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Garden Dirt | Summer’s Flowers


I hear it every day in our garden centers from our customers – and employees: Finally! Flowers!

Spring is here, and summer is just around the bend. And that means time for summer’s flowers.

Commonly referred to as “annuals” because they last just for the season, unable to survive cold temperatures, these colorful plants are synonymous with summer. Begonias, geraniums, petunias, lantana – to name just a few.


We all have our favorites, planted every spring in pots, window boxes and flower beds. Like one of our customers who fills her flower pots with red geraniums, white bacopa and light green sweet potato vine. Without fail. And every year, we challenge her to expand her flower horizons and try something new. She still fills her shopping cart with her three stand-bys, but has begun to venture into new territory.


With many varieties to choose from, the possibilities are endless. Here are some of our staff’s favorites.


Calibrachoa is Scott’s choice for summer color. “It blooms like crazy without a lot of care.” Sometimes referred to as “million bells” because of the shape of its abundant flowers, calibrachoa is great in containers and in the flower bed. ‘Mini Famous Apricot’ and ‘Mini Famous Orange’ are standouts for their bold colors.


Angelonia is Maggie’s favorite. “I like its upright form and cool color.” These flowers only look fragile; they love the sun and hold up all summer with little care. The spikey lavender, pink or white flower pairs well with trailing annuals like scaevola, bacopa and vinca vine.

While Maggie goes for the quiet hues, Katie loves lantana, for its bold color and carefree growing habit. “It looks like a rainbow,” she says, “and it can take the heat, and neglect!” And it attracts butterflies. Her favorite variety is ‘Landmark Blaze’ with its many colors in just a single flower.


Begonias are Esmeralda’s favorite, especially ‘Bliss Deep Red.’ She loves the big blooms that “look like roses.” These classic flowers need to be protected from hot afternoon sun and do best when sheltered from wind.


The bright coral geranium is Jillian’s favorite this year. “The color is so unique and unexpected.” Like its red, pink and white cousins, the coral geranium needs full sun and blooms best with regular deadheading. Try pairing the orange with a purple flower – like a “Wave” petunia – for a colorful punch.


Foliage can make as big a statement as flowers. Margaret is loving the bold combination of tropical variegated ginger and red caladium. “I usually go for flowers, but I love these two plants together with their vivid foliage.” Both are happy in partial shade to full sun.


Tropicals make a big statement. Cannas, croton, Mandevilla vine and hibiscus all boast bright colors. Bring a bit of Hawaii to Maryland with a combination of Nairobi hibiscus, Sunrise Rose lantana and purple Wave petunias. Add a cocktail topped with a little umbrella and enjoy a tropical stay-cation!


Impatiens have long been the choice for flower beds, but these classic bedding plants have been hit with disease called Impatiens Downy Mildew. This destructive disease is capable of causing complete defoliation and plant collapse. The disease is spread by splashing water and spores being carried by the wind. The spores can live in the soil even after the plants have been removed. Recommended alternatives for impatiens are begonias, coleus, and caladium. New Guinea impatiens are not affected by downy mildew.


No matter what your choice, all annuals perform best with regular watering and fertilization. Your potted plants needed to be checked daily for water; in the summer heat they’ll probably need to be watered every day. Fertilizer is also a must. I recommend a combination of slow release fertilizer like Osmocote applied twice a season, when you plant and then again mid-summer. In addition, use a liquid fertilizer – like Nature’s Own (formally Daniel’s) organic – once a week.
Enjoy the long-awaited warm sunshine…and the flowers that come with it.




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