Category Archives: Watering

Watering Wisely

We get questions about proper watering of new and existing plantings almost daily. Now is the time for responsible homeowners and gardeners to begin conserving water in preparation for the hot summer season ahead.
 Do you have an irrigation system? If you don’t know exactly how it works, consult your irrigation installer and get answers. Install a rain sensor so your system isn’t running during rain storms! Be sure that your zones are configured to each area for the proper amount of time for the plant material.
For example, lawns need infrequent but deep watering. This encourages deep root systems rather than shallow ones that will succumb in a drought situation.
Remember too that when your lawn turns brown it is more than likely going dormant and will green up when rains return. Established landscapes with shrubs and trees in the ground for more than 5 years will not need the same amount of water as new plantings.
If you don’t have an irrigation system, try to hand water early in the day. Water slowly to avoid runoff and to allow the water to penetrate.
Don’t automatically pull out the hose if plants are wilting, they may just be hot. Watch to see if they perk up once the sun is off of them.  Add mulch to conserve moisture in the soil. Look HERE for more about mulching.
Pay attention to annual plantings during hot and windy conditions, and water the next morning if they look wilted. Wind can be tough on plants that are putting all their energy into blooming!
We know from past experience that the Birmingham Water Works stated mission is that of purveyors, not conservers of water. As a business model they want to sell water as long as possible.
So, unfortunately, we know they are not going to be proactive in conserving water.  That means its up to us to be smart users of this important resource. Start the conversation with your neighbors and friends, and let’s do our best to conserve now.
Look HERE for another blog post on this subject with a link to the University of Auburn for more information.

October 2016…A Few Words On Water and Dealing With Drought

Well, here we are again. Though we’ve been fortunate in the Birmingham area and southeast the past years to have sufficient rainfall for our landscapes, this summer has been a different story. Warmer than normal temperatures and lack of measurable precipitation spell worsening drought conditions and the need for water conservation.

Rain GuageSo, what does this mean for you? Well, trees and shrubs that have been planted less than a year are the most susceptible and may be lost due  to stress from lack of rain. If your landscape is established with plants that have been well placed and are healthy, drought conditions hopefully won’t have as much of an impact – though if these conditions persist that may change too.

A good practice under normal conditions is to water no more than twice a week in any one area. With Birmingham Water Works Stage 3 watering restrictions in place,  hand watering is allowed twice a week and irrigation systems allowed once a week for one hour  between 8pm and 8am.

 

 

Assess your landscape and prioritize which perennials, shrubs, and trees require the most attention. Add mulch to existing plantings to conserve moisture. Hold off on doing any activity that will push growth (i.e. fertilizing and pruning) until rains come. Deadhead plants with old blooms, especially hydrangeas, and strip leaves from stems if they’re not too large.  Set out soaker hoses.

Conserve water in your home as well. When water is heating up for showers, collect it in a bucket for watering plants. It’s amazing how much water you can get from this simple step. Don’t let water run when hand washing dishes or brushing teeth, and run the dishwasher and do laundry only when there are full loads.

You’ve no doubt seen the symptoms of drought stress on shrubs and trees as leaves wilt, curl, and eventually drop. Evergreens show signs by turning brown at the tips, eventually moving into the center of the plant. Injury to trees can be sudden or may take up to two years to be revealed, so even after this drought ends it will be important to monitor the health of our landscapes.

One thing is certain. Even after the rains return, we must be mindful of the way we use water for our landscapes and in our homes, continuing to be good stewards of our environment, now and in the future.

By Kris Blevons

Some helpful links:

https://www.bwwb.org/sites/default/files/docs/doc-dmpsummary.pdf

https://birminghamgardeningtoday.com/water-conservation-now/

http://www.aces.edu/urban/metronews/vol6no4/gardens.html

http://www.al.com/living/index.ssf/2016/06/dealing_with_a_dry_spell_garde_2.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrating 25 Years With A Look Back – A Decade Of Change 2000-2010

The first 10 years of Oak Street Garden Shop were marked by slow and steady growth. Of course, any successful business has to “go with the flow” and roll with the sometimes sucker punches of weather, employee turnover, and unforeseen expenses.

