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Flower of the month for April



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Hardiness Zones: 2 to 7
Season of  Bloom: early to late Spring
Height x Width: 6" to 2.5' x 6"
Color: Red, Yellow, Blue, Pink, White and Bicolors.
Light: Sun or Shade
Soil Environment: Uncompacted average to poor.
Well drained soil, avoid low lying areas if possible.

General Information

       Plant Tulip bulbs in the Fall from mid-Sept. until the ground can't be worked (mid-Nov.). Tulips must experience the cold of Winter to bloom the next Spring. Their growth cycle requires this. Tulips can be grown in zones 8 and 9, however, the bulbs must be refrigerated to simulate the cold of winter. If Tulips are planted in Spring the result will be they will grow but not bloom. Keep in mind that the first year Tulips bloom, you will get the largest and most impressive blooms from that particular Tulip. This is why some people will plant their Tulips for one growing season and then dig them up and replant altogether different bulbs the next Fall. 
       The second year, you will have more blooms but they will not be as impressive. The blooms will be smaller and the plant itself will usually be smaller. This will continue throughout the life cycle of the Tulip. The longer the Tulip has been in the ground the more blooms you will have and the more foliage the Tulip will produce. Generally, most gardeners will leave there Tulips in the ground until the bulb is spent, which I am told is usually 2 to 3 years, for some varieties around 5 years. I have Tulips (I'm guessing Darwin Hybrids) in my garden that are probably 8 to 10 years old. I call them my heritage collection because they were in the flower bed when I moved into this house 6 years ago. On the other hand, I planted a variety (Fire and Ice) 1.5 years ago that came up beautifully last Spring but didn't come up at all this year. If you want your Tulips to come back year after year with little or no effort on your part, plant Darwin Hybrids or the earlier blooming varieties. These Tulips usually have a longer lifespan than most.
       Plant the bulb at a depth of approximately 2 to 3 times the height of the bulb. If you have sandy or soil with allot of organic matter in it you can plant the bulb deeper. In clay soil you may want to plant the bulb a bit shallower. If bulbs are planted deeper, say down to 10 inches, this will promote a longer life for the bulb. The idea is this: The deeper the bulb is planted, the fewer divisions the bulb will undergo. Therefore, the bigger and more hardy the divisions or bulbs produced, this should give you longer bulb life. Lets not forget the major factor in longer bulb life also depends greatly on the variety of Tulip that is planted.
       The bulbs do not just grow during the Spring. Immediately after you plant your Tulip bulb in the Fall the roots begin to grow. Essentially, getting its roots established and ready for the next growing season. Once the Tulip has bloomed and has expired remove the flower stalk. This will direct the bulbs energy toward the bulb instead of trying to produce seed. This is somewhat like deadheading an annual. You want the Tulip to put all of it's energy into it's bulb so that it will be strong for the next growing season. Leave the foliage until it starts to turn brown. It is a good practice to keep the foliage producing food for the Tulip bulb for as long as possible. Once the foliage starts to turn brown, cut the spent foliage and remove.
       Whether you plant your Tulips in full sun or full shade usually doesn't matter. Due to the fact that the leaves on most trees are not yet developed enough to impact the amount of light that the Tulip is receiving. As long as the plant gets 5 to 6 hours of sun a day your Tulips will do fine.
       They tell me that the only pests that Tulips have are deer and rodents. In 2000 when we had a very warm Winter, to my disbelief and disgust, I found that my Tulips were covered with Aphids. The Aphids really didn't hurt the Tulips much, however, I wanted to use some of the Tulips for cut flowers, and due to the fact that I didn't want to bring the Tulips inside for fear of getting Aphids on my house plants, I was not able to use the Tulips as cut flowers. For those of you who have problems with deer and rodents I really don't know what to tell you except this, keep in mind that these pests are only interested in your Tulips and Crocuses. This means you can plant all the other bulbs that are out there, Daffodils, Fritillaria, Anemones (Tuber), Hyacinth and many others.
       Do some planning when you plant your Tulips. Some bloom in early Spring, some in mid-Spring and the rest in late Spring. Usually gardeners are one of two types when it comes to Tulips. One type plants bulbs from each of these bloom times. This will give your garden color all through Spring. The other type of gardener prefers everything to bloom all at once. This will give your garden a huge explosion of Spring color and dazzle your neighbors to no end. Personally, I prefer color all Spring long with huge explosions of Spring color in mid to late Spring.
       If you would like to fertilize your Tulips, there are two times during the year you should do this. Do it in the Spring when the foliage just starts to peak through the surface. (The fertilizer at this point affects next years plant more than it will this years.)  Then fertilize again in the Fall, once again for next years growth. Use a slow release fertilizer in the low-range of approximately 5-10-10, this will promote root and bulb growth and not foliage growth. Fertilizing your Tulips will extend the life of your Tulip bulbs, so it is highly recommended that you do fertilize.

      Tulips, although short lived, provide an impact on a landscape like no other flower can do.

 Kuekenhof Gardens, Holland, here a river of white Anemones flows through Tulips ending with a stand of Fritilaria in the distance.

