Get ready for a new year of gardening

By Jennifer E. Beaver
Columnist

To everything, there is a season, and this is the season for checking out garden trends and products to find out what will play well in our local garden landscapes.
At 9.42 inches, December’s rainfall was the wettest in 121 years. The Sierra snowpack containing next spring’s water is nearly double normal size. Despite these inconvenient truths, I’m sure that governments, utilities and nurseries will still urge us to choose drought-tolerant plants. They spent too much money and effort getting out the drought messaging to go back on it now. And who knows what next year will bring?
Fortunately, there are plenty of good-looking low-water groundcovers, flowers, shrubs and trees; you don’t have to sacrifice beauty to conserve water. For ideas and inspiration, check out bewaterwise.com and lacoastalgardens.com.
Edible gardening will continue to be popular. People are discovering that back-breaking labor isn’t necessary to grow a tomato, lettuce or bunch of herbs. Container gardens in the form of pots or raised beds reduce the work and produce abundant yields.
In response to the backyard “grow your own” movement, new varieties pack increased flavor and disease resistance into compact forms. The new “Lizzano” tomato, for example, is the first late-blight tolerant cherry semi-determinate tomato on the market. That’s good, because late blight is one of those grey creeping-crud diseases that usually disfigures or kills plants. Panamerican Seed Co. offers easy-to-grow-anywhere pellets combining lettuce and greens. Just toss ‘em in a pot and get ready for salad. Like hot peppers? Try “Basket of Fire,” billed as the first true pepper for hanging baskets. If you’ve stayed away from pumpkins because you fear they’ll take over your backyard, try “Hijinks,” a new variety weighing seven to nine pounds with 15-foot vines.
As for color, design guru Pantone named honeysuckle as its color of the year. Had they asked me, I would have told them that honeysuckle is a tough color to work with. The shade Pantone chose– described as a “festive reddish pink”– reminds of puce. My fellow historical novel readers– and you know who you are– will recall that women wearing puce gowns were never popular.
If honeysuckle strikes your fancy, try growing a honeysuckle vine for fragrance as well as color. Since it’s also drought-tolerant once established, you’ll get two trends for the price of one. Look for honeysuckle color in certain bougainvillea and some calibrachoa, those petunia-like plants also known as million bells and superbells from plant propagator and marketer Proven Winners.

Jennifer E. Beaver, a Wrigley resident, is a master gardener and author of Container Gardening for California.

Garden Variety

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