In the Long Beach area, you can have flowers blooming in your garden all through the winter months. This is the time of the year when floral beauty attains its greatest value. This is when skies are often gray and when the sun is not a daily visitor. By planting now you will have color in your landscape during the middle of the winter season.
Calendulas are one of your best bets for cool weather. The name of the flower is associated with calendar and is interpreted to mean that the flowers bloom throughout the calendar year. They have the greatest value in winter because flowers at that time are comparatively rare. Calendulas are often referred to as winter marigolds.
One of the most amazing features of the calendula is its ability to flower even when the sun falls to shine. However, it is advisable to set the plants or sow seed out in the open. Plants started now should flower some time in December and will continue for months at a time. Several types of calendula arc available, most of them carrying tones of yellow, orange and gold.
Snapdragons are also an excellent variety for winter culture in the Long Beach area. They prefer a cool growing season and are excellent both in the garden and inside the home for floral decorations. Practically all available strains are now rust-proof. Should any plants be stricken with this disease they should be removed from the garden immediately. Rust appears as chocolate-colored pustules that show up on the under side of the leaves and also on the stems. For extra large flowers select the Tetra strain of snaps. The blooms are giants and the plants are stronger and taller than most strains. They grow to about two and one-half feet at maturity.
Pansy plants are available in Southern California throughout fall, winter and spring. Actually the plants will thrive in the warmer part of the year if sufficient moisture is supplied. But it is probably easier to grow the plants when the weather is somewhat on the cooler side.
The Swiss Giants are undoubtedly the preferred strain for this locality. The flowers are larger and the plants taller. But this means that more water must be supplied than for the low growing types. This is because the roots must pump sufficient moisture to the tops of the plants. Unless the soil has a high water content the plants will strain themselves in their effort to supply the topgrowth with sufficient moisture. So don’t let the plants go thirsty.
Stocks do well at this time and one strain, because it likes cool weather so well, has been named the Giant Winter variety. Actually in Southern California stocks can be grown outdoors throughout the year. This contrasts interestingly with the culture of stocks back east, where they are mainly a greenhouse plant during the winter. The plants attain a height of 18 inches and flower from seed in three months or less. The Winter Nice stock is apparently the most popular variety for general garden purposes in this area. The double giant column stock is preferred if exhibition blooms are desired.
Other plants that do a good job of flowering during cool weather include: Violas, African daisies, winter-flowering sweet peas, larkspur, centaurea, verbena, sweet William, arctotis and primulas. Keep in mind that generally plants grow more slowly in cool weather. So don’t be too impatient if the flowers fail to appear as early as you wish.