Category Archives: Bedding Plants

A New Planting Season Brings New Possibilities…Don’t Be Afraid!

Sunny Bed with Annuals & PerennialsI read a piece that Tony Avent of Plant Delights Nursery wrote a few years ago about some people being “controlling” gardeners while others are “gambling” gardeners. I really thought it was spot on, and I can say I’ve worked with both types.

 

Of course, many of us gamble each year, planting marginally  hardy plants that have done fine with our mild winters of past years. Boy, can some winters give us a whammy though!

Annual caladiums, coleus and pentas are added to this perennial bed

Annual caladiums, coleus and pentas are added to this perennial bed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I really liked this comment from Tony Avent,  “Controlling folks want everything to work out just as the gardening books say, and struggle when plants don’t do exactly that, while the gamblers take a chance, try new things and hope for the best.

For the gamblers if things don’t work out quite as expected, it’s an opportunity for something new, rather than a failure. Personally, I like the gamblers approach to gardening much better, and think it causes a lot less anxiety! So, what’s the point? The point is to relax and enjoy gardening, remembering that nature is always in charge.

Life and death in the garden are no different than life and death outside the garden. Our options are to dwell on the sadness of death or celebrate the life that passed and embrace the next life that lies ahead.”

Fall in the Herb GardenWith the beginning of a new planting season, my personal outlook is going to be that of looking on my  gardening efforts as a joy and an opportunity to not only beautify my landscape and surroundings but to nourish my soul as well; and, if there are failures, that will be part and parcel of the process. Some of my  best plant combinations have been happy accidents!

Herb Garden with Self Sown Vinca, Allysum & GomphrenaThe pictures here are of my garden – plants are allowed to self seed, failures are yanked out, and plants that strike my fancy are tucked in here and there where I think they might look good. It wouldn’t make anyone’s list of a perfectly designed space, but it’s mine and that’s how you should treat yours too.

Above all, whatever the outcome of your garden, take time to appreciate the life you bring into it…a butterfly on a zinnia bloom, a hummingbird hovering over a salvia, and bees doing their important work with them of  pollinating your flowers and vegetables.

Mid Summer Perennials & AnnualsMy ultimate hope is that many of you adopt the gambler attitude. It doesn’t have to be the high roller, high stakes approach, but try to roll with the plant punches, knowing they’ll come, and  treat your gardening efforts as what they should be – a relaxing, and therapeutic addition to your  daily schedule rather than a chore that’s only done on the weekends.

Posted by Kris Blevons

Container Gardens…Using Foliage For Color And Contrast

Mondays are the best days to put a few container combinations together before the weekly orders begin to come in for custom plantings, arrangements for parties, and the general hectic pace of spring continues.

A big hanging basket...

A big hanging basket…

 

 

 

 

 

 

The goal is to give inspiration to all of you who might be overwhelmed with the choices available or want something to take home and plop by your front door, on your porch,  or in the garden.

Contrasting leaves of coleus, grassy Carex and ajuga make a vibrant combination...

Contrasting leaves of coleus, grassy Carex and ajuga make a vibrant combination…

'Miss Muffet' caladium and 'Bounce' impatiens under planted with scotch moss...

‘Miss Muffet’ caladium and ‘Bounce’ impatiens under planted with scotch moss…

This past  weekend it was fun to talk with some ladies, two sisters and their mother, visiting from Columbus, Georgia. While the sisters browsed through the greenhouse, their mother was busily amassing quite a collection of plants to carry back with them, an alarming amount in the sisters eyes.

A black elephant ear, 'Bounce' impatiens, spiky juncus and variegated creeping fig will all appreciate steady moisture through the summer...

A black elephant ear, ‘Bounce’ impatiens, spiky juncus and variegated creeping fig will all appreciate steady moisture through the summer…

 

Contrasting leaves of Heuchera, maidenhair Fern, Babywing begonia and Fuschia 'Gartenmeister'...

Contrasting leaves of Heuchera, maidenhair Fern, Babywing begonia and Fuschia ‘Gartenmeister’…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“How are you planning to fit all this in the car.”, one of the daughters asked. “Oh, it will be fine.”, Mom said airily. “We’ll just shift some of the luggage around.”           It was such fun talking with her, answering questions about the plants she saw on her own or in various container combinations throughout the nursery and greenhouse.

