Prune away brown, fill in with color

Published March 24, 2007

With the last of the cold weather behind us, it's time to continue our spring pruning. This will get rid of what the cold killed. I have so much of it that I'll need to go to the landfill to avoid having it pile up on my lawn for three or four weeks.

With all that space freed up, now is a good time to add plants. For instant color, consider these annuals: alyssum, celosia, cleome, coleus, cosmos, dahlia plants, dusty miller, geranium, impatiens, lobelia, marigold, petunia, salvia, sweet William, vinca, wax begonia or zinnia. Stroll through your neighborhood garden center and you will see almost a limitless selection.

For more permanent additions, try some perennials such as African iris, blue salvia, daylily, gerbera daisy, pentas, Shasta daisy or verbena. Once again, a perfect time to add them. If you feel daring you might order some from a plant catalog.

Don't forget to add some edible landscaping also. This is a good time to plant beans, beets, cantaloupes, carrots, corn, cucumbers, green onions, eggplant, lettuce, peas, peppers, pumpkins, radishes, squash, tomatoes and watermelons. Even just a couple of vegetable plants will give you more variety in your yard and in your kitchen.

To add even more variety to your garden and a little spice to your cooking, plant some anise, basil, chervil, coriander, cumin, horehound, lemon balm, marjoram, sage, savory and thyme. You don't need a vegetable garden to grow the vegetables or herbs listed. Tuck the plants in among your ornamental landscape plants.

The passage of time along with last summer's and this winter's weather were fairly hard on my herbs so I will be making some new additions of my old favorites. Basil, lemon balm, sage, oregano and rosemary are probably my favorites. I have a great rosemary in the front yard blooming now. If you have no ground space, herbs make wonderful container plants by themselves or planted with annuals.

To get an early start on your summer color, try some bulbs, tubers or corms. Amazon lily, Aztec lily, caladium, canna, clivia, dahlia tubers, gladiolus, gloriosa lily or zephyr lily will give you wonderful color and beautiful blooms.

Some outstanding flowering shrubs for our Florida gardens include azalea, bottlebrush, confederate jasmine, yesterday-today-and-tomorrow and Indian hawthorne. These plants, if properly cared for and planted in the right location, will be an asset in your garden for many years.

If pruning and adding new additions to your garden doesn't keep you busy, here are a few more chores for you: fertilize landscape plants and lawn, spray scab-susceptible citrus trees, prune landscape plants that require shaping and size reduction, pinch out growing tips and old blooms of annuals to increase branching and flowering, watch for pests both on your garden plants and grass, use your oak leaves as mulch or in the compost pile, and for the adventuresome, try your hand at air-layering shrubs and trees. This is a perfect time to propagate some of your favorite shrubs.

It's obvious the slow season in our gardens has passed and now is the time to get back outside. Try to do any heavy work that needs doing before it gets too hot. Getting the garden in shape now will certainly pay off this summer.

While I was sitting on my lanai this weekend, I thought of yet another way to cut down on the turf in the back yard. I have two beds on the west side of the yard, and at their closet point they are only about 6 feet apart. That area is covered in St. Augustine grass. I think that would be another good area for a table and chairs, as it is shaded by a large maple on the north and many tall shrubs on the south side. I envision this bordered in the front with curbing and then filled with mulch. Hmm, I'll give this a little more thought but I see it probably happening sometime this summer.

If you are planning major changes for your yard, now is the time to do some research, gather information or just enjoy what other gardeners have accomplished. Attend a few garden club meetings, garden tours and workshops, then take that newfound knowledge home and put it to work. At the very least take long walks and see what other gardeners are having success with in your neighborhood.