'Lavender Lady' is a true lilac developed by Descanso Gardens in La Canada Flintridge to do well in our mild, Southern California winters. These often large, bulky shrubs can now be found at many nurseries, sometimes even bare-root. Other Descanso lilac hybrids for our climate are available in purples, blues and whites.
Bare-root strawberries are in the nurseries now. Consider using these plants for their decorative value, as well as for their fruit. Plant them in hanging baskets; their green foliage, white flowers and shiny red fruit will look pretty for a long time. Another way to use them is in redwood window boxes, mixed with the small yellow daffodil 'February Gold.'
Dahlias that are in the ground should be dug up now and stored. Allow any soil that comes up with the tubers to remain, but pack the tubers in vermiculite. Because dahlias originally came from Mexico and Central America, where the winters are dry and the summers wet (the opposite of Southern California), they need an almost-dry rest period. Then they should be replanted in April, May or June.
Spinach can be grown in half whiskey barrels located on a sunny patio or balcony. Several barrels planted at staggered time intervals will yield a continuous harvest throughout our cool growing season. First, make certain there are at least three one-inch drainage holes in the bottom of each barrel. Add a time-release fertilizer to a good potting soil. Plant the spinach seeds only one inch apart, and later thin the young plants so that they are spaced three inches apart. Keep the soil moist at all times. To prolong the harvest, pick only the outer spinach leaves, and allow the rest of the plant to continue to grow and produce. 'Melody Hybrid' is a very productive spinach variety.
Shungiku, also known as chop suey greens or garland chrysanthemum, is an Oriental vegetable with the same cultural requirements as spinach. The young leaves and shoots of this rapidly maturing plant have a pungent flavor that resembles that of chrysanthemums. In addition to its use as an ingredient in many Oriental dishes, shungiku can be stir-fried or steamed and served with butter. Shungiku is strictly a cool-season green; plant it now through midwinter. Seeds are available at local nurseries, or they can be ordered by mail from Park Seed Co., Highway 254 North, Greenwood, S.C. 29647.