On a hot summer day, a fern garden can set a mood of coolness and relaxation. Fern gardens are not hard to keep up, either: A little water now and then and a once-a-year cleanup are virtually all the maintenance they demand. Ferns come in all sizes and shapes, from small ones less than a foot high to two-story tree ferns. Start your garden now so that the plants have a chance to set down roots before the stress of summer. Plant them in large groups; that is how they look most natural. At the beginning of the growing season, it’s a good idea to feed them a slow-release, high-nitrogen fertilizer. If you’d like to add some color, try fuchsia, begonia, impatiens, hydrangea or lilies; to bloom best these plants need lots of indirect light. Ferns outside and inside the house can be divided now to their advantage.
Cymbidiums, one of the easiest of orchids to grow in Southern California, will soon finish blooming. Divide them now, before new growth starts, but bear in mind that they bloom best when root-bound and do not need repotting until the plants reach the edges of their pots. When dividing, keep several bulbs together to achieve new crowded conditions quickly, and give them a 30-10-10 fertilizer. They should have full sun until the beginning of summer, and after that, shade in the middle of the day to prevent leaf burn (which shows itself as oval black spots). Cymbidiums are among the most rewarding plants to grow, because their elegant flower spikes can last six weeks or longer.
Bearded iris are blooming now. Before you buy, you may want to visit an iris garden or an iris show to see all the glorious varieties. We have the best and newest iris in the world; even those superlative gardeners, the British, admit that the best new iris come from the Pacific Coast.