Spring Into Summer

One thing leads to another.

By Charlie Thigpen

In the midst of spring’s glory, gardeners should already be thinking about summer. Once there’s no fear of frost it’s fair game for all those tender and tropical plants you’ve been itching to set in the landscape. The weather’s perfect so get outdoors and enjoy your garden in its splendor, but don’t forget that it’s also time to plant for the warm days ahead.

Flowers and Foliage

What plants will you use this summer? Do you have sun or shade?  Remember what worked for you last year. For sunny sites don’t forget about hard working annuals such as narrow-leaf zinnia, portulaca, and vinca. If you’re looking for sun loving perennials try ‘New Gold’ lantana, ‘Black and Blue’ salvia and coneflowers.

Every year the top bedding plant for shade is impatiens. For a twist on this old favorite, try New Guinea impatiens or one of the double flowering selections. The double impatiens’ clustered petals look like small rose blooms. Other shade loving annuals include ‘Baby Wing White’ begonia and torenia. Shade flowering perennials include hardy begonia, toad lily, cardinal flower and many hostas that produce attractive blooms.

There are many foliage plants that can help create bold showy hues, shapes and textures in the garden.  Consider the wide variety of colored coleus available today. Some selections work well in sun while others prefer shade. Many coleus grow waist high while others are low growing. There are even a few trailing selections that will cascade gracefully out of containers.  Other great foliage plants include creeping Jenny, caladiums, Cuban oregano, Persian Shield, lamb’s ear and ferns.

Savor Summer’s Flavor

Step into your backyard and harvest a fist full of fresh herbs for a tasty, rewarding experience.

Try growing basil for homemade pesto.  It grows like a weed and there are many selections to choose from. If you don’t have room in your garden you can plant this tasty herb in planters. ‘Spicy Globe’ is a dwarf selection that stays compact and is perfect for container gardening. Other herbs that can be set out now for summer include chives, oregano, parsley, lemon grass, mint and thyme.

After enduring the mealy, flavorless grocery store tomatoes of winter we can’t wait to sink our teeth into the first homegrown harvest of these sun-ripened fruits. Popular ones include ‘Cherokee Purple,’ ‘Brandywine,’ ‘Beefsteak,’ ‘Better Boy,’ ‘Park’s Whopper’ and ‘Mountain Pride.’  If you like cherry tomatoes try selections such as ‘Black Cherry,’ ‘Sweet Million,’ ‘Sun Gold’ or ‘Yellow Pear.’ ‘Tiny Tim’ is a dwarf selection that’s well suited for containers.

A few other easy to grow vegetables are green beans, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers and okra.

Spring has sprung but summer is around the corner, so grab a trowel or a shovel and  plant flowers, herbs and vegetables that will prosper and endure summer’s swelter.

Charlie Thigpen  is a horticulturalist and the owner of Garden Gallery in Pepper Place.

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