Tag Archives: poppies

Cool Season Annuals…What Are They, And When Do You Plant Them?

The Birmingham area can see great fluctuations in temperatures in any given year, from sizzling summer highs in the upper 90’s to lows well below freezing in the winter complete with rain, sleet and even snow (Look HERE for a post on the blizzard of ‘93.).

Ornamental kale, trailing pansies, Euphorbia ‘Ascot Rainbow’

Winter planting of cool season kale and pansies

For gardeners this can present a quandary when trying to decide among the dizzying array of plants at the local garden center. While the last average frost date here is mid-April, the soil can still be too cold for the real heat loving plants like zinnias, impatiens, lantana, and caladiums, to name just a few, that will sail through our blistering summers but languish in cold soil.

Enter the cool season annuals. These are the plants that prefer cooler temperatures and thrive in the early fall, winter, and early spring. If you know which ones they are and when to plant them, you’ll be ahead of the gardening game.

Foxglove after days of freezing temps

A few days ago, after we experienced temperatures in the teens at night with snow and cold weather for a number of days, I checked on some of my winter grown cool season plants to see how they’d fared.

The pansies, poppies, snapdragons, and foxgloves are very hardy plants that I’d added to the garden in October and November, though if you find larger transplants they can be planted in late winter as well. They looked fine, though some that were more exposed had damage. As temperatures warm they should rebound nicely.

But, since they’re also considered cool season annuals, they’ll fade as our spring heat arrives for good in May. Then it will be time to replace them with the real heat lovers I mentioned earlier.  Remember, our last average frost is right around mid-April. We can count on things warming up quickly after this date. This is also about when everything in sight is turning yellow from the pollen falling everywhere – including covering cool season plantings and our cars!Poppy - Buds Frozen

Cool season annuals have a tough life. They might like it cool, but freezing is a bit much even for them. The picture of the poppy here shows what happened to the majority of them that were just beginning to put up fat buds when temperatures dipped into the teens for a few nights in a row.

The buds were completely frozen, but the plant itself came through fine since since mulch helped keep the plant and rootball warm. They too will be in full bloom in another month or so and are examples of what can be planted from 4″ pots in the fall.

The second picture shows (circled) seedlings of larkspur and poppies grown from seed sown  directly into the garden in December. I sow extras any time from November to January when the soil is cold enough for their liking.

Poppy and Larkspur seedlings and a SnapdragonAt any rate, you can see these tiny plants in this sunny, south facing bed weren’t fazed by the cold temperatures at all. I’m looking forward to their blooms in the late spring!

Some other cool season annuals that are more frost tender will begin to arrive in the garden shop soon. They  include sweet alyssum, geraniums, petunias, nasturtiums, bacopa, and more. Because they come out of cushy greenhouse environments you’ll want to protect them  from any late freezes.

We’ll check back on these plantings in future posts.

 

By Kris Blevons

 

Early Spring in the ‘Better Late Than Never’ Garden

bachelor buttons…

The past week we had two nights below freezing, and I wondered how the ‘Better Late Than Never’ Garden would fare across the street from the shop. I’d been checking it regularly, hand weeding the henbit. This pesky weed (Did you know it’s edible?) was determined to come up between the ferny larkspur, flat poppy leaves, and the blue gray foliage of bachelor buttons that looked like they were just beginning to stretch up toward the sky.

 

 

 

 

This garden is truly a stepchild of the garden world. I was out of town the day the temperatures were forecast to drop. I knew everyone at the shop was moving the inventory into the greenhouse – a big job and one that I’m sure would take a good part of the day. I let the garden go, hoping for the best.

sweet pea and oriental poppy…

With the first cursory glance as I parked my car across from Emmet O’Neal Library and walked up the sidewalk toward the garden,, everything still looked green, a very good sign. Looking more closely, the only damage appeared to be to the few sunflower seedlings that obviously didn’t get the memo that it was much too early to sprout, and were now black and quite dead.

Maybe the fact that I didn’t thin the crowded seedlings out like you’re supposed to kept everything warm, snuggled up together, I thought. Whatever the reason, it was good to spot even the sweet peas that I’d recently planted on one of the front arbors. I was looking forward to seeing them begin to climb up the fishing line I’d strung along the metal of the support.

I’m hoping some of the poppies coming up near the arbor in the front beds are the gifted seeds from a friend. She was given them on a garden tour to Maryland last spring and offered them to me to try, saying the color was exquisite. I can’t wait to see!

ipheion bulbs and larkspur…

Though there are always sights like that to look forward to,  many large flowering shrubs and trees in our landscapes may well have been affected by the last cold spell, their buds frozen. One of my gardening friends mentioned she was particularly worried about her summer blooming hydrangeas, and I’m concerned about my fringe tree blooms.

Only time will tell, and we’ll just have to keep our fingers crossed. Until then, enjoy the beauty apparent in the fresh green hue of unfurling leaves and the return of the many  pollinators that grace our gardens and landscapes. Be prepared also to plant the  flowers, herbs and perennials that they appreciate…and that we do as well. Happy gardening!

