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Thinking About Our Gardens

 

Thomas Affleck Rose

Thomas Affleck Rose

As I‘ve worked  to put my gardens to bed this fall I’ve also been thinking about gardens and how they came to take this form, and how any garden takes form.

Some people plan a garden in one fell swoop. Or have someone do it for them. But I think for most of us we begin slowly and one step follows another. Which is a good thing because we learn about our site, and about ourselves as we move through the seasons.

Still there are some basic things to think about when we plan, or plan again.

First we have to consider the site. Do we have a lot of room or a confined space? Where is the sun on the site? Where is the shade? How does the shade move over the course of the season as the sun’s course across the sky changes? Is the soil sandy, or clay? Is it very dry or damp?  Does the site slope and is it exposed to wind? The answer to each of these questions will help determine how to proceed. The answers will guide us as we search for the right plant for the right spot.

The second consideration is how each gardener will use the garden. We each have different desires and needs. I’ve needed a vegetable garden, but I’ve also wanted flower gardens. I want to be comfortable in my solitude, but I also enjoy eating outside, and entertaining friends in the garden. I like to stroll through the garden, but some like to admire the garden landscape from a deck or from inside the house.

Beyond the practical ways we use the garden, I think we have to examine how we want to feel in the garden. Do we want to feel sheltered? Do we want to feel we are in a private woodland? Or do we want to feel like a Jane Austen character strolling through the estate shrubberies with a dear friend?  What is your fantasy?

One element of your fantasy might be a season of constantly blooming flowers. This will mean gaining knowledge of the many beautiful annuals that can bloom from spring well into the fall.  On the other hand, you might have a fantasy of a serene green garden where it is the shades of green and foliage textures that please.

For myself, my mostly-achieved fantasy is that of a mixed border. It did not happen all at once. Inspired by my mentor Elsa Bakalar I once tended a 90 foot long perennial border. Many perennials were gifts from Elsa, and many were bought with careless enthusiasm when I saw them at the garden center. I could not maintain such a garden for long.

It was only about 16 years ago that we planned The Lawn Beds. These are mixed borders, which is to say in each bed I have evergreen and deciduous trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals. Because the shrubs take up more room than flowers, these generous beds are much less labor intensive than that 90 foot long border. I still have perennials which will bloom for three or four weeks in their season, but there is room for annuals that will give me bloom all summer long.

Ghislaine de Feligonde whose orange-apricot buds open to cream

Ghislaine de Feligonde whose orange-apricot buds open to cream

Of course, I have The Rose Walk. This began as my fantasy of growing lush fragrant old roses. Thirty two years ago I planted the first two roses in the middle of the lawn. I don’t know why I chose that spot. Those two roses ultimately forced the creation of the Rose Walk. I have mourned (briefly) the roses that did not survive, and enjoyed adding new roses every year. I loved my early summer morning walks along the Rose Walk thinking of the centuries that roses have bloomed on this earth, and the ladies that have cared for and enjoyed them in their modest farm gardens or on great estates. The Annual Rose Viewing., our annual garden party was a further natural outgrowth. The Rose Walk is proof that a complete plan is not necessary to begin.

A garden will inevitably attract wildlife.  Some wildlife like deer are not welcome, and it behooves us to be aware that some plants are very inviting to deer and rabbits, and others less so. Lists of these are available. I never plant hostas because of deer, but thought my herb garden was safe because they would not dare to come so close to the house. I was wrong. They tramped across the Daylily Bank (totally unnecessary) to eat the parsley in the herb bed.

Other wildlife, birds, bees and other pollinators like butterflies are very welcome. Birdwatchers have told me that the sound of moving water is the most dependable draw for birds. The burble of a fountain, especially if it is near some sheltering plants is especially inviting.

Pollinators are attracted by the many plants that are native to our area. Bee balm, asters, rudbeckia, and even our fields of goldenrod attract the pollinators that will keep our vegetables and fruit trees productive.

Finally, when planting we have to remember those basic considerations like allowing for growth. A small shrub in a small pot bought at the garden center will not stay small. When planting allow for that growth, how wide and how tall will it be in three years?  Or five years?

Soil needs annual attention with applications of compost, and mulch. Where will the compost pile go?

One very important question is how much time can the gardener realistically expect to devote to garden chores?

Are you thinking about your garden this fall? How might it change? How does it need to change? We gardeners must always be thinking. ###

Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day – October 2014

Thomas Affleck rose

Thomas Affleck rose

Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day arrives this October after two hard freezes. The trees are richly adorned adding most of the garden color at this time of the year. The roses are very nearly done, but Thomas Affleck, right near the door, has nearly a dozen blossoms left. In the rest of the garden there are a few scattered rugosa blossoms, and The Fairy is still making a bit of magic.

Sedum 'Neon'

Sedum ‘Neon’

This is the second year for Sedum ‘Neon.” I will have to do some dividing. The Fairy is right behind her, as well as a snapdragon and a foxglove blooming at this odd time of year.

Chrysanthemum 'Starlet'

Chrysanthemum ‘Starlet’

“Starlet’ is a very hardy quilled mum that I keep moving around the garden.

Sheffield daisies

Sheffield daisies

The Sheffield daisies  are just beginning to bloom!  At least I have been calling these Sheffield daisies all year before they came into bloom, and now I am thinking they are some other very vigorous chrysanthemum. I have one clump of ‘mums’ not yet blooming. Maybe that is the Sheffie clump.

Asters

Asters

This low growing and very spready aster is definitely ‘Woods Blue.’ I just found the label while weeding today.

Montauk daisy

Montauk daisy

I am coming to realize that the Montauk daisy has quite a short bloom period. Maybe it doesn’t deserve to be so front and center.

Autumn crocus

Autumn crocus

A flower that does deserve to be more front and center is the Autumn Crocus. It is invisible in August when it should be transplants. Out of sight. Out of mind. Maybe next August.

'Limelight' hydrangea

‘Limelight’ hydrangea

The ‘Limelight’ hydrangea has had a good year and is doing better than ‘Pinky Winky’ planted at the same time, and the native oakleaf hydrangea. The enormous ‘Mothlight’ is also still blooming.

Lonicera sempervirens

Lonicera sempervirens

I am going to have to do something about this honeysuckle. She has grown enough this first full year and deserves to be arranged so she is more easily admired.

Cuphea

Cuphea

This annual potted Cuphea has given me a lot of pleasure this summer. Endless bloom.

Nasturtiums

Nasturtiums

I plant these nasturtiums on the slope between the Daylily Bank and a bed of the Early garden right in front of the house. Such a cheerful flowers.

Love Lies Bleeding

Love Lies Bleeding

And finally, in a knocked down tangle is Love Lies Bleeding. A right bloody mess. I expected long drooping tails of blossoms, but this looks like ropes of chenille balls.

What is blooming in your garden this Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day?  Check Carol at May Dreams Gardens, our welcoming host.

What’s Blooming on September 1 at the End of the Road

Thomas Affleck rose

Thomas Affleck rose

What’s blooming on September 1? As we acknowledge that even though it isn’t officially autumn, we notice the days are shorter, and a maple or sumac branch here and there has begun waving scarlet in the sunlight, the bloom goes on.  Thomas Affleck is the only rose, as usual, that has much to show at this time of the year, although there is a stray blossom here and there on the Rose Walk. The ruogosa hips are ripening.

Garden phlox and more

Garden phlox and more

This section of the North Lawn Bed is closest to the house. The garden phlox is putting on quite a show. Echinacea, Russian sage, and bits of lobela and dianthus are also still blooming.

Garden phlox and more

Garden phlox and more

In the middle of that bed more phlox is blooming as well as chelone, liatris, and The Fairy rose. Unseen is the blue toremia, my favorite new annual this year.

Helenium 'Mardi Gras' and phlox

Helenium ‘Mardi Gras’ and phlox

In the end of the bed Helenium “Mardi Gras is blooming with Phlox “Blue Paradise’, I think. I hope the Montauk daisy will bloom soon.

