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Renovating and Planting Continue

Lawn Bed Renovation

Renovating and planting the lawn bed continues. I had to wait until after the Bridge of Flowers Plant Sale before I made my final ‘design’ decisions.  This is the end of the Lawn Bed, all cleaned out of a nearly dead potentilla and lots of weeds. I also removed two clumps of ornamental grass that had been grown in pots last summer and just stuck in this bed in the fall. “Just sticking” a plant somewhere is always a bad idea.

Lawn Bed Renovated and Replanted

The new plants are small enough and the picture takes the long view so it is hard to see exactly what I have planted. It turned out that I had chosen a number of yellow and orange plants at the sale, and from Bluestone Perennials. Helenium ‘Mardi Gras’  and a golden chrysanthemum ‘Starlet’, came from Bluestone.  Yellow Carolina lupine, ‘Orange Perfection’ garden phlox, and a deep blue phlox stolonifera are all from the plant sale. I think most of them will fill out fairly well once they settle in.  This bed is opposite the blue and white bed on the other lawn bed.

Renovating this bed meant digging up and weeding the purple leaved heuchera as well, but they are tough plants and will survive their planting very eaily.

Pots on the Piazza

I also bought an array of annuals from LaSalle’s at the plant sale and they needed planting. I chose mostly while and pale yellow plants with some blue accents. Osteospernum, petunias, lobelia and Million Bells.  Some of the newly potted plants went on the front steps – in front of a door we never use.

There is a new arrangement on the side side of the piazza. I moved the shelf for the potted plants away from the roof overhang which dumped heavy water on the plants when it rained, and moved the shelf to the opposite side of the piazza. Now two Adirondack chairs are under the roof overhang and it is a really attractive arrangement. A happy project all around.

Planting continues in the vegetable garden, too, but that is not very photogenic yet. I was glad for today’s rain, and more promised rain to settle all these new plantings in.

Don’t ForgetLeave a comment here by midnight on Wednesday, May 23and you will have a chance to  win Lorene Edwards Forkner wonderful new book, Handmade Garden Projects published by Timber Press. I will pick a winner at random and announce that on Thursday morning.

 

Blogoversary Giveaway

Succulent Container Gardens by Debra Lee Baldwin

On December 6, the Feast of St. Nicholas, I will celebrate my Fourth Blogaverary! It wasn’t an ideal time to start a garden blog, but I had just learned about blogs and ‘met’ Kathy at Cold Climate Gardening, Carol at May Dreams Gardens and all the Ranters at Garden Rant. I was lucky to meet such stars early on because they have taught me so much and continue to inspiremme.  I even got to meet them all at at the last two Garden Blogger Flings.

And of course the greatest gift I gave to myself that December 6th, was the opportunity to meet so many knowledgeable gardeners from all over the country. They all have something to teach me, new ideas, new perspectives and new resources. I thank the entire community of garden bloggers for their generosity in sharing with me – and with all their readers.

This year Timber Press and I are celebrating by offering a Giveaway – Debra Lee Baldwin’s new and fabulous book, Succulent Container Gardens: Design Eye Catching Displays with 350 Easy Care Plants. Debra opened up a whole new world of succulents to me – which is wonderful because these easy care plants may be the only houseplants I can keep going for more than a year or two. While I have a large jade tree, orchid cactus and Christmas cactus, I am now ready to create what people in my area call a ‘dish garden’, a container planted with a variety of succulents. I never knew there were so many, and that you could fit so many into a beautifully photographed book. Plant porn!

Besides design ideas, and ways of thinking about design, Debra gives information about some of the most interesting and unusual succulents, and basic care information. This informative and inspiring book could be yours. Just leave a comment on this post by December 6 at midnight.  On December 7 I will draw a name at random and will announce the winner. If you wanted to leave a sentence or two about your experience with a succulent that would be wonderful, but all you have to do is leave a comment saying you want this book.

The Roses at the End of the Road

IN ADDITION I will include a copy of my own book, The Roses at the End of the Road which was only the barest seed of an idea when I began my blog. These essays are not about How To grow roses, but how I live among the roses in my rural community. My husband provided the charming illustrations.

I have been having a wonderful time signing my book at local events, and will be reading and  signing at Boswell’s Books in Shelburne Falls on December 4 at 2 pm, and signing at Tower Square in Springfield right next to the festival of Trees on December 6 – my blogoversary!  I even got to show off many of my roses when I gave a talk at the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, focusing on disease resistant roses.

