The week of Mother’s Day is a great time to visit a nursery or garden center because this is the week when the supply of hanging baskets, annuals, perennials and blooming trees and shrub will be at its finest.
Often the newest varieties or best specimens arrive for sale the week of Mother’s Day but are gone by the following week, so mingle and soak up the energy of the plant shoppers during this busy time. Invest in color that likes your growing conditions with the recommendations below:
Hot, sunny patio or deck: If your outdoor space faces south or west, it is not just full sun that your hanging basket or container garden will deal with, but late afternoon heat as well. Heat reflected off concrete or absorbed by clay, metal or concrete planters absorb even more heat, so pick plants that like it hot such as ivy geraniums, portulacca, sedums, succulents.
Something different to look for: Fan Flower (Scaevola Blue Wonder or Scaevola New Wonder)
This long-blooming annual is named for the Roman assassin who burned off his right hand to prove his bravery. You don’t need to believe this story, but you can believe in the tough heat tolerance of the Scaevola that comes in a true blue and also a white version.
The flowers fall cleanly from the plant so there is no need to deadhead and the long bloom season means you’ll have color until first frost. The foliage is serrated and succulent, but the fan-shaped blooms extend outward making this a perfect plant for a hanging basket.
Tip: A great trait of Scaevola or Fan Flower is that if you do forget to water this rather unthirsty plant it will wilt to alert you. Quickly supply water and unlike most annual bloomers, all is forgiven. Species of Fan Flower are named “Blue Fan,” “Blue Ribbon” and “New Wonder.”
Shade Loving Color for Cool Areas
If you or your mom have a shaded deck or patio that gets zero or only a bit of morning sun, then choose color from hanging baskets and plants such as fuchsia, begonias, coleus, lobelia and impatiens.
Something different to look for: Rhizomatous Begonias, Iron Cross Begonias
These are foliage plants with distinctive large, pointed leaves and bold markings. The most common called the “Iron Cross Begonia” has puckered leaves with the dark markings of a Maltese cross. A newer variety has foliage that curls in a spiral like a snail’s shell called “Escargot.’
Grow these tropical rhizome begonias in a clay pot set on a bed of pebbles or mist often as they love shade and humidity. These bold begonias are spectacular and exotic looking when grown in a window box lined with damp moss or added to a mixed planter filled with other moisture loving plants.
Tip: Rhizomatous begonias make excellent winter houseplants, especially in a humid greenhouse. Bring summer plants indoors for the winter and then rotate to your patio every summer. The spiral foliage of “Escargot” combines well with spiky black Mondo grass and a touch of gold spilling from the pot in the form of golden Creeping Jenny.
Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of several books. Reach her at binettigarden.com.
May 14: 10 a.m., Windmill Gardens, 16009 60th St. E., Sumner. The topic is “Layering the Landscape.” $5 fee. Register at 253-863-5843 or windmillgarden.com.
May 14: 12:30 p.m., Tukwila Backyard Wildlife Festival at Tukwila Community Center, 12424 42nd Ave. S., Seattle. The topic is “You Can Save the World — Tips and Shortcuts to Encourage Pollinators and Wildlife in your Garden.” Free event. Information: backyardwildlifefestival.org.