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(March 2010)

QuestionI am new to the gardening scene and have recently relocated to Mountain View.  My dad is encouraging me to plant several rows of flowers in one end of his vegetable garden. The soil is mostly sandy loam, and the garden gets full sun.  I would like bright colored plants (reds, pink, and yellow) that are no more than 2 feet tall.   Can you recommend varieties of flowers that should do well within these criteria? Also, what fertilizer should I use?

AnswerYou have many options.  I assume you want annual flowers –which means you will replant every year, but that gives you new opportunities every season.  For full sun you can plant lantana –comes in red, orange, yellow and multi-colored; penta – red, pink or white; zinnias –a huge color range; angelonia – pink, purple or white; petunias –look for the wave type or Bubblegum pink is a strong performer in pink—but they do come in red, purple and white colors too.  Callibrachoa comes in pink, purple, orange or yellow and looks like a miniature petunia.    These are all summer annuals and you need to hold off on planting until mid April—give the soil a chance to warm up.  Incorporate a complete fertilizer—I like the slow release forms like osmocote, dynamite or similar product, at planting, then use a water soluble form like Miracle-Gro, Peter’s or similar every week to ten days if you really want to push them.  I have good intentions to fertilize that often, but usually don’t do it more than once a month.  Annual plants benefit from regular fertilizer but they will still bloom if you aren’t as diligent.  Of course, keep up with watering and mulch the plants to discourage weeds.

(April 2006)

Question I would like to plant some pink and purple annual flowers in some containers on my deck. The containers are quite large and the area gets almost no shade the entire afternoon. What are some good plant combinations that will allow me to have non-stop color all summer?

AnswerWhen we design container gardens it is always best to have three different forms in the pot - something with some height, something filling, and something cascading. For your taller plant, consider one of the beautiful pink mandevillas. It does need some support, but it will grow quite tall and bloom non-stop all summer long. A nice fill plant could be pink or purple pentas and the cascading flower could be trailing verbena or wave petunia - in pink or purple. For some contrast, add some asparagus ferns, dusty miller or Artemisia. Regular watering and fertilization and you should be good to go all summer long.

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