New England

September, 2012
Regional Report

Clever Gardening Technique

Use Grape Hyacinths as Garden Markers
The best time to fertilize your established daffodil and tulip bulbs is in the fall, when their roots are actively growing but they are not making any top growth. But to know where to spread the fertilizer, you have to remember where your buried bulbs are. An easy way to do this is to plant a few grape hyacinth (Muscari armeniacum) bulbs around the perimeter of a tulip or daffodil planting. This species of grape hyacinth sends up new foliage in the fall. Just look for its clumps of narrow, gray-green leaves and you'll know just where the bulb fertilizer needs to go. Plus you'll get to enjoy the grape hyacinth blossoms in the spring!

Favorite or New Plant

September is when I look back and assess the performance of annuals in my garden over the summer. One that I was especially pleased with this year was browallia (bro-AL-ee-uh), also called bush violet (Browallia speciosa). This rather uncommon plant (it's actually a tender perennial grown as an annual) is a great choice for a partially shaded spot. Its lovely, deep purple-blue, trumpet-shaped flowers flare out into a star at the tip and are borne throughout the summer on plants that reach a foot or so high. I started with purchased seedlings, but you can start your own from seed about 10 weeks before your last spring frost date. Don't cover seeds, as they need light to germinate. I pinched my seedlings when I set them out to encourage bushy growth and made sure they received consistent water and regular doses of fish emulsion. I've read that whiteflies can be a problem on browallia, but my plants were untroubled by either insects or disease. I plan to cut back and pot up one of my plants before frost comes and see if I can enjoy its blue blossoms on my windowsill this winter.

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