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March 4, 2009 > Pat Kite's Garden: Hot plant picks for 2009

Pat Kite's Garden: Hot plant picks for 2009

By Pat Kite

If your horticultural preference is the newest of the new in today's plant marketplace, the California Horticultural Society is giving you the "scoop!" It has teamed up with the Western Horticultural Society to show off their prize displays at the upcoming San Francisco Flower & Garden Show in San Mateo. Let's take a preview peak.

Are fruit trees your cachet? Perhaps you've never heard of the Australian Finger Lime. It's a novel-shaped lime that might be red, green or yellow on a moderately sized bush. Open it up, and the juice doesn't squirt you in the eye. Indeed, its innards look like caviar bits and you can drizzle them over salads and sauces to give the sporty touch. You can also make lime marmalade or fancy up a soft drink.

Speaking of fancy, does your bearded iris bloom just once a year? Does that make you sad? Well, the newest repeat bloomers will be at the societies' display. As you may already have read a thousand times, bearded iris need super drainage, especially in our charming clay soil. Let them wallow in mud, and they rot. I know this from expensive personal experience, although it doesn't stop me from buying new delectable colors each year. If you have a patio-type garden, iris does well in pots if you remember to water appropriately.

Keeping the repeat blooming iris company is a previously rather scarce peony type, a cross between a shrubby and a tree peony. The Itoh hybrids, yellow, pink, orange, etc., will flower almost five weeks, with more than one flower per stem. According to Sunset books, peonies will do quite well in the Tri-Cities, and definitely are worth a focal point in the garden. I recently saw one at an estate sale, ancient and thoroughly neglected, that was so spectacular people were taking pictures of it rather than snapping up bargains.

I've also seen a Banksia growing in Newark. Don't ask me where it is, the owner moved and actually dug it up and moved it with her. I would drool over that plant as I strolled by. This one, fancy name being Banksia spinulosa 'Schnapper Point," has splendiferous candle-shaped flowers in honey and red hues emerging from a compact evergreen bush. It is also drought tolerant in case you need the excuse of environmental activism to add it to your garden.

There are 300 exhibits at the San Francisco Flower & Garden Show. If driving isn't your forte, Regan's Nursery in Fremont has a chartered bus going for a reasonable fee which includes admission.

San Francisco Flower & Garden Show
March 18-22
Wednesday-Saturday: 10 a.m. - 8 p.m.
Sunday: 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.
San Mateo Event Center
2495 South Delaware St., San Mateo

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