This time of year has a special place in my heart. Every season has
its own characteristics and I wouldn’t want to change any of them,
even the so-called bleak midwinter. But right now, at the height of a
new spring season, I feel that exhilaration and contentment common to
gardeners and horticulturists around the world.
Even the smallest garden can be a tranquil reminder that Nature knows
what she’s doing. When Cheryl and I are outside, tending our plants at
this time of year, we can almost hear the garden say, “I’m here,
growing, glowing with life and beauty. Nurture me, cherish me. Let us
grow together, and I will reward you with sights, sounds, tastes and
aromas that will both stimulate and calm your senses.”
Forgive me for waxing poetic, but this IS a special time of year
filled with fresh colors and new life springing from the soil. It is
hard NOT to be upbeat and optimistic when you are outside among the
plants that grace your landscape.
If worries about gas prices and a troubled economy are beginning to
depress you, resolve to stay home a little more this spring and
summer. Let the car stay in the garage. It deserves a rest and so do
For less than the price of a tank of gas, you can plant a tree. You
will be doing your part to help the environment because a mature leafy
tree produces as much oxygen in a season as 10 people inhale in a
Splashes of brilliant color are appearing in gardens about now, and
this brought to mind a few of my favorites.
Arizona Sun (Gaillardia aristata)
The name certainly creates an appropriate visual image! Arizona sun
sports large fiery orange red blossoms tipped by a ring of rich flame
yellow. They create a dramatic burst of color in almost any garden or
Arizona sun is sometimes call “blanket flower” because at one time
they blanketed the North American prairies with their blooms. I can
just imagine the amazement felt by a family of pioneers cresting a
ridge in their Conestoga wagon and being dazzled by millions of these
blazing blossoms as far as the eye could see!
Arizona Sun is fairly compact in growth, reaching about 8 to 10
inches. Too much shade makes them liable to flop over so be sure to
plant these perennials where they’ll get plenty of full sun. They
prefer moist, well-drained soil but are drought tolerant. Do not add
compost when planting as they do best in “poor” loose soil and do not
thrive in clay soil.
Coneflower “Prairie Splendor” (Echinacea purpurea)
Thinking of Arizona Sun on the prairies reminded me of this beautiful
Coneflower. While Coneflowers are regarded as a mainstay in today’s
gardens, the Prairie Splendor has the added benefit of being an
earlier bloomer than other varieties, sporting 4 to 6 inch rose-pink
blooms from late June to first frost.
Coneflower “White Swan”
If you prefer a more traditional Coneflower, this variety of Echinacea
purpurea is a good choice I enjoy the sweet, honey-like fragrance and
so do the masses of butterflies who are attracted to the White Swans
in our garden. White Swan’s large daisy-like flowers appear from mid-
summer through fall, continuing after many of the other perennials
have finished their blooming cycle.
Columbine Aquilegia “Swan Pink and Yellow”
From white swans to pink and yellow swans! Horticulturists consider
this a breakthrough in color combinations for columbines. Soft coral-
pink outer petals with creamy tips blend harmoniously with pastel
yellow inner petals. The blooms of 'Swan Pink and Yellow' face outward
and show off perfectly.
From the eye-popping blaze of Arizona Sun to the soothing palette of
Swan Pink and Yellow Columbine… colors that bring excitement and
tranquility to your landscape. Enjoy them all as you grow with your
garden, and drop me an e-mail if you want more information about the
plants I’ve mentioned. The Plant Man is here to help. Send your
questions about trees, shrubs and landscaping to firstname.lastname@example.org
and for resources and additional information, or to subscribe to
Steve’s free e-mailed newsletter, visit www.landsteward.org