Want a garden full of color year-round? Start with flowers that take turns blooming according to the calendar.
This assortment features a different family of flowers for every month. Each one has proved to perform well in Sacramento, tolerating both winter chill and summer heat waves. With this group, your yard will always be in bloom.
Planting pointers: Under 8 inches tall at maturity, pansies grow very slowly from seed; for quicker color, use transplants in late fall. To encourage the fine, fibrous roots to grow out, make shallow cuts to the root ball before planting. Plant at the same depth as in the pot; too deep and they'll rot. They prefer rich, well-drained soil in a sunny spot with afternoon shade. Or plant them under a deciduous tree; they'll enjoy shade as the weather warms. Great in containers or planted over bulbs.
Care: Water two to three times a week. If they dry out, they'll quit flowering. Remove spent flowers to encourage more. Use a water-soluble fertilizer. Watch out for snails.
See for yourself: In winter, pansies decorate the grounds of the state Capitol.
Planting pointers: Add compost to soil before planting. Plant bulbs 6 inches deep in October and November. Daffodils grow well in full sun and light shade in well-drained soil.
Care: Water once a week. After blooms fade, cut back flower stalks but keep the leaves they store energy for next spring's bloom. Allow the leaves to die back naturally. Divide bulbs every five to 10 years.
See for yourself: Naturalized drifts of daffodils pop up along Interstate 80 in Davis. At higher elevation, Amador County's Daffodil Hill (18310 Rams Horn Grade, Volcano) traditionally opens in late March; call (209) 296-7048. Ironstone Vineyards in Murphys boasts 300,000 daffodils each spring.
Planting pointers: Long-lived and hardy, camellias prefer filtered shade and protection from afternoon sun, making them a good choice for under trees or for northern exposures. They like well-drained, slightly acid soil. Transplant in fall or early spring. Make sure the top of the root ball sits just above the surrounding soil level to avoid rot.
Care: Water two to three times a week. Prune lightly (if at all) right after last flowers drop in late March or April. Feed with fertilizer for acid-loving plants.
See for yourself: Check out the 88th annual Sacramento Camellia Show (www.camelliasocietyofsacramento.org) on March 3 and 4 at Memorial Auditorium. Or visit the camellia collection at Sacramento's Capitol Park.
Planting pointers: Roses need at least six hours of sun a day. Don't crowd bushes; plant at least 3 feet apart. They demand well-drained soil. Plant bare-root bushes in winter; transplant from pots in spring or fall.
Care: Water deeply once a week. Prune in winter. Remove spent flowers to prolong bloom. Fertilize monthly March through November. Mulch to conserve moisture. Watch out for aphids and fungal disease such as mildew or rust.
See for yourself: The Capitol's World Peace Rose Garden and the heritage rose garden in Sacramento's Historic City Cemetery (1000 Broadway, Sacramento, www.oldcitycemetery.com), are nationally renowned.
MAY: California lilac
Planting pointers: These shrubs can get big (up to 15 feet tall), but can be shaped into a hedge, screen or small specimen tree. The blue-flowered Concha variety stays compact (4 to 6 feet). They need full sun and good drainage. Unlike most shrubs, they actually prefer rocky, poor soil.
Care: Once established, water deeply once or twice a month. Prune only to shape. They thrive on neglect; don't fertilize or overwater, or they'll develop root rot.
See for yourself: The California Native Plant Society's demonstration garden at Sacramento's Historic City Cemetery has one of the largest ceanothus collections in the state.
Planting pointers: Find a sunny, dry spot with sandy, fast-draining soil and good air circulation. Don't crowd. Good drainage is essential; soggy or heavy soil may kill the plant. Transplant in spring or fall.
Care: Once established, water deeply every two weeks. Cut back to remove old flower stalks and keep it compact.
See for yourself: Lavender farms dot the Central Valley and foothills including Cache Creek Lavender Farm (3430 Madrone St., Rumsey, http://cachecreeklavender.com), which allows visitors to pick their own in season.
Planting pointers: As their name implies, this annual loves full sun, sheltered from wind. Sunflowers prefer rich, moist soil to promote their rapid growth. April to July, plant seed directly in the soil 1 1/2 inches deep and thin seedlings to 2 feet apart. Sunflowers have very deep roots and don't transplant well. Most varieties bloom in about 50 days.
Care: Water deeply twice a week. Feed with a liquid fertilizer weekly. Stake tall plants as they mature for more support. They can shade other crops, so grow them on the north end of the garden.
See for yourself: About 40,000 acres in Yolo, Solano and Colusa counties are devoted to sunflowers each summer.
Planting pointers: With most varieties under 2 feet tall (although some can grow to 6 feet or more), asters like sun but will tolerate partial shade. They're not picky about soil but need good drainage. Transplant in fall or spring. Some varieties are prone to mildew and rust.
Care: Once established, water every one to two weeks. Cut to the ground in winter to renew. Feed with a thin layer of compost in spring. Divide clumps every three years.
See for yourself: Purple Dome asters are featured in the Arboretum Terrace Garden on the UC Davis campus.
Planting pointers: Grown primarily from cuttings, sage is transplanted in spring or fall. Excellent drainage is a must; add grit, sand or perlite to soil if necessary. Sage likes full sun and dry feet. Give them some room to spread.
Care: Once established, water deeply every one to two weeks. Sheer off spent flowers to prompt a second wave of bloom. In winter, prune to shape.
See for yourself: See examples of California white, mint bush and hummingbird sages in Mary Wattis Brown Garden of California native plants on the UC Davis campus.
Planting pointers: Grown from cuttings, mums stay relatively short (under 3 feet) and are transplanted in spring as young plants or in fall while they're blooming. They like sun and well-drained, rich soil. They also grow well in containers.
Care: Keep them well-watered. Fertilize monthly during growing season. Pinch back plants in July to prompt more fall flowers. After bloom, cut stems to 6 inches above ground. Mums are prone to mildew and attacks by spider mites, aphids and white flies.
See for yourself: With hundreds of flowers, the Sacramento Chrysanthemum Society hosts its annual show in early November at the Shepard Garden and Arts Center, 3330 McKinley Blvd., Sacramento.
Planting pointers: Ranging from 1 to 2 feet in height, this annual likes sun but appreciates afternoon shade. In fall, plant seed 1/4-inch deep in average, well-drained soil. Once established, it will re-seed year after year.
Care: Water once or twice a week. Remove spent flowers and watch for bug or fungal attacks; calendula is prone to mildew and aphids. Treat with insecticidal soap.
See for yourself: Hamilton Square perennial garden at Sacramento's Historic City Cemetery grows calendulas mixed with lavender, poppies and roses.
DECEMBER: Poker planthttp://arboretum.ucdavis.edu.
Planting pointers: Poker plants aren't too picky; they prefer full sun or partial shade and like to grow in clumps. Bloom stalks can reach 3 feet tall.
Sow seed in early spring or propagate by division.
Care: Once established, water deeply every two weeks. Remove old flower stalks.
See for yourself: Spot examples at the arboretum's Ruth Risdon Storer Valley-Wise Garden on the UC Davis campus.