Mid-Summer Blooms

Planting flowers in midsummer may be the last thing on your mind, yet this is the precise moment for maximizing the effect of certain bedding plants that bloom abundantly no matter how hot it gets.
At the top of the list of midsummer to fall bloomers are the new crop of spreading zinnias called Profusion. These zinnias might be considered the sun-loving equivalent of impatiens. Profusion zinnias, while available only in white, orange and cherry pink, spread with greater alacrity than impatiens. Within weeks, a single Profusion zinnia planted from a 4-inch container will proliferate into a hemisphere two feet wide and one foot high.
The daisylike Profusion flowers are about 1 1/2 inches in size with yellow centers and are excellent subjects for containers and hanging baskets. Make sure you plant Profusion zinnias by themselves, however, as they would quickly overwhelm and smother any nearby companion plants.
One of the real bonuses of Profusion zinnias is their resistance to powdery mildew. The new zinnias are fungus free and memorable for a longevity of bloom – flowers keep coming until November – that growers of traditional zinnias could only dream about.
Another sun-loving heavy-blooming annual for planting now is nicotiana. Dwarf nicotiana, which grows to about 2 feet, serves as a perfect flowery understory for a rose garden. Varieties in white, pink, red and salmon are available and some give off a mild scent.
If orange is your color of choice and you have decided to plant orange Profusion zinnias in a sunny bed, offset by orange marigolds and orange Mexican sunflowers (Tithonia rotundifolia), you could also add orange black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta) to the mix. Black-eyed Susans are perennials that bloom most of the year and effortlessly reseed themselves as well.
Tuberous begonias are an excellent alternative to the monotony of impatiens in the shady to partially sunny garden bed. Blooming from now until late autumn, the rose-like flowers of tuberous begonias are a universally acknowledged delight. The yellow tuberous begonia is especially prized because summer-blooming plants for shade rarely have yellow flowers.
Dahlias are also readily available this time of year. There are bedding dahlias of short stature and giant dahlias with spectacular dinner plate-sized blooms. Dahlias are somewhat heat sensitive and should be protected from afternoon sun in Valley gardens.
TIP OF THE WEEK: While larger dahlias may not need winter storage, the tubers of smaller dahlias and tuberous begonias must be dug in order to survive until the next spring. In late fall, carefully dig up dahlias, shake dirt off tubers and dry them in the sun. Dust with sulfur and cover with peat moss, perlite, vermiculite, dry sand or sawdust. Keep in a storage shed or garage until spring. Follow the same procedures for begonia tubers. In April, cut up clumps of tubers before planting, making sure there is at least one eye or bud per planted tuber.
Garden Wonders
For the past 25 years, Ida Stanish of Northridge has grown flowers along a 70-foot-by-6-inch space of soil at Casa Bonita Apartments, making a row of color between the back of her neighbor’s garage and a one-foot wall abutting the parking lot.
This year, she disposed of the flowers and planted vegetable seeds – squash, pepper, tomato, chive, lettuce and zucchini, among others. And now, in just a few months, the plants have filled the constricted area to bursting, so much so that Stanish jokes, “They’re going to envelop the cars next.”
In the morning, the 90-year-old Stanish carries out buckets of water to keep her garden healthy. The gardener at the apartment property manages the garden itself.
Stanish says she finds new surprises each day, such as a 1 1/2-foot-long squash weighing 5 pounds, and two plants she can’t identify at all. She gives many of her spoils to neighbors and uses much of the garden’s plump tomatoes and fresh chives in her own cooking.
“The property owners don’t seem to mind. In fact, they enjoy it,” she says. Then she adds with a laugh, “It’s a good thing I don’t keep watermelon seeds.”
– Mike Chmielecki

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