Turner, the Senior Director of Gardens for the Dallas, Texas Arboretum is our
guest writer this week. Jimmy runs one
of the largest trial programs in the United States in his sixty-six acre
display garden. His “Rising Stars” are
plants that have survived every vagary the Dallas weather has to offer: Heat, drought, high humidity, wind, and hail. Then there is the soil, called Houston
Black. It consists of layers of clay
that alternately swell with water and then shrink as they dry out, causing
cracks in the surface. Gardening under
these conditions explains Jimmy’s motto:
“If we can’t kill it, nobody can.”
Pelargonium ‘Calliope Dark Red’
called 'Big Red' at Home Depot)
Director of Research & Garden Designer
Nothing satisfies that early-spring itch like
to share with you a little horticultural secret that all great gardeners
know. “It’s OK if some plants don’t live
forever, or even all summer.” I know
this may be hard to accept. I’ve even
known some new gardeners to cry over the death of a petunia or marigold, but
this is the true purpose of annual bedding plants – to make a huge flower show,
and then fade away. It’s important to
recognize that this or that plant may not be there all summer, but only in your
garden as temporary filler-what I term a “long-lasting outdoor floral
several varieties of plants in the Dallas Arboretum Trial Program that won’t
flower all summer for us, but that’s OK.
They are beautiful enough to compensate for the limited time they grace
our gardens. One of the most popular of
these plants is the familiar geranium or pelargonium.
geraniums may not flourish as well for us as for northern gardeners, Texans
can’t resist them. The big, round orbs
of bright red and other colors are traditional spring showoffs in our
containers and gardens. Their true niche
is late winter and the early part of spring, when we start having warm days,
but a late frost is still possible.
That’s when the “garden itch” hits Texas gardeners, and we head to
retail nurseries in droves.
plant that is always waiting for us is geraniums, their bright flower clusters
beckoning us to take them home. As many
of you know from experience, they flower wonderfully through those cool days
and cold nights, but when July hits, the flowers stop, and if the plants get
too dry or hot, they die. But, as noted earlier,
that’s OK. Be calm, take a deep breath,
and go get some lantana for the rest of the season.
going to buy them, then we should at least know the absolute best ones. For that reason, we started a geranium test at
the Dallas Arboretum Trial Gardens. This
last year we ran across a new winner-‘Calliope Dark Red’. It is the first commercial interspecific
cross between zonal and ivy geraniums. Although
the plant looks more like the familiar zonal geranium, the flowers are a true
deep red that immediately grabs your attention.
one big geranium, so it doesn’t take many to fill up a pot or basket! The extra vigor keeps this plant growing and
blooming long after others have gone to the compost pile. Those in our trials made it to September and
looked wonderful; that was seven months of continuous blooming they gave us!
‘Calliope’ has the same requirements as all geraniums. They must have well-drained soil. I’ve found this plant grows best in full sun
in early spring, but as the summer heats up, I recommend moving the pots to
where they receive a little afternoon shade to extend their lives.
though geraniums may only be “garden pacifiers” for us in spring, you might as
well buy the best, biggest and brightest this year. ‘Calliope Dark Red’ is a winner in our
garden, one that lasted through the heat and continued flowering. Once you see the flower color of ‘Calliope
Dark Red’, you too will have a whole new favorite geranium this spring.
Excerpts from this article are courtesy of Jimmy
Turner and the Dallas Arboretum. Visit http://www.dallasplanttrials.org/
for information on the Dallas Arboretum Trial Gardens