This large hanging basket uses caladiums, angelvine, a Carex and a mother Fern in the very center...

This large hanging basket uses caladiums, angelvine, a Carex and a mother Fern in the very center…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m not sure exactly how they eventually managed to get all the plants in their car for the trip home, but I do know Mom would have packed the plants and shipped the luggage if it came down to it!

All foliage...

All foliage…

Some of the plantings our Georgia visitors saw are shown in this post and include foliage plants for filtered sun to shade, including coleus, the largest of which are the Kong series, big bold beauties for shade.

Don’t forget caladiums, always a stalwart…and many now also tolerate full sun. Hypoestes, or polka dot plant, comes in pink, white, or red, and Rex begonias have beautiful patterns and colors too.

The Rex begonia's leaves stand out in this planting...

The Rex begonia’s leaves stand out in this planting…

 

The trailing plant here is an episcia...

The trailing plant here is an episcia…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A trailing golden creeping Jenny or variegated creeping fig adds either gold or green and white coloring. Episcias are another beautiful choice when they’re available.

Use bloomers like the new Bounce series of impatiens, SunPatiens, Torenia (both trailing and upright), Babywing or Dragonwing begonias, and airy white euphorbia for even more color.

A large leaf coleus and a small leaf coleus share space with a SunPatiens and angel vine in a cast stone 'barn board' planter...

A large leaf coleus and a small leaf coleus share space with a SunPatiens and angel vine in a cast stone ‘barn board’ planter…

Using interesting foliage with flowers in plantings that don’t get the hot summer sun (and those that do) is always the goal for an interesting and vibrant composition.  And, as plant choices change through the season,  you’ll see different planting combinations on any given week as new plants become available and others are sold out. This changing inventory may call for creative substitutions for some plants, but that also makes it fun!

Posted by Kris Blevons 

Bounce Impatiens – These Are Resistant To Downy Mildew Disease!

Bounce impatiens -photo courtesy Ball Hort

Bounce impatiens -photo courtesy Ball Hort

We knew plant breeders would be working double overtime to come up with an alternative to bedding plant impatiens that have been subject to downy mildew disease the past few years and are so happy to hear of a new impatiens series called Bounce. We’ll be offering these new plants this spring and will be trying them in our own gardens. This is the description from our local grower’s website:

Bounce impatiens - photo courtesy Ball Hort

Bounce impatiens – photo courtesy Ball Hort

“Introduced for 2015, the Bounce series of Impatiens is bred to resist Downy Mildew, have the bloom count of the classic walleriana-type impatiens (Super Elfins, Dazzlers, etc..) and perform in both shade and sun! Possibly best with some afternoon shade here in the Birmingham area. The series is named for its ability to bounce back from a wilt without dropping its blooms.”

Bounce impatiens - photo courtesy Ball Hort

Bounce impatiens – photo courtesy Ball Hort

This is such good news!  A recent conversation with this local wholesale grower revealed that, while the color range isn’t extensive (yet), it does offer white and varying shades of pink as well as a lavender. They can easily be planted 15″ apart in a garden bed and will fill in beautifully as shown in the picture above. 

Bounce impatiens - photo courtesy Ball Hort

Bounce impatiens – photo courtesy Ball Hort

In addition to the Bounce series of impatiens,  Sunpatiens are also a good choice for disease resistance.

You will still see the downy mildew prone Dazzler, Super Elfin and other impatiens for sale around town. We will order them for you, at your request,  but will sell them with the warning that they are susceptible to downy mildew disease.

 

The ‘Better Late Than Never Garden’ – A Winter Update

Tucking in winter plants around fall annuals, late fall...

Tucking in winter plants around fall annuals, late fall…

The ‘better late than never garden’ is certainly living up to its name, since it was planted at the beginning of November 2014, and most of it finished just prior to the hectic holiday season, a full month later than I would have liked. This ‘better late than never’ schedule is working out okay so far, though, as the plants are growing steadily. Of course, more updates will follow, documenting successes and the inevitable failures that every garden and gardener has.

Most of these pictures were taken quickly  very early on a mid-December morning in the middle of the holiday rush. Since there were other things that needed to be done, I couldn’t linger; but now, with the new year and more time, here’s an overview of the planting process and selection in this ‘better late than never’ winter garden.

