Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Western Mountains and High Plains
May, 2008
Regional Report

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With their bright and cheery faces, violas thrive in cool weather.

Cool-Weather Flowers for Spring

While spring is officially here, the weather in the Rockies keeps teasing us; warm days are followed by cold, sometimes snowy, afternoons and nights. If you're like me, you want to have some living color in your landscape that can survive the fluctuations. There are a variety of annual flowers that will tolerate the chilly nights to lift our gardening spirits.

Some Like it Cool
Some of my favorites for May color are pansies and violas. They are available in a wide range or colors and forms. Planted now, they will grow and bloom well into early summer. Be sure to plant some in large containers (with drainage holes) to accent the patio and entry.

To add some height and interest in the garden, plant snapdragons -- the "talking flowers." The old-fashioned varieties will add some height in the back of flower beds and in containers. Some of the dwarf varieties have more open flowers and combine well in pots. The added feature about snaps is they make nice cut flowers that last for days indoors. Plant snapdragons in full sun for the best results.

In the shadier locations of the landscape, try growing lobelia. It grows and blooms especially well in container gardens and window boxes. In addition to the traditional blue-flowered types, lobelia comes in white, pink, purple, and violet. Plant lobelia in a good potting mixture that will retain uniform moisture.

You don't have to wait until September to plant flowering cabbage and kale. These ornamental crucifers are great for accent and interest in the landscape. Leaf coloration and form make them great companions with pansies and violas. I like to use them as the center focal points in containers or as background in flower beds since they can grow to a height of 15 inches or more.

This past weekend I couldn't resist planting out dusty miller plants that I retrieved from a local garden show. Their stunning silvery gray leaves are among my favorites in early spring to accent other flowers and used as background. Dusty miller is one of those annuals that doesn't always know that it is an annual and sometimes returns after a milder-than-normal winter.

Get a jump on the flowering season by planting some of these annuals now. Wait another week for those more heat-loving annuals and vegetables.

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