9/11Memorial

9/11 memorial

The decade of the 2000’s certainly held its share of surprises though. It began with the national tragedy of 9/11, a memory seared into the collective conscience of every one of us. No one would have dreamed in Oak Street Garden Shop’s beginnings in 1990 that a piece of New York City’s  World Trade Center would have a place directly across the street (many years after the tragedy, as part of a memorial in front of a newly constructed City Hall and fire station complex  in the next decade), or that a completely rebuilt 2-story library would be completed in the spring of 2001, or that a devastating drought would bring the business to its knees, simultaneously giving birth to a recognized and respected ‘green industry’.

Emmet O'Neal Library

Emmet O’Neal Library

Looking back, it just doesn’t seem possible we lived through all of that and more. The old Emmet O’Neal library came down quickly and went up just as fast, though it began with the incessant pounding day after day after day of the piledrivers, driving deep into the Mountain Brook bedrock.

My head had never hurt so badly as it did those weeks of that early construction. The pounding continued in our heads even after we left for the day and the next day and the day after…until finally, blessedly, it ended and the building began to rise and rise and rise across the corner from Oak Street Garden Shop.

The one-two punch of an historic drought of 2007 and a downturn in the economy in 2008 were the next big tests of the now established business. Until 2007, the shop had been running  like clockwork, and new customers continued to find our little shop across from the library.

Things were looking good. But then, in 2007, the rains stopped.  Birmingham received barely 29 inches of rainfall – well below normal rainfall of nearly 54.  A mere 31.85 inches fell in Atlanta, also well below the average, and Huntsville was just as bad. The entire southeast was going into a drought.

With such serious water shortages, the Birmingham Water Board directed the full force of its weight toward outdoor watering restrictions, and we found ourselves in the direct line of fire.  Because the BWW  publicly declared all garden related businesses “non-essential“, by their new rules  we were not allowed to water even any of the very few plants we were stocking.

Put in the bluntest terms, since they considered our work “non-essential”, it wouldn’t matter to them  if we went out of business.  Billy Angell knew right away that, if he couldn’t convince the Mountain Brook City Council to create a special ordinance allowing Oak Street Garden Shop to water its plant inventory, he might as well close his doors for good.

It was a very scary and depressing time for us all.  The stress was etched on Billy Angell’s face as he stood before the Mountain Brook city council that Tuesday evening.  He had totaled all the water bills for Oak Street Garden Shop from the previous year – a grand total of $500.  His personal home usage had been much more.  Thankfully, the city leaders at the time valued Oak Street Garden Shop enough to allow the hand watering with hoses of our plants, a practice which continues to this day. It still surprises people that the amount of water we use irrigating plants is not more significant.  In fact, we found hand irrigating to be even more efficient and  eventually completely  dismantled the irrigation system for good a few years later.

The battle certainly wasn’t over though, as the ripple effects of this historic drought were astounding. Many growers and nurseries, because of outright outdoor watering bans in surrounding areas and states, went out of business. We were witnessing the industry  we had worked in for years casually tossed off as not worth listening to, helping, or being of any value at all to the community or state.

It was a mind-numbing thought. Garden shops and wholesale nurseries  watched as car washes continued without restriction, though people were told they shouldn’t wash their cars so much. Large industrial plants continued to use enormous amounts of water unabated, and indoor usage of water was never threatened beyond suggestions of how to conserve water inside and the discussion of a tiered billing system.

In fact, by their rules, we could water with abandon inside the greenhouse. Of course, that hardly mattered since only a few were buying plants they’d have to water, be it inside or out.  And, while we understood that cutting back on outdoor water usage was absolutely necessary, it seemed to us that a more balanced approach, and one which included the monitoring of indoor water usage in homes and businesses, needed to be a more focused part of the discussion. Clearly, and most importantly, our industry needed to join forces to prove our worth.

