Times Colonist

Hardy California poppy gives good cheer

- HELEN CHESNUT Garden Notes

Dear Helen: Visitors from the East Coast loved the California poppies growing wild around Victoria. I have sent them some seeds and wonder whether they need to be started indoors.

A. California poppies (Eschscholz­ia) do not transplant well. The seeds are best sown directly outdoors in the spring. The plants are shortlived perennials, hardy to zone 6, but they self-sow and are good for naturalizi­ng in sunny places.

The plants do not need a rich soil but it must be well drained. The seeds require consistent­ly high moisture levels during the germinatio­n period. Once the plants reach flowering size, they are fairly drought tolerant.

Dear Helen: We have been trying, with little success, to establish woolly thyme between stepping-stones on a pathway along the oceanfront edge of our property. There are arbutus trees between the water and the path, parts of which are in sun while others are in shade. We want the entire pathway well covered with thyme, or something. Would moss, using the blended mixture of lawn moss, yoghurt and water you described in an earlier column, be suitable for this purpose?

A. On similar pathways that I have walked, the ground has been very dry in summer. I think it might be difficult to establish moss in the dry, sunny areas. Another thing to think about is that the stepping-stones, should they become covered with moss, could be quite slippery in wet weather. The method, if you decide to try it on a section of pathway, is to take pinches of lawn mosses and process them in a blender with yoghurt and water. Pour the mixture over or dab it onto areas where moss is desired. Moss will form and grow best in damp, shaded places.

As for the thymes, even drought tolerant plants need to be watered regularly during their settling-in time, as they establish strong root systems over the first year or so in a garden.

Among the low-growing thymes suitable for establishi­ng between stepping-stones, the easiest, fastest spreading and most drought tolerant one I have grown is Minus thyme (Thymus praecox articus ‘Minor’). It forms a dense, dark green mat right at ground level, with pink flowers in late spring and early summer. My plantings are blooming now. A few phone calls to garden centres may unearth a local source. Otherwise, this thyme is available from Richters Herbs (357 Highway 47, Goodwood, Ont., L0C 1A0. www.richters.com).

Dear Helen: Last fall, I bought a little bag of daffodil bulbs that proved this spring to be both amazing and puzzling. Most of the flowers, unlike the usual daffodils, had several layers of frilly petals, some with centres like tightly packed roses. Will the bulbs bloom again next year? Are they geneticall­y altered?

A. You are describing double-flowered daffodils, which are not geneticall­y altered but bred in the traditiona­l way by crossing different varieties. A mixture named Double Delights, sold locally last fall, combined four of these flamboyant beauties Tahiti, double yellow and orange; White Lion in yellow and white; Golden Ducat, a petal-packed double in rich yellow; Delnashaug­h, double white mixed with frilly peach-pink centre petals. The same blend will be available again this fall.

Double daffodils bloom after the traditiona­l trumpet daffodils and are wonderful for cutting. As long as they are deadheaded, kept watered following the bloom period and allowed to die back naturally, they should bloom again next spring. If the bulbs were grown in a container, transplant into a sunny garden spot with a fertile, humus-rich, well drained soil. If you garden in containers, let the daffodil plants die down in their own time. Then lift and store the bulbs in a cool, dark place over the summer. Replant early in the autumn.

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 ??  ?? Low-growing and dense, Minus thyme is appropriat­e for establishi­ng between stepping-stones and on pathways.
Low-growing and dense, Minus thyme is appropriat­e for establishi­ng between stepping-stones and on pathways.

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