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Still time to plant.

There is still time to make a garden, though perhaps you have been too busy to give this summer's flowers much thought during March and April, when ordinarily, you would have been planning for them, and perhaps even starting the seeds in the house.

It isn't a bit too late to put in some of the annuals, for they are most obliging, and if sown outdoors immediately, they will sprout and grow with almost unbelievable speed, catching up in no time with those plants you have been envying your neighbor, the ones started weeks ago on sunny window sills. And as for summer-blooming bulbs--this is their own choosen planting time!

Last year I was unable to start my summer garden until mid-May. At that time I hadn't a solitary summerblooming plant in the ground, but I determined to have my garden nevertheless. Beginning in July, I was the delighted possessor of the most colorful and responsive garden I have ever grown.

The plants simply outdid themselves, bursting from the ground in frantic haste, as though they knew in some mysterious manner that they were behind time. Of course, it might have been that the warm damp air at May's end particularly agreed with them. They were nearly all in first shy blossom just six weeks after planting, and at the end of two months the garden was a riot of color.

To be sure, I omitted such plants as scabiosa, which must be planted early to come into blossom before frost, and the late asters and cosmos, and several other annuals in the late-blooming class, but I neither missed them nor regretter their absence, for there was such a generous wealth of material to choose from.

Indeed, in looking over the catalogue, there were so many early-blooming annuals I had quite a task to choose the ones I wanted. My list would be seemingly complete, when, upon turning a page, I would behold another gorgeous picture, with its accompaniment of glowing adjectives, and I would feel I must have that, and that, and I had always wanted to try those! I shut the catalogue with a bang, and I'm glad now I did, for there wasn't a plant among the ones I grew which was at all selfish about blossoming, and I feel sure I chose the best for a quick-blooming, lateplanted summer garden.

The Best Quick-Blooming Sorts

Clarkia, that dainty fragile annual, so like a tiny hollyhock, astonished me with the speedy way it came to blossom, in double salmon pink and single pure white--a lovely combination, I think. All summer long, as one group was budding, I planted a little more seed, so there was clarkia unfolding in the garden until frost stalked through.

A love-in-a-mist--nigella! Who could resist it after hearing its name? And its pale blue spheres, when they come, in tangled silver webs, are just as intriguing. And larkspur! I think if I had no other flower I would grow this, in its double forms particularly, its three-foot tall spikes studded from top to bottom with tiny roses in the most exquisite colors imaginable.

The double varieties are not to be confused with the old straggly single varieties, for they are much larger and handsomer, and are comparable only to their hardy relative, the tall delphinium.

Of course there were calendulas, those stocky cottage-garden flowers with deliciously disturbing odor; real glowing orange, and lemon yellow for contrast; and growing close beside them, double sky-blue cornflowers--Centaurea cyanus--for they are perfect together. I always plant blue of some sort near the calendulas, for it softly accentuates their varying shades of yellow. Both these flowers are most satisfactory for cutting.

And candytuft! Candytuft, with its hyacinth-like spikes of flowers in cherry-red and white, pale and deep lavender and rosy pink, scattered like confetti through the garden. It is a tiny plant only a foot high, but certainly one of the beautiful and generous annuals. I planted California poppies--eschscholtzia--to. There were a copper-red variety, and mauve, and a few of the single orange ones, with their lacquered orange cups which rest so lightly on their fairylike gray-green foliage. There were those alice-blue powder puffs known as ageratum, and zinnias, for I love zinnias!
Aster 8 LS/FS 12-14
Babies' Breath 10 ES/FS 10-12
Bachelor's Button 10 ES/FS 8-10
Calendula 10 ES/FS 8-10
China Aster 8 LS/FS-PSH 10-12
Cornflower 10 ES/PSH 12-14
Cosmos 5 LS/FS 10-12
Forget-me-not 8 LS/FS 10-12
Gaillardia 20 ES-LS/FS 10-12
Lupine 20 ES/FS 6- 8
Marigold 5 LS/FS 10-14
Morning Glory 5 LS/FS 24-36
Nasturtium 8 LS/FS 8-12
Petunia 10 ES/FS 12-14
Phlox 10 ES/FS 6- 8
Portulaca 10 LS/FS 10-12
Rudbeckia 20 LS/FS-PSH 10-14
Salpiglossis 15 ES/FS 10-12
Scabiosa 10 ES-LS/FS 12-14
Sweet Alyssum 5 ES/FS 10-12
Strawflower 5 ES/FS 10-12

