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From Grocery Store to Garden, Foothill-Style

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Do you ever walk by the display of living, blooming plants in the grocery store and wonder, “Will it die or can it survive?” I will divulge my secret source of cheap perennials that do well year after year-the grocery store. Here are four that have done well over the years at my 3000′ elevation:

Miniature roses are the absolute stars. Colors of red, yellow and white are easy to find, with an occasional gem of a unique hue. They survive winter snows. Gophers may nibble the roots and clean the stems of leaves as high as they can reach, but the roses continue to bloom and grow. The blossoms may be small, but the plants can grow to more than three feet tall.
Plant a row of them for a living fence. If you bury long stems, they will often root to multiply your crop of flowers. The survival rate is virtually 100% since you can take cuttings, even from a dying plant. They will tolerate soggy periods and dusty, dry periods. They bloom several times a year. Hummingbirds and butterflies visit them.

Lilies are elegant and beautiful. After displaying them in your house, you can plant them in the garden. White Easter lilies and the exquisite stargazer lilies both come back year after year.
Easter lilies grow to about 18 inches. Of course, the bloom time in the ground may not coincide with Easter, since they are manipulated in greenhouses the first year. Bloom time will also depend on the exposure where you plant them. Generally, the sunnier their location, the earlier they bloom. They like mostly sun on top and shady, moist conditions near the roots. You can leave them in the pot and dig a hole to set the pot into the ground; they don’t seem bothered by crowding.
The stargazer will produce a stalk as thick as your thumb and about four feet tall, topped by as many as eight blossoms as big as your hand. The flowers have white petals with deep pink stripes and spots. Absolutely stunning…a florist’s favorite!
Gophers don’t seem interested in lilies. Gophers burrow right around my Easter lilies, which have multiplied for some five years now. My first stargazer is growing strong in its original wooden planter nine years later. The survival rate is about 80-90%.

Chrysanthemums are easy to keep alive. Summer shade and winter sun are their favorites (easier in pots). Since gophers LOVE them, chrysanthemums are best in planters than can’t be reached (12″ tall and up). Legginess can be a problem, so don’t hesitate to prune after blooming. A little rooting hormone powder and cuttings become new plants. These are highly successful.

Gerbera Daisies are absolute gems. They hate to have wet feet and thrive in the blazing midsummer sun. My best advice is to put them in clay pots. If they droop from dryness, a little water will bring them right back. If they get soggy and droopy, let them dry until you think they’re dead, then resume sparse watering.

Celia Kea is a Master Gardener who believes what she’s taught, but can’t help testing it anyway.