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This euphorbia puts thrill in fill

Diamond Mountain euphorbia has tiny winged flowers. It's new from Proven Winners. (Photos: Debbie Arrington)

Euphorbia fills in beautifully between Supertunia and Angelonia.
New plant introduction: Frilly but tough Diamond Mountain loves Sacramento heat

One plant can change a whole family's reputation. It can put the thrill into fill.

Such is the case with a surprising euphorbia that should find a home on California patios for many summers to come. Called Diamond Mountain, this euphorbia hybrid is a new introduction from Proven Winners. It's similar to an earlier introduction, Diamond Frost, but bigger -- 24 to 36 inches tall and wide.

Euphorbia is better known by its common name: spurge. Sacramento gardeners rank spurge among their most hated weeds. But euphorbia is a big family, and this hybrid plays up its good points. What makes spurge such a persistent weed works for Diamond Mountain: It has very low-water demands, needs no maintenance, withstands intense heat, grows quickly and blooms like crazy -- in full sun or mostly shade.

Diamond Mountain also plays an underappreciated but very useful role: It's good filler. Like baby's breath in bouquets, it's a tiny little white flower that fills the gaps around the big showy blooms. But those little flowers make their counterparts look better and visually hold the arrangement together.
That same concept works in container gardens and larger landscape beds. With its strange winged white flowers, Diamond Mountain sparkles in part shade -- or moonlight. It's a very attractive supporting player.

Hardy in zones 10 and 11, Diamond Mountain is right on the edge of its comfort zone in Sacramento's 9b, where it likely will die off due to winter frost. But I expect mine to keep blooming through November; since it stays pretty warm on the patio.

Diamond Mountain LOVED this Sacramento summer. It thrived in a large container with two other test plants, Angelface Steel Blue summer snapdragon (an Angelonia hybrid) and cascading Supertunia Vista Bubblegum (a highly rated pink petunia hybrid). All three are non-stop bloomers and complemented each other well. With its airy cloud of flowers, the euphorbia proved to be the head turner. Visitors wondered, "What is that?! "

Another plus: Diamond Mountain didn't get eaten by bugs. While snails chewed on the petunia and something else nibbled Angelface, the euphorbia grew untouched, thanks probably to its white latex sap. (That sticky sap can cause allergic reactions or skin irritation; wear gloves when working with this plant.)

Diamond Mountain has attractive foliage, too, that forms a softly mounded green pillow beneath the long-stemmed frilly blooms. It's such a delicate look for a very tough plant, and opened my eyes to euphorbia's potential. Next time I hear euphorbia, I won't automatically think spurge.


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Garden Checklist for week of May 19

Temperatures will be a bit higher than normal in the afternoons this week. Take care of chores early in the day – then enjoy the afternoon. It’s time to smell the roses.

* Plant, plant, plant! It’s prime planting season in the Sacramento area. If you haven’t already, it’s time to set out those tomato transplants along with peppers and eggplants. Pinch off any flowers on new transplants to make them concentrate on establishing roots instead of setting premature fruit.

* Direct-seed melons, cucumbers, summer squash, corn, radishes, pumpkins and annual herbs such as basil.

* Harvest cabbage, lettuce, peas and green onions.

* In the flower garden, direct-seed sunflowers, cosmos, salvia, zinnias, marigolds, celosia and asters.

* Plant dahlia tubers. Other perennials to set out include verbena, coreopsis, coneflower and astilbe.

* Transplant petunias, marigolds and perennial flowers such as astilbe, columbine, coneflowers, coreopsis, dahlias, rudbeckia and verbena.

* Keep an eye out for slugs, snails, earwigs and aphids that want to dine on tender new growth.

* Feed summer bloomers with a balanced fertilizer.

* For continued bloom, cut off spent flowers on roses as well as other flowering plants.

* Don’t forget to water. Seedlings need moisture. Deep watering will help build strong roots and healthy plants.

* Add mulch to the garden to help keep that precious water from evaporating. Mulch also cuts down on weeds. But don’t let it mound around the stems or trunks of trees or shrubs. Leave about a 6-inch to 1-foot circle to avoid crown rot or other problems.

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