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franklin county times

Verbena, zinnias good choices for sunny spots in summer garden

By Staff
Dear Gardener,
I have a few spots in my front yard where my pansies have just played out. The spots receive full sun. Could you give me a couple of suggestions for summer annuals to place in these spots?
Angie Boatner
Dear Angie,
I do have a couple of plants to suggest. My first choice might be a verbena. There are a few different varieties. "Homestead Purple" has a coarse leaf and is a tender perennial. The Tapien and Imagination series have much finer and more delicate foliage. Verbenas are available in white, pink, red and the ever-popular purple.
Another great choice would be zinnias. The angustifolias and the Profusion series are smaller than the old fashioned zinnias that are so familiar. The angustifolias only reach a height of about 12 inches. Their tiny white, yellow, or orange flowers are about one inch in diameter. The slightly larger Profusion series reaches about one and a half to two inches. The orange or pink blossoms are larger also reaching about two inches.
Last but certainly not least is lantana. Lantana comes in a variety of colors and sizes. Be sure to check the variety to ensure that you do not plant one too large for your needs. Some varieties can actually reach six feet!
Dear Gardener,
I planted several red top photinias last fall. They seem to be dying one branch at a time. What is the problem and what can I do about it?
Dear Reader,
It sounds as if your photinias have fire blight. Fire blight is a disease caused by a bacterium that affects flowers and branches directly underneath the flowers. It is a common problem among plants in the Rosacea family, of which your photinias are a member. It is most prevalent during wet weather followed by cloudy days.
There is not a good chemical solution to fire blight. The only real solution is to plant resistant varieties. Since your plants are already established, you need to prune out any infected branches. Be sure to sterilize your pruners after each cut. Then burn any infected plant material removed.
Dear Gardener,
We have just moved into a new house. I would love to have some flowers in the yard this summer, but they are not really in the budget. Do you have any suggestions for plants that are easy to start directly in the garden from seed?
Dear Reader,
Many annuals, and some perennials, are simple to start from seed. Most people start them indoors or simply in a flat. They do this because it is easier to keep them moist and protected. They could just as easily be started in the garden though.
One of my favorite plants to sow directly is cleome. Cleome is pretty much a fool-proof plant. Growing to a height of four feet it is available in white, pink or lavender. You will only have to plant cleome once though. If it goes to seed at any point in your garden you will have a friend for life.
Another great direct seeder is Queen Anne's Lace. I know, I know, most people consider it a weed, but I love it. What other plant could provide such a great display on a regular basis with so little care? Since seed is not available in a retail environment, go out and pick a few spent flowers and start shaking. Just be sure you shake them over the spot you want them to take root or you will have them everywhere. You do not even have to cover them. Voila, spectacular blooms all summer without the fuss. Beware though, it can become a nuisance if left to reseed by itself. Deadhead it throughout the summer, then let a select few reseed.
When starting any plants from seed, whether directly in the ground or in a flat, be sure to keep the soil moist. This helps to speed germination. Once the seedlings have emerged from the soil, cut down on watering.
Amelia O'Brian, a native of Meridian, holds a bachelor of
science degree in horticulture from Mississippi State University. To submit a question, write From the Potting Bench, c/o The Meridian Star, P.O. Box 1591, Meridian, MS 39302. Or, visit her on the Web at www.thepottingbench.webprovider.com.