Magazine article Sunset

Flowers without Fuss: Los Angeles Farmer Tara Kolla Shares Her Secrets to Growing Great Blooms, Organically

Magazine article Sunset

Flowers without Fuss: Los Angeles Farmer Tara Kolla Shares Her Secrets to Growing Great Blooms, Organically

Article excerpt

THE MOST COMMON MYTH about growing flowers is that you need to use herbicides or pesticides to get the best blooms. But Tara Kolla, a former public relations executive turned backyard farmer, has learned how to produce beautiful bouquets organically on her half-acre of land in L.A.'s Silver Lake district. "If I can grow cutting flowers successfully, anyone can," says Kolla.

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THE FAB FOUR

Seven years of trial and error have taught Kolla which four sun-loving plants are the easiest and most trouble-free to grow organically.

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1 Poppy-flowered anemone

(A. coronaria)

WINNING QUALITIES The clear reds, blues, and whites sparkle in spring, and the blossoms' simple shapes make them perfect companions for sweet peas.

FAVORITE VARIETIES Most are sold by color; blues and pastels are Kolla's mainstay.

WHEN TO PLANT Set out tubers in early spring in cold climates; fall in mild climates (or check nurseries in spring for blooming plants).

GROWING TIPS Plant tubers at least 8 inches apart to discourage powdery mildew from forming on the leaves. Mark the location of the tubers with a plastic fork or wood stick when planting so you don't accidentally dig them up later while weeding.

2 Ranunculus

(R.asiaticus)

WINNING QUALITY Tubers produce plump flowers with papery textures and vivid hues that glow like stained glass in sunlight. Some look like miniature peonies.

FAVORITE VARIETIES All the colors this flower comes in--from red and orange to yellow, peach, and deep pink--blend well in beds. Find bulb mixes at Peaceful Valley Farm + Garden Supply (groworganic.com).

WHEN TO PLANT Set out tubers as soon as the soil is workable in cold climates; fall in mild climates (or check nurseries in spring for blooming plants).

GROWING TIPS To prevent tubers from rotting after the growing season, dig them up after foliage yellows. Cut off the dry foliage, allow roots to dry then store indoors, covered with vermiculite, in boxes.

3 Sunflower

(Helianthus annuus)

WINNING QUALITIES They're the "essence of summer," as Kolla says, and they're especially easy to grow.

FAVORITE VARIETIES 'Bright Bandolier' and 'Cinnamon Sun' (renees garden.com) are multibranching, so they look better in bouquets than the mammoth, single-flowered types. …

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