Leave a comment and enter the Giveaway!

 

Will You Adapt?

Rose Deskavich

I just celebrated my 71st birthday and my daughter (my 50 year old daughter!) said that I was now “well into my 70s.” I’m not quite sure how to take that; in my own mind I am barely over 16. However, my muscles disagree and tell me I am definitely over 16, and even over 50. Fortunately I was able to visit with Rose Deskavich, sister member of the Greenfield Garden Club and mistress of a beautiful Greenfield garden and get some advice about gardening in my golden years.

Deskavich can give good advice because she is an occupational therapist and she knows how to help people adapt to the constraints of arthritis or other physical limitations. “I teach people how to use what abilities they have to create a new system for doing things,” she said.

One of the activities she has concentrated on is gardening. “As a professional I think about making things easier, and as a lazy gardener I want to make my own work easier. When I started gardening in the ground it was hard, digging, weeding and hoeing. My clients who garden taught me ways to make it easier,” she said.

While she has learned a great deal from her clients, she has also studied up and found Janeen Adil’s book Accessible Gardening for People with Physical Disabilities helpful, as well as the Gardener’s Supply Catalog which offers many adaptive tools and supplies.

Deskavich knows that arthritis, stroke, allergies, Multiple Sclerosis and other conditions can make gardening difficult, but she says there are many benefits including stretching and strengthening muscles and joints, building stamina, flexibility and coordination. There are also the sensual pleasures of the garden and intellectual stimulation for those who observe, study and plan the garden.

Planning is important for every successful gardener. Deskavich recommends planning a garden that is most comfortable for your own abilities, kneeling, standing or sitting. Bending from the waist while standing is to be avoided. I know it is on my must-not-do list. Take advantage of all the long handled tools that are available, and use your arm as much as possible, not just your wrist.

Deskavich reminds us all that carrying our most necessary tools and supplies with us will cut down on tiring trips to get them from their storage spot. I like carrying a trug basket with my tools, but others might find a tool bucket easier. Deskavich pointed out that there are also kneelers with tool pouches to hold essentials.

Pacing yourself is important. I have always said that an enjoyable aspect of gardening is the impossibility of hurrying. I feel that even more as I get older. I’m ever more willing to rest in the shade, have a cool drink and catch my breath. Deskavich says water or unsweetened iced tea are refreshing, but she does not recommend juice or coffee.

While talking to Deskavich in her own garden which includes sun and shade, vegetables and flowers, trees, shrubs and vines, it’s clear to see she is an enthusiastic gardener with many interests, but at the same time there is a feeling of calm. It is easy to imagine her working with clients in the rehab program at Baystate/Franklin Medical Center teaching them gentle movements and easy mindful breathing.

Grow Bag for tomato plant

One of the notable elements of her garden is the way she grows many plants in containers including vegetables in Grow Bags from Gardeners Supply Company. Grow Bag containers come in a variety of sizes to accommodate various crops from lettuce to potatoes. She sets hers on the ground and said the sun warms the roots. She has grown some tomatoes in the ground, as I do, but she said they are not doing as well as the tomatoes in the Grow Bag. She leaves the bags outside from year to year and tops them off with a rich booster mix each spring. Her three year old bags look as good as new.  In addition to just sitting on the ground, Grow Bags can be set on a table or stone wall.

If you are not interested in Grow Bags which are handsome as well as practical, you can just buy bags of soil at a garden center, set that bag where it will be easy for you to work and plant seeds or seedlings directly in the bag – after cutting an opening. There are many dwarf  and bush vegetable varieties that are suited for container growing.

“There isn’t anyone who can’t garden on some level,” she says. “If you really want to garden you can. It won’t be the same as it was when you were 20, but it can still be satisfying.” With that attitude it is no surprise that many of her clients in the hospital’s maintenance therapy program continue for years because they enjoy the companionship of the group, and Deskavich’s cheerful encouragement.

After talking to Deskavich I am more encouraged myself as I plan the next stage in my gardening career, planning that I have been reluctant to begin, but planning that I know is necessary.

This planning is part of my continuing education, and I believe that learning new things, and remaining adaptable is one way of remaining young, at least in one’s mind. I like thinking about Thomas Jefferson, who was even older than me, who once said that he was an old man, but a young gardener. Me too.

****************************

 

A special note. My book about life in my community and among the roses, The Roses at the End of the Road, is now in production. My first signing at The World Eye in Greenfield is scheduled for Saturday August 27 from 11 am to 1 pm.  Hope to see you there.

