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Coral bells with a difference

This Primo Wild Rose Heuchera from Proven Winners is a lovely wine purple. These plants brighten up shady spots. (Photos: Debbie Arrington)

New varieties come in eye-popping colors

This nostalgic favorite has a bold new look – thanks to clever breeding.

The little flowers above the leaves add
a cute touch in spring.
Coral bells, the common name for the Heuchera family, are relatively easy to hybridize. Different species and parents readily cross with each other, creating new varieties with all sorts of interesting characteristics. There are fewer than 40 species of Heuchera (including several native to California and the Southwest), but hundreds of named hybridized varieties.

Their often-variegated foliage comes in almost every color, from creamy white to silvery charcoal. As a bonus, charming sprigs of flowers – the bells – sprout from the low-growing mass of attractive deeply cut leaves.

Great choices for a low-water garden, Heucheras are naturally drought-tolerant perennials; they need only weekly or twice monthly irrigation. Most bloom readily in partial shade. And they’re super low care; just snip off the spent flowers. Like most perennials, they die back in winter, but come on strong each spring.

My favorite Heuchera right now adds a brilliant splash of wine purple in a shady spot next to the patio. Part of the Primo series from Proven Winners, Primo Wild Rose holds its unusual color throughout the year. The vivid leaves are veined in dark gray and glisten with a metallic touch. The pink flowers? They’re just cute.


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of March 19:

Spring will start a bit soggy, but there’s still plenty to do between showers:

* Fertilize roses, annual flowers and berries as spring growth begins to appear.

* Watch out for aphids. Wash off plants with strong blast from the hose.

* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them as soon as they sprout.

* Prepare summer vegetable beds. Spade in compost and other amendments.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* Feed camellias at the end of their bloom cycle. Pick up browned and fallen flowers to fight blossom blight.

* Feed citrus trees as they start to blossom.

* Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth.

* Seed and renovate the lawn (if you still have one). Feed cool-season grasses such as bent, blue, rye and fescue with a slow-release fertilizer. Check the irrigation system and perform maintenance. Make sure sprinkler heads are turned toward the lawn, not the sidewalk.

* In the vegetable garden, transplant lettuce and kale.

* Seed chard and beets directly into the ground.

* Plant summer bulbs, including gladiolus, tuberous begonias and callas. Also plant dahlia tubers.

* Shop for perennials. Many varieties are available in local nurseries and at plant events. They can be transplanted now while the weather remains relatively cool.

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