Sunflower 5 LS/FS 12-14
Zinnia 5 LS/FS 8-12
 Planting times: ES = Early Spring, LS = Late Spring
 Exposure: FS = Full Sun, PSH = Partial Shade, SH = Shade

Zinnias Both Tall and Dward

These flowers last indefinitely when cut, and they are the last plants in the garden to succumb to winter. I have combined zinnias many times with the latest chrysanthemums and anemones. I grew both the sturdy tall ones and the title button varieties.

Cosmos too! Summer would hardly be summer without these. I chose the superb crested varieties which blossom within six weeks. For a very pale blue note in the summer garden symphony, I picked African daisies, and I had to have Golden Wave calliopsis, which came into sunny glory with such unexpectedness, and for a touch of the Oriental, Celosia cristata (crested cockcomb), with its ridiculous but charming red wool balls.

I covered a bare little hill with a cinnamon-wine celosia, the daintiest cherry red and green cloak imaginable, and portulacas grew beside it and whirlybird nasturtiums.

I have always loved summer-flowering bulbs. Not only cannas and gladioli and dahlias, but some of their more modest, less heralded sisters. There is the Peruvian daffodil--Hymenocallis narcissiflora--for instance. It is professional looking enough, with its silver-white, amarylis-like flowers, yet easy enough of culture to thrive in the garden of the truest amateur. The large bulbs should be hidden just below the surface of the soil by June first, and in July the first perfumed flowers will appear.

Then there is the summer-blooming hyacinth, galtonia. Why aren't there more of these waving their four-foot spikes of waxy white bells in our gardens? They are no trouble at all to grow, and form seed quite readily, which should be collected when ripe. In the following spring it can be put out at the same time as the parent bulbs, and taken up again the following fall, formed into little bulbs.

And summer oxalis! Its tender green leaves and pink and yellow flowers appear almost as soon as the bulb is in the ground, blossoming all summer long, and in the fall, when they are taken up, as though this wasn't enough, the one bulb planted in spring is covered with new bulbs.

Montbretias (crocosmia) grew in my garden of course. Blowing in the wind in gay frocks of red and orange, pale yellow and rose, for all the world like tiny gladioli. They paint a warm glowing picture if planted in groups of a dozen or more.

Dahlias Thrive on Care

My favorite dahlias are the silverpink pompoms and the deep-red cactus varieties. When planting these I dig a hole deep enough to allow the tuber, which has been left with only two eyes, to lie about six inches from the surface. Just a few handfuls of earth are scattered over it until it has made a definite growth, then I cut off all but one sturdy shoot, and fill the rest of the dirt in the hole. The remaining shoot, as it grows, is carefully staked, and the flower buds are pinched off regularly until it is strong enough for big blooms.

The gladioli are planted every two weeks until July first, so there will be a long period of blossom. They are placed with my few cannas, which are pale pinks and delicate yellows, among the other plants in the beds.

I planted two dozen ranunculus bulbs, too, and what satisfactory plants they turned out to be, like tremendous double buttercups, three inches across, but in colors buttercups never wear. Almost every color is there except blue.

I bought a few autumn-flowering crocus--colchicum--and scattered these around, and when the little groups of blue and lavender and rose appeared among the autumn leaves, in a garden almost devoid of blossom, they seemed very lovely to me. Just a few of these, as they were rather expensive. The ranunculus and crocus I find are hardy in my garden in Southeastern Pennsylvania.

Marjorie Norrell Sulzer's article first appeared in The Country Gentleman magazine.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Saturday Evening Post Society
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:includes related article on growing tips; annual flowers grown from seed
Author:Sulzer, Marjorie Norrell
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:May 1, 1992
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