When you walk into your local garden center and ask "what should I plant in my garden?", You can thank California's 135-year history of a blossoming flower industry for the answer. Following California's diverse and entrepreneurial spirit, the diversity you find in California's plants comes from a combination of immigration, experimental plantings, commercial farming, and shipping. There are dozens of beautiful, exotic, and hardy varieties of plants to add to your Sacramento garden. Looking at the past inspires.
The Influence of an Industry
Today, thanks to a strong beginning (and also a favorable growing climate), California's flower industry is still going strong. The state is called the "flower garden" of the United States and for a good reason. Not surprisingly, commercial production of cut flowers started in California, too. Florists and historian distinct chapter.
The Flower Industry Begins
The first part of California's flower industry began in 1870. This was a time of new growth and experimentation for many industries across California, as the state's population was exploding from arriving immigrants. Even today, you might notice that many of the plants and flowers you find in local nurseries and see growing outside are a combination of the familiar and the exotic. The first two groups of flowers that comprised the plant industry were hardy agrarian plants brought in from settlers moving west. This included prairie flowers, grasses, and shrubs. Chinese and Japanese immigrants introduced the other largest group of flowers. Many of their own native flowers, such as artemisia, did well in northern California's cooler, wetter climate and more mountainous terrain. This fragrant plant, which is still popular for gardens today, produces pretty yellow and red blossoms. For centuries, it was valued for its medicinal and therapeutic properties. Hydrangeas and sweetpeas are other common flowers from Asia. When they were first planted, Asian plants did so well in their new environment that five Japanese nurseries appeared in the Bay Area between 1890 and 1900. By the early 1930s, the Oakland region had over 80 Japanese nurseries.
The Industry's Middle Era
By the time the early 1940s arrived, California's flower industry was relatively well-established. But it did suffer a minor setback with the arrival of World War II when over 800,000 men left California to serve in the war. During this time, California transitioned from a rural, agricultural society to a modern society with an economy based on industry and technology. Collectively, these factors took a toll on the flower industry. Despite these setbacks, the flower industry had some achievements, too. In 1950, California started to package and ship flowers nationwide. In 1955, the concept of selling cut flowers began at a California supermarket. In the 1960s, particularly 1967, which was called the "Summer of Love," made flowers even more popular. By the late 1980s, cut flower shipments were a large part of the state's economy. Roses and carnations, which thrived in California's tough soils and arid climate, formed the bulk of flower orders.
The Flower Industry Today
The current chapter of California's flower industry dates back to 1994. While the focus of the state's flower business was exporting products, imported plants became more popular in the 1990s. In the early 1990s, the state started importing colorful stems and flowers from South America, primarily Ecuador and Colombia. By the mid-1990s, the size of the flower market significantly expanded because of South American flowers. Today, many flowers native to South America flourish in California's climate. Jacaranda and Spanish broom are just a few. Look for these and other native species to add variety to your garden.
Planting for the Climate
Over time, California's plants have adapted nicely to the generally warm and mild local climate. But fast-forward to the present, and you'll also have to consider the local climate where you're planning a garden. The weather in Sacramento, which is in northern California, is different than the climate in other parts of the state. Therefore, you'll have to consider this when you set out to create your first garden.
Local Sacramento Conditions
The summer season in Sacramento is generally arid and desert-like. Long, hot summers with little rainfall are the norm. In July, which is usually the warmest month, average highs are above 90ºF. Winters are cooler and wetter. In January, which is the coldest month, the average high is 54ºF, and the average low is about 39ºF. December, January, and February are the wettest months. Since nights can get cold during the winter months, it's best to avoid plants that can suffer during a frost.
What to Plant and When
Today, you'll find a variety of enticing options for a Sacramento garden. Since the climate varies throughout the year, it's best to start your plantings based on the season. January is an ideal time to plant zinnia, marigolds, salvia, asters, and sunflowers. Poppies, which are the state flower and one of the easiest to grow, can also be planted during this time of year. Peas and snapdragons, which are native to Asia, will bloom by spring if planted at this time, too. Since the nights can still get cold, start these flowers indoors for best results.
By early spring, most plantings can be moved outside. March and April are when you can plant zinnias, azaleas, and rhododendrons outdoors. Plants that you've started indoors can be planted outside and trimmed if needed.
If you're thinking of starting an edible garden, a number of fruit trees and vegetables also do well in the local climate. Olive trees, citrus trees, and even apple trees can all grow in the Sacramento area. Hardy plants like cabbage and broccoli can also be planted during the winter and early spring. Early May is an ideal time to plant peas and carrots.
Any visit to a local garden center can be inspiring, but knowing the history behind the plants and flowers you're seeing makes starting a garden even more fun and meaningful. From ancient medicinal and South American plants to hardy American vegetables and crop plants, there are many great varieties to plant in a Sacramento garden.