Mid-December. Mulched and growing...

Mid-December. Mulched and growing…

Let me admit right off that I’m not a “garden designer”. I can’t tell you that I drew a beautiful rendering of what I envisioned this garden to be come spring. No, the reality is that I grabbed a few packs of this and a few pots of that (usually in the middle of a busy day), raced across the street trowel and plants in hand, and plugged them in wherever I felt they worked best. So, in that way, little by little and over and over, the garden was planted. Time, attention, and the weather will determine how it turns out this spring.

Violas, delphinium, poppies, kale, curly parsley, bachelor buttons and more growing... Mid-December

Violas, delphinium, poppies, kale, curly parsley, bachelor buttons and more growing… Mid-December

I began by planting a few foxglove, delphinium, and bachelor buttons under the still blooming summer tithonia. Then, when it was finally pulled out (Better late than never too!), pansies, violas, and sweet alyssum were added to large spaces that opened up.

Red Veined Sorrel, Rumex sanguinea in the winter garden...January

Red Veined Sorrel, Rumex sanguinea, in the winter garden…January

Since the summer annuals were pulled out of them first, the two front beds were planted the earliest with snapdragons, poppies, bachelor buttons, chard, curly parsley, dill (The dill will eventually freeze at some point.),  red veined sorrel, ‘Bull’s Blood‘ beetskale, and mustard “Red Giant“.  There’s quite a mix of annuals, herbs, flowers, and even bulbs (dwarf narcissus and ipheionin each bed.

The 'better late than never garden' in mid-December...

The ‘better late than never garden’ in mid-December…

A good layer of mulch is really important for your winter garden. Some folks start with a completely empty bed, add the mulch, then plant through it, a great method and easy to do. Of course,  I did just the opposite. I had the time to plant before I had the help for the mulch! So, inevitably, there I was, mulching in the dark before the first cold snap of the season.

I also made sure everything was watered well before spreading the shredded pine bark around the little plants. There will be many more cold snaps before the winter is through, and I’m counting on this mulch to keep the soil warm since this isn’t a garden that gets babied.

A poppy, in bud, with 'Red Giant' ornamental mustard in the 'better late than never garden' in January...

A poppy, in bud, with ‘Red Giant’ ornamental mustard in the ‘better late than never garden’ in January…

For people that don’t have big blocks of time (That’s most of us, I think.), planting a little bit at a time does work…obviously I’m a poster child for it. Now I’m concentrating on keeping winter weeds controlled in the beds, since the two worst offenders, chickweed and henbit, insist on coming up. Don’t let these winter weeds get hold in your garden. Pulling a few every week is far more preferable than tackling them come spring, after they’ve been allowed to smother your pansies and  violas.

Have you planted some flowers for spring? If you haven’t, try a few poppies, pansies, or violas since, as you know now, it’s never too late to plant a garden. I’ll keep you posted on our ‘better late than never’ garden’s progress too!

 

 

Fall Favorites For Spring Flowers…A Primer On Pansies & Violas

Pansy Matrix Ocean Breeze MIx

Pansy Matrix Ocean Breeze MIx

Pansy Matrix Sunrise

Pansy Matrix Sunrise

Fall is planting time here in Birmingham, and pansies and violas are the stars of the show. Even if folks plant nothing else, it’s so easy to put a few of these spring beauties in a little spot in the garden, a pot, or a window box for the winter.

Panola Purple Face & Viola Sorbet Blueberry Cream

Panola Purple Face & Viola Sorbet Blueberry Cream

Pansy Dynamite Scarlet/Viola Sorbet Antique Shades/Viola Penny White

Pansy Dynamite Scarlet/Viola Sorbet Antique Shades/Viola Penny White

Pansy Majestic Giants Patricia

Pansy Majestic Giants Patricia

Pansy Dynamite Scarlet/Pansy Matrix Orange/Viola Sorbet Yellow

Pansy Dynamite Scarlet/Pansy Matrix Orange/Viola Sorbet Yellow

Oh but what a dizzying selection greets you at the garden shop! Tables upon tables of blooms…some diminutive, others large, some with solid colors, others with charming “faces”, all waiting for you to decide which of them to choose to add beauty to your landscape next spring – and even some color through the winter.

