Cool weather makes gardening fun so local folks start thinking about garden projects. It is a great time to get acquainted with our Hawaii Island Master Gardeners. This coming Saturday, Jan. 29, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., the East Hawaii Master Gardeners are having a plant sale at the University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources Komohana Ag Complex in Hilo.
You can purchase plants at the sale, but more important, it will be an opportunity to rub elbows with plant enthusiasts who want to share their gardening aloha and expertise.
We tend to plant perennials that last for years, but many annuals may be used to give gardens cool season color. A list of the popular garden annuals of today reads like a page from the past. Garden shops are carrying coleus, marigolds, impatiens and geraniums, but when you start talking varieties, they are as modern as today.
New coleus plants, for instance, are a far cry from the tall, spindly, dull coleus most of us remember. Plant breeders have developed varieties with improved form and a wide range of color combinations that add color and texture to shady areas.
Grandmother’s begonias, too, left something to be desired. Today, thanks to intensive breeding efforts, fibrous-rooted begonias have come out of hiding. Originally a shade-loving plant, they can now be grown in sun as well as shade.
How about considering impatiens? Todays’ hybrid varieties are giving petunias a run for their money as the leading flowering annual across the country. This is due mostly to the development of large-flowered, compact varieties. And to the great show they make in shady areas.
Take a look at another old stand by, the wide variety of Pelargoniums better known as Geraniums! With the advent of hybrid geraniums, you can expect this popular plant to emerge as a true garden perennial, performing well, even through the heat of summer and cool of winter. Available as small plants in packs, they can be used in mass plantings without straining the budget.
Petunias, too, have come a long way from Grandma’s garden. Still the leading flowering annual for dry conditions, petunias are one of the most versatile and colorful plants available to the average gardener. Planted en masse, in hanging baskets, tubs, window boxes, in a choice of colors to complement any decor, they are hard to beat where conditions are dry.
Annuals have added color to our gardens for generations, but in Hawaii, we are not limited to these alone.
Often used as air plants, orchids and bromeliads may be a tropical substitute for flowering annuals. If you like colorful plants that don’t require a lot of attention, you are missing a bet if you don’t consider them.
This group of plants has been popular in Europe for years.
In America, interest in the bromeliads has been limited to houseplant or interior garden use. In Hawaii, they grow easily outdoors. Many of them are more colorful than orchids and their leaves and plant forms are interesting at all times.
There are hundreds of different kinds of bromeliads.
The most common Hawaiian bromeliad is the pineapple plant.
The bromeliads, as a group, are tropical plants. But most of those in cultivation can withstand more extremes than orchids. Many bromeliads do best when grown in filtered light, but some varieties may take full sun.
When grown in containers they are potted much like epiphytic orchids.
They must not be over watered or the roots and the tip of the plant will decay.
Except for very large plants, nurserymen like to pot them in very small pots, half filled with broken crockery.
Both feeding and watering are done mainly through the foliage rather than through the roots. But these plants don’t require much of either. The leaves hold water and for this reason should be potted so that they stand straight up, or nearly so. Fill the crown with water until it runs over.
Tropical ornamentals and fruit trees can also be an important part of adding to Hawaiian gardens and now is a good time to get them established, since the sun is south of the equator.
Get your garden project done so you can enjoy your creations during those lazy days when the weather is hot.