All About Gardening and Gardening Q & A by Pernell Gerver

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"The Best Spring-Blooming Perennials"

Spring-blooming perennials provide some of the earliest color in the flower garden. Many bloom alongside the spring-blooming bulbs like daffodils and early tulips and are wonderful companions. Spring-blooming perennials return year after year in the garden. Click on a plant name to order it from Pernell Gerver's Online Store.

Christmas rose and Lenten rose are two of the earliest-blooming perennials in my garden.

Christmas rose can be in bloom as early as Christmas, especially in winters when there is little snow cover. In my garden, it blooms reliably by Valentine's Day every year. It bears up to a dozen single, white, four-inch-wide, rounded flowers that stand about a foot high. It has handsome, evergreen foliage that forms a foot high and wide mound.

Lenten rose begins blooming in mid March and continues blooming for up to four months. I've had Lenten rose bloom from March to July in my garden. It bears flowers in shades of purple, plum, and rose, many with spotted or speckled flower petals. Lenten rose has evergreen foliage that grows about a foot and a half tall and mature clumps can reach three feet across for a stunning early-spring display.

Fringed bleeding heart 'King of Hearts'Fringed bleeding heart is another spring-blooming perennial that begins blooming very early in the season. I've seen it in bloom in my garden as early as late March. The new cultivar 'King of Hearts' has medium-green, finely-divided foliage that forms a handsome clump. Large, bleeding-heart-shaped flowers are held in clusters on stems that stand above the foliage. Unlike the common bleeding heart that goes dormant after blooming leaving a hole in the garden, fringed bleeding heart 'King of Hearts' blooms from early spring to frost, making it one of the longest-blooming perennials in the garden.

Dianthus 'First Love' Dianthus is a mid- to late-spring-blooming perennial. The variety 'First Love' is a new introduction with striking flowers. It's a clump-forming dianthus that bears eye-catching flowers that begin blooming white, then change to light pink, then dark pink as the flower matures. All three colors are in bloom at any one time. The spicy-scented flowers bloom from late spring to frost. Its gray-green foliage is evergreen and looks good year ‘round. It grows well in sun to part shade.

Bearded iris bloom in mid to late spring. One of the nicest ones is Iris pallida. It's a stunning, variegated iris. Its sword-like foliage is green with a wide, creamy-yellow center. Tall flower stems carry violet-blue flowers. The flowers have a sweet fragrance reminiscent of grapes. The flowers are a striking combination with the foliage. Even when not in bloom, this iris has something to offer the garden.


Pernell Gerver's Gardening Q & Aby Pernell Gerver

"Cutworm Damage Can Be Prevented"

Q. I'm having my annual problem with cutworms once again. Can you tell me what I can do to control them? Thank you for your help.

A. Cutworms are insidious little critters that live within the soil. They are large, fleshy caterpillars that curl into a tight ball when disturbed. They damage plants by chewing on the roots and stems. Oftentimes, they will chew completely through the stem, causing the plant to topple over. Spring transplants of flowers and vegetables are especially vulnerable to cutworms.

The adult form of cutworm is a dark-colored, night-flying moth that has stripes on its front wings. It comes out at dusk and feeds on the nectar of flowers. It is also attracted to light and can be seen flitting around lights at night in summer.

The best way to control cutworms is to use Diatomaceous Earth, or D.E., for short. D.E. is made from diatoms - ancient, microscopic sea creatures. This powder is effective on a wide range of soft-bodied crawling and soil insects. The insects come in contact with or ingest the powder and die. One application at planting time is usually enough to control the cutworms and prevent the damage.

Click here to read more about Diatomaceous Earth and order it from Pernell Gerver's Online Store.

Click here to submit gardening questions for Pernell Gerver's online Q & A column.

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