Calibrachoa. Photo: Steve Bender

I don't care what's atop your docket of things to do today -- perform brain surgery, bury your dead cat, or track down who's been texting your husband at 2 AM -- blow off all of that stuff and do something much more important. Plant these three flowers now. That other junk can wait.

Great Flower #1 -- Calibrachoa Sigh. Why can't plant growers come up with a better common name for these wonderful flowers than their botanical one, Calibrachoa? That sounds like a jungle snake. I suggest we call them "booty bells" -- folks would remember that. Sadly, that won't happen, so for now, I'm just gonna call them "callies."

Callies (shown above) are fast becoming my favorite annuals. They resemble miniature petunias (to which they are related) and grow 6-15 inches tall and wide. The single or double blooms come in every color you could want, including some that petunias don't offer, such as true orange, true yellow, and terra-cotta. Blooms appear nonstop from spring through fall, absolutely smother the tiny leaves, and you don't have to deadhead. Callies are superb for containers, hanging baskets, window boxes, and the front of the border.

How to grow: I've found callies tougher and easier to grow than most petunias, but they do have a few demands. Give them full to part sun and fertile, well-drained soil. They don't like high pH soils, so if your soil is alkaline, grow them in pots. Don't ever let them go into a full, flat-out wilt due to lack of water; they won't recover. Surprising note -- Callies often survive winter in my Zone 8A garden in central Alabama and come back in spring.

Great Flower #2 -- Blue fan flower

 

Fan flower. Photo: imgardencade.com

True blue is the hardest flower color to find, so how could you not love blue fan flower -- especially when you discover that its botanical name, Scaevola, honors the ancient Roman hero, Mutius Scaevola, who burned off his hand to prove his bravery? In a related story, our modern word "mutilate" is taken from his first name.

Fan flower (called that because of its fan-shaped blossoms) is a low spreader, seldom growing more than 6 inches tall, but spreading 2 to 3 times as wide. Like callies, it excels in both containers and garden beds and blooms nonstop into fall. You can get it in colors of lavender, purple, pink, or white, but Grumpy's favorite is blue. His favorite selection is 'Blue Wonder,' shown above. Try combining it with orange and coral flowers just because I said so.

How to grow: Fan flower likes full sun and fertile soil. Excellent drainage is a must lest it rot before your eyes. The flip side of this is that it tolerates drought.

Great Flower #3 -- Mexican Mint Marigold

 

Mexican mint marigold. Photo: Steve Bender

You may have tried growing French tarragon in the South, only to discover it's too dang hot. Well, here's a great substitute -- Mexican mint marigold (Tagetes lucida). It grows about three feet tall and wide and is perennial in USDA Zones 8-10 and annual north of that. Its smooth, narrow leaves carry the unmistakeable fragrance and flavor of tarragon, which makes it a valuable addition to your Southern herb and vegetable garden. Showy yellow flowers in late summer and fall are a bonus.

How to grow: Give the plant full sun and well-drained soil. It's trouble-free and tolerates drought.

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