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Gifts That Take Root

Blooming plants give Mom her favorite flowers along with fond memories (of you!) for years to come.

May 08, 1999|JULIE BAWDEN DAVIS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

This Mother's Day, instead of cut flowers, try giving your mom something more long-lasting--a plant.

"Unlike a bouquet, a plant will give your mother a lingering remembrance," says Ron Vanderhoff, nursery manager of Roger's Gardens in Corona del Mar. "A rosebush, for instance, will grow larger every year, gaining more and more sentimental value. Your mom will always remember receiving it from you, even years from now.

"And, in many ways, it makes sense to give Mom a plant, because plants convey a sense of beauty, peace and permanence that signifies what Mother's Day is all about," he says.

Miniature roses are a favorite gift for Mother's Day, says Laurie Chaffin, owner of Pixie Treasures Roses in Yorba Linda, because they fit into most gardens, are easy to grow and last for years.

"If you've had bad luck growing miniatures, you probably had a hothouse variety that was forced," Chaffin says. "Unfortunately, these barely rooted cuttings don't have a chance once they're taken out of the controlled environment of the hothouse, and most die. All of our varieties have been grown outdoors and will last for years with no problems."

These pretty, dainty flowers come in many sizes, from 12 inches to 2 feet high, depending on the variety. Pixie Treasures carries about 140 varieties of miniatures with a huge selection of color. Some are even fragrant.

Although they may be dainty in appearance, miniatures don't require delicate treatment. Grow them outdoors in lots of sun and give them plenty of water. They grow well in almost any kind of container with good drainage, including pots and baskets.

Don't feed with a regular rose food, or a systemic, both of which will burn them. Use something mild such as fish emulsion and a seaweed or sea-kelp extract, according to package directions.

When transplanting, don't disturb the root system. Simply plant the miniature the same way it came out of its pot, and it won't suffer from transplant shock.

Hybrid tea roses are also popular, especially thornless types. These long-stemmed beauties bloom profusely, are disease-resistant and come in a variety of colors, including pink, peach and red.

The Smooth Touch series of roses offer beauty without the thorns. These roses are readily available now that one of the world's largest wholesale growers of container plants, Monrovia Nursery in Azusa, is growing them.

These long-stemmed hybrid tea roses are good repeat bloomers, flowering from spring to fall. They are also disease-resistant, and some selections are quite fragrant.

'Smooth Satin' is a peachy-pink color with a pleasing fragrance. It grows to 4 feet with attractive, glossy foliage.

'Smooth Lady' has a fragrant pink flower. It grows 5 to 6 feet tall. Other thornless roses include 'Smooth Angel,' which has an apricot center with a cream edge; 'Smooth Velvet,' a deep red, with some fragrance, and the extremely fragrant 'Smooth Prince,' which is a deep scarlet-red color.

Grow these in full sun in the ground, or a container that is at least 20 inches or larger.

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Gift baskets brimming with live plants are another alternative to a bouquet. Roger's has English Garden baskets that have a variety of potted plants concealed with moss and decorated with ribbon.

Some stunning plants, such as orchids, make a gift on their own. If your mother is new to growing orchids, try the phaleanopsis for the indoors and cymbidiums for outdoor cultivation. Both are good beginner orchids that are not difficult to bloom.

Phaleanopsis orchids come in many colors, including white, pink and lavender. These bloom for six to 12 weeks in the spring. Once the first bloom finishes, which lasts six weeks, cut it off below the last flower, and you'll often get a second flower spike that will bloom for another six weeks. Once that second flower spike is done, prune it off at the base.

Cymbidium orchids are primarily outdoor plants in our climate, although they can be brought indoors when in bloom. The flowers come in soft yellow, pink, mauve, light green and creamy white. Surprisingly easy to grow, they readily flower each spring, as long as they are a little pot-bound (crowded in their pot).

Both of these orchid types should be grown in containers in orchid bark. Place phaleanopsis in an indoor area that has bright, but not direct sunlight. Cymbidiums should grow in an outdoor location with morning or late afternoon-evening sun, but no midday sun, which will burn them.

Both orchid types have special fertilizer requirements, depending on the season. From late October until they begin blooming in April, use a bud and bloom food. Once they stop flowering around May, provide them with an orchid food designed for foliage growth until the end of October. Follow package directions for frequency.

Proper watering is important. Keep orchids moist but never soggy or sitting in water.

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If you'd like to give your mom something for her existing garden, try heliotrope. This showy, old-fashioned favorite has made a comeback in recent years. It has romantic blooms in purple and white. The white ones emit a strong vanilla fragrance, and the purple ones have a more mild scent. This shrubby plant grows up to 4 feet high, although the new cultivar 'Marine' is more compact, reaching just 12 to 15 inches tall.

Grow in full sun along the coast and part shade or filtered sun inland in rich garden soil with good drainage. Keep soil moist but never soggy. Fertilize every three to four weeks with an all-purpose flower food. In fall, cut back halfway to trim and shape, because it can become rangy.

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