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Flower of the month for March

Canna, Indian Shot, Cannaceae

red King Humbert CannaKing Humbert Canna about to open. Zone Hardiness: 8 to 11
Blooms: June to Frost Height x Width: 3' to 7' x 1' to 3' Flower Color: Red, Yellow, Pink, Orange and Bicolors Light: Full Sun
Soil: Organically Rich Moist Soil
Origin: Asia and Tropical North and South America
Number of Species: Approximately 50

        Canna's are rhizomatous herbaceous perennials. In the Kansas City area they are considered annuals. They are grown for both their showy flowers and their erect tropical foliage. The foliage can be either light green or a deep burgundy (bronze). Due to their unique ability to add texture and color they are almost always used as a specimen plant in most flower beds. Their height usually relegates these flowers to either the back of a bed or to the middle of a flower bed. Canna's are very easy to grow. After the last frost of winter, plant rhizomes 2 to 3 inches below ground level, (don't worry about whether they are right side up or not, it doesn't matter) and water regularly. Don't forget that Canna's are tropicals and they will appreciate water. The rhizomes will multiply during the growing season, and your stockpile of Canna rhizomes will increase yearly. At the end of the growing season lift the rhizomes and store during the winter. To prevent fungus, store your tubers just as you lifted them out of the ground in the fall. Then break them apart the next spring and replant or give your extra rhizomes to friends. I have found that the best method of storing Canna's over the winter is to submerge rhizomes in slightly moist peat in a frost free environment. (garage or cool basement)

Complimentary plants to go with Canna's

There really doesn't seem to be any plants that won't work well with Canna's. What you might keep in mind is that Canna's are tropicals and you might want to plant other tropicals with them or plants that will do well in moist organically rich soils. If you use a grouping of Canna's for either a backdrop or a centerpiece for your flower bed, keep in mind the color of the foliage of your Canna's. A burgundy colored Canna will be perceived differently than a green colored Canna if planting for foliage color. A yellow flower might be more effective with a backdrop of a burgundy colored Canna than in front of a light green colored Canna and both will show differently in comparison to the time of day. (evening or noon, Sun or shade)

King Humbert Canna in full bloom.




Flower of the month for February

Achilles, Yarrow, "Coronation Gold"

flower head of Coronation Gold
  • Perennial

  • Hardiness zones: 4 to 9

  • Season of Bloom: June to Sept.

  • Height x Width: 2' to 3.5' x 2' to 3'

  • Color: Golden Yellow

  • Light: Full Sun

  • Soil Environment: Average to poor, 

  • well drained soil

         The best of all the Yarrow's. It's silvery-green fernlike foliage adds a subtle injection of color to the garden. It's blooms are a bright yellow and form in flat topped clusters. Any Gardener will be happy with this flower in his or her Garden. On top of all this, Coronation Gold is especially suited for the Kansas City area. It is drought tolerant, which, helps it endure the months of July and August and it prefers a well drained soil, but doesn't mind being watered. (don't over water). Insect's don't bother Coronation Gold, which, places this plant in the low maintenance category. On the other hand, fungus can appear on the foliage starting around mid-summer. It has the effect, of making the foliage a bit rangy, but it doesn't seem to affect the blooms. You may want to apply a fungicide to keep the foliage looking presentable. If you do apply a fungicide, I would recommend that you do it as a preventative. In other words, apply it before any fungus becomes a problem. If you wait until the fungus appears, it may take a long time before the fungicide becomes effective ( possibly towards the end of the growing season). Around mid-summer, and after the first blooms are exhausted, I will usually cut Coronation Gold back to promote a second bloom period. I have found that dead-heading each bloom doesn't seem to encourage an immediate rebloom as does with some perennials. Something else, Coronation Gold doesn't seem to be prone to flopping over as most Yarrow's do. As compared with other Yarrow's , the stems are very sturdy, this makes Coronation Gold a great cut flower, and it can be dried for decorative uses.                       

Complimentary Plants to go with Coronation Gold.

        Coronation Gold, essentially has two colors associated with it. First, the foliage silvery green. The second, of course is the flower color, which is yellow. This would suggest to create a color harmony, any flowers with a red, orange and yellow bloom would probably work well with Coronation Gold. Also, the complimentary color for Coronation Gold is violet. Below are suggestions of plants that should work well together with Coronation Gold in the Kansas City climate (zone 5). 

  Complimentary Flowers

Red blooming -St. John's Fire Salvia, Lady in Red Salvia ( both annuals), Geranium (annual), Maltese Cross (H2O), Red Valerian, Gaillardia (red/yellow blooms, be prepared to spend time deadheading (blooms profusely)).

Orange blooming - Cosmos (Cosmic Series (annual)), California Poppy (annual). 

Yellow blooming - Cosmos (Cosmic Series (annual)), Coreopsis (any), Black-eyed Susan. 

Violet blooming - Monch Aster, Catchfly Electra (Biennial), Veronica, Purple Coneflower, Lavender, May Night Salvia, Cupid's Dart (Biennial), Liatris, Russian Sage and Lythrum.

Complimentary plants based on foliage - Artemisia (highly recommended),  burgundy Canna's (H2O), Sea Holly, Smoke Bush, Chocolate Joe Pye weed(H20).

Coronation Gold during full bloom
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