By Kris Blevons

 

 

 

 

Poppies! Plant Some This Fall!

I love poppies. Specifically, papaver nudicaule, or Iceland poppies, bright harbingers of spring in the Birmingham area.

IMG_2767Best planted in the garden in a sunny spot that won’t stay too wet, they’ll grow through the winter getting bigger and bigger. The first fat bud uncurling signals spring isn’t far off, and once they begin to bloom they continue, until, finally, they fade in the true heat of late spring.

Most people are skeptical when I go on about poppies – until they try them. (I admit I’ve had to work hard to talk some of you into planting them, they look so scrawny and pitiful in their little cell packs or 4″ pots.)

Poppy Care:

Plant them in a sunny, well drained spot.

When you remove them from their pots, disturb the root ball as little as possible. I know, this is contrary to what you’ve always heard about planting. But, trust me on this, poppies don’t like their roots messed with.

Don’t plant too deeply. Water them in after planting, then allow them to dry out between watering. Do not overwater!

When they begin to bloom, deadhead, or cut off faded blooms. This will ensure the energy of the plant will go toward producing more bright flowers, not a poppy seed pod.

IMG_1658Cut some to bring inside! Here are some tips for cutting your poppy blooms:

Wear gloves. Poppies secrete a liquid that can irritate the skin.

Cut stems early in the morning when the most moisture is in the stem. The best stage to cut your poppy is when the bud is just beginning to stand up straight and is slightly colored.

– Cut the stem with a sharp pair of scissors so the stem doesn’t flatten or get squished.

Sear the cut end of the stem with a match or dip it in boiling water to seal it. This will keep the moisture in the stem and help the flowers last as long as possible.

– Place your stems in cold water before moving them to their place of honor in your home or as a bright gift for a friend!

Poppies…one more in a long line of beautiful flowers for the spring garden. Don’t miss out this year – find a sunny spot and plant a few!

By Kris Blevons

Fall flowers…Pansies and More!

So many to choose from!

So many to choose from!

We’re so lucky in Birmingham to be able to plan and plant our winter and early spring gardens in the fall, using fresh annuals, like the colorful pansies and violas, as well as  various vegetables – ornamental and edible kale, cabbage, and pac choi are just a few. With summer’s heat behind us, time spent in the garden is a pleasure, not a chore.

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Soon all the tables in the nursery will be laden with plants of all kinds – this is such a great opportunity for you to create the most beautiful early spring garden!

IMG_1572Start with pansies and violas for beds and planters, then add supporting players. Some of the prettiest additions to your winter/early spring garden are foxglove with their tall spires of white, pink and purple, snapdragons – they are worth waiting for – poppies, with their bright orange, yellow, red and white papery blooms, and the bluest blue bachelor buttons.

 

 

Curley parsley and lettuce...

Curley parsley and lettuce…

 

There are so many leafy greens to interplant in containers and beds too – colorful chard, kale and mustard are so beautiful and edible as well. Curly parsley is another staple of the winter garden, adding its rich green leaves and texture to any composition.

Finally, don’t overlook the unassuming fall bulbs. Planting a bulb is a leap of faith for some, while other folks plant a few every year to add to their spring display. It’s truly amazing that such  beauty lies in something so seemingly drab.

Smart gardeners know to look for all of these in the fall, planting them in anticipation of a gorgeous spring display!

 

 

Fall Planting Tips To Create A Great Spring Garden:

  • Amend your soil. You might think since you followed our advice and added soil conditioner, PlantTone, cow manure or compost  to your beds last spring you’re done. Not so fast! High temperatures break down soil amendments quickly, and plants take up nutrients. Continue adding to your soil every season. Healthy, loose soils create healthy plants.  (Instead of putting fallen leaves to the curb, start a compost pile with them, or run over them with your lawn mower and throw them in your beds. They’ll decompose and add to your soil’s structure and health.)
  • After you get your plants home, be sure to keep them watered, especially if you can’t plant them right away. We water small transplants in 4″ pots and cell packs at least once a day, especially if it’s hot and sunny. Of course, less water is required in cloudy, cool conditions. Right before you plant them, be sure they’re moist.
  • Early in the season while the soil is still warm, you can still plant with Osmocote. However, later in the winter months, use Calcium Nitrate to feed your plants, especially if the foliage of your pansies turns a reddish color. Remember, you’re planting for spring color, though on warm days through the winter you should also have some blooms.
  • Water your bed thoroughly after planting, and keep it watered while your transplants are getting their feet settled in their new home. Take care not to overwater, though, especially as the temperatures cool down going into the winter months.
  • Mulch your beds with shredded mulch or pine straw  to keep soil temperature around the roots as warm as possible.
  • Deadhead your pansies and violas! I can’t stress enough how important this is. A pansy that you leave a dead bloom on will form a seed there, instead of putting that energy into more flowers. Make a practice to walk through your garden at least once a week, taking a good look at your plants and deadheading  faded blooms. If you’ve missed some, you’ll see the seed pod beginning to form. Pinch any and all off! This will go a long way toward keeping your pansies happy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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