Tag: proven winners

Five Spring Garden Tasks You Can Do Right Now

Are you itching to get out in the garden? Here are a few things you can do in your early spring garden that will pay off this summer.

Add Seasonal Color with Frost Tolerant Annual Flowers

Laguna Sky Blue Lobelia
Even though there is still a nip in the air, there are flowers that you can plant now that will bloom from spring through fall. Fill containers and pockets in flower borders with frost-tolerant varieties such as Dark Knight™ Lobularia, Laguna™ Sky Blue Lobelia, Snow Princess® Lobularia. Because these plants are also heat-tolerant, you don’t have to worry about replacing them in summer like you do with traditional spring flowers such as pansies.

Prune Flowering Shrubs that Flower on New Wood

Shrubs to prune in early spring include those that bloom on new wood (the current season’s growth) such as Hydrangea paniculata, Hydrangea arborescens, Buddleia and landscape roses. Remove dead and diseased stems, crisscrossing branches and, if needed, reduce the height by about 1/3. Wait to prune forsythia, azaleas, lilacs, quince. These shrubs bloom on old wood, which means they set flower buds during the growing season for blooms next year. One exception worth noting is Hydrangea macrophylla. Though it flowers on old wood, it blooms late in the season, which doesn’t allow sufficient time for flower buds to develop before cold weather sets in. These hydrangeas are best left unpruned except for removing any dead or damaged wood in early spring, just as the new growth begins to appear.

Want to learn more about growing and pruning hydrangeas? Read “Hydrangeas Demystified” on ProvenWinners.com.

Cut Back and Clean Up Fall Leftovers

If you left ornamental grass and perennial foliage standing over winter, cut back them back now before new growth emerges. To prevent diseases and pests from carrying over, trash any unhealthy clippings rather than compost them.

Feed Your Soil

Good soil is essential for a beautiful garden and soil needs nourishment. Every spring and fall I add compost and well-rotted manure to flower beds to increase friability and beneficial organisms. Slow release fertilizer will get your plants off to a solid start and complement liquid fertilizer applications during the growing season.

Take Stock and Stock Up

Inventory your potting shed. Do you have plenty of potting soil, fertilizer and organic pest controls? Buy these items now so you’ll have them ready once the growing season starts. Replenishing your supply now is also easier on your budget because it spreads the spending out instead of purchasing plants and essentials at the same time.

Early spring is also a good time to clean containers and decide if you need new ones.

Not only will these spring garden tasks help cure your spring fever, but you’ll also be prepared to hit the ground running when the growing season starts in earnest.

Supertunia Bordeaux and Sweet Caroline Ipomea

Twelve Plants That Are On Trend in 2016

This year promises to be a winning one for gardeners. Trend watchers are indicating we’ll see some exciting developments such as low-maintenance designs, bold color and, after years of focusing on hardscape, plants are back in the spotlight. Everyone is talking about the amazing varieties we have to choose from at garden centers this year: plants that produce big color with minimal care, multi-talented annuals, perennials and shrubs suited for any space including containers and vivid foliage that offers color all season long. It’s shaping up to be a fantastic year for adding beauty to our living spaces.

Here are 12 plants that I grow and love that are on trend in 2016.

Snowstorm® Giant Snowflake® Sutera

I can count on large elegant clear white blooms all season in the garden with Snowstorm® Giant Snowflake® Sutera. Stunning flowers that do well in full sun to part shade, it is one of my favorites to place in flower beds.

  • Large, pure white flowers on strongly trailing stems
  • No deadheading required for season-long bloom
  • Works great as a spiller in containers or as a groundcover in landscapes
  • Do not let plants dry out because it takes about two weeks for the flowers to reappear
  • Fertilize regularly for best performance
  • Full sun to part shade

Superbena® Royale Red Verbena

Beautiful and heat tolerant, the pure red flowers of Superbena® Royale Red Verbena grow all season whether they are in the flower beds or garden containers. Their saturated color is a stand out along borders and pathways.

