In the Garden:
Southern Coasts
March, 2004
Regional Report

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Annual red salvia and marigolds look their best in spring on the southern coasts.

Working Conditions

Much of the general gardening information just doesn't work here, and the best choices in spring annuals are no exception. Some years it seems spring ends after only a week, but most often March and much of April bring cool mornings followed by pleasantly warm afternoons. Unpredictably, the changes come and suddenly it's fifty degrees and raining for two days.

Such variations can challenge zinnias, but the pansies, panolas, and violas planted last fall keep on going. Then there are other plants that can't take outdoor conditions all winter but fill the flower gap nicely when planted now. Yet another bunch will flourish from now through summer with only routine maintenance. Is it any wonder gardeners new to our region are confused?

Fast Starters
If you want to paint a colorful spring scene in a garden bed or border, choose from the group that takes right off and isn't daunted by iffy weather conditions. French marigolds and sweet alyssum will dazzle for weeks, but even with careful deadheading and regular fertilizer applications, they seldom last past June. Time is short for annual salvia, columbine, and low-growing lobelia, but they are a perfect complement to iris, phlox, and other spring bloomers.

The Long Haul
Prepare to live with the next group of annuals for months. Dig a better bed, add a slow-release fertilizer to the soil, drop in a soaker hose, and plan to fertilize with a water-soluble flower formula every three weeks. Then plant narrow leaf zinnia, moss roses, impatiens, and wax begonias. These season-spanning annuals can fill entire spaces or color a ring or edge in front of other plants.

For a particularly dramatic planting with tropical style, start with an elephant ear bulb and rice paper plants as a backdrop to 'Wave' petunias, plant a skirt of one or more colors, keep the mulch tidy, and enjoy spring, however brief it may be!


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