So, at this critical  juncture in the shop’s history, Billy Angell found himself part of a small but determined group of nursery owners, growers, and industry leaders. They had watched with mounting concern the outright and complete water bans going into effect in the Atlanta area and in many other parts of Georgia and had seen the serious toll they were taking on the green industry in that state. They also remembered the outright water ban that had affected Birmingham during a drought in the fall of 2001. So, feeling as though they were fighting for their livelihoods, they persevered, going to and speaking out at many Birmingham Waterworks Board meetings, pushing for more even-handed  conservation measures.

In large part due to this pressure, the water restrictions imposed did not include an outright ban. The drought continued into 2008 and segued into the downturn in the economy, so we all breathed a sigh of relief when the rains finally came again. This crisis had energized the Alabama Landscape and Nurseryman’s Association, though, and an economic impact study was commissioned which showed the extent of the newly-coined ‘Green Industry’s’ worth to the state of Alabama. Now there were solid numbers to back up our words.

What a decade, indeed…

By Kris Blevons

For me, 2007 and 2008  were difficult years for other reasons too. In June 2008, following the summer of the southeast drought, the Rock River in Wisconsin, where my parents’ home is (and where I grew up), went through historic and devastating flooding. For weeks their home, in Fort Atkinson,  and many others were on the brink of  being lost as torrential rains continued non-stop on top of  soil saturated from more than 100″ of snowmelt. The stress was palpable for them, and  for me too, being at such a distance and feeling so helpless. At the height of the flooding, as the river crested, my sister and brother-in-law drove to my parents’ home from theirs in Milwaukee to evacuate them if necessary. They made it across the final bridge as swiftly moving river water crept over the road.  My parents’ home miraculously was spared, but thousands of people and many communities throughout the Midwest were severely impacted. Looking back now, the incredible juxtaposition of flood and drought and the effect both had on my life is still difficult to think about.  

 

 

 

 

A Guide…Plants Used In The “Better Late Than Never Garden” A Butterfly, Bee, And Hummingbird Haven

View From the street...Hyacinth Bean Vine on the Arbor

View From the street…Hyacinth Bean Vine on the Arbor

So many folks have stopped me, asking for a plant list of flowers in the “Better Late Than Never” garden, that I decided it was high time I posted this for those of you who’d like to have something similar next year.  Obviously our garden is sited in full, daylong sun, so plants were chosen with this in mind. You’ll need to provide at least 4-6 hours of sun, with regular watering and deadheading, to maintain your flower garden next year  too.

Indian Summer rudbeckia - "Better Late Than Never" garden

Rudbeckia ‘Indian Summer’ foreground. On arbor, moonvine and red mandevilla…

Any good garden begins with good soil, and, with previous vegetable garden plantings, ours had been amended with soil conditioner, compost and added topsoil. This past season we also added bags of PlantTone as well, raking it in lightly. No tilling was done since that tends to turn up weed seeds, and, once they hit the light, they all sprout, turning the garden into a weedy mess!

The tithonia came on strong, late summer...

The tithonia came on strong, late summer…

 

 

 

 

 

In a previous post I mentioned how late the garden was planted (not until the end of June!), so it was incredibly hot when the sunflowers and zinnias were planted by seed.  This is actually very good, since they need very warm soil to germinate and grow happily and consistent watering as well. I know many of you thought we were a little crazy to be planting in the incredible summer heat, though. (This is a good time to remind all of you to wear a hat if you’re out in the heat and sun and be sure to provide water for yourself too!)  Here’s a post highlighting how much the garden had grown by late summer. So many of you talk about how it seemed to explode overnight. Actually, it was steadily growing each day!

Here, then, is the plant list for a flower garden to attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds in Birmingham, Alabama, and surrounding areas with tips on planting and maintenance:

 

The sunflowers, planted from seed, towered over the garden...