  • Clusters of pure red flowers bloom spring to fall without deadheading
  • A perfect companion for Superbells® and Supertunia® in hanging baskets and containers; also great in landscapes
  • Vigorous, heat tolerant verbena that is resistant to powdery mildew
  • Tolerates drier soils with lower fertility
  • Benefits from a haircut to encourage fuller growth with more flowers
  • Full sun to part shade

‘Sweet Caroline Light Green’ Ipomoea

‘Sweet Caroline Light Green’ Ipomoea is a champ for brilliant deeply-lobed, chartreuse green foliage which serves as a canvas for different color combinations—whether in flower beds or garden containers.

  • Versatile trailing foliage plant for hanging baskets and containers
  • Heat tolerant and vigorous grower
  • Deeply lobed, chartreuse foliage
  • This sweet potato vine has minimal potato set, a bonus for planting in containers
  • Full sun to part shade
  • Protect from early and late season frosts in Northern climates

Dark Knight™ Lobularia

I prefer the fragrant deep purple flowers of Dark Knight® Lobularia on Moss Mountain because they don’t quit in the heat like some alyssums. Pretty in colorful combinations, they stand out along pathway borders.

  • Fragrant, deep purple flowers bloom all season and don’t quit in the heat like some varieties of alyssum
  • Continuous bloomer with no deadheading required
  • Plays well with others in containers, hanging baskets and landscapes
  • Requires consistent moisture to thrive in containers
  • Seriously, this is the first plant you’ll plant in the spring, and the last you will remove in late fall – we’re talking blooms from April through December.
  • Early and late snow and frosts are not an issue
  • Full sun to part shade


Always striking with light purple flowers with dramatic deep purple veining and throat, Supertunia® Bordeaux Petunias are regulars in my containers and hanging baskets. They are also beautiful among green foliage in full sun to light shade.

  • Striking light purple flowers with dramatic deep purple veining and throat, with dark green foliage
  • Blooms spring to fall without deadheading
  • A Petunia that grows anywhere from landscapes to containers and hanging baskets
  • Fertilize regularly for best performance
  • I’ve not found a petunia with a better habit for hanging baskets and container combinations – it grows well with all plants
  • Supertunias can handle light frost, so you can start them early and depend on them long into fall
  • Full sun to light shade

‘Cat’s Meow’ Nepeta

‘Cat’s Meow’ Nepeta with sky blue flowers atop silvery-green foliage adds charm reminiscent of an English garden, but also stylish enough for a contemporary look. One of my favorites for being deer and rabbit resistant while attracting hummingbirds and butterflies.

  • Lower maintenance, naturally compact selection that won’t need trimming to stay neat looking
  • Sky blue flowers appear on the silvery-green foliage from early summer into early fall
  • Shearing plants back by half after the first round of bloom encourages strong rebloom
  • Deer and rabbit resistant; attracts hummingbirds and butterflies
  • Full sun, lean and drier soils are best

Luscious® Berry Blend™ Lantana

With playful clusters of fuchsia, orange and yellow flowers, Luscious® Berry Blend™ Lantanas are perfect in my flower beds because they attract butterflies and hummingbirds. These sun-lovers bloom all growing season and stand up to tough conditions.

  • Tough-as-nails annual is extremely heat and drought tolerant, tolerates poor soils; protect from frost
  • Large clusters of fuchsia, orange and yellow flowers on mounded plants
  • Blooms all season without deadheading
  • Attracts butterflies and hummingbirds, not preferred by deer
  • In the South, it’s nearly a small shrub – great for large urns and patio containers
  • Full sun

GoldDust® Mecardonia

Low growing with dark green foliage dusted heavily with tiny golden yellow blossoms, Golddust® Mecardonia provides the perfect contrast of height and size in the garden—a sun-lover that thrives best in the midsummer heat.

  • Easy to grow annual for the edge of the border or garden path
  • Very low growing, dark green foliage is dusted heavily with tiny golden yellow blossoms
  • Blooms from spring through fall without deadheading – might even surprise you with more flowers the following spring after a mild winter
  • Thrives in the heat
  • Full sun

Colorblaze® Keystone Kopper® Solenostemon

No others compare to the rich orange- bronze foliage of Colorblaze® Keystone Kopper® Solenostemon (coleus) in a fall garden—making it a traditional favorite with little maintenance in large containers and the landscape.

