Q: We have an entrance to our home in Sun City Lincoln that is 15 feet of wall leading to the front door. Right now, there are junipers planted in the 12-inch-wide planter against that 15-foot wall. The walkway is 47 inches wide. There is only one planter on the side of the walkway.
We don't like the junipers. Do you have an idea of what would be attractive in this spot? Maybe a vine, a plant or both? The entrance is facing north.
Jean Stewart, Lincoln
A: When you have an entryway facing north, it's helpful to include an additional part of the equation; is the entry facing slightly northwest or slightly northeast? That will play a big part on the type of plant material you choose to put along the 15-foot wall with its 12 inches of planting space, said UC Master Gardener Annie Kempees. It is also important to note if the area has irrigation or good drainage.
If the entry is slightly northeast, plant material will receive some morning sun and be in shade for the remainder of the day. If the entry is facing slightly northwest, the plant material will be in shade most of the day and receive some hot afternoon sun. Finding suitable plants for the latter is more difficult as most plants are not tolerant of heat in the hottest part of the day.
Should the space be a wind tunnel for brisk breezes, that may be cause for additional planting restrictions. During the decision-making process, remember to select plants with a mature size of 12 inches or less.
One suggestion that comes to mind is an ornamental asparagus vine, Asparagus falcatus or sickle-thorn asparagus. They may produce flowers and some berrylike fruit. This vine may do well and would stay in its small space when provided a trellis 8- to 10-feet tall and will cover a fence or wall.
Liriope often called "border grass" or "lilyturf," since it's a member of the lily family is available in solid green or a variegated variety. Ornamental grasses such as carex would be a nice choice.
Walk through a nursery and note the botanical names of plants you find attractive. Refer to Sunset Western Garden Book to verify they are appropriate for your area.
Q: Last year, I transplanted daffodil, crocus and iris bulbs. I waited until they stopped blooming, transplanted them with their green leaves intact and let the leaves die back naturally.
They all came up this year, but not one of them had flowers. What did I do wrong?
Kathy Geyer, Sacramento
A: Flowering bulbs are a welcome sight in the garden, and add a lovely splash of color in spring. Crocus, daffodil, and tulips are popular bulb choices, but these brightly blooming plants each end with the same limp yellowing leaves.
While it may be tempting to trim away the tops of bulbs, or to dig them for division or transplantation, generally speaking it is best to wait to disturb bulbs until the foliage has dried completely, according to UC Master Gardener Maureen Hefti. This way, the bulb has the best chance of storing enough food to produce flowers for the next season.
Dutch iris leaves should be treated the same as daffodils.
Unlike many flowering bulbs, bearded iris seldom die back after flowering. Iris rhizomes have a period of vigorous root growth after bloom, so this is the ideal time to divide or transplant.
All flowering bulbs may become stressed when transplanting and this may affect bloom performance the following season. It is not uncommon for bulbs to skip blooming for a season after transplanting or dividing. However if bulbs do not bloom the second year, perhaps it is the location, irrigation or some other factor such as disease that is to blame.
Some gardeners choose to treat bulbs as annuals and plant new bulbs each year. If the bulbs are planted in an ideal spot, they will naturalize, or readily reproduce and rebloom.
Questions are answered by master gardeners at the UC Cooperative Extension services in Sacramento and Placer counties.
Send questions to Garden Detective, P.O. Box 15779, Sacramento, CA 95852. Send email to email@example.com. Please put "Garden Detective" in the subject field and include your postal address. To contact your UC Extension directly, call:
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