The sunflowers, planted from seed, towered over the garden…

Sunflowers – We raided our Botanical Interests seed rack and planted a mix of sunflowers from Lemon Queen, mixed packs, and solid reds and yellows directly into the ground, then waited, impatiently, checking them every day – and watering each day – until they sprouted. Watching them grow and seeing folks taking pictures made all the effort worthwhile for these towering beauties.

Tithonia...

Tithonia…

 

 

 

 

 

Tithonia, Mexican Sunflower ‘Torch’  – These also were planted from seed at the same time as the sunflowers. At first the sunflowers eclipsed them, but, by the very end of summer after the sunflowers had played out, the Tithonia took over, and everyone was asking about it. It boasts never-ending orange flowers that attract yellow sulphur, skipper, painted lady, and, finally, at the end of the season, monarch butterflies. A must for any sunny flower garden. I kept it deadheaded and staked but left some to lean and sprawl since the stems got quite large.

Tall cutting zinnias – The zinnias were also planted at the same time as the sunflowers and Tithonia. Again, we used Botanical Interests seed leftovers on the seed rack – all mixes of tall varieties. We also had a few green ‘Envy’ zinnia plants in cell packs left over from spring. These I cut back by half and planted in the front two beds while we waited for the zinnia seeds to come up. As seedlings came up I pinched them back to promote branching, and they  were kept deadheaded to promote more blooms so everyone could enjoy the flower display.

Asclepias curassavica, Annual Milkweed – This milkweed was planted for the Monarch butterflies in hope that they would find it and lay their eggs on it for another generation of these beautiful butterflies. It was placed near the tithonia, and, by summer’s end, the monarch butterflies were all over the garden and on the tithonia in particular.  This milkweed should happily reseed itself in the garden next year. I tried to capture what it was like with this butterfly post from late summer.

Variegated hibiscus with the tall pink gomphrena growing through it...

Variegated hibiscus with the tall pink gomphrena growing through it…

Hibiscus – There were two hibiscus varieties planted in the garden. Unlike fancy big-blooming hibiscus you may be more familiar with, these were planted for their foliage appeal, with blooms being secondary. The first is an ornamental red leaf hibiscus, and one of these was planted on each side of the back arbor. By the middle of October, they had each grown to enormous proportions, adding another depth of color to the garden, growing up through the tithonia and moonvine.

Zinnias and gomphrena...moonvine and red leaf hibiscus...

Zinnias and gomphrena…moonvine and red leaf hibiscus…

I kept them clipped periodically to keep them in check and in proportion to the rest of the surrounding plants. The second was a variegated ornamental hibiscus. One of these was planted on each side of the front arbor and had pink gomphrena and tall cutting zinnias growing through it. They were not as vigorous as the red leaf but still added another leaf variation in the garden.

Gomphrena – A plant I wouldn’t be without in the flower garden. It never looks like much in a pot, but in the garden its globe-like flowers add a completely different silhouette among all the daisy-like blooms. And it is tough! We planted transplants of tall purple, red, and pink gomphrena and also added a short variety in all four beds. Here’s another post that features gomphrena.

Purslane, red bat face Cuphea and purple gomphrena edge the beds...

Purslane, red bat face Cuphea and purple gomphrena edge the beds…

Purslane – This low-growing, succulent-like annual is an amazing bee magnet. We had literally hundreds of honeybees each morning on the bright yellow, orange, and red blooming plants. They are best planted along the edge of hot, sunny beds. The flowers close late in the day, but that’s hardly noticeable if you provide other flowers to look at! Be sure to take a look at the video of the honeybees on our YouTube page.

Cleome - Spider Flower...

Cleome – Spider Flower…

 

 

 

 

 

Cleome (Spider Flower) – We had a flat of scraggly looking cleome left over from spring that needed a home…and what a home it got! I cut them back by half so they would branch and be fuller, and were they ever! Don’t hesitate to cut back stems of these flowers through the summer. When you see numerous seed pods hanging down the length of the bloom, it’s time to cut them back. Don’t worry; they’ll continue to bloom and will probably reseed next year for you. Old fashioned flowers, they attract butterflies and bees too.

