Here are plants you can plant now (mid-July) in Napa that should yield lots of pleasure per gardening minute even if you have a slightly brown thumb. The varieties recommended are often available at both standalone nurseries as well as at big-box stores.
The official, less well-known name is pelargonium. No plant gives you more flowers faster and with less trouble. Consider getting a true red or deep red rather than the less attractive orangey-red traditionally associated with geraniums. My favorite Calliope Dark Red.
This is another instant-results, no-fuss flower machine. If you want one that’s 16” tall, consider the African marigold, for example, Taishan Yellow, Gold, or Orange. If you want the 6-8” smaller flowered French marigold, my favorites are Bonanza Yellow and Bonanza Orange.
Because they’re just a foot tall yet have large flowers, I’m fond of Magellan Coral, Magellan Pink, and Dreamland Red.
Most people find tomatoes the most rewarding plant to grow, but we’re at the very tail end of the season. That said, if you buy a cherry tomato in a 4” pot or 1-gallon, and put in the ground in full sun, you should be able to harvest before frost. As of mid-July, I’ve found them only at big-box stores and supermarkets.
Available in 6-packs and 4” pots, pick by the color — My favorite is velvety dark blue.
These have miniature petunia-shaped flowers in quantity on a 6-inch tall plant: good for window boxes and front borders. Superbells and Aloha Kona are well-regarded series, each offering many colors.
They’re viable again! Impatiens have long been the go-to plant for low-growing flowering in a shady spot but for a few years, Napa, like much of the country, had an infestation of downy mildew. But all has been good in Napa for the last year or two. All varieties are good although those in the Beacon series may be particularly downy-resistant. Just pick the color you like. They’re available in white, pinks, red, and purple.
Lastly, a couple of trees that Napans find particularly rewarding. They can be planted any time between now and frost:
Orange trees offer outstanding four-season interest: They’re richly green all year, and if modestly pruned, on a shapely tree. Spring brings a profusion of fragrant white flowers, fruit form in summer and fall, and in winter, when there’s little color, orange trees are richly dotted in bright, well, orange. The Owari Satsuma or Gold Nugget mandarin orange (tangerine) do well in Napa because they’re a bit more frost-hardy than are trees that bear full-size oranges.
My favorite is the disease-resistant lavender: Muskogee.
Gardening is America’s most popular hobby and with good reason, especially in Napa, with our long growing season that’s the envy of most of the rest of the country. Enjoy.
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