 

Yarrow, phlox, hydrangea

Yarrow, phlox, hydrangea

A bold yellow yarrow, a bit of phlox, aconite, a small annual daisy, toremia (again invisible) bloom in a tangleat the end of the South Lawn Bed.

Robustissima Japanese aneomone

“Robustissima” Japanese anemone

The Japanese anemone is just beginning to bloom, next to a small Joe Pye weed. The deer dined off this clump, but with a little luck I will still see a good show.

"Ann Varner' Daylily

” Ann Varner” daylily

The Daylily bank is pretty well done, but “Ann Varner” is bravely facing the end of the season.  Other bloomers, bee balm, Achillea ‘The Pearl’, potted cuphea, geraniums, and Love Lies Bleeding.

What’s blooming in your garden as we begin to feel the turning of the season?

 

Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day – August 15, 2014

Roses and lilies, mostly

Roses and lilies, mostly

On this Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day there are great clumps of bloomers and I can see a busy fall season of digging and dividing. Here the Thomas Affleck rose and Henryii lilies are lush and full of pollinators. You can also see a cloud of meadow rue flowers. I just love this section of the garden right next to the house.

Black Beauty lilies and crimson bee balm

Black Beauty lilies and crimson bee balm

This Bloom Day the Black Beauty lilies and the crimson bee balm make a great combo – even if they are standing exactly straight and tall.

8-14 phlox etc

This section of the North Lawn Bed is one of the places that whisper, ” Dig me!  Divide me!”  Phlox, pink and white, cone flower, Russian sage and even a lily  that the deer missed at their luncheon party a few weeks ago.

8-14 the pearl, mardi grass yarrow

This is another section of the North Lawn Bed where Achillea “the Pearl is rampant in front of  sunny “Mardi Gras”. On the other side of the path you can see a passalong and nameless yarrow, bits of Blue Paradise phlox and Connecticut Yankee delphinium.

Yarrow

Yarrow

I don’t think this yarrow is Coronaation Gold, but I am going to cut it and see if it dries well.

Ann Varner daylily

Ann Varner daylily

Of course, August is daylily season and Ann Varner is at her peak.

The Fairy rose

The Fairy rose

Except for Thomas Affleck and The Fairy, rose season is over.

Cimicifuga

Cimicifuga

The tall candles of  cimicifuga, snakeroot, look very cool in  the shade of the ancient apple tree.

 

Artemesia lactiflora

Artemesia lactiflora

Like the meadow rue, Artemesia lactiflora has very unusual airy blossoms, but dark foliage.

Hydrangea 'Limelight'

Hydrangea ‘Limelight’

The hydrangeas are in bloom.  ‘Mothlight’ the oldest is almost as tall as the weeping birch next to it. ‘Limelight’ is very happy and the oakleaf hydrangea is recovering from deer browing. The bucket loader is there because our driveway is actually town road and the road crew is repairing damage by our heavy rain storms. There hasn’t been  an unusual amount of rain, but when it comes, it comes down hard and all at once.

 

Toremia

Toremia

Toremia is a new annual to me. It grows on the Bridge of Flowers and love it. No deadheading necessary.

 

Cuphea

Cuphea

Cuphea is another new-to-me annual growing in pots in front of the house. The colors are fabulous!

Love Lies Bleeding

Love Lies Bleeding

I first saw Love Lies Bleeding, an amaranth, planted in the ground at Wave Hill in New York. I was stunned  by the aptness of its name, and at Wave Hill it was a heroic love that had died bleeding.  I think I will have to plant it in the ground next year. I am perplexed by the differently shapped pendant flower cluster. One looks like pompoms and the other more tassel-like.  Any ideas?

For more of what is blooming over this great land visit Carol, our hostess, over at May Dreams Gardens on this Bloom Day.

 

A Season of Garden Flowers

Fothergilla

Fothergilla

Garden Flowers. Gardeners who want a flower garden usually want that flower garden to be in bloom all season long. There are different ways to do this.