  • Richly saturated orange-bronze foliage that won’t fade like “lesser” coleus
  • Bred to bloom very late or not at all, making the plant last into fall with little maintenance
  • Wonderful in large containers and landscapes
  • Heat tolerant and less preferred by deer
  • Full sun to shade

Lo & Behold® ‘Lilac Chip’ Buddleia

Lo & Behold® ‘Lilac Chip’ Buddleia is my small space alternative that packs a lot of blooms and always produce beautiful clusters of fragrant, soft lavender-pink flowers, which are butterfly magnets.

  • Award winning, seedless butterfly bush that won’t sow its seed around the garden
  • Soft lavender-pink flowers attract butterflies and hummingbirds from midsummer to frost without deadheading
  • Dwarf, compact habit grows only 1 ½-2′ tall x 2-2 ½’ wide
  • Perfectly sized for containers and small-scale urban landscapes
  • Full sun

Prairie Winds® ‘Cheyenne Sky’ Panicum

My garden essential for low maintenance and drought resistance—Prairie Winds® ‘Cheyenne Sky’ Panicum creates movement and continuity throughout gardens with beautiful tones of blue-green and wine red.

  • Smaller scale, native ornamental grass forms a dense, vase-shaped clump up to 3′ tall
  • Blue-green foliage begins to turn wine red in early summer; turns nearly all-red by fall
  • Matching wine red flower panicles appear in late summer
  • A hardy perennial alternative to annual purple fountain grass
  • Best grown in landscapes or very large containers due to its strong root system
  • Very easy to grow in any soil and full sun

Sunny Anniversary® Abelia

Fragrant and magnificent, Sunny Anniversary® Abelia is one of my favorite deer-resistant flowering shrubs for the landscape and container combinations. Sprinkled with creamy yellow and pink blooms, it brings not only a whimsical element to the garden but also hummingbirds, butterflies and especially me.

  • Fragrant flowering shrub with light yellow flowers splashed with pink and orange
  • Large, plentiful blooms appear on arching stems from midsummer through early fall
  • Mid-sized shrub, 3-4′ tall, used for landscapes, foundation plantings and containers
  • Deer-resistant, attracts butterflies
  • Full sun to part shade

How to Prune Hydrangeas

I have searched the Internet on the topic of trimming hydrangeas and am still a little confused. My plants are huge and I want to cut them back, but not lose the flowers this summer.

How you prune your hydrangeas depends on what type you have. The old-fashioned pompon variety (Hydrangea macrophylla) blooms on previous year’s growth, or what is referred to as old wood, while Hydrangea paniculata and Hydrangea arborescens set flowers on the current year’s growth.

Let me start with the old-fashioned type as they are the most popular. Also included in this group are lacecaps and oakleafs (H. quercifolia). Little pruning is required with these hydrangeas. In fact, improperly pruned bushes can result in bushes not producing any blooms. In late winter you can tidy up the plant by removing old flower heads and cutting back any dead wood to ground level. Now if you live in a region that experiences topsy-turvy springs with warm spells and cold snaps, wait to prune until after the last frost date. As you prune, cut the faded blooms back to the first set of leaves or leaf buds. If you have a mature shrub that has grown dense in the center, it is a good idea to remove about 1/3 of the oldest stems. This may sacrifice some of the coming summer’s blooms, but it will open the plant up to light and circulation, making it a happier and healthier plant.

Things get a little trickier when it comes to reducing the size of the plant. You have two options. The first option is to cut the plant back in late winter. This will mean that the hydrangea won’t bloom until next year, but I find it much easier to prune at this time because the bones of the shrub are more visible. Simply cut mature stems back by about 1/3. If the plant is completely out of control, cut all the stems back to about 1 1/2 feet tall. Over the course of the summer thin out the new shoots to avoid overcrowding.

The second option is to prune your old-fashioned hydrangea immediately after the flowers fade in the summer. The timing on this is important because the plant needs enough time for the new shoots to harden off before the first frost in fall. For this type of summer pruning, reduce the unwanted height by about 1/3.

Pruning H. paniculata and H. arborescens is a much less complicated task because they bloom on new wood.

‘PeeGee’ is a popular variety of H. paniculata. It produces large cone shaped, creamy white blooms that fade to a nice coppery pink in the fall. ‘PeeGee’ is often grown in a tree form or what is referred to as a standard. This is a single stalk with growth weeping from the top. In late winter cut the stems back to two buds above the base of the stems.

