With the weather finally cooling off, it’s time to start planting perennials and planning for spring. I use a step-by-step process for transplanting, and it starts with research. Take the time to choose your perennials wisely. It’s important to consider the temperature range of the plant, as well as its water needs and soil conditions. An easy way to find perennials that grow well here is to utilize the CalScape website. Simply visit www.CalScape.org and enter your address to get a list of California species native to your location and a list of the nurseries that carry them. For more exotic perennial suggestions, the website for California-based nursery, Annie’s Annuals (www.anniesannuals.com), provides an array of search filters to help you find the right plant to suit any space in your garden.
As you are gathering your plants, make sure to look them over carefully for any signs of pests or disease before taking them home. Care for your new plant in its pot for two weeks before transplanting. While I have had really positive experiences with our local nurseries, it is possible for plant diseases to make their way into your garden via the soil, and these diseases can be masked by chemicals applied by a nursery. By waiting to transplant, you allow time for those chemicals to dissipate and those diseases to surface. If a plant appears sickly after this time, it is better to get rid of it than contaminate your garden. While waiting, prepare your soil with the appropriate amendments, a good amount of organic compost, and mulch. Water the prepared bed as if your plant was already there; this will help ensure your plant has a prime environment to grow in.
When you’re ready to put a new plant in the ground, start by thoroughly soaking the soil in the pot to make the roots more pliable, so they don’t break. Push the mulch aside and dig a hole that is twice the width and the same depth as the nursery pot. Lightly squeeze the sides of the nursery pot to loosen things, turn the pot sideways, and carefully slide the plant out. Take the time to examine the roots and gently untangle any circling or crossed roots. Once you’ve set your plant in place, refill the hole halfway. Add water to see how things settle, and if you need to adjust the height. Planting too deep can make some plants more susceptible to rot. Finish filling the hole and give your plant more water before replacing the mulch. I like to use a small circle of rock mulch around the base of my plants to ensure good drainage at the crown.
Some of my favorite evergreen, heat, and drought-tolerant perennials are Blue Hibiscus (Alyogyne huegelii), Blue Butterfly Pincushions (Scabiosa columbaria), and Fortnight Lilies (Dietes iridioides), which all boast lengthy bloom seasons. Some favorites from other members of the Patterson Garden Club are timeless classics such as Gerbera Daisies (Gerbera sp.), Shasta Daisies (Leucanthemum x superbum), Martha Washington Geraniums (Pelargonium x domesticum), and Irises (Iris sp.); as well as frost tender beauties such as Zinnias (Zinnia sp.) and Blue Cape Plumbago (Plumbago auriculata). Due to our mild winters, a few varieties of frost-tender plants can overwinter well with the use of mulch, windbreaks, and insulation from nearby plants. Our local Master Gardeners recommend landscape showstoppers like Cape Balsam (Bulbine frutescens), Blue Grama (Bouteloua gracilis), Coral Bells (Heuchera sp.), Sage (Salvia sp.), and Catmint (Nepeta faaffennii). If you missed their recent Sustainable Landscaping class, be sure to check their YouTube channel to watch the recording.
If you’re looking for an inexpensive way to enjoy spring blooms, grab a pack of wildflower seeds and plan to scatter them sometime this month or next month. Wildflower seeds need to be stomped down, so they’re nestled into the topsoil. This makes for a fun garden dance, and I recommend “Walking On Sunshine” by Katrina and The Waves to get your wildflower garden groove on. If you want to practice your seed stomping skills, visit the Hughson Arboretum at 2400 Euclid Road for their Wildflower Seed Stomp event on Saturday, Nov. 14, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.
May your perennial plants become old friends that greet you year after year, and may your spring be filled with vibrant blooms. Grow wild, my friends!