Monday, October 3, 2016


The season is finally nearing an end.  It has been brutal and I, for one, will be glad to take out the summer plants and bring in fresh, fall friends.  But before the summer friends leave I do have to give kudos to one tough plant -- Gomphrena 'Fireworks'.  It has been abused by people wanted to pull of a flower or two; neglected by the watering schedule; and temperatures that even heat loving plants struggled with.  But look at it after five full months in the pot and just weeks away from going to compost heaven.

It is still going strong.  I will definitely put this in my Habitat Garden at home.  While I was grooming Fireworks a butterfly landed in front of my eyes and I watched it eat its dinner.  I can only imagine how wonderful this plant will look with adequate water.  If you are local to the area (Morgan County or Athens area) check with Thomas Orchards to get this one for next year.  They can get just about anything you desire.

I'm headed to Asheville, NC for a few days and hope to get by Biltmore Estates and see their gardens.  I'm sure they are filled with autumn goodies.  Maybe I'll get some "estate" ideas to plant here in Madison.  It will be fun looking for sure.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

New Blog Address

I had the distinct pleasure of being featured in the Lake Oconee Magazine and I mentioned my blog address.  Alas, my memory is definitely fading.  I used the older address.  So if you have come here looking for my site, please use "".  That has historical and current blog postings.  Sorry for the misdirection....see you at the new site.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Bountiful Supply of Caterpillars

This morning's posting is not specifically about the City containers this time.  I wanted to share the fun I have had drawing caterpillars to my yard.  It wasn't by design actually.  My friends, Chris and Chuck Steward, who own a wholesale nursery, shared a pot of parsley with me that happened to have a "couple" caterpillar eggs on it....caterpillars that would eventually become swallowtail butterflies -- the gods willing and hungry birds don't find them first.  The caterpillars kept on multiplying and so I begged more parsley plants.  Then one day it looked like something out of a Hitchcock movie -- there were over 60 caterpillars (as many as I could count anyway) munching away on these plants.  I loved everyone of them and hoped to see 60 fluttering friends one day.  Check out this out.

And this is just one of the many pots they used.  When there was nothing left but tiny stems, I watched the few remaining guys chewing on the stubs.  Mother Nature is amazing!  Not sure where they all went but I am keeping an eye on six chrysalis (where the pupae develop into butterflies) and hoping I won't miss the "big event".  Surely, I'll be rewarded for all my efforts with at least one!!

I'm telling you all this to encourage you to plant more butterfly-attracting plants.  The beloved monarch butterfly unfortunately only eats the butterfly plant (asclepias) which is often hard to find and most certainly nearly impossible to transplant, but worth the effort to get it in your garden.  Good ole fashioned zinnias are major attractors - and talk about cheap.  Throw a handful of seeds out and you have a field of flowers.  Pentas, lantanas, yarrow, coresopsis, echinacea (coneflower) - are just a few of the easy to find plants you can put in your garden or in a pot for easy viewing on your patio.

I had the wonderful pleasure of watching, up close and very personal, literally eye-to-eye, a Gulf Fritillary land on the gomphrena "Fireworks" that is in a pot by the Courthouse.  While there are many pentas in the pots not many butterflies have visited those.    I can only assume the environment is not good for them -- too much traffic.

So when you plan for next summer's garden or pots, see which plants will not only please your eye but will also please the eye of the butterfly.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Counting The Days

I am counting the days until fall color change out can happen, and it can't happen soon enough.  Even though the containers have done exceptionally well through this intense drought, some are looking weary and ready to be relieved of their 24/7 hours of duty.  Some, I am happy to say, are still strutting their stuff; and there has even been a couple surprises in the batch.

As I mentioned before, the petunias are dropping off one by one.  Although good ole Easy Wave Misty Lilac is putting out a second (or it might be the third or fourth by now) wave of blooms.  For the most part, the plants themselves are buried under the heavy foliage of the true survivors, but straining for the sun as lots of pretty pink flowers, hanging over the edge of the boxes.

Who are those survivors?  Looking better than ever are the Dragon Wing Begonias.  Some of the pentas are turning into small shrubs.  And those alternatherias could vie kudzu for take-over status.  I am not complaining about these potential thugs though.  There really is a plan for the designs when I put at least three varieties of plants together at the beginning of the season.  I know that at least one group will fizzle out towards the bitter end of summer, leaving the hardiest ones to take over.  The container won't have its "wow" factor of colors and textures, but at least it will be full of lush foliage.

