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South Texas Living


Autumn gardens can burst with color


Autumn gardens can burst with color


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October 30, 2013
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Fall is a great time in the garden.

It’s almost November, the best month to plant pansies, cyclamen, and primula. All these winter annuals do a great job providing color in the winter landscape, but they are also more sensitive than snapdragons and stocks to warm spells that often occur earlier in the fall.

Cool-weather blooms

Pansies are available in yellow, white, brown, blue, orange, and violet. There are a number of varieties of pansies. The Majestic Giants have large flowers (silver-dollar size) and a center blotch, which is often called a monkey-face. The clear-face selections usually have smaller flowers.

Plant pansies in full sun if possible, but they will perform pretty well in the morning or the afternoon sun.

Cyclamen are the most spectacular winter-blooming plant. The flowers are orchid-like in pure, deep shades of white, pink, red, and lavender. In addition to the flowers, the leaves are also decorative. They are heart-shaped, thick, and leathery, with etching on the edges.

The only problem with cyclamen is their price. Expect to pay $6/plant in November. They are worth it. Grow cyclamen in the shade.

Primula is another shade-loving flower. There are two selections that generally appear on the market. The showiest are low-growing (pansy-like), with crinkly Kelly green foliage. As decorative as the leaves are, the flowers are even showier. The blooms are red, blue, white, yellow, purple, orange, and pink. The colors of the flowers remind me of Crayola crayons or even clowns’ grease paint. Check them out.

The other primula that is sold for winter color is an upright plant that can grow up to 12 or 14 inches tall. The leaves are normally dull green and the flowers are pastel colors, usually pink, blue, or white.

Primulas are a favorite slug and snail food. Spread the bait at the same time you plant them or they will be devoured.

For the table

In the vegetable garden, November is a good month to plant spinach. This year, try the “Monster” transplants. It is an old variety with large leaves that supposedly is sweeter than hybrid spinach varieties and grows faster.

Be prepared to cover the tomatoes if a freeze is forecast. The new “plankets” work well for protection. Tomatoes are slow this year, because of the heat we had in September. Protection from the first cold spell will give them a few more weeks to mature.

And there’s more

November is a great time to plant trees and shrubs. The cool weather allows the newly planted items to develop a root system before the hot weather of summer challenges them.

If you haven’t planted your wildflowers, get them in the ground as quickly as possible. Most mixes and varieties require full sun to prosper. They must also be planted on a site where the seed can reach the soil. Planting in sod or brushy areas does not usually work. Do not cover the seed. Most gardeners rely on natural rainfall to water the seed.

Fertilize the lawn with “winterizer” fertilizer early in the month. The nutrients contribute to cold-weather tolerance and help with a fast green-up in the spring.

It is also a good time to divide spring-blooming perennials. Iris, daylilies, Shasta daisies, German carnations, and phlox are in that category.

Calvin Finch is a horticulturist and the director of the Water Conservation and Technology Center at Texas A&M-San Antonio. Hear him on “Gardening South Texas” on KLUP 930 AM radio Saturdays noon to 2 p.m., and 1-3 p.m. Sundays. Or, email him at reader@wcn-online.com.
 

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