Porterweed and Sunflowers...

Porterweed and Sunflowers…

Porterweed – An interesting plant that sends out long bloom spikes with blossoms the hummingbirds and sulphur butterflies adore. I would plant it again for that reason alone! I was also impressed that it never seemed to be bothered by insect pests.

Cuphea llavea, Red bat face cuphea  – You may not have noticed this plant right away, but the hummingbirds sure did! Planted along the front of the sunflowers and under the tithonia, it added a shot of red along the ground. Extremely tough and virtually carefree, it flourished with less than optimal sun, as it eventually  was shaded out by the towering sunflowers. Even so, it was one of the last things removed at the end of October.

Cuphea ignea, cigar plant – Another planted for the hummingbirds. This one sports orangey tubular flowers on a rangy plant that I put right in the middle of the zinnias. This post tells you more about this unusual plant.

Hyacinth bean vine, sillouhetted against a blue sky...

Hyacinth bean vine, sillouhetted against a blue sky…

Hyacinth Bean Vine – We started the hyacinth bean vine from seed, planting them all along one side of the front arbor, then waited and waited for it to come up. It finally did, but the leaves were being chewed to pieces and it didn’t look happy at all. Since the garden is pesticide free, the offending leaves were removed and it was given liberal doses of Annie Haven’s Authentic Brand Manure Tea. Gradually it grew stronger, whatever was chewing it moved on, and buds began to form. By September everyone was asking what the beautiful purple flowering vine was.

The back side - Moonvine on the arbor with the red leaf hibiscus on either side...

The back side – Moonvine on the arbor with the red leaf hibiscus on either side…

 

Moon Vine – The moonvine was planted on the back arbor and was the last one we had in stock from spring (They’re easily grown from seed too.). For the longest time, it seemed to be all leaves until buds began to form late in the summer.  Just about the time it threatened to engulf the arbor and everything around it, the fragrant nighttime blooms began to open each evening and were still open each morning.

Late summer - the moonvine and red leaf hibiscus have grown together...

Late summer – the moonvine and red leaf hibiscus have grown together…

Mandevilla Vine – A red mandevilla was planted on one arbor on the other side of the moonvine, and a pink mandevilla was planted on the arbor on the other side of the hyacinth bean vine.  The pink mandevilla was still growing strong at the end of October. The red mandevilla was swallowed up by the moonvine! Both are heat-loving vines and quite beautiful and carefree.

Cuphea hyssopifolia, Mexican heather – Yes, yet another Cuphea and one for the  bees.  This one is a mounding annual that’s just right for filling in spots toward the front of a flower bed. Bees love it, and it’s virtually maintenance free.

Otomeria – A plant I’ve never grown before this summer but that was very impressive in the garden! There were only two, and you may not have noticed them. They love our heat and hopefully will be available for you to try next summer. The two in the garden were planted in August and bloomed until the end of October, when they were finally pulled out. They offered clean white blooms on sturdy mounding plants.

Malabar spinach vine

Malabar spinach vine

Malabar Spinach – Not spinach at all, but an edible and heat loving vine with pretty purple flowers. Like the otomeria, this was another fun plant to try that was also new to me. It did extremely well, planted late, growing up each arbor and up the very ugly 2 hour parking sign. If you’d like to learn more about this fascinating plant, click HERE.

One of the many sunflowers in the garden...

One of the many sunflowers in the garden…

 

 

 

 

 

Rudbeckia ‘Indian Summer‘ – A sturdy annual Black-eyed Susan with large blooms, I’m going to leave these in the ground in hope that they’ll come back next year. We shall see!

Lantana – A couple of lantana were placed at the back of the sunflowers where they’d get the most sun. They were planted quite late (August) so didn’t have much time to develop. I’m going to leave them in those spots to see if they’ll return next year. They might if the winter is mild enough.

Cactus zinnia...

Cactus zinnia…

And the rest….

