CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Our ever-energetic staff photographer Kenny Kemp called me from Capitol Market last week, excited about the beautiful flowers that were being unloaded from trucks into the vendors' stalls.
Marvin Edwards had some beautiful perennial Aquilegia'Songbird Mix,' a columbine that enjoys moisture-retentive soil and a partially shaded location, that blooms in late spring and early summer.
Also, Kenny liked hanging baskets of 'Black Velvet' petunias, the first-ever solid-black version of the popular annual. These are happy in full sun, bloom all season, and need to be watered regularly. Another petunia that caught Kenny's eye was the 'Phantom,' a black version with a yellow star pattern.
After the phone call, I made a run to the market, and it is just overflowing with beautiful flowers. A word of caution to home gardeners, however: If you plant tender annuals now, there's still a chance of frost, so you'll have to protect them on cold nights.
In addition to enthusiastic phone calls from photographers, a lot of cool things have crossed this garden writer's desk recently:
Garden Debut, a consortium of breeders, growers, retailers and marketers who have banded together to bring new plants to the marketplace, is introducing a new plant each week this spring.
So far, there's a reblooming 'Sweet Treat' lilac, with a beautiful lilac fragrance, superior disease resistance, great burgundy-red fall color, and it performs in brutal heat and humidity. Blossoms are dark lavender in bud and fade to a soft lavender/ice blue when open. It grows 5 to 6 feet tall and has a spread of 4 to 6 feet.
There's also the 'Snow Flurries' black gum with white-margined leaves that turn a ruddy color in early autumn. The tree reaches 30 to 40 feet in height, with gracefully draped lower limbs creating an oval form. 'Snow Flurries' has clean leaves without leaf spot and with no significant pest problems. Aided by its deep taproot, it is adaptable to an extremely wide variety of soil moisture conditions from poorly drained soils and low spots subject to periodic flooding, through average garden soils, and also on dry sites.
Small flowers are a great nectar source and attract honeybees resulting in prized black gum or 'Tupelo' honey. Small, dark blue football-shaped fruits are a favorite of birds and wildlife in August and September, and do not stain decks or paving.
Finally, there's the endless-blooming 'Aruba Red' daylily that provides continuous crimson blooms from spring through fall.
Learn more at www.gardendebut.com.
Allsop Home and Garden sent a postcard touting their new Soji Solar String Lights. They are available in tropical colors and all white, and the set includes 10 mini nylon lanterns, with a solar collector attached to the strand.
I went online to Allsop's site, www.allsopgarden.com, where they have beautiful solar-powered outdoor lighting. Some are pricy, but all look sturdy and there are many unique designs.
A gardening friend gave me the latest copy of the West Virginia University Extension Service's garden calendar (why didn't I get this earlier, I asked myself!) and I found the tips for this month include: