Yesterday my husband, Henry, and I went out to The Curtis House in Ashfield to film a session with Gloria Pacosa of Gloriosa & Co. and Trillium Workshops fame for the Shelburne Falls Cable TV show Over The Falls. The subject was how to make beautiful container plantings. Mine is the red arrangement and Gloria’s is one of fifteen herbal containers that she is making for a wedding next weekend. The show will be aired first on May 14.
We talked about everything beginning with what kinds of containers are available. Clay pots, plain and fancy are classic, but they do dry out quickly and special attention needs to be paid to watering. Plastic, resin and new fangled materials sometimes mimic ornate stone containers at moderate prices. They also dry out at a slower rate but all container plantings must be watered every day. Gloria, the Queen of Recycling, is always looking for throwaways to use from pretty china teacups for muscari, to rusty old egg baskets like this one that she lined with moss, harvested from her lawn and the woods, inserted a plastic bag to hold potting soil and then filled with a great selection of plants combining silvery and red foliage.
There are many recipes for potting mixes online. I usually buy a commercial mix, but I always add a helping of compost. In addition to being kept well watered, containers must be kept fertilized. Fish emulsion is good, and Gloria said I could put all the comfrey in my backyard to good use by chopping it up and letting it steep in a pail or barrel of water for a few days. I have LOTS of comfrey. Comfrey tea is very nutritious and good for plants.
My own container began with a bright red dahlia. Then Gloria helped me choose other plants to go with it. Basil and a variegated sage added light bright green foliage, red salvia was a good compliment to the dahlia and then came what I thought was a bold move, the coral dascia. Wow! I would never have been able to do this myself, but Gloria has given me new confidence – just what every good teacher does. I also took hydrated moss from Gloria’s collection and ‘mulched’ the top of the container. This gives the arrangement an elegant finished look. To keep the container looking its best all summer I will have to keep the plants deadheaded. They will grow taller and will fade. Cut them back! Gloria was quite insistent. Shear the dascia! To get more dahlias keep deadheading.
I can’t put this outside yet because it is too cold, but in a couple of weeks it should be safe. It will be really happy on my very sunny piazza. In the meantime it is is our bright, unheated Great Room.