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GARDENING

Heralding Warm Weather With Sweet Angel's Trumpet

August 03, 1996|JULIE BAWDEN DAVIS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

For an evergreen shrub with eye-catching flowers, try brugmansia, otherwise known as angel's trumpet.

This shrub produces extraordinarily fragrant, 8- to 10-inch long, trumpet-shaped flowers in white, yellow, pink and apricot, Steve Kawaratani, owner of Laguna Nursery in Laguna Beach, said.

"Angel's trumpet generally blooms from midsummer until early winter, although during last year's mild winter they never stopped blooming," he said. "The plant is particularly fragrant in the evening."

Native to Peru, angel's trumpet is a subtropical plant that thrives in warm weather, said Kawaratani. Most nurseries should have a good selection at this time. They come in 1-, 5- and 15-gallon containers.

Kawaratani suggests keeping the following tips in mind when growing angel's trumpet:

* Choose a planting location carefully. Brugmansia won't tolerate cold or wind. Place the plant in a protected location that gets at least six hours of sun a day.

* Provide enough space. These shrubs can grow 15 feet tall and 15 feet wide, although they can be kept to 5 or 6 feet with pruning. Choose a location that will provide adequate space for a full-grown plant.

* Prepare the soil. Brugmansia require well-draining soil. Dig a generous planting hole that is at least twice as wide as the container and 1 1/2 times as deep. Then fill the hole with equal parts of planter mix, washed horticultural sand and garden soil.

If you suspect poor drainage, before adding amendments, test drainage by filling the planting hole with water. The water should be gone in a couple of hours. If it hasn't drained by the next morning, improve drainage before planting.

Correct the drainage problem by renting a post hole digger and using it to create an additional hole in the center of the planting hole about four to 6 inches wide and at least 18 inches deep.

Fill this hole with half-inch coarse gravel and cover it with filter cloth to prevent soil from leaching into the gravel. Gravel and filter cloth can be purchased from a nursery or building supply store.

* Water frequently and deeply. angel's trumpet requires regular watering, especially during the warm months when it is in full bloom. In the summer, it is almost impossible to over water brugmansia in pots.

* Containerize. Angel's trumpet grows well in containers, as long as it is kept well watered. Use a high quality potting soil that contains water-storing polymer granules, which will keep the soil moist for longer periods of time.

* Fertilize regularly. Brugmansia are heavy feeders during the warm months. Feed in ground plants with an all-purpose granular fertilizer once a month and apply liquid fertilizer to container plants every two weeks, alternating between fish emulsion and a fertilizer formulated to encourage blooming.

* Watch for pests. Brugmansia attract spider mites and various worms, such as cabbage loopers. Control spider mites by applying an ultra-fine horticultural oil spray and kill worms with Bacillus thuringiensis.

* Prune in spring. Brugmansia can grow rangy. Cut back branches to one or two buds in early spring.

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