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Consider growing perennials that bloom and bloom ...

Margaret Lauterbach, gardening columnist
Margaret Lauterbach, gardening columnist

Plant breeders have been hard at work breeding “re-blooming” varieties of perennials, according to Anju Lucas, head of perennials at Edwards Greenhouse. Their goal is to create perennials that will bloom as profusely and for as long as annuals do, although previously those plants have mainly blossomed once or for a short period of time.

A new phlox introduction, “Glamour Girl,” is one of their successes. This is regarded as a “tall phlox,” sturdily standing 2 to 3 feet tall, beginning to bloom in mid-summer and continuing into late fall, for up to 10 weeks of blossoms. The hot pink blossoms topping dark purple stems of this phlox are new favorites in the backbones of ornamental beds. The flowers that are left in place fade to a lighter pink, continuing to lend more color to a sunny ornamental garden, but unless you want a bed chock full of this plant, cut flowers before they set seeds. The flowers are fine for cut use too. This variety resists mildew invasion, and is hardy to USDA zone 4.

Butterflies and hummingbirds love “Glamour Girl,” and it’s also enticingly fragrant. It is one of the phlox paniculatas that are native to the eastern U.S. It prefers moist humus-rich soil, but will not reject our alkaline soil.

Another re-bloomer Lucas is enthusiastic about is the daylily “Early Bird Cardinal,” that can provide blossoms for 100 days per year. It’s considered a breakthrough for the blooming red daylilies, blooming earlier than many other daylilies, and continuing to blossom. Blossoms are about 4 inches across and the plant grows in full sun or partial shade.

A new rose, “Pretty Lady,” has caught Lucas’s attention. It’s disease-resistant, on its own roots rather than being grafted, produces dark pink blossoms all summer that are fragrant, and is hardy to USDA zone 5 (hardier than necessary for our climate). USDA says the Treasure Valley is in hardiness zone 7, and that would mean the expected winter low temperature would be no lower than 0 degrees F. Since they made that designation, our winter low temperatures have dropped to around minus 10 degrees F., a zone 6 low. I think it’s safer to regard our area’s hardiness as zone 6 rather than zone 7. Plant labels identifying a plant as zone 7 or higher probably will not survive our winters outdoors.

Any plant still in bloom in November is a plant to love. Still Waters clematis was still blooming well into November in Lucas’ garden, sporting lilac flowers with dark red stamens. This is a clematis that blooms on old and new wood, and takes part sun to full sun exposure. The roots of clematis need cool conditions, so if you plant in full sun, be sure to spread a thick mulch over the root area.

Another winner is Fire Light hydrangea, a paniculata form of this hardy shrub. It begins to bloom in mid-summer, with white blossoms that gradually turn deep pink by autumn. It grows best in full sun to partial shade on average soil. I mentioned water needs to Lucas since the name “hydrangea” literally means “water vessel” in Greek, but she said the paniculata form of the shrub is not as thirsty as other forms. This shrub has strong stems so needs no staking.

Fun with perennials

We’re closing in on the first week in February, when we’ll have at least 10 hours of sun exposure each day, but there’s cold weather ahead. If you’re feeling garden-deprived, look at seed packets of perennial plants — those that recommend “stratifying” seeds for germination are good for winter sowing.

Stratification means cold treatment to inspire germination, so let Mother Nature do that work now instead of taking up room in your refrigerator. A clear glass or plastic jug or box may be used. Put a 2-to-3-inch layer of moist potting soil in it, and plant your seeds in that. If you’ve cut into the jug or box, tape it shut before setting it outdoors on top of a bench, table, upended pot or anywhere raised a bit from soil surface. You won’t want rodents or birds to eat your seeds, and that’s the reason for the top of your winter container. I’d put it somewhere where pets or raccoons could not tip it over.

Later, check to make sure the potting soil is still moist, but it shouldn’t dry out fast in cool temperatures. You probably won’t be able to raise a plant as vigorous and healthy-looking as you can buy from a greenhouse or garden center, for those plants are closely tended by experts knowledgeable about plant needs, but it’s fun to try.

Send garden questions to melauter@earthlink.net or Gardening, The Statesman, P.O. Box 40, Boise, ID 83707.

Pop-up Park ready to open

Don’t forget that Friday, Jan. 26 is the opening of the Pop-up Park at Edwards Greenhouse. This enticing, free, visit to beautiful warm summer will be open for just over a week, and is a welcome mood-brightener in our dark winters. Inside the greenhouse, the grass is green and almost as inviting as the fragrant, beautiful flowers. The Edwards Greenhouse complex is just south of Hill Road, at 4106 Sand Creek St.

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