March will not be the same around my backyard this season. After somewhere between 10 and 20 decades, our Ceanothus ‘Ray Hartman’ went out in blaze of glory that was blue. Every spring you could count on a few weeks of a bulk of the smartest, deepest blue, as big as two or even three SUVs. Native bees and birds came out of nowhere to feast on it. Ceanothus grow fast and don’t live long — mine was a centenarian in ceanothus years. I think of it as one of these gardening trade-offs: rapid and beautiful versus steady and slow.
March is a superb time to plant and admire ceanothus or other California natives — or just about anything else, for that matter. Cool spring weather receives off plants to a gentle beginning. With warm weather not far off, you can start planting for summer — even adding tomatoes in climates that heat up early. After a recent visit to Hawaii, I am currently dreaming of summer and thinking about island inspirations to make a vibrant, relaxing outdoor space, as you’ll see below.
A native flower factory. I am expecting big things from my replacement Ceanothus ‘Ray Hartman’. Of the numerous California native species and cultivated varieties of ceanothus (commonly called California lilac), ‘Ray Hartman’ is one of the fastest to reach decent size — a shrub more than 10 ft tall or perhaps trained into a small tree. Flowers, as blue as could be, pay the plant each spring. Use ‘Ray Hartman’ in a dry section of your backyard, as an imposing tall shrub, or make a compact privacy screen with several of them (spaced 6 to 8 ft apart).
Botanical name: Ceanothus ‘Ray Hartman’
USDA zones: 9 to 11
Water requirement: Lighting; no more irrigation necessary for older plants
Light requirement: Total sun
Mature size: 10 to 20 feet tall and 15 to 20 feet wide
Growing tips: Make sure the soil is well drained. Water new plants regularly for the first growing season, then taper off; older plants usally require no additional irrigation. Train it to a little tree by pruning the lower branches off the main trunk — beginning with a youthful nursery plant. Do not expect a very long life.
Everything looks better. Ahead of the world-class hotels and golf classes, much of the west coast of the Big Island of Hawaii consisted of moonscape lava areas and no surface water you think that your backyard has bad land! Imported topsoil, an abundant underground water supply and tropical plants from all over the globe have generated lush tropical gardens and amazing displays of flowers and foliage — all the more dramatic when put off by the black and dark brown backdrop of the remaining lava fields and the stonework used in the landscaping.
Lots of the same crops are easy to grow in California, though they always appear to seem more vibrant about the islands. These include such basic crops as oleander, plumbago and bird-of-paradise. Plumeria, the favorite lei flower revealed here, could be grown in the mainland — in case you’re an experimentally minded, painstaking gardener (not me).
Bougainvillea and hibiscus, revealed farther below, are best bets for this Hawaii atmosphere on your summer months. Remember as you choose pots, walls and backgrounds for them how great they look with shameful.
A deck with a view. You don’t require a see-all-the-way-to-Japan vista to get an opinion deck to generate sense on your backyard. This remarkably simple deck, with room for a few chairs and a little dining table, is about a beach in Hawaii, but it would work nearly anywhere like a retreat or getaway in a backyard corner with or without a view. It’s just a square, two-level platform built of 2-by-6s and 2-by-8s.
Hawaii in a pot. About the Big Island, you see bougainvillea, orginally from South America, everywhere — climbing by trees, like a hedge or ground cover, as a scraggly survivor fluttering purple flashes in a lava field. In California bougainvillea is easy to grow, generally as a vine, but it is sensitive to hard frosts. A great spot is in a container, where you can provide lots of sun and winter refuge (under an eave might be enough).
Plant bougainvillea in a kettle at the moment and you may have a gaudy display by midsummer. It’s ideal to select one of the compact kinds for example, as ‘Singapore Pink’, ‘Temple Fire’ or ‘Purple Queen’. When planting, take special care to not split the root ball crops are sensitive about it.
Botanical name: Bougainvillea, many varieties
USDA zones: 9 to 11
Water requirement: Moderate
Light requirement: Total sun
Mature dimensions: Vining kinds can reach 30 feet; streamlined kinds, 2 to 6 ft tall
Growing tips: Vines need help to climb; tie branches to a trellis or wall. Prune in spring after the frost. Keep plants peeled by cutting back stringy stems during growing season. For best bloom, keep container soil on the other side.
Another Hawaiian icon in a pot. Originally from tropical Asia, hibiscus is irresistible in Hawaii. In California’s milder climates, it makes a fine medium-size evergreen shrub. It’s also a perfect summer container plant. Start today with nursery plants in marijuana or already flowering and you should have blooms from spring through autumn.
Botanical name: Hibiscus rosa-sinensis
USDA zones: 10 to 11
Water requirement: Moderate or more; don’t let the soil dry out
Light condition: Total sun
Mature size: 8 to 15 feet tall and 6 to 8 ft wide in California gardens
Growing tips: Good options for baskets include ‘Erin Rachel’ along with members of this Breeze series or Luau series, generally reaching 2-3 feet.
