Sunday, June 17, 2018

Live and Learn

I titled this week's post "Live and Learn" but when you see the photo you'll wonder if I did learn anything.  In the past I have used verbenas a lot in the containers - they make great spillers.  But.....I forget that they have their own special set of issues they bring to the table -- or pot in this case.  One of them is spider mites.  Give the plants a long, hot, dry spell and the spider mites comes to feast on the weakened plant.  Since I use a systemic insecticide that didn't worry me as much.  Long, hot, dry spells are are a different problem alone for the plant - hopefully regular watering will help there.

What my memory didn't bring back up was that verbenas need deadheading!!!  Without regular grooming the plants won't bloom as vigorously.  With one or two containers it isn't much trouble to nip away the spent flowers, but with the large number I have in the city it is a chore. 

The flowers of Verbena Empress Flair White are worthy of using though.  Check out the fresh, full blooms here:

Unfortunately there is another aspect of this variety that I'm not happy with and that is how the spent blooms progress to seed head.  Yuck!!

The old, brownish petals are easy enough to remove by just shaking or brushing the flower head.  Easy enough to do if, again, you only have a few pots. I'll keep after these guys for this season but I have finally "learned" -- no more verbenas for the city pots. 

All that said, please don't give up on verbenas as a whole.  There are many other varieties that are real work horses and give great color.  One that I have used in the past is Biloxi Blue - strong grower with nice self cleaning habits. 

For now - I'm headed into town to tend to these fussy little guys. 

Sunday, June 10, 2018


This week is all about the caladiums I've used in the containers.  Don't do many caladiums mainly because there aren't very many containers left that have enough tree shade.  Sadly, a lot of our beautiful, old trees have had to be cut down due to disease or the danger of aging limbs falling.  New ones have been planted but it will be years before serious shade will be available.

Caladiums offer so much in color and texture that they should be considered for any shade container.  I do have my favorites though.  Here are the ones I placed this year.

This might be my favorite - at least this year.  Gingerland has a crisp, clean look about it.  I really like the splash of red which makes it easy to combine with other reds.  For this container though I opted to do mostly whites.  This container is one of the few that are in shade most of the day with just a bit of morning sun.  The companion plants are Angelonia Serena White, and Torenia Summer Wave White. 

When you start with a totally white caladium you have a wide range of colors you can combine with it, but I decided to do an all white for this container.  It gets some sun but not enough to burn the caladium and just enough for the companion plants that tolerate the sun to thrive.  This caladium is Moonlight with Vinca Cora White and Scaevola Surdiva White as the trailer.  I have scaevola in other containers with more sun and it is very vigorous there - needing to prune it back a bit to allow for the uprights to fill in.  But once the uprights are strong, the scaevola seems to mind its manners and stay in its place.

Okay, you are going to question the name of this one - White Queen.  What's with the strong red?  Don't know - I wasn't in the room when they named this one.  But it is pretty.  A little harder to combine with other strong colors.  Penta Butterfly White is the filler with Carex Evergold grass around it.  The grass is a hold over from the winter containers.  The spiller is Torenia Summer Wave Gold.  The torenia is a combination of gold and purple which is a strong statement against the red and white of the caladium but it does pick up the gold from the strong yellow of the grass and is far enough away from the red that it isn't offensive.

Last but definitely not least is Miss Muffett.  The spots on this one are not quite red, more of a deep burgundy with a flush of rose running around the leaves.  And that made Vinca Cora Punch and Supertunia Misty Lilac combine very nicely.  The petunias I used this year were very happy with the cooler weather and healthy rains resulting in vigorous growth, so early pruning was called for to keep them off of the companion plants until they grew large enough to compete.  Not complaining - happy when plants grow!!!

Caladiums are great container plants - just remember not to over water them.

Friday, June 1, 2018

All In Bloom

The installation went so smoothly thanks to my new friends and super workers - Cindy and Jennifer.  And now we have the rains!!  The plants are so happy with the super charged water from the heavens and are blooming to excess. can stop raining any time now or those same very happy plants will be covered in mildew and struggling with root rot.  Let's think happy thoughts for now.  Here are a few pictures of the containers.  More to follow -- if the rain would stop long enough for me to take some.

This combination is a little "off" on the colors that were put together.  The spiller is Vinca Cora Cascade Magenta and it has a little too much fuschia for the red of the Whopper Begonia.  The fillers are Angelonia Serena White and Penta Butterfly White which give enough space between the reds to allow the eye not to see both at the same time.  Wouldn't do this again but all the players are performing really well so I won't complaint too much.

Went with no competing colors on this one.  Really like the cooling effect it gives.  The caladium is Moonlight with Vinca Cora White next to it and Scaevola White as the spiller.  The scaevola has been a great performer so far and is almost taking over some containers.  Gentle pruning is keeping it in check.

Believe it or not there are three different plants in this container!!  One of my favorite petunias - Supertunia Vista Bubblegum apparently is very happy in this pot.  In the middle is an autumn fern and some pentas.  Will have to do some serious pruning to find them though.  But if you are looking for a great petunia - here it is.

