By Dr. Bill Barrick, Executive Director
One of the greatest challenges in managing a public display garden is providing color 365 days a year. Transitions between the four major seasons often require horticulturists to be creative with plants to bridge the seasons. Since azaleas are generally past their peak by late March, we grow “transitional crops” to provide color until our summer displays are planted in late May and early June.
We typically select plants that have flowers with shades of lavender, blue, yellow and pink to complement late blooming azaleas. Hotter colors, or red and orange, are generally reserved for summer plantings. Most of the seasonal plants we use during April and May tend to be grown in more northern locations, for they decline in our summer heat. We are lucky to get one to two months from these plants.
Of all the plants we use during this time frame, fuchsias generate the most interest by our visitors. Fuchsias are for the most part tropical species and are native from Mexico to Patagonia and New Zealand and Tahiti. There are over 80 species and 8,000 cultivars of fuchsias, some of which become woody shrubs and small trees.
In the South, fuchsias are typically grown as either hanging baskets or as bedding plants. What are sold in most garden centers are hybrids of two Mexican species – Fuchsia fulgens and Fuchsia magellanica. As a result of modern breeding efforts, we find cultivars with wonderful ranges of color, some of which are subtle in coloration or have bold multicolored flowers.
We are growing five different varieties this year – ‘Dark Eyes’ with purple and red flowers; ‘Blue Eyes’ with red and purple flowers; ‘June Bride’ with pink flowers; ‘Winston Churchill’ with pink and purple flowers and one of my favorites – ‘Gartenmeister’ with lovely coral-red flowers. All of the fuchsias are best grown in areas with afternoon shade. The variety ‘Gartenmeister’ tends to tolerate our summer heat far better and with shade can perform well until mid-June.
Within the last several years, many new interesting crops have been introduced into production. Cape Daisies, Osteospermum, are native to the cape province of South Africa, forming incredible carpets of brightly colored, daisy-like flowers. As a result of the work of breeders in Australia, Germany and Scandinavia, there are numerous varieties to choose from.
The varieties we are growing this year are ‘Sunny Olivia’ with pink flowers; ‘Sunny Cambria’ with deep purple flowers; ‘Sunny Xita’ pinkish purple flowers and ‘Lemon Symphony’ with yellow flowers with a purple eye. Cape Daisies can be grown in full sun, but flowering wanes in early June.
Similar in form are modern day varieties of the old-fashioned Marguerite Daisy, Argyranthemum sp. We have used them on the main floral border near the Great Lawn. We are growing two varieties this year – ‘Summer Melody’ with pink flowers and ‘Butterfly Yellow’ with deep yellow flowers.
We are so fortunate to live in a climate where there are endless possibilities of plants to keep our gardens colorful throughout the year.
(Featured image: Fuchsia ‘Gartenmeister’)