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As I mentioned in my last post, I headed over today to visit a local farm and it’s adjoining restaurants to view the gardens.  As I started walking towards the entry, I was greeted by numerous dragons – all flaunting their beautiful colors.

Snapdragons (Antirrhinum majus) have always been one of my favorite annual flowers.  I remember my dad teaching me how to gently squeeze the flowers on the side to cause their “mouths” to open and close, like a dragon’s.  It is a trick that I have taught my children as well.
There were so many different colors all planted together, without much thought to design.
To be honest, when I design annual beds, I tend to use the same color of snapdragons and then pair them with a contrasting petunia or geranium.  
**One of my favorite combinations is using yellow snapdragons and planting deep purple petunias around them and finishing off with white alyssum around the border.  Or you can try red snapdragons with white petunias and lobelia.
Even though, I generally do not mix colors, I must admit that all of these colors mixed together, really worked.  It was a stunning display of color.
Snapdragons are typically planted in October and last through April in our area.  Obviously, they have reached their peak bloom. 
I spent quite some time just admiring the snapdragons and taking pictures.  But then, it was time to move on and visit the organic vegetable gardens, the restaurant and explore the rest of the gardens.
I will be posting about my visit next week.  I can’t wait to show you the many wonderful treasures tucked away in this special place.
But for now, I would just like to enjoy the snapdragons….
Nasturtium
 
From time to time, I receive emails from readers of my blog who ask me a gardening question or two.  Well, I love talking about plants and helping people with their gardens, so it works out well.
Earlier this week, I was so surprised to find an email from a reader who had sent me pictures of flowers growing in their garden.

 Snapdragons
To be honest, I was touched that someone would want to share with me pictures of their garden.
I love to garden, obviously…..but it is so nice to get a view of what is happening in other people’s gardens.   

 Pansy & Dianthus
The beautiful flowers that I am privileged to show you are from the garden of Frank & Lynda who reside in Northeast Mesa, which is a suburb of Phoenix.
 Alyssum, Geranium and Nasturtium
Frank was kind enough to let me show you all their beautiful flowers.  As he put it, his wife has the ‘green thumb’ and he is the ‘waterboy’. 
 Frank & Lynda, thank you for allowing me to share some of your beautiful flowers.
**If any of you would like to show me what is growing in your garden, please feel free to send me an email with a picture.  I would love to post photos of what you are growing, so that other people can enjoy them as well.
 Have a great day!

I’m sure most of you know how much fun it can be to garden with your kids.  I remember my dad building each of us a raised planter where we could grow vegetables and flowers.  Today, my kids and I went to the store to buy flowers for their new garden.  You will NEVER guess what they are planting their flowers in…

 
Our first stop was our local nursery.  Each was allowed to pick out two six-packs of flowers.  The kids decided to each pick a different type of flower and then shared them.  My youngest daughter, Gracie, selected geraniums and blue petunias.
 
Ruthie went the fragrant route and selected stock, (beautiful and fragrant despite its ordinary name) and white alyssum.

Dianthus and snapdragons were Kai’s choice.

We finished making our selections and then got ready to go home and start planting.  The only question the kids had was – where were they going to plant their flowers?
 
How about their old kiddie pool?  You know – the ones that cost about $10 that your kids play in during the summer.  However, once summer is over, most people either throw out their pool or store it somewhere out of the way.  
 
Well, now you can use it as a planter for either flowers or shallow-rooted vegetables or herbs.
 
The process is easy, and your kids will have fun assisting you.
 
First, move the pool where you want the garden to be as it will be too heavy once you fill it with soil.  Then make multiple holes on the bottom for drainage.  Then fill with a mixture of potting mix.  Sprinkle some slow-release fertilizer and now begin planting!
 
Gracie planted her first plant, a peach-colored geranium.
 

 

My teenage daughter, Rachele, was overseeing our progress while texting on her phone.
 