One rainy Saturday morning I put together a few sample combinations of pansies, violas, and mixtures of the two to show you a few options available for your planting pleasure…but keep in mind this is just the tip of the iceburg when it comes to playing with color in your garden!

Remember to think about what else will be blooming in your garden come spring.  You may not want a pink pansy in front of your orange azaleas (Though I’ve been known to favor pink and orange in certain instances!), so think it through before you decide.

Another consideration to keep in mind is the color of your house.  My first summer in our home I decided I wanted an “English Garden” look out front, using pinks/purples and silvers.

I was so caught up in my vision that I forgot this color palette would look like blech in front of the brick – I was unhappy with it all summer and couldn’t wait to tear it all out come fall.

Now I use brighter colors and include poppies –  it looks so much better!  I save the more muted colors for the back of my house where I play with my “English Garden” and plant everything  I want to – including foxglove and snapdragons for spring interspersed with pansies and violas.

Viola Sorbet Purple Duet/Blue Blotch/Banana Cream

Viola Sorbet Purple Duet/Blue Blotch/Banana Cream

 

The difference between a pansy and a viola is primarily size and shade tolerance. The pansy bloom and plant is larger. Pansies need at least half a day of sun to bloom well; full sun all day is best, but remember, in the spring as the temperatures rise, they’ll play out faster in so much sun.

Violas are smaller in size and the blooms are smaller as well. However, violas put out massive amounts of small blooms and the plants attain a nice rounded size which makes up for those diminutive  flowers. Violas can tolerate less sun, though, as with the pansies, at least half a day sun is best.

As for most plants, fertilizing is important.  Plant Tone is a good natural (and stinky!) amendment to add to beds in the fall.  Incorporate  it with a first feeding of Osmocote, which will release its nutrients until the soil gets cold.

Mid-winter apply  calcium nitrate to add extra nitrogen. After planting, always water your plants in and apply a good layer of mulch to keep roots warm through cold spells.While plants are blooming be sure to deadhead, (pinch off faded blooms) to keep more buds coming. If you leave old blooms on to die then set seed, this creates a messy looking plant that’s putting all its energy into that seed, not into future blooms.

 

This is especially important to remember come spring. Don’t be overly concerned if plants aren’t blooming in the middle of winter. This is normal – especially if we have cool, frosty  nights. Remember, the real reward comes in the spring!

Pansy Mariposa Peach Shades

Pansy Mariposa Peach Shades

Be mindful of winter temperatures – this is the time to watch the weather reports each morning or evening. Pansies are tough plants, but help them out by making sure soil in beds or planters is moist if there are freezing temperatures forecast.

Hopefully  these suggestions and tips will be helpful for any of you that get overwhelmed by the choices available…happy planting!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More Container Gardens…Foliage, Flowers and Pizazz!

The last post highlighted a few shade planters, and I hope this one will give you ideas for your hot, sunny spots. Even with large planters maintaining a set watering schedule is important when plantings are sited in full sun.  If your plantings wilt as a result of being too dry between watering over and over, eventually they’ll become so stressed they won’t recover. So, if you’ll be leaving for any extended period, ask a neighbor or friend to check your plantings and water regularly.

This planting is easy to hand water since it needs to be dry...

This planting is easy to hand water since it needs to be dry…

The first planting is a classic “Thriller, Filler, Spiller” combination, designed for a tall urn, using a silver foliage plant called cardoon. It will get very large, creating a dramatic centerpiece while the  mounding, succulent echevarias fill the middle with their pinky gray rosettes. The beautiful heat tolerant trailing dichondra creates a waterfall of shimmery silver over the edge. This is the most drought tolerant of the plantings shown here but still needs attention – even succulents need water!

Planted Container for SummerThe next uses a red fountain grass for height in a tall planter with the addition of white Profusion zinnias and white euphorbia as fillers. Spilling out are blue daze and potato vine. This planting will bloom continuously with regular water and periodic deadheading or clipping back of the zinnias. Late in the summer the grass will begin to bloom for an end of the season finale.

