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Head-start gardening: Having a colorful garden in all seasons takes planning. Now is the time to start.

In January color catalogs flood your mailbox, their glossy photographs of frothy pink-flowering trees, plump lilac and peony blooms, and dewy roses tempting you to buy, buy, buy. But hold on. Instead of ordering one of this or that--whatever captures your fancy--add some method to the madness. By determining which plants bloom at the same time and which ones complement the colors on the trees, shrubs, and bulbs already growing in your garden, you can combine them in striking vignettes.

To get you started, the seasonal chart at right lists some of California's most stellar color makers, along with their flower colors, bloom times, and a few of our favorite ways to use them. Try the combinations as listed or let them serve as guidelines for pairing plants of your own choice.

Before you buy, spend some time at the nursery mixing and matching flower and foliage colors. Begin with a favorite plant--one that you want to anchor the garden's palette. Then use a cart to move it next to other kinds to find the best pairings. (Make sure companion plants have the same water and sunlight requirements.)

Don't forget to factor white and blue into your planting scheme; both do a great job of cooling off and separating drifts of hot-colored plants, as do gray-foliaged plants such as santolina, artemisia, and dusty miller.

Note: The time when plants will actually bloom depends upon the weather, how early or late you plant them, and where you live. Plants near the coast generally bloom earlier in the spring and, in most cases, for a longer time than those in inland climates.

Plant Bloom time Colors

Primula x polyantha Jan-Mar yellow, white, blue,
English primrose purple

Chrysanthemum multicaule Jan-Apr, yellow

Matthiola incana Jan-May, white, pink, red, purple,
Stock Oct-Dec blue, yellow

Gazania Jan-Dec yellow, bronze, orange,
Kiss series rose, white

Felicia amelloides Mar-Jun, blue
Blue marguerite Sep-Nov

Limonium perezii Mar-Sep purple and white

Scabiosa columbaria Mar-Oct blue
'Butterfly Blue'

Diascia 'Raspberry Apr-May, pink, red, lavender,
 Parfait' Oct salmon
Nepeta x faassenii Apr-Jun, blue
Catmint Sep-Nov

Geum chiloense Apr-Jul orange and red

Begonia Apr-Oct pink, red, white, yellow

Calibrachoa Apr-Oct full range
Million Bells

Impatiens walleriana Apr-Oct red, pink, white

Salvia coccinea Apr-Nov red
Tropical sage

Sah'ia leucantha Apr-Nov purple
Mexican bush sage

Delphinium elatum May-Jul, blue, white, lavender,
 Sep-Oct pink

Convolvulus cneorum May-Sep blue
Bush morning glory

Coreopsis verticillata May-Sep yellow

Lavandula stoechas May-Oct blue
Spanish lavender

Lavatera thuringiaca May-Oct pink

Penstemon x gloxinioides May-Oct pink and white
'Apple Blossom'

Rudbeckia hirta Jun-Sep yellow, orange, rust
Black-eyed Susan

Solanum jasminoides Jun-Sep white
Potato vine

Dahlia Jul-Oct full range

Plant Companios, comments

Primula x polyantha Great understory for azaleas and
English primrose rhododendrons and overstory for spring bulbs.

Chrysanthemum multicaule Handsome with white daffodils that have
 yellow or orange centers.

Matthiola incana In winter, use purple stock with flowering
Stock kale and blue pansies.

Gazania Try it in a big pot with Carex buchananii and
Kiss series Artemisia 'Powis Castle'.

Felicia amelloides At their best in front of perennial borders.
Blue marguerite Try with pink roses and gray dusty miller.

Limonium perezii Goes well with 'Profusion Orange' zinnia,
Statice Nemesia caerulea, and purple heliotrope.

Scabiosa columbaria Try with lavenders, catmint, and white
'Butterfly Blue' 'Iceberg' roses. A very easy mixer.

Diascia 'Raspberry Combine with Nemesia caerulea 'Blue Bird' and
 Parfait' orange and pink Schizanthus.
Nepeta x faassenii Excellent around other drought-tolerant
Catmint perennials such as salvia, penstemon, and

Geum chiloense Pair with red and orange zinnias and black-
 eyed Susans. Also handsome with golden

Begonia Mass bright orange tuberous begonias in shady
 garden beds with orange and hot pink

Calibrachoa Great in hanging baskets and pots. Pair hot
Million Bells pink-flowered kinds with Salvia chiapensis.

Impatiens walleriana The white ones light up shady areas; put
 lamiu in front of them.

Salvia coccinea Versatile bedding plant or border filler.
Tropical sage Especially pretty in front of blue
 -flowered cape plumbag

Sah'ia leucantha Plant in front of a Solanum rantonnetii
Mexican bush sage standard, with penstemon 'Midnight' and
 red crocosmia.

Delphinium elatum Plant with Lava fera 'Barnsley' and front
 with 'Flower Carpet' roses or yellow yarrow.

Convolvulus cneorum Great ground cover for dry areas. Use with
Bush morning glory phlomis, salvia, and santolina.

Coreopsis verticillata Mainstay of the summer perennial border.
 Pretty with variegated sage
 (Salvia officinalis 'Icterina')

Lavandula stoechas Try L.s. 'Otto Quast' with Penstemon
Spanish lavender 'Midnight', Rho rmium tenax 'Atropurpureum

Lavatera thuringiaca Use in front of smoke trees or purple-leafed
'Barnsley' plums with pink roses and catmint.

Penstemon x gloxinioides Fine with salvias, lavenders, gaura, and
'Apple Blossom' other drought-tolerant perennials.

Rudbeckia hirta Plant with blanket flower, 'Coronation Gold'
Black-eyed Susan yarrow, and Salvia farinacea.

Solanum jasminoides Train on a trellis behind feverfew, white
Potato vine roses, and lime-colored nicotiana.

Dahlia Black-leafed plants with red blooms go well
 with dark canna or New Zealand flax leaves.

RELATED ARTICLE: Winter and spring planting

January is the prime month to put in plants sold bare-root (including roses and deciduous trees such as flowering cherries); along the coast, you can set out winter-flowering annuals and perennials as well. If soil isn't too soggy, natives and plants from Mediterranean climates (lavender and pride of Madeira, for instance) can go into the ground too.

In February, start shopping for summer-blooming bulbs, such as canna, tuberous begonia established landscape plants.

In March, nurseries will be well stocked with spring-flowering trees, shrubs, annuals, and perennials. By then temperatures warm up enough to let you plant nearly anything.

As early as April, start shopping for summer perennials to fill in gaps. In May, weather is mild enough to begin planting tropicals (hibiscus, mandevilla).

When you choose your color scheme, keep in mind any trees or shrubs in your garden that might bloom at the same time as the plants you're putting in. Some spring bloomers that make beautiful backdrops include flowering cherries (pinks, white), Western dogwoods (pinks, white), roses (rainbow hues), wisteria (lavender blue, white), and crape myrtles (reds, pinks, purples).
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Article Details
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Author:McCausland, Jim; Cahoon, Sharon
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2002
Previous Article:What to do in your garden in January. (northern california - checklist).
Next Article:Yellow roses that resist black spot.

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