This week I put together the design for the fall plantings and sent it off to the supplier....with lots of prayers that I get my "wishes".  Notice I didn't say get my "order" always starts as a wish list and only after the supplier verifies which crops survived their planting schedule, and who on the ordering totem pole is ahead of me, will I be told what I can have.  And this year I have been told that the suppliers have cut back on what they are growing.  Keep this in mind when you shop for your garden gems.  Each year the list of available plants gets shorter and most certainly the unique, speculative plants are not being grown.  That's okay with me because I have to use only the survivors in the City containers.  Not so good with me when it comes to my own containers where I test out new things that might be added to the city group.  Fingers are crossed as I wait for my order to get approved.

Another quick note on the happenings in my back yard.  I think I told you that I have become fascinated with the life of caterpillars and butterflies.  Well, thanks to the generosity of my friends who grow herbs I had a goodly number of parsley plants -- hosts to a number of butterflies.  On just three medium sized plants I had over 43 caterpillars -- all to become black swallowtails.  More parsley needed and it came --- and so did more caterpillars.  I was up to 60 when I stopped being able to count.  Not sure where they all go but I have only found three cocoons scattered about the patio.  I can only hope the others made it to a safe place to grow into the pretty stage of their life and did not become dinner for the many birds that I also attract to the yard.  Ah well, thus is Mother Nature doing her thing.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Some Summer Winners

Once again Madison missed an opportunity to get that blessed rain we so badly need.  The perfect hurricane -- if there is such a thing -- entered the Gulf, did not do horrific damage, moved its way up into Georgia with lots of rain to share.  But not with us!  Oh well, there are still several months of hurricane opportunities to come.

On this otherwise rainy day I thought I'd share some sunshine with you through some pictures of containers from the past years.  All with the "tough as nails" plants that I like to use.

The plants in this photo are two of my favorites.  Coleus 'Redhead' and Supertunia Vista 'Bubblegum'.  In a normal year, not one like this overheated disaster, Redhead will keep its color, not go to seed quickly and not bolt.  This year it did hold its color well but struggled with too much heat and not enough water, wilting frequently.  A daily watering would have kept it handsome.

The perfect combo for a shady area.  Caldiums, Dragon Wing Begonias and Torenia.  It must be said though that the begonia will outsize everyone else by the end of the season if it isn't kept in check.  But that is so easy to do and it doesn't show stubby stems when nipped back.  If I were to do this arrangement again, I might consider putting the begonia in the middle with the caldiums around it with torenia as fill-ins between them.  There is a container now near the Courthouse with these plants and it has done very well all summer -- no wilt and continuous blooms.

Perky is probably the best word for this arrangement.  Purple Angelonia with Vinca Cora Punch. The middle plant is a rosemary that doesn't add any color but gives a stable centerpiece.  This year's plants have done well against the heat -- a continuous bloom and finally given their Monday drink, reviving themselves after a long weekend without water.  The vinca does need to be clipped back regularly or it will sprawl and not maintain its upright behavior.  Again, easy to do and with no sign of the haircut. While the angelonia doesn't need clipping, randomly nipping out the spent flower heads will encourage more blooms.

Hopefully, these cooler day and the light rain we did get will revive the containers -- giving them enough hope to keep on going until the fall/winter plants can be installed.  I know I'm looking forward to the change.  Hopefully you enjoy this pleasant change in the weather.  A cup of tea and a gardening magazine await me as I plan for the fall colors to come.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

And The Heat Drags On

The weather man, well actually it is a weather woman on Channel 2 am TV, must be bored to death with reporting the weather.  It is the same exact report every morning:  "Temperatures will range from lows in the 70's to highs in the super high 90's -- and by the way -- NO RAIN.  I have given up even hoping for relief from this heat and I know that the containers have surely given up all hope.  As I told you in the last posting, a goodly number of containers had to be redone.  As I groomed them last night I see that even the new plants are toast.  I really didn't imagine they could get their roots spread out enough to collect the precious water that is given to them three days a week, but one can hope.  With the intense heat from Mother Nature and the equally intense heat from the passing cars -- well, it just was a lose/lose proposition.