Assorted tip cuttings of succulents were placed at the front corner by the sign and began to really take hold by the end of the summer.  A rosemary plant was left in from the previous garden and a perennial Cardoon was placed on the end of one bed for its spiny, silvery foliage. A few dwarf purple ruellia, Mexican petunia,  were added by the back rose arbor. Finally, a couple of shade-loving torenia were planted under the sunflowers (They were just right to see from a child’s perspective!).

Dwarfed by the sunflowers...

Dwarfed by the sunflowers…

So, there’s your plant list if you’d like to have a similar summer garden next year. Please don’t feel tied to just these plants, though.  So much of the  joy of gardening involves trying new things and discovering how they work in your landscape. Meanwhile, for now, our winter garden is being planted gradually and offers an entirely different set of possibilities, again some from seed, others from transplants. I hope you enjoy the view!

By Kris Blevons

 

 

 

 

 

 

Try Some Compost Tea This Year – Haven Brand Authentic Tea Is Easy To Use!

imagePlants are like people; they need food to grow…and nutritious food for best health.  I would take that one step further and say that, not only should you feed the plant, you need to add organic amendments and nutrients to create healthy soil that your plants will  thrive in.

My friend Annie Haven of Authentic Haven Brand Natural Brew created her product  with this principle in mind.  On her ranch in California (It’s been in her family since the 1800’s!), the cattle are free ranging and graze in native grass pastures, free of antibiotics, hormone-added grain, and pesticides. The manure that is produced is dehydrated, then packaged, and the tea bags are shipped out and ready for you to steep. What you make can either be used as a soil drench for roses and other plants or as a foliar spray.

Little "tea" bags, ready to brew!

Little “tea” bags, ready to brew!

At Oak Street Garden Shop we’ve carried Annie Haven’s Moo Poo Tea since last spring.  The most popular has been the Soil Conditioner Premium Manure Tea, labeled for houseplants, container plants, the vegetable garden, shade plants,  shrubs and lawns. Both are in sturdy, sewn-together “tea bags”,  ready to brew. I’ve used it at the shop and in my own garden.

They couldn’t be any easier to use; just drop each bag in a 1 gallon, or up to a 5 gallon container, fill with tap water, cover and allow to steep for one to three days.  Then use it to water any plants that need a good, rich organic boost.

steeping...

steeping…

One of my friends in Atlanta, Nancy Wallace, of Wallace Gardens,  uses Annie Haven’s tea each year on her amaryllis bulbs and reports that her blooms are easily one third larger than they were on the same size bulbs before she started using this tea. She  soaks them in it prior to planting, then waters them  with it until they bloom. I’ve seen pictures of her amaryllis, and they are truly impressive.

Wallace Gardens beautiful amaryllis..

Wallace Gardens beautiful amaryllis..

Another way she uses it is as a “Super Brew”, placing 4-6 bags in a jug to make a very concentrated mixture. Then, using a hose end sprayer, she foliar sprays all of her plants with it. Summer foliar feeding like this also seems to deter bugs!

For a quick tea, if there’s none at hand, put a bag in a bucket and fill it up with water. Let it sit for 5 minutes, then begin squeezing the bag over and over; you’ll see the tea releasing into the water. Continue doing this 20-30 times and you’ve got yourself a fast made tea.

When you’re finished with the tea bags, cut them open with a pair of scissors and add the contents to your container gardens…it’s all useable!

Pricing for individual tea bags is $4.95 or you can purchase 3 for $12.95.

 

 

 

 

Some Thoughts While Watering The Garden…

Recently the weathermen called for a pretty decent chance of rain, which, fortunately, finally did materialize. Now, if you’re in the Birmingham area and are a homeowner or even just have a small plot to garden, you were well aware, prior to the welcome rain showers of recent days, that it was getting pretty darn dry out there. And, if you, like me, don’t have an irrigation system, that means dragging around hoses.

Personally I don’t mind this. Of course, it might be better if I weren’t watering pretty extensively by hand early in the morning at home, when it’s needed, then arriving at Oak Street Garden Shop, my home away from home, and, you guessed it, immediately pulling out the hoses to water the plant inventory on these long, hot late summer days.