Wheelbarrow - Planted For Summer

 

This wheelbarrow is a fun and bright mix of flowers and herbs and will provide a riot of color through the hottest months. This type of whimsical container calls for a jumble of color,  and here it’s provided by zinnias, vinca, fanflower, rudbeckia, ornamental oregano, purple basil, and thyme. It would be perfect in the middle of a cottage kitchen garden! It will be necessary to deadhead the zinnias as they fade, cut back the fan flower periodically, pinch the vinca if necessary, and harvest the basil and thyme. Watering daily will be a must, since it’s planted very intensively with many plants.

Urn - Chamaecyparis and Summer AnnualsMany of you have pots that have shrubs in them that live year round, and just need some color added each season. In this example, the Chamaecyparis adds yellow foliage and is complimented through the summer with yellow million bells, white narrow leaf zinnias,  silver dichondra and some euphorbia. The million bells and zinnias will be cut back when they get too leggy (There’s no need to deadhead each individual bloom on these.) and it will be watered daily, since the Chamaecyparis has been in this planter for a few years and it’s roots are filling the planter quite extensively.

Planted Container for Summer - AlocasiaThe final planting uses a dramatic, and very large Alocasia – this speaks for itself, though it has supporting players as well, including dracaena, epescia, nepenthes, and alternanthera. It’s quite a combo.

I hope this and the previous posts will give you the confidence to try new plants and combinations, to be braver about cutting plants back (Yes,  they do need it every now and then!) and the understanding that these types of intensive plantings need regular water whether you’re home or not to keep them looking their best. 

Late Summer Plants Jump Start The Fall Garden

Marigolds & Coleus - FallI’m not quite sure I’ve been  living in the Southeast this summer…plentiful rain and decent temperatures – (Though it looks like the heat is finally returning.) this has been Alabama in August?!

But, even with a manageable summer, annuals planted back in April can still be looking worse for wear, no matter how well you tend your garden and containers. Potted plantings especially can get just plain root bound, and may need rejuvenating by late summer when school starts back up.

Pumpkin season is right around the corner...

Pumpkin season is right around the corner…

 

 

And, before you know it, pumpkins and gourds will be on display all over town – and they look beautiful with all the late summer plants you can begin putting in now and in the coming weeks!

But what to do? If you’ve been cutting back your annuals they may be just fine. If they are, that’s great. Keep tending them until pansy season, which generally begins when temperatures really begin to cool down and fall is definitely in the air – usually sometime in October.

photo (33)But, if your garden and beds are struggling…think about where you’d like to see marigolds, ornamental peppers, late season salvias, and, further down the road, lettuce, asters and cool season herbs – we’ll have transplants of parsley, thyme (Look for the lemon variegated thyme which looks beautiful with green or red lettuce and marigolds.) dill and cilantro too.
Just a few marigolds go a long way in planters or beds – each plant gets quite large – and they only need periodic dead heading to keep blooms coming.

What about mums, you ask? Well, we’ll have mums as well, and they are beautiful too. You do need to know though, as soon as all their buds open, there won’t be more flowers. You can enjoy them until they’re done blooming, but, no matter how many flowers you pinch off, they won’t make more! But for a weekend football party or get together, they can’t be beat as a traditional fall flower on a table or by your front door.

Soon everything will be available to create this planting arrangement...

Soon everything will be available to create this planting arrangement…

September is right around the corner, and that is the month all of these plants become more readily available. If you begin planning now, you can have a glorious fall planters and garden beds that are the envy of your neighborhood!

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

 

The Heat Is On…These Annuals Can Take It!

Gomphrena, zinnias, red cuphea, mexican heather, vinca…have you tried one or more of these in your garden or planters? If you haven’t, you should!

Gomphrena & narrow leaf zinnias in a hot, sunny bed

Gomphrena & narrow leaf zinnias in a hot, sunny bed

Gomphrena is one  that you might not look at twice in its little pot on a table at a nursery…but it is one of the toughest plants – and the prettiest, come the dog days of August. In fact, the heat seems to bring on more blooms, and the more sun the better. It is more difficult to find, but we have gotten some in recently. The taller varieties are particularly nice in the garden, and they come in purple, red and sometimes pink and white.  If you have a tough, hard to deal with spot in your garden, gomphrena is one to try.

bat face cuphea

bat face cuphea

Red cuphea, or batface cuphea, is another underused but tough plant for our summer heat. If you’ve ever noticed the bright red blooms in our sign planter at the shop in the middle of summer, you’ve seen bat face cuphea in all its glory. While butterflies flutter and land on the gomphrena, you’ll see the hummingbirds feeding on the cuphea – they love it! With its trailing habit, it works quite well in planters.