I grow H. arborescens ‘Annabelle’ in my garden. It produces huge, white, pompon shaped blooms in late summer. ‘Annabelle’ is a good choice for people living in both cold regions and warm climates. It is less finicky than H. macrophylla, which is only hardy to zone 5 and also doesn’t do well in areas that don’t experience a dormant season. In late winter I simply cut the plant back to varying heights of 1 to 3 feet from the ground. This will help the plant to maintain its informal shape.

Five Easiest Annuals to Grow

Whether you are a longtime gardener or planting for the first time, I recommend choosing at least a few plants that are guaranteed to be successes. No-brainer varieties that will be showy all season without a lot of fuss. Here are my five tops picks for this year. They are all annuals so you can depend on them to mature rapidly and quickly fill your garden with color.

Supertunia® Vista Bubblegum Petunia

Full sun; height: 16 – 14 inches; spacing maximum: 24 inches; trails to 60″. I plant Supertunia® Vista Bubblegum in my garden every year. It’s a vigorous growing that covers itself in bright pink blooms. An exceptional plant for containers and in mixed borders.

Proven Winners Supertunia Vista Bubblegum Petunia

Snow Princess® Lobularia

Full sun to part shade; height: 4 – 6 inches; spacing: 10 inches; trails up to 24 inches.
Snow Princess® will reign throughout the growing season producing mounds of white, fragrant blooms from spring through the first frost. A dazzling choice for an all-white or moon garden.

Proven Winners Snow Princess Lobularia

Senorita Rosalita® Cleome

Full sun; height: 24 – 48 inches; spacing 24 inches.
Senorita Rosalita® will add height to your garden and thrill in large containers with the perfect combination of large, lavender-pink flowers and lush, dark foliage. It’s heat and drought tolerant, thornless and doesn’t produce seeds.

Proven Winners Senorita Rosalita Cleome

Graceful Grasses Vertigo® Elephant Grass (Pennisetum purpureum)

Full sun; height: 36 – 48 inches; spread: 24 – 36 inches.
Visitors to my garden rave about this majestic ornamental grass. The impressive height and rich color give this plant star power. I love to combine it with Supertunia® Vista Bubblegum petunias and Senorita Rosalita® cleome.

Proven Winners Graceful Grasses Vertigo

Luscious® Berry Blend™ Lantana

Full sun to part shade; height 24 – 36 inches; spread: 20 – 30 inches.
Vibrant berry pink and yellow flowers – the birds, butterflies and hummingbirds will love the vibrant berry pink and yellow flowers. Luscious® Berry Blend™ doesn’t need deadheading and it thrives on neglect since it’s heat and drought tolerant too.

Proven Winners Luscious Berry Blend Lantana

Bodacious Bi-Color Blooms

If you are looking for something outstanding for your garden this summer, be sure to put these annual flowers on your planting list. Give them a place in your garden or containers and these eight bi-color blooms from my Proven Winners® Platinum Collection will reward you with conversation-starting color all season.

Proven Winners Supertunia Lemon Slice Calibrachoa

Superbells® Lemon Slice Calibrachoa

Cheery yellow and white striped blooms cover these mound forming plants. Perfect for containers. Grows 7 to 10 inches tall. Plant in full sun.

Proven Winners Supertunia Blackberry Punch Calibrachoa

Superbells® Blackberry Punch Calibrachoa

The dark tones of this striking bloom will add depth to color combinations. The trailing form makes it a good option for spilling over the edges of containers. Grows 8 to 12 inches tall. Plant in full sun.

Proven Winners Luscious Berry Blend Lantana

Luscious® Berry Blend™ Lantana

This plant loves the heat! It’s a great choice for dry climates and will tolerate less than ideal soils. Grows 24 to 36 inches tall. Plant in full sun.

Proven Winners Luscious Citrus Blend Lantana

Luscious® Citrus Blend™ Lantana

If you’re into bright colors Citrus Blend™ is the flower for you. Red-orange and yellow blooms brighten sunny spots in the garden. The hotter the temperatures, the more this plant flowers. Grows 24 to 36 inches tall. Plant in full sun.
Proven Winners Supertunia Bordeaux Petunia

Supertunia® Bordeaux Petunia

The cascading habit of this petunia makes it especially attractive in containers. Grows 6 to 10 inches tall. Plant in full sun.

