Friday, July 23, 2010

Successful Summer Flowers in Yard

Through time, flowers have often been grown in or next to the vegetable garden. The benefits of this relationship are unquestionable. Flowers draw bees that pollinate food plants and they attract beneficial insects that keep pests in check. Plus they look nice.

For a flower to make it in yard, it needs to be a good cut flower, have a long bloom season, hold its color in the Redding sun, help bugs and birds, be easy to start from seed and be an easy plant to save seed from. Flowers can take an amazing amount of heat. When cut, many can be enjoyed inside for a week or more. Flower lovers wanting to keep their cut flowers blossoming for longer. One of the first thing points out is that cut flowers need to be re-cut.

Successful flowers in yard are: Autumn Beauty Sunflower, Gift Zinnia, Red Crest Cosmo, Rainbow Mix Snapdragon, Harlequin Marigolds and blue bachelor’s buttons. These flowers flourish, even with neglect and little fertilizer. If you sow these seeds now, they should flower before the first frost.
  • Autumn Beauty Sunflower grows 5 to 7 feet tall and produces several flowers per plant. It draws bees all day. Sunflowers and other flowers with a big flat landing pad are good for beneficial insects, giving them a place to hang out as they look for bugs to eat. Autumn Beauty’s flowers range from bronze to orange with gradients between. Finches enjoy the shade provided by the plant and the seeds. Leave the seed heads on the stalks and you will have bird-feeders that blow in the autumn wind.
  • Rainbow Mix Snapdragons make good cutting flowers, the bees pollinate them and they can be used as toys. My two sons fight over the first flower of the year because they want to snap it. If you push on the sides of the flower, it opens and closes like a little mouth. Heads up: Not all varieties snap open. Rainbow Mix Snapdragons grow slowly and will overwinter, handling frost fairly well and emerging in the spring ready to flower.
  • Harlequin Marigolds have yellow-and-red-striped petals, are easy to grow and top out around 2 feet, providing a nice border. French marigolds (Tagetes patula) protect against nematodes. The smell of any marigold can throw off insects looking for their favorite host plant. After trying several varieties with yellow and red striping on the flowers, only to see the sun melt the colors to a bland yellow, I discovered Harlequin, a flower that doesn’t fade.
  • Bachelor’s buttons come in a variety of colors. They’re also called cornflowers. The color in my yard is blue. I save the seeds each year, so having multiple colors would allow cross-pollination. The only downside to bachelor’s buttons is the short bloom season. Start new plants a couple of times during the growing season. My biggest surprise with these flowers is the birds. The plants are no taller than 2 feet with thin branches and leaves, yet smaller birds are able to land on the dry flowers and pick out the tiny seeds.
  • Gift Zinnias are stars in the yard, growing 2 to 3 feet tall with bright red 3-inch flowers that lure hummingbirds to the yard. This is a side benefit I did not expect because the Aztec Sunset Zinnias last year did not attract hummingbirds. Zinnias draw butterflies, and the giant flower of the Gift Zinnia is no exception.
  • Red Crest Cosmos bloom for months on 3- to 5-feet-tall plants with bright orange. They are called Red Crest, but the flowers are orange flowers.