Category Archives: Spring

Early Spring in the ‘Better Late Than Never’ Garden

bachelor buttons…

The past week we had two nights below freezing, and I wondered how the ‘Better Late Than Never’ Garden would fare across the street from the shop. I’d been checking it regularly, hand weeding the henbit. This pesky weed (Did you know it’s edible?) was determined to come up between the ferny larkspur, flat poppy leaves, and the blue gray foliage of bachelor buttons that looked like they were just beginning to stretch up toward the sky.

 

 

 

 

This garden is truly a stepchild of the garden world. I was out of town the day the temperatures were forecast to drop. I knew everyone at the shop was moving the inventory into the greenhouse – a big job and one that I’m sure would take a good part of the day. I let the garden go, hoping for the best.

sweet pea and oriental poppy…

With the first cursory glance as I parked my car across from Emmet O’Neal Library and walked up the sidewalk toward the garden,, everything still looked green, a very good sign. Looking more closely, the only damage appeared to be to the few sunflower seedlings that obviously didn’t get the memo that it was much too early to sprout, and were now black and quite dead.

Maybe the fact that I didn’t thin the crowded seedlings out like you’re supposed to kept everything warm, snuggled up together, I thought. Whatever the reason, it was good to spot even the sweet peas that I’d recently planted on one of the front arbors. I was looking forward to seeing them begin to climb up the fishing line I’d strung along the metal of the support.

I’m hoping some of the poppies coming up near the arbor in the front beds are the gifted seeds from a friend. She was given them on a garden tour to Maryland last spring and offered them to me to try, saying the color was exquisite. I can’t wait to see!

ipheion bulbs and larkspur…

Though there are always sights like that to look forward to,  many large flowering shrubs and trees in our landscapes may well have been affected by the last cold spell, their buds frozen. One of my gardening friends mentioned she was particularly worried about her summer blooming hydrangeas, and I’m concerned about my fringe tree blooms.

Only time will tell, and we’ll just have to keep our fingers crossed. Until then, enjoy the beauty apparent in the fresh green hue of unfurling leaves and the return of the many  pollinators that grace our gardens and landscapes. Be prepared also to plant the  flowers, herbs and perennials that they appreciate…and that we do as well. Happy gardening!

By Kris Blevons

 

 

 

 

New Statuary for Spring 2017

When the big crates of statuary arrive, it’s a sure thing spring is just around the corner. Here’s a look at a few of the pieces that came in recently. Whimsical animals, and pretty planters that struck our fancy and we hope will tickle yours too.

They’re even better in person!

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Spring To Summer In The Garden – It Happens So Fast!

Front bedA southern garden, not unlike like gardens elsewhere, is in constant change one day to the next, a living work of art subtly shifting in quiet or awe-inspiring ways. But here in Birmingham, Alabama,  we’re also able to revel in every season…each spring, summer, fall, and even winter, since, for better or worse,  there’s no real down time, no blanket of snow to envelope the garden in silence.  Each season slides easily into the next, with the appropriate and perfect accompaniment of plants.

imageThe mental transition from spring to summer is the hardest for me though. I want the perfect spring days to go on and on and wish the peonies, poppies, pansies, bachelor buttons, Japanese roof iris, and foxglove could bloom forever. But I know the relentless heat will soon arrive to stay for good and the earliest of the garden bloomers will go as the temperatures and the humidity rise.

So, I’m mindful each day to appreciate the spires of foxglove and blooms of colorful snapdragons I planted on cool fall days last October and that are blooming now, even as I tuck in my usual summer annuals of zinnias, lantana, gomphrena, and more in my hot, sunny front bed. As I plant I pull out many spent pansies and tired poppies, choosing to leave those that are still adding color.image

Many customers  I see each day have completely pulled out their scraggly pansies and are ready to move on. They walk out of Oak Street Garden Shop loaded up with top soil or soil conditioner to loosen the soil, PlantTone to feed it, and lots and lots of plants. They gather perennials that will come back each year, annuals for lots of continuous color, and herbs and vegetables to harvest through the summer.

imageThis year I’ve decided to add a new tall salvia selection called ‘Amistad’. I’ve fallen in love with its beautiful rich purple blooms and think it will be the perfect compliment for the yellow day lilies and other hot colors I usually use in this spot.

African blue basil is another addition this year that I’m planting for the honeybees. On an arbor I’ve decided to put a Malabar spinach plant, a fast growing and beautiful vine whose tender new leaves are edible. Trying new plants, and even different selections of those I’ve used before, makes each season a little different and a lot of fun.

It was a hot day today. I survey the garden as I water my new plantings in, eying a spot previously occupied by yellow violas. Yes, some bat face cuphea would look just right there, and I think the hummingbirds would like it too.