Proven Winners Supertunia Pretty Much Picasso Petunia

Supertunia® Pretty Much Picasso Petunia

If bold color is what you need, look no further than Supertunia® Pretty Much Picasso. This sassy flower will jazz up any bed or container. Grows 8 to 12 inches tall. Plant in full sun.

Proven Winners Superbena Royale Peachy Keen Verbena

Superbena® Royale Peachy Keen Verbena

Combine this verbena’s salmon and coral hues with chartreuse, blue, gray and cream for a charming container garden or flower bed. Grows 6 to 10 inches tall. Plant in full sun.

Proven Winners Opal Innocence Nemesia

Opal Innocence Nemesia

This is delicate beauty loves the cool temperatures of spring and fall. The iridescent petals sparkle in the sunlight. Grows 10 to 16 inches tall. Plant in full sun to partial shade.

Tips for Growing Annuals

Plant annuals in good soil that includes plenty of compost or humus. If you don’t want to bother with amending garden soil, plant annuals in containers using a commercial potting mix. I find that a few pots placed around the garden is the easiest way to enjoy annual color.

Keep your containers and flowerbeds consistently moist – not too soggy or too dry. If Mother Nature isn’t supplying enough water, deep soak in ground plantings every five days. Check containers regularly and water when the top inch of soil is dry.

Annuals need plenty of nutrients to produce all those beautiful blooms. Fertilize every 10 days with an all-purpose, granular organic fertilizer.

Cool Season Annuals

My spring garden always looks so bare. I know that pansies and violas will bloom during the cool months but isn’t there anything else I can plant?

Spring is one of my favorite times in the garden. Everything is fresh and full of expectation. There is a minimal amount of weeds and pests to deal with and blooms on a spring day can be so enchanting.

Of course the first thing that comes to mind when talking about this season’s blooms are bulbs such as daffodils and tulips. No spring garden is complete without them. That being said, it is important to plant cool season annuals as a compliment to your spring bulbs. Not only does this add even more color to your beds, but a dense planting of annuals will hide the often unattractive foliage of the bulbs after their flowers have faded.

As soon as the soil is workable and I am fairly sure that temperatures will not fall below freezing I head out to my local garden center to pick up a few of my annual favorites for adding color to my early spring garden. Check with your local garden center for the best planting time for you. And if you live in an area of the country were summer temperatures are cool, some of these plants will continue to thrive until fall if planted where they will get morning sun and afternoon shade.

Here is a list of a few of my favorite cool season annuals.
Violas – Violas are heavy bloomers with tons of small flowers. Use in containers and border edgings. Violas are both cold hardy and heat tolerant. In the Northeast and parts of the Northwest this little workhorse has been known to bloom year-round. In these areas plant in full sun during the cold months and partial shade during summer. In the South, you can count on violas to provide abundant blooms from fall to late spring.

Pansy – The pansy is the larger faced cousin of the viola. I like to plant these two annuals together in containers and as a border edging.

Snapdragon – Available in both upright and cascading forms, snapdragons are the perfect choice for both flower borders and containers. Plant in full sun in early spring. Will tolerate temperatures down to 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

Argyranthemum – This daisy shaped bloom is cold hardy down to 25 degrees Fahrenheit, which makes it perfect for unpredicted spring freezes. I’ve seen this plant bloom in December in Southern gardens were winters are mild. You can also count on this tough plant to reward you with blooms well into the summer. Plant in full sun.

Helichrysum ‘Silver Spike’ – ‘Silver Spike’s’ silvery, spiky foliage is an excellent complement adding texture and silver contrasts to beds and containers. This plant will tolerate a light frost. Plant in full sun.

Clever Cleome

Proven Winners Spirit Appleblossom Cleome“What’s that unusual plant?” is a question that almost always indicates someone has just spied the cleomes blooming in my garden. I enjoy watching their eyes widen when I tell them they are “spider flowers.” Cleome’s common name captures how the whiskery blooms seem to explode from the top of the stems. I can always count on these fanciful flowers to add an element of surprise to my garden.

If you want an easy source of big, beautiful swaths of color, cleomes are a fast way to get there. A few years ago, most cleomes were found growing in the back of the border to accommodate their tall and lanky (5-6 feet) height. But these days, there are several new varieties that are more compact in form. These newcomers are sporting a host of fresh colors creating a renewed interest in these old fashioned annuals.