One way is to have different flower beds for different seasons.  I have never been willing to try and to put spring bulbs into a flower bed that will have other flowers blooming throughout later seasons. I plant my bouquet of daffodils in a section of grass. When they have bloomed and the foliage has ripened and browned that area of lawn gets mowed down.

Spring blooming bulbs can also be planted underneath deciduous trees beneath a groundcover. Some groundcovers like vinca, tiarella or barren strawberry will add their own springtime blooms. Again, when the foliage has ripened in a bed of groundcovers it will soon wither away and disappear.

Spring blooming bulbs can also be planted in a bed of other spring blooming perennials like bleeding hearts, hellebores, dodecatheon (shooting star), or brunnera with its blue flowers that resemble forget-me-nots. Siberian irises are another easy spring bloomer that comes in an array of mostly blue, purple and white shades.

Peonies are flowers that can take you from mid-spring to early summer because there are so many varieties, in colors from creamy white, to pink, coral and rich red. The lovely thing about peonies is that after they bloom and are deadheaded, the deep green foliage is still a good addition to the flower bed. Peonies are also welcome in the garden because they are such long lived plants and have almost no disease or pest problems.

Achillea 'Terra Cotta'

Achillea ‘ Terra Cotta’

A bed of  summer flowers is easy to fill with the spikes of astilbe, the flat flower heads of yarrow (achillea), Shasta daisies that can be low or tall, the fat flower clusters of garden phlox (P. paniculata),  spiky sea holly, sunny heleniums that bloom for almost 2 months, spikes of liatris or gayfeather, and daylilies with their strappy leaves. I grow my daylilies in a mass planting, but they also work well as individual plants in a border.

There is a host of daisy-like flowers. I have the tall Helenium ‘Mardi Gras’  that has just begun to bloom in hot shades of gold and red, and pink coneflower (Echinacea) but there are golden marguerites, drought and deer resistant gaillardias, and coreopsis.

8-14-13 Helenium 'Mardi Gras'

Daisies themselves are member of the asteraceae family, so of course, we have a number of asters that bloom in the fall. There is the popular shocking pink ‘Alma Potschke,’ the tall ‘Harrington’s Pink,’ lavender Aster frikartii, and ‘Lady in Black,’ which refers to the dark stems and foliage, not the pale pink flowers.

Dahlias grow from tubers that are not winter hardy in our part of the world, but they can be treated like annuals. There are large and small dahlias, tall and short, in many colors. They begin flowering in mid-summer and bloom until frost. They make great cut flowers, and the more you cut, the more blooms you will have.

The iconic fall bloomer is the chrysanthemum which not only comes in many shades from pale to brilliant or rich, but in many forms, button blossoms, dinner plate size, spider, and spoon petals. I have what is called a Sheffield daisy or Sheffie, actually a chrysanthemum, which is a wonderful shade of pink with a yellow center that blooms late in the fall and is a good spreader. I have been able to give away divisions of this beautiful plant.

Sheffield Daisy

Sheffield Daisy – Sheffies

Another late summer, early fall bloomer is the Montauk daisy. There you have a description of the flowers, but the plant itself is actually considered a sub-shrub. It can reach a height of three feet with an equal spread and the foliage is heavy and almost succulent.

Since I mention sub-shrubs, I want to point out the benefit of including blooming shrubs in your seasonal flower bed. Dwarf fothergilla (Fothergilla gardenia) is a surprising plant with fragrant flowers that blooms in April and May before it has much foliage. It is a low maintenance plant that will grow only two or three feet high and just as wide.

Clethera alnifolia (sweet pepperbush) ‘Ruby Spice’ is a summer bloomer that welcomes a little shade, and prefers a moist site, which makes it perfect for a rain garden as well as a summer flower bed. The fragrant pink six inch long bottlebrush flowers bloom in July and August.