By Kris Blevons

 

 

 

 

Planters and Statuary for Spring 2016

Statuary Planters 2016 - BraunSoon we’ll be unloading spring shipments of shrubs, herbs, flowers for garden beds, pots, and more. For now though, two large shipments of planters and statuary have arrived, and we’re waiting on a third from a new supplier.Statuary 2016Statuary 2016

There are cast stone planters, but light weight alternatives are available as well, easy on the wallet,  (And the back!)  too.Statuary Bird Baths 2016

Winter is a good time to take a walk through your yard with a critical eye. Might there be a spot for a bird bath? One can easily be  worked into existing planting beds near the cover of shrubbery, or used as a focal point to draw the eye to a particular area of your landscape.  Try to locate it where you can see your feathered friends from inside your home as well.

RoosterThese cast stone bird baths are classic shapes, and will add timeless beauty to your garden. And, while we’re on the subject of birds, why not  give them a place to live by adding a succulent roof bird house. They make quite a stylish abode!Succulent Roof Bird House

Do you or someone you  know have chickens? So many people do these days, and our statuary suppliers have jumped on the bandwagon, offering Henrietta the hen, and two versions of a rooster.Statuary 2016 Rooster

Statuary 2016 Hen

 

 

Statuary Gnomes 2016

 

 

 

 

If you fancy a conversation piece for your yard, one of these  just might fit the bill!   Any of them would also make a great gift, and since they’re cast stone they are meant to last a long, long time.

Statuary St Fiacre and Buddhas 2016Planters,  bird baths, chickens, roosters – and  I haven’t even mentioned our trio of charming gnomes – what fun it would be to come across one or more of them in a garden!

Perhaps you’re more inclined toward religious statuary…we have Saint Fiacre (The patron saint of the garden.), Saint Francis, or the choice of Buddhas for your tranquil piece of earth.

Soon more and more plants will arrive, and spring will too. Until then though, stop by to stroll the greenhouse and browse. You might spot the perfect planter, a gift for a friend – or both!

By Kris Blevons

It’s Spring In The ‘Better Late Than Never Garden’…

Better Late Than Never Garden -Winter 2014-2015Last fall the little plot that I’ve come to call the ‘Better Late Than Never’ garden was gradually planted with foxglove, snapdragons, poppies, delphinium, bachelor buttons, ornamental kale, pansies, and violas. Dashing across the street between customers and shop business to add plants and tending it very early in the morning, the garden slowly filled in.

There were a few poppies...

There were a few poppies…

 

 

 

 

As with any garden, there were successes and failures. I’ve come to accept that nature always has the upper hand and not to take it personally when something doesn’t go exactly as planned. Take the poppies, for example. This year, for some reason (I think it was all the rain late winter into early spring.), they just didn’t fill out like they usually do. Disappointing for sure, but the snapdragons more than made up for the poppies lackluster performance.

Yellow snapdragons and white foxglove...

Yellow snapdragons and white foxglove…

I usually have lots of larkspur that reseed in my garden at home. This year I don’t see much coming up at all. Again, it could be the rains or

even the frigid spell late winter this year. It didn’t come up in the shop garden either. Oh, well! The foxglove is beautiful and is putting on quite a show with the delphiniums!

Red Russian ornamental kale adding it's yellow blooms as it bolts...

Red Russian ornamental kale adding it’s yellow blooms as it bolts…

My strategy is to have a variety of plants, knowing that there will be some failures but many more successes. Also, between business at the garden shop (and a personal life), I’ve tried to keep the garden weeded and tended as much as possible.

Early morning light on the snapdragons and pansies...

Early morning light on the snapdragons and pansies…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In a perfect world, there would be endless help, every foxglove would be staked, the bachelor buttons would have been cut back at least once to keep them from flopping, the snapdragons would have supports around them, and the pansies and violas would have more constant deadheading…but whoever said life was perfect, and wouldn’t that actually be a little boring?

The nursery is full of plants for your summer garden.  Spring is all about renewal and hope for a new season, so plant your garden with things you love and try something new too. I’m not sure what this summer will hold for the ‘Better Late Than Never’ garden. I do know we’ll enjoy the beauty of all that’s growing now through our busy spring season and get it planted, finally…(Better late than never!).

Happy spring planting to all of you, remember to maintain the garden as best you can, and always enjoy observing life in your garden too…

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.

 

Haven’t Been In Lately? Here’s What We’ve Been Up To…

Red tulips, a pretty pink hydrangea, a rex begonia and greenery...

Red tulips, a pretty pink hydrangea, a rex begonia and greenery…

Cyclamen, Callas and Daffodils are a cheery mix...

Cyclamen, Callas and Daffodils are a cheery mix…

This arrangement was to celebrate the birth of a baby girl...

This arrangement was to celebrate the birth of a baby girl…

February is full of bright colors...primroses, hyacinths and tête á tête narcissus...

February is full of bright colors…primroses, hyacinths and tête á tête narcissus…

A pretty arrangement for Valentine's Day. This would be pretty for any occasion this time of year though...this one showcases a calla and a beautiful pink hydrangea...