Coming in about a foot or two shorter and with more branches than their taller cousins, the Spirit™ series of cleomes require little to no staking. That’s a real time saver for me.  I’ve planted the pure white Spirit™ Frost, as well as several of the cool pastels in the series. This year I’m trying the Spirit™ Appleblossom. The airy flower clusters are abundant, long-lasting, and large – 6 to 8 inches in diameter. They seem undaunted by hot, dry summer days.

Proven Winners Senorita Rosalita Cleome One of the newest cleomes to make its debut is Senorita Rosalita®. Along with a memorable name, this annual is out to prove that less is more. While many of the other cleomes share a list of common traits: spiny stems, foliage with a pungent aroma and flowers that ripen into seedpods that freely reseed themselves; Senorita Rosalita® (2-3 feet), is odorless with sterile flowers that don’t produce seeds, and has no thorns; all qualities that add to its appeal for many gardeners. Senorita Rosalita’s purple-lavender blossoms are smaller than most cleome and unlike other varieties, are produced all along the stem, not just at the top.

And for a truly diminutive cleome, there’s ‘Linde Armstrong’ with rosy pink flowers atop 12-18 inch plants. This cleome is also thornless and noted for its heat and drought tolerance.

With so many new cleomes to choose from, you’re sure to find one that’s perfect in your garden.

Cleome – Planting and Care
•    Cleomes are at their finest growing in a full sun (6 hours) location, in fertile, well-draining soil, but are tolerant of a wide range of soil types.
•    Plant in spring after all danger of frost has passed. Space 1 to 2 feet apart in groups of 5 or more.
•    Keep soil moist, especially in hot weather to help them get established.
•    Stake tall varieties (4-6’) and those located in windy or shady sites to prevent flopping.
•    Fertilize every six to eight weeks, or work in a slow-release fertilizer (or plenty of compost) at planting time.
•    Remove spent blossoms to encourage the plants to rebloom. Regular deadheading also prevents reseeding.
•    Cleomes will flower from summer through frost. For a fresh set of plants, reseed in August.

Nine Flowers for your Vegetable Garden

A vegetable garden without blooms is like a cocktail without a garnish. Flowers aren’t essential in a vegetable garden, but they sure make it better. From a practical stand point flowers work to attract pollinators and add the unexpected to your garden’s design. Plus by combining ornamentals and edibles you’ll maximize your available space.

If you want to mix and mingle vegetables and flowers with success remember, as with all bedfellows, to choose plants with the same growing requirements. Typically vegetables require at least 6 hours of sun each day. There are exceptions such as lettuce, parsley and spinach that will tolerate light shade. Vegetables also need well-draining soil and consistent moisture. There is a huge selection of blooming plants that like full sun as well and benefit from a similar watering routine as their edible companions but always check the plant tags to make sure.

Below are nine plants from my Proven Winners® Platinum Collection that will add the maraschino cherry and twist of lime to your vegetable garden.

‘Cat’s Meow’ Nepeta

Catmint is an excellent companion plant to help keep away flea beetles, aphids, Japanese beetles, squash bugs, ants, and weevils. I also place bowls of the dried blooms on the kitchen counter to deter ants. ‘Cat’s Meow’ will cover itself with blue flowers without much attention from you.
Perennial zones 3 – 8; full sun; upright habit; 17 to 20 inches tall.

Dark Knight™„¢ Lobularia

This low growing plant is an excellent choice to use as edging or mix among salad greens. The fragrant, deep lavender flowers are favored by butterflies and honey bees.
Annual; full sun to partial shade; mounding; 4 to 6 inches.

Supertunia® Pretty Much Picasso®® Petunia

Petunias are a helpful pest control plant that repel asparagus beetles, leafhoppers, aphids and tomato worms. These flowers are a delightful blend of hot pink and chartreuse – a real conversation starter.
Annual except in zones 10 and 11; full sun; trailing habit; 8 – 12 inches tall.

Senorita Rosalita®® Cleome

This cleome is thornless with sterile flowers that don’t produce seeds, which means it won’t spread. The lavender pink blossoms are produced on upright stems. It’s a great plant for mixing with bold-leaved vegetables such as squash.
Annual except in zones 8 – 11; full sun; upright habit; 24 to 48 inches tall.

