Apr 29, 2019
by Roger Raiche David McCrory, Planet Horticulture
May is always an exuberant month in gardens and the natural world – winter is behind us and the dry season lies ahead. It is perhaps the easiest month to have a showy garden, it seems like everything wants to burgeon with growth and flowers.
It is also the month of Mother’s Day, and if your mother is into plants or gardening, there is no problem finding beautiful plant gifts (or gift cards from nurseries). Mother’s Day – due to the florist industry – is also associated with roses. While roses have gotten a bad rep in some circles – they, for the most part, are amazing plants, surprisingly robust, incredibly varied in form, color, and fragrance. There are hundreds of species of rose and thousands of hybrids – no one could grow them all even if they wanted to. Some roses have a reputation for being fussy – avoid these. Rose breeding in the last 4 decades has focused on improving the entire plant – growth, form, healthy attractive foliage, strong and various fragrances, extended flowering periods. There’s a rose out there for anyone – about the only thing they don’t tolerate is deep shade.
Did you know? There are four native species of rose growing in Sonoma Co. as well as several naturalized from other parts of the world. On the northern Sonoma Coast we have Nootka rose (Rosa nutkana), in the redwoods, we have redwood rose (R. gymnocarpa), in the dry woodlands and chaparral we have ground rose (R. spithamea) and along creeks and riparian zones we have California rose (R. californica). All have simple 5 petalled fragrant flowers, typically pink. The California and Nootka rose spread rapidly underground, so are not suitable in small landscapes.
Native Plants. May and June are peak wildflower months in Sonoma Co., and every effort should be made to enjoy one or more of the many parks and open spaces. The Sonoma Coast is at its best. If you haven’t checked out the Jenner Headlands, this is the time. Salt Point has great coastal prairie wildflowers and bizarre tufoni sandstone rocks that resemble filials and honeycomb. In the interior, some of the parks burned two years ago will still have great examples of fire-following annuals and perennials. Enjoy them before the longer lasting trees, and shrubs fill back in – you may not see them again for decades. Annadel, Sugar Loaf and Hood Mt are great examples. Another excellent place to enjoy natural landscape is Lake Sonoma – miles of varied trails through some excellent examples of Sonoma Co. You don’t need a boat for this, though if you do have one, the lake offers a great place to get away.
This is also peak season for garden tours, check this paper for the many offered. Long established gardens like Western Hills, Sonoma Horticultural and Quarry Hills each offer very different groups of plants – but are all great places to lose oneself on a spring day.
In your garden. It is sometimes hard to garden in May as the attractions beyond may seem too compelling. But it is important to make sure you’ve gotten your summer veggies, annual color, baskets and urns planted as the last frosts are done. Things grow so rapidly, it is important to keep the more vigorous elements from smothering their neighbors. Sometimes a little early dead-heading can create another month or more of flowers.
Try something new. Sonoma Co is blessed with a diverse nursery industry, both in production, wholesale and retail. There are nurseries specializing in succulents, water plants, rare conifers, rhododendron and azaleas, edible landscape plants, carnivorous plants, native plants, roses, Japanese maples, bamboos, etc. It’s almost too much of a good thing – enjoy!
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