Bacopa (buh-KOH-puh) answers the dilemma of gardeners in search of long-blooming plants for balcony containers and hanging baskets. It also does a magnificent job spilling out of planter boxes and trailing over block walls. Use Bacopa as a ground cover in small entry planters or as a border around the perimeter of any planter, regardless of size or location.
Bacopa varieties carry names such as “Snowflake” and “Snowstorm,” an indication of their white flowers, which cascade in dense numbers, like drifts of freshly fallen snow. It flowers without interruption for months on end.
Although it is not meant for full-sun exposure in Valley gardens, it will not thrive in the shade. Locally, it does best in partial or half-day sun even if, closer to the coast, it will grow fine in all-day sun.
Although Bacopa is most commonly seen in white, new varieties in lavender, blue, violet, rose, pink and red are gradually making their way into the nursery trade.
Bacopa’s equivalent for full-sun locations would be the white variety of trailing lantana (Lantana montevidensis), one of more than 150 shrubs that make up the genus Lantana in the verbena family, native to the New World and African tropics. For years we had come to know purple trailing lantana as a virtually nonstop flowering ground cover for the sun in frost-free locations. Then suddenly we began to see a white version of the same plant.
This white variety mixed well with the purple to form a tapestry that distinguished any wall or balcony over which it draped.
But white trailing lantana also makes a nice partner to Bacopa. In a planter that moves from partial to full sun, plant Bacopa in the shadier area and then shift to white lantana when you reach the sunnier spot. From a distance, the two plants will appear the same, growing seamlessly into one another.
Cyclamen is the cream of the crop of fall flowers that are grown in Valley gardens.
You can easily spend $60 for a flat of 16 plants. Yet, if you’re careful, you can keep cyclamen alive for a century or more, which makes them a pretty good value.
Cyclamen has silky petals in red, pink, mauve or white, with distinctive V-shaped markings on its heart-shaped leaves. Cyclamen plants grow from tubers that should just barely be covered during planting. These tubers survive from one year to the next as long as they are not watered during dormancy, which for them occurs during most of the spring and summer. Soil should be fast-draining during their fall and winter growing season.
In temperate climates the growing season is limited by seasonal changes in temperature and is defined as the period between the last killing frost of spring and the first killing frost of autumn, at which time water and fertilizer should be liberally applied.
To keep tubers alive from year to year, they should be lifted like bulbs as winter comes to an end and stored in a cool place, such as a garage or garden shed, and then planted out the following fall.
New cyclamen cultivars with inward curving petals, whose edges may or may not be frosty white, are now available. Dwarf cyclamens are also appearing in nurseries. They make excellent subjects for patio and balcony containers.
Bush violet (Barleria obtusa) is an evergreen sub-shrub that blooms heavily as days becoming increasingly short in the fall. It has a low water requirement and is not affected by frost. It is native to South Africa and grows well in either full or partial sun.
You can look forward to a plant that will eventually reach a height of around 3 feet and a somewhat wider girth. Its blue flowers would match up well with the Bacopa blue or lavender varieties. If your soil is just right, meaning well-drained with a healthy dose of compost, you can look forward to seedlings sprouting next to their mother plant.
Ruby grass (Melinus nerviglumis) is another fall bloomer from South Africa, even if it is a member of the grass family. Ruby grass is widely considered to have the most ostentatious flowers of any ornamental grass.
Also known as pink crystals, its sparkling flowers are born above modest 12-inch grassy clumps that turn reddish purple in the fall. It takes a lot of water or a little, so it will be a successful performer in any sun-splashed garden.
Q. I have a mature ‘Fuyu’ persimmon tree with gorgeous and large fruit. The problem is that there is black discoloration near the stem end. I can cut off the top of the fruit and the remainder is very good without any black. Do you know what this is and how I can prevent it next year?
-Dolores Klovenski, Northridge
A. It appears that you have a fungus disease. The best way to prevent an infection next year is to make sure all old fruit and fallen leaves are removed since they could harbor fungal spores that, as a result of rain or irrigation, are returned to the tree. Be careful that no irrigation water reaches the upper portions of the tree.
Ideally, to prevent diseases of foliage and fruit, persimmon trees, and all other fruit trees for that matter, should be watered with a hose or by drip irrigation.
Tip of the week
Ilona Buratti, from Northridge, has inquired about the phenomenon known as deadheading, where fading flowers are plucked off to encourage more blooms.
Fall and winter flowering plants will bloom all the more if their flowers are detached as soon as they pass their prime. Most gardeners are well aware of the necessity of pruning faded roses to keep rose bushes blooming. If faded roses are not pruned, the energy needed to produce more roses will be siphoned off into the production of rose hips, which are seed-containing rose fruits. In the fall and winter, when sunlight is less abundant than in spring and summer, flowering plants need every encouragement in order to continue to produce flower buds. Pansies, unless they have their faded flowers snipped off, will quickly cease to bloom. The same is true of dianthus, stock, Iceland poppies and primroses. Incidentally, ‘Iceberg’ and ‘Flower Carpet’ roses owe their popularity, in large part, to their ability to flower for months on end without deadheading of spent flowers.