Hydrangeas are a flowering shrub that will have bloom well into the fall. I have let my airy-blossomed ‘Mothlight’ get away from me and I am trying to gradually prune it down to a more reasonable height. I also have a fairly new ‘Pinky Winky’ hydrangea with loose pyramidal flowers that become darker and darker pink as the season progresses. So far the deer are helping me keep its size limited, but it can grow to eight feet tall and as wide. Very hardy and trouble free.

While I have concentrated here on perennial plantings, I have to say that one sure way to have lots of flowers in a bed is to include annuals. Who can resist petunias, annual salvias, verbenas, lobelia, cosmos and osteospurnums. The local garden centers have a full range of annuals in spring, as well as perennials.

Some local garden shops will be having sales of their perennial plants soon. This is a chance to get some bargains as you are thinking about next year’s flower beds.

Between the Rows   July 26, 2014

First of the Month Review – August 2014

Bee Balm

Bee Balm from the piazza

On this First of the Month I am going to show you some long views. My camera isn’t really ideal for long views but you might get  a different idea of  the garden, and the text is still a bloom record.  I  confess the weeds are not  as visible in a long view.  This is the bee balm in the Herb Bed right in front of the house. We can watch the hummingbirds, butterflies and bees from out dining/kitchen table. That is the f amous Cottage Ornee across the lawn.

 

west side of North Lawn Bed

west side of North Lawn Bed

Leaving the Herb Bed I go across the driveway/road and come to the North Lawn Bed. This section includes  a weeping cherry, echinacea, phlox, Russian sage, cosmos, pansies still blooming, and a Fulda Glow sedum which is a great plant.

North Lawn Bed

North Lawn Bed

Further on this side of  the North Lawn Bed is The Fairy rose, toremia, phlox, and liatris.

 

End of the North Lawn Bed

End of the North Lawn Bed

The only thing blooming here is Mardi Gras helenium. A Montauk daisy at its base will bloom later.  The Carolina lupine put out a lot of growth this year, but no blooms.

End of South Lawn Bed

End of South Lawn Bed

There is a wide grass path between the Lawn Beds. This tangle includes cotoneaster, shasta daisies, a mystery golden yarrow, Connecticut Yankee delphinium, Blue Paradise phlox, toremia and more Fulda Glow. This bed is mostly filled with the fourth gingko, a weeping birch and a huge Mothlight hydrangea which I love and have not been able to keep pruned down. I will continue to try.

Very long view of North Lawn Bed

Very long view of North Lawn Bed

This is a very long view of the east side of the North Lawn bed. The most noticeable flower from this view if Achillea ‘The Pearl’. Phlox, white and pink on the right. This bed contains 3 gingkos, Golden threadleaf false cypress, yarrow, cosmos, and .artemesia lactiflora. More bloom still to come.

Very long view of South Lawn Bed.

Very long view of South Lawn Bed.

You can see the Mothlight hydrangea is nearly as tall as the weeping birch.

View from the bedroom window

View from the bedroom window

This view from the upstairs bedroom gives you a sense of the whole.

Echinops, meadow rue, and cimicifuga are blooming, as well and  a few rose blossoms here and there: R. setigera, Belle Poitvine, Rugosa alba, Meideland red and Sitka.

 

Love Lies Bleeding

Love Lies Bleeding

Love Lies Bleeding and other potted annuals are doing well at the edge of the piazza. The vegetables are struggling this year, but the ornamental garden hasn’t minded the cool summer. Neither has the lawn. It keeps growing and growing.

The Bridge of Flowers and The Art Garden

Dahlias and Phlox and the Deerfield River

Dahlias and Phlox on the Bridge of Flowers

The Bridge of Flowers is a miracle of bloom right now. High summer. The dahlias are just beginning to join the phlox, daylilies, cimicifuga, crocosmia and all manner of daisies. But there is another way to enjoy the Bridge of Flowers.

Art Walk directions

Art Walk directions

Follow the Shoes for the monthly Art Walk in Shelburne Falls. The various artisans and galleries like Molly Cantor Pottery and the Salmon Falls Artisans Gallery were displaying the talents and skills of many of our area artists. As a member of the Bridge of Flowers Committee I was especially interested in the exhibit at The Art Garden.