Quick privacy screen? Back in California my daughter-in-law asked me to get ideas to get a fast privacy screen for her front yard and answered her own question. She enjoys redwoods. Yes, they are fast, easy to develop, evocative (they smell like the forest) and story making (tell children that redwoods are the world’s tallest trees).
She said, “We don’t plan to reside here long. What happens when the trees get full size?” That is really a matter for The Ethicist in the New York Times Sunday magazine. But I say, proceed with redwoods if suited for your region. For a screen, plant the trees 8 feet apart. Make certain they will not impinge on the neighbors’ perspectives, steal moisture from their lawns or interfere with their landscapes.
You’ll need an irrigation system to keep the soil moist year-round. Expect 3 to 5 feet of growth each year in the beginning, then a slower rate. The trees displayed here, approximately 15 years old, are approximately 35 feet tall. Underneath them a row of English laurel provides additional screening.
Botanical name: Sequoia sempervirens
USDA zones: 8 to 9
Water requirement: Moderate or more
Light requirement: Full sun (light shade is OK)
Mature size: 70 feet tall or more and up to 30 feet wide
Growing tips: Start with 15-gallon or bigger nursery plants if you’re in a huge hurry. Dig a massive planting hole, at least 6 inches wider and deeper than the root ball, and include lots of soil amendments.
Missouri Botanical Garden
If you’re able to grow just 1 herb. Common blossom, also called garden sage, is easy to grow, continues for several years and can supply you with the new leaves you’ll need for chicken, poultry, veal and pasta dishes. Squeeze a blossom plant to a flower border or a vegetable garden, or try one or two little plants in a pot. It’s possible to grow it as an annual, like basil, or allow it to continue through winter for several decades. Cutting new leaves as necessary is the best approach to keep the plant bushy and compact.
Botanical name: Salvia officinalis
USDA zones: 5 to 8
Water requirement: Light
Light condition: Total sun, or partial shade in warm climates
Mature size: 1 foot to 3 feet tall and 12 to 18 inches wide
Growing tips: Control dimensions and enourage bushiness with regular pinching back of hints during the growing season. Do not try to cut the plant back to the ground; it might not return.
Created for California. Today you can choose from countless sage relatives, including heaps of native Salvias and plenty of fresh varieties, annuals and perennials, in yellow, white, red, deepest blue and purple. My favorite, Mexican bush sage, was around a very long time — you see it frequently in California mission gardens. It’s easy to grow, needs little water or care, and seems to bloom every day of the year (really, more like from Presidents Day to Thanksgiving).Grow Mexican blossom to get a blast of purple in boundaries, in a row as a loose type of low hedge, within an herb garden, at the edge of a vegetable garden or even in additional casual, dryish places. It’s kind of sprawly rather than a plant for proper situations.
Botanical name: Salvia leucantha
USDA zones: 7 to 9
Water requirement: Lighting
Light requirement: Full sun
Mature size: 3 to 4 feet tall and 3 to 6 ft wide
Growing tips: To control dimensions and shape, cut back stalks nearly to the ground in spring.
What Else to Do in March on Your California Garden
This is a Excellent time to get out in the backyard. There is much to plant — from a grand finale of cool-season blossoms and vegetables (such as escarole, revealed) to an early show from summertime heat lovers.
Prepare to plant. Prepare flower and vegetable beds by incorporating at least 2 or 3 inches of organic matter, together with a complete fertilizer, and dig all of it into a thickness of 10 inches or so. For big shrubs and trees, take the time to dig out a substantial planting hole — at least several inches wider and thicker than the plant’s root ball. Do advance work to make sure that the soil is moist enough. For hard, dryish soil that is tough to work, start by digging as deep as you can and fill the hole with water, let it soak in and then refill it repeat this over a few days till you can push your spade to the desired thickness.
Last chance for cool-season performers. In cooler coastal climates, there’s still time to place in winter-spring performers: annual flowers such as pansies, Iceland poppies, stock and violas; and vegetables such as lettuce (quick-maturing varieties), spinach and other cool-season crops.
End bare-root planting. Early in the month, you can still plant bare-root roses, fruit trees, berries and such.
Start planting warm-weather flowers as well as veggies. In inland climates where the weather warms up early, particularly in Southern California, plant marigolds, petunias, lobelia and other warm-weather annuals. Additionally place out or sow seeds of beans, squash and other summer crops; you can plant tomatoes in the event the danger of frost has passed. Closer to the shore or the San Francisco Bay, wait till warmer weather in April for most heat lovers.
Start drought-resistant perennials. While the weather remains relatively cool, it is a good time to place out penstemon, artemisia, catmint (nepeta), sage, coreopsis and other perennials that require little water; they could set themselves before warm weather.
Feeding time. Scatter, sprinkle or spray on all-purpose food for shrubs, trees and ground covers — ideally before the major surge of spring growth. Feed roses following pruning. Feed camellias after bloom.
Watch for insects. Aphids are fond of succulent new growth. Start with methods such as washing them off with a blast of water from the hose. As a next step, proceed on to organically sprays.
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