The rains have been good for the containers but a check of the pots today showed that a few of the vincas have rotted out.  The Cora series of vinca is a strong plant but they do need some drying out time.  Hope to see the sun on a regular basis next week.  More pictures to come!!!

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Containers Are Planted!!!

It was a long winter - long, cold, and freezing - and I'm not a hundred percent certain that spring is really going to show up.  The official date has come and gone but the weather didn't act like it was spring.  The winter containers struggled to the end with just the snapdragons looking good.  Can't saw enough about the Liberty series of snaps.  To be fair though, the Dusty Millers were champs too. 

But they are gone and the spring/summer plants are in their new homes.  And I could not have done it without the great help of my grand daughter Lee and the magnificent duo of Jennifer and Cindy.  The weather gods were predicting rain for Sunday afternoon of the weekend planting.  Sunday morning is THE best time to do anything with the containers -- everyone is either at church or home thinking they should be at church - so the curbs were empty and there was easy access to all the containers.

The rain came as predicted just as the last of the containers were being filled.  But look at this dedication from Jennifer and Cindy

They had forgotten their rain jackets and had borrowed Cindy's mother's - thus the "too small" fit.  But they forged on and by the time the rains came with seriousness all the containers were done!!

The plants are not ready for their photo debut just yet, with the exception of a few that I'll share in a jiffy.  But I do have to say that the "keepers" from the fall/winter series look great.  Carex Everest and Evergold look robust while not overtaking their space.  Of course, the autumn ferns are true soldiers and now putting out new growth. 

This next photo shows the carex along with Torenia Summer Wave Gold - a trailer for part shade/shade. 

The carex, autumn fern in the middle and the torenia at the edge.

Close up of Torenia Summer Wave Gold.  Stay tuned to its future growth!!

The rain has stopped -- and the sun is out.  Should get lots of blooms - and then lots of photos. Be back soon!

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

There Is Ugly Too

As I was redecorating a room in my home a friend told me "you can't ignore the elephant in the room".  The "elephant" was drapery that I didn't want to remove because of the cost - but it was UGLY - and trying to decorate around it was not working. 

And so, while I  tell you about the pretty pots around town I have to admit there are a few just plain ugly ones that could never recover from the heat of last fall and then had to endure the long, cold temperatures that sapped their meager strength. 

But this has been a great learning experience.  This is where garden diaries are a great help.  Write down the winners AND the losers - and the reasons for the success and failures.  The "why" of both is important to the success of your garden.

Every time I plant something in this container it struggles.  Why?  Too much shade!  Just maybe, I tell myself, these plants will work this time.  Violas need sun.  Snaps need sun.  And the hour or two the container gets in the morning just isn't enough.  There is an autumn fern in the middle but even it isn't happy.  Time to address the elephant in the room.

Wish I could just take out everything in this container, leaving it bare until the spring changeover, but that can't happen.  Unfortunately, folks seem to think a container with no plants is a giant ashtray or trash container.  So until the April changeover this will have to do and just maybe the violas will rally to the challenge and fill out more.  They are Sorbet Lemon Chiffon, one of the tougher ones I use, so stay tuned to see if they do meet the challenge.

Lesson to be learned!  Know the elephant in your garden. 

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Sunshine Yellow Brightens The Day

Grooming the containers is now a real joy as the weather warms just enough to encourage new growth and blooms.  While all the violas have a cheery attitude, some of them really bring a smile, and Penny Clear Yellow really does that. 

These are also large blooms for a viola, adding to the impact.  Really like the subtle shading of the colors, which gives the flower more depth.

Here it is in one of the containers.  The snaps haven't started to bloom yet so the violas have to carry the whole show - but do that pretty darn well.

The parsley is filling out very well -- but you can hardly hold parsley back.  Without constant pruning it would take over they container. 

This will be the last season for the Rosemary BBQ.  It is a good winter/summer plant for its evergreen habit but after two full seasons it gets woody looking.  Put in a different one last past fall - Rosemary Tuscan Blue.  Much prettier, with softer leaves - but it was NOT happy with the low temps and burned out.  Waiting to see if it recovers enough to stay and will seriously consider using it again if the Farmer's Almanac predicts a better year.   Rosemary is a nice change from kales - the other winter staple used as center pieces.  And nothing eats it!!! 

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Nature Triumphs

I should have been more confident about the plants I chose to put in the containers -- they not only survived the freezing temperatures -- they are happily blooming.  Well, most of them are anyway.   The violas that struggled with the long warm days had an equally hard time with the long cold days.  But take a look at this container --

The Redbor Kale loved those low temps, which brought out the bright fuchsia color in the center.  And that really connected with those shades in the Sorbet Orchid Rose Beacon violas.  Tucked in between is Dusty Miller Cirrus, giving a little relief to the eye with its silver tones and soft textures. 

Sorbet Orchid Rose Beacon's shadings add a lot of interest in the container - almost like have several different violas instead of just one.  It has been a good performer, jumping back after losing most of its blooms to the freeze.  A definite return companion. 

Lesson learned - don't be too quick to throw out the plants that might look to be goners.  A careful pruning back of just the seriously dead material allowed enough of the plant to make food for new growth. 

Be back tomorrow with some photos of Penny Orange violas -- their color is really catching the eye on these long dreary days.