Weidner’s Gardens

Mandevilla 'Red Riding Hood'Mandevilla 'Alice du Pont'In mild climates like ours, gardeners take pride in discovering plants that flower nonstop throughout the year. Such plants may eventually get boring, but until they have been around for a few years and everybody has one, they give their proprietors a sense of horticultural distinction.
There is one place to go if you want to find continuously flowering plants that most people don’t yet know about. It’s called Weidner’s Gardens, located in Leucadia, about 90 miles south of Los Angeles just off the 405 freeway. If you’re a plant lover, you will eventually visit Weidner’s, a production nursery that is open to the public.
Evelyn Weidner travels the globe in search of ever-more-beautiful plants, and has brought back remarkable specimens from Brazil, South Africa and Australia.
One of these plants, recently available in Los Angeles nurseries, is the supertunia. Grown in a hanging basket, this hybrid – between the wild South American petunia and a nicotiana (flowering tobacco) species – cascades down 3 feet or more. Planted in the garden, single supertunias grow into 3-foot- diameter mounds bearing hundreds of flowers year round.
The Solanaceae or nightshade family includes not only petunias and tobacco, but garden tomatoes and potatoes as well. The blue potato bush (Lycianthes rantoneii) can be grown in full sun to partial shade. It can be trained as a tree or vine, or allowed to grow freely as a tall shrub. The blue potato bush flowers throughout the year, as do its relatives, the white-flowered potato vine (Solanum jasminoides). These plants may lose their leaves briefly in winter, but leaf out again as soon as temperatures warm.
Perhaps the most remarkable plant grown by Evelyn Weidner is yet another member of the nightshade family. Brunfelsia pauciflora macrantha. This is a woody perennial with 2- to 4-inch-diameter purple flowers; it blooms throughout the year except in the hottest summer weather. There are only two requirements for growth: deep shade and constant fertilization.
Most of us are familiar with B. pauciflora floribunda (“Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow”). This is a plant for full sun to partial shade that, in Weidner’s opinion, might also flower most of the time if properly fertilized.
The key to Brunfelsia fertilization is to provide a constant feed of minerals. Osmocote slow-released fertilizer pellets are fine during warm weather. However, during the winter, when slow-release fertilizers do not
break down, it is necessary to supplement with a quick-acting liquid fertilizer such as Mir-Acid.
A word of caution regarding nightshade plants: Most species have toxic parts. For instance, the leaves of the tomato plant are toxic, and should never be tossed in your salad.
Two plants in the daisy family are also nonstop bloomers from the Weidner collection. One is a marguerite-type bush daisy called Chrysanthemum argyranthemum that has silky, light yellow flowers.
The other is a hybrid between Osteospermum ecklonis, a shrub; the result is an ever blooming subshrub with white flowers.
Other plants with a constant flowering habit include Pentas lanceolata and Dipladenia sanderi ‘Red Riding Hood’. The Dipladenia, a 5-foot shrub with red pinwheel flowers, was brought here from Australia by Weidner and has since been grown successfully throughout the United States. It is related to Mandevilla ‘Alice du Pont,’ but is much easier to grow.
We should not forget some more common plants that provide color virtually year round: floribunda roses, lavender, Euryops daisy, gazanias, cupheas, Mexican sage, Balcon ivy geraniums, trailing lantana, society garlic, crown of thorns and bougainvillea in the sun; trailing Richmondensis begonias, coleus and impatiens in the shade. If you get tired of the low-growing impatiens, see if you can find one of the taller species.
Impatiens oliveri is a perennial that grows to a height of 8 feet and looks like a rhododendron.

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