Hot Gardens Newsletter: November-December
Let’s Pretend. In Fall we can pretend we live in benign climates that allow us to grow traditional flowering annuals, such as pansies.
In fact, our mild Autumn weather is almost a second Springtime, especially for gardeners who live at lower elevations in the desert with warm winters. Plant pretty annuals like carpets in empty flower beds to replace any perennials that have died back. Or fill pots on your patio to overflowing. At higher, cold-winter elevations they may only last a few weeks, but what a lovely indulgence!
Time to plant bulbs and rhizomes. Plant bulbs, rhizomes and corms soon to assure yourself of Springtime flowers. Freesia and Iris are two of our favorites. Both require little water and no attention. The incredibly fragrant Freesia dies back to the ground after blooming; the Iris keeps its leaves and provides an upright structural element in a garden border.
If you already have Iris, split and replant the rhizomes now for double the flowers next year. About tulips: yes, you can plant the bulbs, but they really love a damper, milder climate — like the Netherlands.
These Gladiolus (Gladiolus dalenii), South African natives, are a delicate variation on the large, sturdy upright “glads” of summer. These bloom in Spring.
You may be much better off planting bulbs native to South Africa, such as the freesia-like Tritonia or the Watsonia borbonica, which looks like a miniature gladiolus. The low-growing Babiana is a Sub-Sahara native also worth considering as an edging plant. It looks somewhat like a crocus and does well in a desert garden.
Winter blooms. A reliable and prolific winter bloomer in a desert garden is the Salvia leucantha, the Mexican Bush Sage. It is a super-tough plant with tall spires of purple or purple and white flowers that stay in bloom through December. Cut it back to about 8 inches high in January and it will re-grow and bloom again in March.
It Goes Without Saying …but we will say it anyway: add organic mulch to your flower garden borders now to protect your plants for winter and improve the soil.
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