Amy Love's Quilted Bridge of Flowers

Amy Love’s Quilted Bridge of Flowers

One of the beautiful renditions of the Bridge of Flowers was this whimsical quilt square.

Maureen Moore's Rosies

Maureen Moore’s Rosies

Maureen Moore, artist, writer, and BOF committee member was inspired by the roses on the Bridge to paint this rose view. The exhibit will continue at The Art Garden in Shelburne Falls for the next month. Stop by. And visit the Bridge, too. Don’t forget to sign the guest book.

Molly Cantor flip flops

Molly Cantor flip flops

The Art Walk will next be held on September 13, but the galleries are open even when there is no Art Walk.  Be sure and visit. And don’t forget – The Bridge of Flowers is open all day, every day until October 30. No fee. But you can always leave a donation.

 

A Paradise Garden in Turners Falls

Paradise garden

The paradise garden in Turners Falls

Ed McAvoy (88) and Lynn Hoffman (‘nearly 90’) are peeking into their paradise garden in Turners Falls. When Lynn and Ed built their little suite in the house belonging to Ed’s daughter, they knew they had to have a garden. When I saw it I was reminded that the word paradise originally came from the old Persian word for a walled compound. This small walled garden shows that paradise can exist at any size. There is room for sociability and a meal of sweets.

Honeysuckle and grapvines

Honeysuckle and grape vines

Surely honeysuckle and grapevines must live in any paradise garden. (These photos were taken a week ago, when the garden was still  filling out.)

'Benjamin Britten' rose

‘Benjamin Britten’ rose

Lynn demanded this ‘Benjamin Britten’ rose, a David Austin hybrid for her paradise.

Another rose

Another rose

And another rose added to the paradisical details.  In a small garden the details count  for a lot, Each plant chosen will bring color and form that will give pleasure all season.

'Alabama Crimson' Honeysuckle

‘Alabama Crimson’ Honeysuckle

The Alabama Crimson’ honeysuckle will add fragrance as well as color, form, – and exuberance.

Hibiscus

Hibiscus

And this exotic hibiscus will shine in the garden all season long.

View from the Bedroom Window – May 2014

View from the Bedroom window May 5, 2014

View from the Bedroom window May 5, 2014

The view from the bedroom window on May 5 shows that the grass is greening up, but it is cold, 46 degrees, cloudy and windy. I dug up plants for the Bridge of Flowers plant sale, but then went back in the house to work in front of the woodstove.

View from the bedroom window May 12, 2014

View from the bedroom window May 12, 2014

Now it is hot! 80 degrees. What a difference a week makes. We had a little rain and warmer days – although with strong  breezes it has still felt cool – until today. The lawn just had its first mowing and you can see the lilacs beginning to leaf  out. A close look will show tiny budded lilac flowers. The weeping birch in the South Lawn Bed is greening, and a green brush has barely touched the trees in the field. Perennials are  well started, summer phlox, achilleas, delphiniums, and more and more daffodils.

View from the bedroom window May 19, 2014

View from the bedroom window May 19, 2014

A beautiful day, 70’s and sunny. You can see the trees are beginning to green, and the lilacs are just beginning to bloom.

View from the bedroom window May 28 2014

View from the bedroom window May 28 2014

58 degrees this morning and still misting from last night’s rain which saved me from watering the gardens this morning. The lilacs are in full bloom, and the apple trees are also beginning to bloom. The ginkgo trees are finally greening up. Some of the daffodils are still blooming, but they are joined by columbine, epimediums, tiarella, trollius, barren strawberry, as well as a host of annuals bought at the Bridge of Flowers Plant Sale, geraniums, cuphea, Diamond Frost , lobelia, torenia, and blue felicia daisy. Boule de Neige and Rangoon rhodies are also starting to bloom. Full spring!

My record for May has not been very regular and doesn’t give a full taste of how cold it was for most of  the month. Winter blankets still on our bed. And fires in the woodstove the first half of the month – and sometimes in the evening after that.