Between the Rows    August 6, 2011

Encyclopedia of Container Plants

The garden centers are putting out their trays of blooming annuals, many of which will find their way into planters and containers of all sizes and shapes. They’ll be hung on porches, set out on decks and placed by doorways.  It is hard to resist all that color and frilly form. Fortunately for us we don’t have to resist because those familiar annuals, impatiens, petunias, begonias and geraniums are inexpensive and put on a good and cheerful show all summer long.

And yet our container plantings can give us drama and surprise as well as cheer. “The Encyclopedia of Container Plants: More than 500 Outstanding Choices for Gardeners” by Ray Rogers with gorgeous photographs by Rob Cardillo (Timber Press $34.95) show us how we can add perennials, shrubs, edibles, bulbs and tropicals to the annuals we love to make some creative arrangements.

The book begins with an Introduction that lays out all the basic principles of care for any container plant, the types of soil or soilless medium, the container, light, heat, water, fertilization, pruning, supports and troubles. Container plantings are not immune from disease or pest. Rogers then goes on to explain how to understand all the elements of the encyclopedia entries which are arranged alphabetically, no matter if he is talking about dramatic Alocasia (elephant’s ear) or the humble lettuce.

Finally he gets down to the topic of design. He does not pretend to give a primer, but he does remind the reader that there are differing ways of looking at color, line, form and texture. He waits until the individual plant listings to touch on the design attributes of each and give some suggestions for combinations or how to handle the plant in a single pot.

Each encyclopedia entry begins1 with basic information about all aspects of the plant and concludes with more of his own opinions about the various cultivars or what he considers special attributes, like the baby plants that are borne on the sculptural fronds of Asplenium, the bird’s-nest fern.

Rogers has a lot of experience to back up his opinions and suggestions. He spent years working at the Morris Arboretum in Pennsylvania and with the American Horticultural Society. He has won over a hundred top awards for his plant displays.

I confess that I often forget that what I consider ‘houseplants’ like Diffenbachia or gold dust plant can be put to good use in outdoor containers, either alone, or in combination with other plants. Those striking types of foliage can be an important design element.

One of the most important pieces of advice Rogers, and I, would give to the gardener putting together a multi-plant container is to consider the needs of each plant for light and moisture and make sure they are all compatible.

If putting a lot of plants in a single pot sounds difficult, but you like the idea of a mixed planting, Rogers suggests a grouping of pots with different flowers or foliage types. Such a grouping does not require pots of the same design. Different sizes and types can be attractive together.

While Rogers does talk about how important the container itself can be, the striking and clear photographs by Cardillo show that he does not think fancy or unusual containers are vital to the success of a planting. Many of the containers are plain terracotta, and classic glazed pots are not hard to find at garden centers like the Shelburne Farm and Garden.

Rogers style is chatty and he  presents plantings in so many styles it is bound to be useful to any gardener, novice or experienced, one who prefers traditional arrangements or one who wants to be more experimental.

I was disappointed that there was no list of sources for some of the more unusual plants, but decided that visiting the websites of Brent and Becky’s Bulbs (www.brentandbeckysbulbs.com), Logee’s Greenhouses (www.logees.com) and Stokes Tropicals (www.stokestropicals.plants.com) will give you a good start on locating plants you cannot find at local garden centers. But do begin your search locally because more and more unusual annuals are showing up at modest prices right in our own neighborhood.

Between the Rows   May 14, 2011

I Won Tropicannas!

Tropicanna Gold from Tesselaar

There was a Giveaway over at Garden Rant and I won some Tropicannas from Tessalaar Plants!  I’m not exactly sure what, but I think this new Tropicanna Gold is coming my way. Cannas are dramatic plants so I am very excited.  I don’t think they will be in bloom in time for the Franklin Land Trust Farm and Garden Tour on June 25 and 26, but it will be a great treat for mid-summer.

They will not overwinter in my climate but I think these will make spectacular container plants, and it just so happens that I bought a couple of nice big containers on sale last fall.  What do you think I should plant with them?

I’m starting to browse through my new copy of the Encyclopedia of Container Plants  by Ray Rogers from Timber Press.  Cannas have such magnificent foliage; do they need anything else?

Thank you Amy Stewart and Tesselaar!

Gloriosky Gloria!

Gloria Pacosa and me

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.