Profusion zinnias

Profusion zinnias

 

 

 

 

Zinnias are another go-to flower that can’t be beat – the best for disease resistance (no ugly leaves) are the narrow leaf zinnias, the Profusion and Zahara zinnias. You’ll find narrowleaf zinnias in yellow, white, orange and a mix of these three colors. Both Profusion and Zahara types have larger bloom and come in some pink colors too.

image

 

Finally, vinca is one of the most drought tolerant and forgiving plants out there…in fact, overwatering is the main culprit if plants don’t make it – how great is that? The clear, pretty colors of vinca and both upright and trailing habits make them the perfect candidate for beds and planters alike.

So, it’s the middle of summer and you say you need a little color? These are the annuals that can take the heat!

Summertime is day lily time!

imageThis ‘Siloam Double Classic’ daylily’s first bloom in my garden marks the beginning of summer for me. Blooming right around Memorial Day, it is also a reliable rebloomer and the last to bloom at the end of summer – August 22nd last year, to be exact!

Blooms aside, daylilies also add another important element to a garden, particularly in a mixed perennial/annual bed – foliage form.
We talked about the importance of foliage in the garden in an earlier post on perennials…the fountain like leaves of large daylilies can break up the monotony of masses of other plants, and the lily bloom can be placed in contrast to other flower shapes as well.image

Summer is the season for these lovely plants, and the best selection will be available in the coming days and weeks.

After you’ve chosen and placed your daylilies, don’t forget about them. They benefit from an (at least) weekly walk through the garden, to pick off faded blooms. If any leaves are yellow, pull them out as well, to keep plants looking well tended.
imageOnce the bloom period ends, cut the old bloomscapes completely to the ground, tidying the plant. If the leaves begin to look tattered at all, don’t hesitate to take the entire plant and cut all the foliage back by half. Your daylilies will reward you with fresh foliage the rest of the season, and, if they’re rebloomers, you’ll have another round of flowers!image

Divide your daylily when it becomes too large for its spot. This is best done on a pleasant fall day after the heat of summer has finally passed…this chore will be the subject of a future post.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

 

A Look At The Nursery – Come See!

We’re at the beginning of the new planting season and thought it would be nice to give you a glimpse of the nursery…for those of you familiar with us, you know things come in and go out just as fast – if you see something you think you could use, it’s really best to make up your mind quickly! Of course, we’re always happy to take your name and number and call you if we’re out of something that can be reordered.

Beautiful pots of 'Tuscan Blue' rosemary...

Beautiful pots of ‘Tuscan Blue’ rosemary…

 

The rosemary has been beautiful – this is one herb that does so well for us here in the Birmingham area…it’s happy in the ground and in containers.  It’s just a big,  beautiful, edible shrub!  Plant it in full to at least half day of sun and give it excellent drainage and you’ll have a winner on your hands.

The tables under the lath house are filling up with bedding plants...

The tables under the lath house are filling up with bedding plants…

 

We’re beginning to get serious about stocking bedding plants. While our last average frost date here is mid-April, we are pretty much there, though many of you are just now seeing the pansies at their peak. Enjoy them, and when they’ve given out in the heat, replant with your summer bedding plants. Container plantings are usually the first to suffer as a result of higher temperatures, especially if they dry out at all. We’re beginning to get in everything you’ll need for pots, hayracks and more…shipments come in just about every day but Monday!

The nursery is divided into distinct areas. All of the shrubs are against the fence on the inside of the lath house  and on the end toward the alley.

Annuals and tropicals are out front on the tables and steps, and also in the middle area under the lath house on tables.

Perennials and groundcovers are against the greenhouse on tables and on the ground.

Herbs and veggies are on the end toward the street and side garden. The fresh fruits and vegetables are on the red tables as you enter toward the greenhouse door…and the U-Pot-It bench is against the greenhouse as well. We know it can get very overwhelming to come in and see so much in a relatively small area, so hope this helps…

Happy Spring!