We finished!  The kids are so excited to see their flowers grow.  The garden will be a riot of different colors and has no sense of design, which is as it should be for a children’s flower garden.
 
This will be our ‘before’ picture.  We planted alyssum, dianthus, geraniums, petunias, snapdragons, and stock.
 
If you would like to try this at home and want the garden to become a more permanent part of the landscape, you can add a brick border or plant shrubs and perennials around the outside of the pool.

Each year, around the end of August, I walk into the plant section of our local home improvement store just to look at the colorful, flowering annuals


While I may be sorely tempted,  I don’t buy any; I just like to look.


BUT, I know that I am in trouble when the majority of the nursery shelves is covered in a sea of winter annuals – I feel like a kid in a candy store.  The vibrant colors and scents are almost intoxicating – to me anyway.

 

In the past, when I managed landscapes on golf courses, I would come to the store in our work truck and load countless flats of annuals for planting around the golf courses and the other buildings.  I loved planning ahead of time what I would plant and the color combinations that I would use.

Petunias, bacopa, and alyssum

In the low desert, winter annuals typically show up in the nurseries around late August, and it is so easy to get caught up in the excitement of fall being just around the corner along with the promise of cooler weather.  So before you know it, you buy a bunch of flowers and run home and plant them.  The problem is, is that it is often still too hot for them to survive.

 Red geraniums with bacopa
For years, I would tear out the summer annuals around the golf courses and plant winter flowers in late September, usually with good results.  Of course, I would have to be vigilant and replace a few plants that would fall victim to the warm September temperatures, but overall they did fine.  
 
That is until one year when we had higher than usual temperatures in early October.  The flowers kept dying despite my best efforts.  Each day on my way to work, I would have to stop by the nursery to buy replacement plants.  This got kind of old after 2 – 3 weeks and I would have to go from store to store to find the same kind of flowers that I needed.
 Blue Petunias 

So, I learned my lesson – no matter what, we would not plant winter annuals until late October.  I mean, it was silly to pull out the summer annuals in September when they still looked great.  I think people want to get a jump start on winter flowers because it makes us feel like the weather is cooler when it isn’t.  So unless you want to make extra visits to your local nursery, WAIT until mid-October.

Now, since I no longer manage landscape areas, I am only responsible for my annual pots.  Last year I planted hot pink geraniums with alyssum, and they did very well.  In the past, I have tried the following combinations with good results:
 
– Yellow Snapdragons with Blue (Deep Purple) 
– Petunias and White Alyssum
– Red Geraniums with White Alyssum
– Hot Pink Geraniums with Lobelia
– Yellow Pansies with Lobelia 
– Light Blue Pansies and Alyssum
– White Snapdragons with Pink Petunias and Lobelia 

 

Snapdragon

 PLANTING:  For containers (pots), I use a planting/potting mix, which is specially formulated for containers – not potting soil, which can become soggy.  

 
If you are planting annuals in the ground, then I add compost or potting soil to the existing soil at a ratio of about 1 part compost to 1 part existing soil.  


If you do not have a compost pile at home, you can buy bagged compost at your local nursery.  Add slow-release fertilizer, following directions on the label.  Plant your winter annuals, making sure that they have enough space between them to grow.
 
CARE:  Water twice a day.  I usually water in the morning and maybe late in the afternoon as the plants are becoming established (about two weeks).  You can then water once a day or every 2 – 3 days, depending on the weather.  


In a managed landscape setting, I would also fertilize weekly with a liquid fertilizer to promote maximum blooming.  At home, I usually fertilize every other week.
Viola
 

Now that we are in the second half of October, I am ready for planting winter annuals in my garden.  I have been thinking about planting violas.  I have not planted them since I was a little girl and I did notice some beautiful ones at the nursery back in August.  Those violas are probably dead from the heat of late August.  


Hopefully, they will have some new ones in now that it is really time to plant!