Tulip Time on the Bridge of Flowers

Tulips on the Bridge of Flowers

Tulips of many colors and hues are in full bloom on Shelburne Falls’ Bridge of Flowers. It’s enough to make one stop – or at least slow down – to enjoy the day and be grateful to live in such an area where  going about one’s duties and errand running brings one this kind of pleasure.   And don’t forget you can add a little bit of the Bridge to your own garden by buying a plant or two at the Annual Plant Sale on May 22.  Nine a.m.!

Viburnam

The woods are also beginning to bloom. Even when my errands take me through the hills I look around and see woodland foliage attaining more definition and leaf buds unfurl in ruddy shades of maple, tender green and the bright yellow green of willows. Everywhere I go, magnolias, cherries and trees I can’t even identify are blooming in yards, along the Deerfield River, and at the edges of pastures. Crabapples are just beginning to bloom. Trees, tulips, daffodils – bloom is bustin’ out all over.

At home, bees are buzzing in the wild plum trees that grow around the hen house. I am reminded that I need to get busy as a bee. This week I spent a happy morning moving rotted horse manure from my neighborly supplier and into various garden beds. I pruned roses and planted roses: Hawkeye Belle (pink) on the Rose Bank, and Prairie Harvest (yellow) and Quietness (pale pink)  on the Rose Walk. All three are hardy Griffith Buck hybrids. I also ripped out Pamela, a pink rugosa that was too much like Scabrosa.  I put a couple of the shoots on the Rose Bank and gave the greater part to neighbors who have no roses. Yet.  My  husband revved up the tractor and pulled out a nearly dead spirea – too far gone to try and save. Now I have a beautiful open spot in a Lawn Bed that was looking too crowded.

Trillium Workshop - Planting Containers

The lasagna Front Garden is now completed and I planted my own lettuce and broccoli seedlings in the new bed. Then I celebrated by attending a Trillium Workshops program on planting containers. The three Trillium gardeners, Jeff Farrell, Lisa Newman and Gloria Pacosa, gave a group of excited gardeners information about options in containers, how to make potting mixes, how to keep container plantings alive – and then we all dug in. So to speak. We had brought planters and Trillium supplied a whole range of seedlings, annuals, herbs, dahlias – and ideas. One of the participants noticed that all of the completed and very different arrangements looked great. Which just goes to show that there are many aesthetic approaches and many ways to make something beautiful. Thank you Trillium!

Shopping with Le Flaneur

The weather is wretched here today. No need to pretend, and I go window shopping with Le Flaneur.

Pretend the weather is impossible and while away some time perusing these sites – no need to buy a thing, but it’s always beneficial to have a notion of just where you might find something when the need arises:

Seibert-Rice offers a vast and expensive array of pots. What appeals is the robustness and visual strength of their designs. Pot rims are hefty, voluptuous and molded in ways reminiscent of architectural cornices. The various designs possess a boldness of expression that transports them beyond the realm of “pretty” or “decorative” in the pejorative sense. They offer both new and antique pots, this antique olive oil jar – now a vase – is from Castello di Uzzano, Greve-in-Chianti (circa 1863). Now this is a cachepot with cachet – a pot with pedigree. I find myself wondering about the gigantic man-made hill in Rome, now off limits to visitors (and collectors), created millennia ago from millions and millions of discarded wine and oil amphorae and now waiting – the garden container mother lode.

One site, operating a dwarf Google (the search engine, not a plant) is Garden Gate It’s a terrific place to begin a search for the perfect antique urn, planter or garden device.

One of many basic and reasonable sources for planters in metal, terra cotta and resin/fiberglass, one web site, PlantContainers.com,strikes me as fairly-priced and broad in their selection, but the offerings are such that you might be lucky and find something at your local big box hardware and home store – saving time and shipping costs. My luck with Home Depot, however, has been dismal. Because of the seasonal aspect I invariably am too late to find that perfect pot in the size I need. Planters I’ve bought there have been purchased as compromises – never the happiest of solutions. On the other hand I was spectacularly fortunate to find a half-dozen large, tall terracotta pots at IKEA that have served brilliantly on stone steps, their vertical lines contrasting with the horizontal lines of a small mid-century modern house. That the pots have acquired a patina of moss (or perhaps it’s just slime) and substantial efflorescence that add to their appeal. This site covers the fundamentals in terms of its offering of shapes, sizes and materials.