Container Gardening – Annuals in a Pot

Mixed annuals in  container“Container gardening is such hard work!” a friend said to me the other day. Work I thought?  A lot of thought which is in itself a lot of work, but I didn’t think that is what she meant. I soon learned that the work she had taken on was lugging  a heavy watering can to the end of a long country driveway to water a hanging basket. That is work! And it has to be done because container plants must be watered every day.

I do my container gardening right in front of the house with a few pots on the Welcoming Platform and the paved entry path. I can’t forget the containers since they are right in front of me, and a spigot and watering cans are always handy and at the ready.  What is hard for me is thinking about an interesting arrangement of plants for a single container. Pots of geraniums and petunias will never lose their classic charm, but now there are books and magazines urging one on to complex and seasonal arrangements.

I will not say I dismiss complex arrangements, but so far I am sticking with some old favorite annuals that will bloom  all summer, asking only that I keep them watered. I want my containers to give a flowery welcome to those who visit me – and indeed to myself when I come home at the end of a busy day touring around on errands or pleasure.

Visiting a garden center or nursery can be totally overwhelming. There are annuals for shade, for sun and hanging baskets. I bought some annuals at the Bridge of Flowers plant sale with the intent of planting a mixed container with an interesting and new-to-me Cuphea ‘Tiny Mice’ with its small but intensely red and purple blossoms, combined with Superbells ‘Trailing Blue’ which is really purple, and a silvery helichrysum ‘Icicles.’

I’ve planted a blue ceramic pot with a pink geranium, blue lobelia and white superbells. A good traditional combo and very pretty.

When planting a container there are a couple of things to remember. It is important to use potting soil, which is not really soil at all. This light mixture allows the plants roots to grow. Garden soil in a pot will soon bake into a very inhospitable home for plant roots.

Potting soils can be enriched with fertilizer, or not. Either way it is important to remember that flowering plants need to be fertilized on a regular basis all season long. There are many commercial fertilizers for blooming plants and they will have their own directions. All will say a dilute watering with the fertilizer weekly will work nicely. The necessary daily watering will always be washing out some of the fertilizer which is why it needs to be replenished regularly. Don’t forget to water daily. Containers dry out rapidly. Terra cotta flower pots dry out especially fast, but while plastic and resin pots hold water longer, the plants are using that water and respiring into the hot summer air. They get thirsty.

Because I am leaving room to grow there is bare soil in the cuphea pot so I am filling in bare spots with moss from my lawn. That gives the pot a finished look at this early stage in the arrangement’s life. This is a trick I learned from Gloria Pacosa who is a  great gardener and flower arranger, but I have to say she does recommend putting more plants in a pot than I can usually bring myself to do.

Petunias - root bound and unboard

Petunias – root bound and unboard

Annuals started in greenhouses early will have a pretty healthy root system by the time they arrive at the nursery. In fact, many of them will be root bound, twisted around and around their little planting pot or cell. Before I remove plants from their pots I always water them well. Then when I remove them, I break those tightly bound roots apart. I am gentle, but the torn roots will make new growth once they are put in more soil in the container. Tearing those roots apart will help get the plant off to a good start.

Breaking the roots apart is necessary whether you are putting plants in a container or in the ground. I remember the late Elsa Bakalar giving a lesson in raking a cultivator  through root bound roots of a plant she bought at a season end nursery sale. Loosening the roots is the first step to revitalizing the plant.

Because potting soil is an expense, those who use large containers for plants that don’t need all that root room have come up with some tricks. One trick was to use the plastic peanuts that come as packing material. I have tried that, but found I had a mess to deal with the following year when I wanted to reuse the pot but needed to put in new potting soil.

The trick I have found most useful is to use some of the light plastic planting trays for vegetable starts or annuals. They add no weight, but do take up some room, saving a little on potting soil.

Container plantings can be charming or exotic, full of colorful foliage or colorful flowers. They can be near the house, or exclamation points in the garden. It is all a matter of taste and desire.