Supertunia® Vista Bubblegum®® Petunia

These hearty petunias will produce mounds of bubblegum pink blooms even during periods of heat and drought. I like to plant them where they will spill over edges and into garden paths.
Annual; full sun; mounding habit; 16 to 24 inches tall.

Luscious®® Bananarama Lantana

Butterflies and hummingbirds will gravitate to the clusters of yellow flowers. This is a great plant to take the attention off of a heat weary vegetable garden because it really kicks into high gear during hot weather.
Annual except in zones 10 – 11; full sun; mounding habit; 18 to 30 inches tall.

Supertunia® Black Cherry Petunia

Smoky red blooms shaped like a gramophone horn send out a clarion call to honey bees and other nectar seeking beneficials. The color is lovely when paired with purple basil.
Annual; full sun; mounding and trailing habit; 8 to 12 inches tall; trails to 24 inches.

Lo & Behold® ‘Lilac Chip’ Buddleia

The pollinators love the fragrant, lavender blooms that appear from spring until fall. ‘Lilac Chip’ is non-invasive so it won’t spread through your vegetable garden.
Shrub zones 5 – 9; full sun; mounding habit; 2 feet tall.

My Monet® Sunset Weigela

My Monet® has a compact habit (18 inches tall) that makes it perfect for edging vegetable beds or planting in a container. The foliage transforms from chartreuse to purple to sunset orange as the seasons change.
Shrub zones 5 – 8; full sun; mounding habit; 12 to 18 inches tall.

How to Shop for Plants

Whether you are new to gardening or a seasoned horticulturist a trip to the garden center in spring can be an overwhelming experience. Crowded with temptations and people, it’s hard to think straight much less make a prudent decision about what plants to buy. I used to come home with a carload of impulse purchases until I started following a few guidelines. Now I can get in and out of a garden center with exactly what I need, which saves me time, money and frustration.

Determining ahead of time on where you want to plant, with the design and color theme in mind can save you a lot of time and headaches. I encourage gardeners to have photos of the space they’re planting. Also bring color swatches or paint chips. And it’s always a good idea to know the measurements of your space.

P. Allen Smith shopping for plants at a garden center.

How to Read a Plant Tag

If the garden center were a classroom and you were assigned to pick out a plant that will work best for your garden a plant tag is your ultimate cheat sheet. As simple as it may seem, the plant tag contains all the vital information you need to know about that plant. It contains the basics, like the common and botanical name, so you know exactly what you are buying, but it also gives information on the plant’s needs. Does this plant do well in sun or shade? How far do I need to space this plant apart? How hardy is the plant in my zone? Utilizing the information from plant tags can really help you narrow down your selections.

Look for Buds Not Blooms

Once you’ve narrowed it down resist going for the plant boasting the most color. It’s tempting, but trust me; you want a plant with more buds than blooms. Plants that are just starting to bloom will establish roots easier. Plus, you’ll have more flower power later on.

Supertunia Royal Velvet Petunias, GoldDust Mecardonia, Coleus and Purples Fountain Grass

Time your Garden Center Trip During Off Hours

For a more relaxing trip to the garden center go during the off hours. I find that coming on a weekday is often the best time shop. There are less people, garden center staff is more available to answer your questions, and your selection of plants is usually greater. Plus, there is nothing like waking up on a Saturday morning knowing you have everything you need to start your garden project without having to leave the house.

Feeling like a pro yet? Well, practice makes perfect! Get out there and take your garden center by storm.

Pruning Butterfly Bushes

I need some pruning help. I know the butterfly bush is supposed to be pruned, but I don’t know if I can do it now or if I should wait until spring. I also don’t know the best technique.

Butterfly bush, or buddleia, performs best when cut back hard in the late winter or very early spring before new growth begins. I usually do this at the same time that I prune my roses, which in my Zone 7 garden is late February or early March.

Prune your buddleia down to about 6-inches from the ground to maintain a compact form and for prolific bloom production. There are also a couple of other techniques you might want to try. Pinch back new growth a couple of times before the end of spring and as summer progresses, remove the spent flowers to promote more flowers in the fall.