Whichford Pottery [http://www.whichfordpottery.com/index.asp carry a full range of terracotta garden containers, with an emphasis on traditional forms suitable in size and shape for almost any need. Their categories include basket flowerpots, large-and-lavish, pots of substance, the kitchen garden, the ornamental garden, truly tradition, ideal for every gardener and making the most of smaller gardens. Their offerings are indeed lovely.

Guy Wolff full pots

America’s botanical gardens can always use support, so one might wish to select containers offered by the New York Botanical Garden. Their pots are gently flared, and aged with a pleasing patina. The NYBG carry Guy Wolff pottery as well as a large selection of equally handsome pots (many with the patina of history) reflecting a more Italian of at least sunnier disposition.:

Whether one selects from these ranges or not, it is well worth spending some time contemplating the proportions and the elegant understatement. After all, the point is not to collect pots (well, perhaps it is) but to provide a setting for one’s plants and flowers. And here it should be pointed out that an ever-useful analogy might be the relationship or balance between a diamond and its setting. One should never be confused about which is which, and rest assured, when a newly engaged beauty shows you her ring, she is not expecting you to focus upon its setting.

Finally, there are those two bookend bastions of contemporary cost-conscious consumption, IKEA and Costco. IKEA offers an ever-changing selection of containers, and with imagination a number of their products can be transformed into plant containers, too. Costco, online, also offers planters and their prices include shipping.

Urn Cache – in your spare time!

With Pat’s assistance, I’ll be posting from time to time briefer items dedicated to a single intriguing pot/jar/container find. In the meantime, one last suggestion for those fortunate enough to live in the West County (Massachusetts): Shelburne Farm & Garden (413-625-6650), 355 Mohawk Trail, Shelburne Falls, MA 01370. For years I’ve happily bought pots from proprietor Pat Schmidt’s large and pleasing selection. The bonus, of course, is that she also carries a vast array of everything to put in those pots, beginning with topsoil and ending with attractive plants that have proven idiot-proof.

-Flaneur du Pays

More About Containers

The Flaneur du Pays continues his disquision on Containers.

Belgian pots from NYBG.org

Materials

Pots and containers are available in all the materials that a sculptor might employ: woods, metals (zinc seems to be the current favorite), clay, and recently fiberglass and synthetic resins. The natural materials remain the most aesthetically pleasing, but utility, lightness of weight and weather-durability all have their virtues as well and this is why the newer materials must be considered. These materials have, like the plants they’ll hold, a lifespan and a limit. Wood ages and rots, metal corrodes, terracotta cracks with frost and resins suffer solar damage. One can deplore this lack of immortality or face reality and embrace the patina. Face it: we’re all developing a patina, no?

Shapes – and Uses

Now that we’ve agreed we’re patinated, let’s also agree that we reflect an abundance of shapes and sizes. Containers for the garden are an equally diverse population and all have their uses. In plan, pots tend to be either round or square with variations (ovals, ellipses, rectangles and rhombuses represented). Planter heights are offered in infinite variety, and one may favor lower, broad containers to emphasize horizontal lines, or taller pots to underscore the vertical.

Chez Flaneur

Tall pots can, in pairs, define an entry or even act much as bollards and prevent unwanted circulation – such as keeping automobiles at bay and away from pedestrians. Lower, larger containers can provide color and texture without obscuring the view of someone who is seated. We’ve all seen the rectangular boxed planters that separate the pedestrians’ portion of the sidewalk from the café patron’s table. The (usually wood or metal) planters may themselves be pedestrian, but with something green flourishing, they become attractive and useful. Urns of flowering plants placed at the bottom (or top) of a stairway, a drive or a walkway emphasize the intended pathway and enhance the experience of making the transition between spaces.

A line of planters can define an edge, and act as a visual warning  – no there isn’t a railing but there is a retaining wall ahead. Round or square, tall or… not, pots can be had with or without drainage holes (and most purveyors will drill holes for customers – with the proviso that the item is non-returnable). More specialized containers include the “strawberry” pot, with multiple “pockets” on its side(s), suitable for cacti, Alpine plants and… strawberries.

By far the greatest virtue of a plant container is that it allows the plant to be brought indoors when outdoor conditions threaten. At the Boboli gardens in Florence, the scores of giant terracotta pots, each holding a lemon tree, are moved in and out with the seasons. One immediately thinks of wealthy fin de siècle sanitarium or spa patients being wheeled out onto a terrace to convalesce and take the sun. I assure you I have always felt as if my years of caring for agapanthus (which are now blessedly back out on the terrace) have been like years of caring for aging relatives: feeding them broth and wheeling them about in Bath chairs. Were they not in containers they’d be long dead. The agapanthus, I mean.