A pretty arrangement for Valentine’s Day. This would be pretty for any occasion this time of year though…this one showcases a calla and a beautiful pink hydrangea…

A customer's container became home to a bird's nest Fern and agave...

A customer’s container became home to a bird’s nest Fern and agave…

Outside the greenhouse can look a little drab this time of year, but, if  you’ve just passed us by, have you ever missed out!

Primroses in the greenhouse...

Primroses in the greenhouse…

 

 

The greenhouse has been packed full with blooming beauties and with Valentine’s Day just past, we’ve been putting together the prettiest arrangements for gifts and filling containers with all sorts of plants for centerpieces too.

This cork bark planter is filled with succulents, spring bulbs, candytuft and primroses...

This cork bark planter is filled with succulents, spring bulbs, candytuft and primroses…

Succulent pots at the front door…

 

At the entrance...

In bloom at the entrance to the greenhouse…

Echeverias blooming in a tiny pot…

Here’s a sampling of what the greenhouse has looked like.

Tacca is getting more adventurous, between getting pets from everyone...

Tacca is getting more adventurous, between getting pets from everyone…

A sweet pot filled with a Rieger begonia, ferns and ivy...

A sweet pot filled with a Rieger begonia, Fern and Ivy…

 

 

 

White and yellow Phalaenopsis orchid arrangement with azaleas and succulents....

White and yellow Phalaenopsis orchid arrangement with azaleas and succulents….

Next time you’re driving by, take a moment out of your busy day to stop and smell the flowers!

Cattleya orchids and air plants in the afternoon light...

Cattleya orchids and air plants in the afternoon light…

A calla lily azalea, campanula and fern in shades of purple, lavender, white and green...

A calla lily azalea, campanula and fern in shades of purple, lavender, white and green…

Hydrangeas, azaleas and purple campanula

Hydrangeas, azaleas and purple campanula

Wire Hearts for Valentine's Day...

Wire Hearts for Valentine’s Day…

More Samplings of Spring 2015 – Cast Stone Faux Bois Planters, Bird Baths and Statuary

Cast stone Faux Bois Planters - 2015Cast stone Faux Bois Planter - 2015This blog post picks up from the last one, showcasing more of our newest cast stone statuary and planter offerings for 2015.

We’ll begin with the faux bois planters in four different sizes. They would be lovely in a rustic, shady setting, complimented with ferns, hostas,  heucheras and other woodland plants to emphasize the tree bark effect that faux bois mimics. These are heavy pieces that will definitely anchor their space and won’t tip over or be blown over in storms.Cast stone Faux Bois Planters -2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cast stone planter - 2015Here too are a few more urn shaped planters. But, unlike many urns, these have a generous planting space,  offering enough room for a pretty display of seasonal color or a more permanent choice of a shrub or possibly herbs.Cast stone planters - 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cast stone birdbaths - 2015Bird baths add elegance and style to any landscape in addition to their all important purpose of offering water to our feathered garden inhabitants. These timeless designs could work in any setting.

 

 

And some smaller pieces:  Saint Francis and Saint Fiacré, a Buddha, a sweet little boy reading his book, a gargoyle…the kinds of pieces that need their own special place and make your garden uniquely yours.Cast stone statuary - 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RoosterWe even have  roosters and a chicken – perfect for any of you who keep neighborhood fowl in your yards! They really are fun and are sure to start a conversation over the proverbial fence.Cast stone Rooster and Chicken - 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Planters - 2015Finally, three quite different choices:  large terra cotta colored planters that could be perfect around a sun drenched pool, a pair of basket weave pots (a classic design), and some dark colored Vietnamese style planters if you prefer a more rustic look.Cast stone planters - 2015

 

 

 

 

Planters - 2015So if you’ve been looking for the perfect planters for your home, we just might have what you need. If you’re in the area, stop by and take a look!

As of January, 2016, many of these planters have been sold and new offerings are available. Take a look HERE for the latest planters and statuary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Sampling of New Planters for Spring, 2015

imageEach January our orders of planters come in for the new year and beyond, beautiful cast stone beauties designed to last longer than a lifetime.

 

 

 

 

Yes, they’re heavy, but they are also the highest quality available, designed to add value and style to any outdoor landscape.

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And, if you’re in the area, remember we deliver too; so no worries about how you’ll get them home.image

 

 

 

 

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This is just a tiny sampling of what we have in stock now, and there’s more to come, including light-weight options. As you can see, there are all sizes and shapes offered to compliment any style home.image

 

 

 

 

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Some are elaborate…or you might want something with clean, classic  lines. If you’ve been thinking about adding some planters to your home landscape, now is the time to peruse some great options.New Planters - Spring 2015

 

New Statuary - Spring 2015In addition to the many planters, there are also statuary pieces of Saint Francis, Saint Fiacre and more. Stay tuned for pictures of those in future posts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!