But I am not a woman to give up.  I'll head back to the nursery and get a couple more pretties to keep the containers looking at least passably good for the next 6 weeks until I can install the fall/winter plants.  Good news though!!  I just received the availability from my supplier.  The tried and true varieties are on the list and I think I'll stay with them for the most part.  Although the creative creature in me will still seek out a few new and unusual ones.  Something for folks to seek out and for me to watch and write about.  Winter doesn't give many opportunities for unusual plants but maybe a new cultivar would be interesting to try.  In upcoming blogs I'll tell you about some of the ones I will source so you can check them out for yourself.  And I'll be sure to let you know where you can find them.

Which plants are thriving and striving?  Well, it depends on which containers you are looking at.  For reasons yet to be determined, the same plants are struggling in one yet bursting out of the pot in another place.  The alternatheria is turning into a small shrub by Chop House but at death's door by the old Ricky D's.  Watering maybe!  This is a worthy plant for a solid, backdrop color in a bed.  Interestingly the torenia that nearly died right after planting is now filling out and blooming.  I have no answer for that, sorry.  Just glad it revived itself and decided to join the party, even if it was late.  It is another worthy plant that would be happy in a semi-shady garden at the edge of a bed.  The newly planted crotons are doing okay so far.  They do like the heat and can withstand low level watering so just maybe they will hang in there for fall.  Their bright yellow, orange and green variegated leaves are perfect backgrounds for those pumpkins we will soon be buying.

I have actually spent some time in my own garden - a promise I made to myself in January - no not a resolution - those get broken before the last bubble in the champagne glass bursts.  This is part of my vision for my yard - put in plants that attract birds, butterflies and bees!  Yes, bees.  They are an integral part of nature and need to be encouraged to visit by planting their favorite food.  Remember, no bees - no food for you!!  I'm telling you about my own garden because some of the treasures I have found are at the big box stores -- Lowe's and Home Depot.  Lots of goodies on the 75% off racks - perennials to be nursed back to health for next year and annuals to add a bit of color in this year's beds.  But get there early -- I've had near epic "hat sale" events with gals grabbing pots as fast as they can.  With that said, I'm headed to Lowe's to see what else I can add to my slowly growing "Martha Stewart" garden.  And as soon as I find out who her gardener is mine will look just like hers.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Succulents -- Beautiful and Easy

Okay, I know these aren't City containers but I had to share them with you so that you might consider using succulents in your own containers.  Wish I could use more in the City pots but besides the fact that they are a little too fragile to be left at the mercy of the many visitors who would be oh so tempted to touch them, it would be too much to ask for their watering needs to be the "exception".  But that is the best reason for you to use succulents in either your garden or containers -- they don't want, need or like a lot of water.  In fact, the thicker the leaves, the less water the plant needs to survive.  

There are so many different succulents from which to choose that you will feel like a kid in a candy store when you get started using them.  Naturally, I have my favorites.  Check out this container....

The tub I used is from Tractor Supply -- love the silvery look that picks up on the light gray of the Kalanchoe tomentosa - Panda Plant.  It is such an easy plant to grow and perfect for kids to start with in their little gardens.  Isn't cold hardy here in Madison but I have left mine outside until the temperatures got into the low 20s and it was fine.  I'll bring it indoors for the worst part of our winters.  It propagates so easily -- even if you lay a piece on top of the soil it will send out roots.  The other plants in this containers are sedum, sempervivum and echeveria.

This echeveria is one of my favorites called 'Black Prince'.  The color is so intense that it can be the star in any combination container and looks wonderful alone in a low bowl.  

Tucked under the kalanchoe is Sempervivum 'Red Rubin' and behind that is Sedum 'Red Dragon'.   Way in the back is Echeveria 'Topsy Turvy'... it has a soft blue leaf that echoes the kalanchoe.  

I love this one!!!  Sometimes you just get all the right components together in the perfect pot.  That big guy in the back is another kalanchoe -- yep, they look different.  This one is 'Flapjack'.  The more sun it gets the brighter the red edges are.  It is another one of those that can take some cold temperatures before you have to bring it inside.  This one sat in my garage without sun or water for several months before it went back outside -- lost a few leaves but it bounced right back.  

If you aren't using succulents, plan on using them next season.  There are lots of cold hardy ones available if you don't want to baby them through the winter months.  Just be sure to provide excellent drainage -- mix lots of grit into your soil; and don't over water them.  Less is better.  A slightly shriveled leaf will bounce back nicely after it gets a drink.  And the last bit of info is to use pebbles as a mulch -- it will keep the moisture away from the leaves so they don't rot.  Other than that, it can't get any easier and with such wonderful rewards.  Enjoy!