealing flowers and dazzling fall foliage – it’s no surprise that Geranium x cantabrigiense ‘Biokovo’ is the 2015 Perennial Plant of the Year. Consider adding some (or some more) to your landscape this year.

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