You know best the needs of whatever you’ll be placing in a container. You’d be foolish to seek my advice except to heed these admonitions:

Les Jardins du Roi Soleil

  • To paraphrase English Arts and Crafts Movement founder William Morris, possess only those planters you know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.
  • Less is more – both in design or decoration and in price. Quite often a discount store will have just the thing for a price that allows you to invest in more important garden assets. Recycled objects can be brilliantly employed as containers. For every bathtub inverted to shelter the Virgin, washing machine placed to receive geraniums or tractor tire employed to hold marigolds there have been handsome objects repurposed to splendid effect as plant containers. You’re a gardener for goodness sake: you have imagination!
  • Exercise restraint: after all it is a garden and plant materials installed as God intended should not be overwhelmed by planters, containers and plant-holding “furniture”. Quite possibly you’re the determined and capable gardener who can handle and manage plants in beds and plots. So you have no need for containers.

    Flora Danica

  • If you’re one of the many who have no garden at all – the apartment dweller, perhaps – but still have an urge to have a containerized plant, may I suggest the eternal and utile cachepot? Should you opt for the Flora Danica cachepot and go for a 200-year old, antique specimen, I assure you that you’ll be well on your way to financial ruin – just like a real gardener!

Ikea saucer

If you cannot use your container for planting, fill it with water – birds must bathe. Install a pump and you’ll be steps closer to the basins and fountains of Versailles.

Consider the Containers

My friend, the Flaneur du Pays, is an architect and claims to be more of a vicarious gardener than a knees in the dirt type, but he has a lot to say about cachepots, jardinaires, urns and plain old pots. He will be guest posting from his cottage moderne set amid a grove of trees, in sight of  a salt marsh and Long Island Sound, for a couple of days while I put my knees in the dirt.

Not the Flaneur's pot or flower

“I’ve just unleashed the agapanthus. They’ve flown the coop! Spending two seasons in a small house with four enormous pots of agapanthus and then suddenly having them gone is glorious. Who knew there was so much room in the house? And they’ll be just fine out on the terrace, looking better and better each day. Normally that would be that: no more work until October, but this year they again need to be repotted – they’re bursting through their containers. I’ve been scouring various sources and wondering, “Could they possibly make pots as big as I’m going to need?” Indeed they do.

Before you read any further, know this: I opt for any solution that liberates me from mulching, tilling, bending and kneeling, and especially from weeding. I also like being able to have instant gratification so anything that can give plants amplitude in height and presence without having to wait for years is a boon. My bias is toward the architectural (a neighbor once commented that I arrange my perennials like a field marshal). For me the discovery of the plant stands with rollers (the casters elevate a plant slightly and allow it to be swiftly zipped across a room or terrace) was the equivalent of discovering I (the floral field marshal) had several divisions of armored tanks waiting at the border. By the way, IKEA sells such plant stands in their garden area – they are available in sizes up to 24” in diameter and can sustain a 400-pound load! And they’re priced well below those found in more recherché garden emporia.

I’m a minimalist who views a lawn as a carpet, trees as walls, and plants (few) as furniture (spare) to be moved around in pleasing ways as the mood strikes. I can operate an electric mulching mower and I’m fortunate enough to have the trees in situ, so my gardening impulses can be satisfied by a few containers of, for lack of a better term, plants. You no doubt are infinitely more ambitious, willing to work and possessed of the energy and interest to embrace as much of what Mother Nature offers as possible within whatever garden space you have. Me? Please. A chair or bench with cushion, a glass of lemonade, a large market umbrella and a book are all I ask.

But whether you’re slothful me or enterprising you, we can agree that there is a time and place for containers in the garden. With relative ease they can be placed to give structure and spatial definition, they can frame and define an entry or arrival sequence, and they supplant the need to spend vast quantities commissioning sculptors to fashion objects of art that ultimately are less interesting than plants anyway. Containers can accommodate almost any plant’s root requirements and watering needs. Containers also can be a blessing to those whose arthritic joints or under-utilized muscles recoil at the prospect of stooping, bending and lifting. A handsome pot on a plant stand with casters can be moved about as easily as place cards can be coyly switched at a wedding reception.”

More tomorrow.                                           Flaneur du Pays