Bureau's stars for 2013 are wildflowers, gerbera daisies and watermelons

2012-12-30T00:00:00Z Bureau's stars for 2013 are wildflowers, gerbera daisies and watermelonsElena Acoba Special To The Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Every year the National Garden Bureau names plants it plans to showcase for the next 12 months.

For 2013 it named watermelons, gerbera daisies and wildflowers as its "The Year of …" selections.

All of them can grow in Tucson.

WATERMELONs

Several Arizona American Indian varieties of watermelon grow in Tucson, including Hopi yellow, Navajo red seeded, Tohono O'odham red and Tohono O'odham yellow.

Lee Mason grows the Hopi and Navajo melons at Tohono Chul Park, where he's director of general services, while cactus nursery owner Greg Starr plants O'odham varieties in his private garden.

Both say to sow seeds in amended soil in the last half of April. At the park they're buried in a trench lined with a drip line. Starr plants his in water-catching basins.

Starr and Mason water the plants about every other day, skipping a day if the monsoon provides a good soaking.

Mason's melons grow to about 8 inches across, while Starr's varieties get about football size. The fruit is ready for picking if it sounds hollow when thumped.

"If you start thumping early enough, you can hear the change" when the melon's ripe, says Starr.

Some nonlocal varieties that grow well in Tucson are Sugar Baby and Mickylee, says Debbie Mounce of Harlow Gardens. Both are small and require less water than big melons.

GERBERA DAISIES

These colorful African native perennials sport flowers with long petals. Most people know them in floral arrangements, but they happily grow in pots in Tucson.

Arizona master florist and Foothills-area Safeway florist Gail Chronister suggests planting gerberas in an east location with morning sun and afternoon shade. They like filtered light.

The "bushy plants" grow as tall as 18 inches, says Rillito Nursery & Garden Center owner Beth Hargrove. They can be planted any time except on very cold days.

These are not low-water-use plants, Hargrove says, but allow the soil to dry out between waterings. They are susceptible to powdery mildew in the spring and fall.

WILDFLOWERS

You can sow wildflowers to create a carpet of blooms in your own yard.

Mounce at Harlow says these natives, among others, are best planted in October for spring color: Mexican poppies, desert marigolds, desert lupine, brittlebush and bluebells. Mexican hat can be planted in the spring for summer color.

Both natives and non-natives do fine in Tucson gardens as long as they are watered regularly to germinate and grow.

"They will give a great show in the desert without supplemental water," Mounce says, "but they only do this when we have a good amount of rainfall in the winter."

Tucson Botanical Gardens suggests these gardening tasks for January:

• Repair drip-irrigation systems and rainwater-harvesting earthworks.

• Plant bare-root fruit trees and cool-season herbs and vegetables.

• Keep a watch for freeze forecasts; cover cactus tips with foam cups and other plants with frost cloth or blankets.

Contact Tucson freelance writer Elena Acoba at acoba@dakotacom.net

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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