If you have room in your garden for more shrubs and want a splurge of spring color, grow some of the named hybrid brooms, which are handled by several nurseries in the Fog Belt. They do well in this area. Try to see the brooms in bloom before making your choice, for they vary in color, size and vigor.
Some flower as early as March, but the peak of bloom is in April and May. One cool year my bushes (mostly grown from seed) began to blossom late in January and wound up with scattered flowers in August. At that time most of them were heavy with black seed pods.
Take a look at Dorothy Walpole. a May-blooming broom which is quite distinctive with its 3- to 7-inch spikes of dainty red and purple flowers. Geofiry Skipwith, one of the earliest to bloom, has a creamy pink banner and keel and dark crimson wings. Pomona, orange and apricot, is a powerful grower and should be placed at a distance from other plants or it will crowd out weaker neighbors. St. Mary, which is lower than the average broom, is delightful when covered with white bloom. McGill is a redand-white dwarf.
Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys
The lily-turfs, Liriope muscari and its varieties and Mondo (Ophiopogon) jaburan, are adapted to the Big Valley garden in shade and borders where the sun is not too strong. The roots spread by means of stolons, often becoming sod; the evergreen foliage resembles coarse grass and is sometimes variegated.
The small, drooping flowers, carried in quantity close to the stem, may be violet-blue, lilac or white. You can find these plants in at least one California nursery. Liriope muscari and L spicata are only about 8 inches high; L. grandiflora and Mondo jaburan are much taller.
You can improve the quality of next year’s flowering bulbs by applying fertilizer now. Old manure is a good mulch; phosphates and potash are particularly needed to help bulbs store up food while they are in active growth.
In making up your list of summer bulbs, don’t forget two that are so tender that they must he taken up in the fall: ismene (Hymeno. callis calathina), from tropical America. and Mexican tuberose (Polianthese tuberosa), which is called a tuberose because of its tubers, not because it looks like a rose. Ismene bears large spicily fragrant flowers which resemble cream-colored daffodils. It should be planted between the middle of May and the middle of July. See that the bulb is planted 6 inches deep in rich soil in a sunny location and do not let it dry out. As for the Mexican tuberose, you can hurry the bloom along by potting up the bulbs late this month and keeping them in the house until they can be set out in May. The fragrant white flowers, which may be single or double, are carried on tall stems.