Hydrangeas are the first to wilt from lack of water...

Hydrangeas are the first to wilt from lack of water…

Truthfully, though, I sort of like hand watering. Sure, I could set the sprinkler to run (My husband prefers this since he has other things he’d rather be doing.), or set out soaker hoses to get water right where it’s needed at the roots. If I had an irrigation system, it would surely save a lot of time and energy…assuming it was set to run  properly at the correct intervals. (Now that I really think about it, I believe having an irrigation system would cause me more anxiety, since I would need to know that everything was set just right and was still working during really dry spells.)

No, watering by hand keeps me in touch with what’s going on in my personal plant kingdom, and I also really appreciate this quiet time to just be still and think. Moving from plant to plant and back again, trying to water as deeply as possible, (Watering less frequently but deeply should be the goal.) I see things more closely, and make mental notes of things I may need to address. Overwatering kills more plants than underwatering. When roots of a plant are waterlogged and can’t get oxygen, they basically drown, and, even though they’ll look like they need water (wilted leaves), no amount of water will bring them back.

Sometimes plants wilt simply because they’re hot and will begin to revive by evening. Plants that have gone past the point of very, very dry when finally watered will have many yellow leaves…a sign of stress. It’s best if you can learn to water before a plant gets so dry. This means getting to know what your individual plants want. But, if you’re not sure,  it’s always better to err on the side of more dry than too wet, unless they’re bog plants or those you know want consistently wet soil.

Water as early in the day as possible...

Water as early in the day as possible…

As I water, I think back to the drought of 2007. Surprisingly, most of my perennials, shrubs, and trees did indeed survive that awful summer, and I learned a hard lesson on how better to read each one  for signs of stress, hose in hand. It was like a personal watering triage each time I pulled the hose out. Water the hydrangeas more…those spiraeas will need less…skip over the yuccas, rosemary and sedums… Thankfully, now hand watering  is once again a more relaxing endeavor.

Irrigation systems do make life easier, for sure. But, when I see them running irresponsibly, either during the hottest portion of the day (So much water is wasted, evaporating into thin air.) or in the midst of rain storms, it worries me. Water is a valuable resource,  and we all need to remember to be responsible in our water usage, whether it be inside our homes or out. Install a rain sensor on your system if you haven’t already.

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 inventory at Oak Street Garden Shop is watered individually,  by hand daily, and this has turned out to be quite  efficient. We decided to completely dismantle the entire irrigation system a number of years ago, and now we water exactly what needs it. No more groups of plants getting too much water while others parch. I prefer this and feel more like a steward of my plants, both at home and at work. For me, it’s more personal, and I like that.

If you have an irrigation system, please use it responsibly. Know how it works and have it checked regularly by a professional irrigation specialist. As your trees and shrubs grow, sprinkler heads often need to be adjusted to continue to water efficiently. Irrigation systems can definitely be wonderful additions in helping maintain your landscape when properly installed and monitored.  Take a look HERE for more information.

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. 

Succulents…See Some Things We’ve Created!

succulents in the greenhouse...

succulents in the greenhouse…

air plants...

air plants…

With the spring planting season approaching, the nursery will be a plant lovers dream, filled with the best of everything we can find. These include fragrant, ornamental, and edible herbs, including the popular oregano ‘Kent’s Beauty’, sun and shade loving perennials for your garden,  bright, flowering annuals for pots and planting beds, and shrubs expressly selected for their ornamental qualities and durability in southern gardens.

Another grouping of plants we have all year around are succulents, and they are so beautiful arranged in containers for the summer or as a combination planting in the home all year around. Some shown here also incorporate tillandsias, or air plants because their care and culture is so similar.

living wreath...

living wreath…

The living wreath shown here that Molly planted was a huge hit on our Facebook page, and for good reason.  Just look at all the interesting textures and colors used, including echeverias, cryptanthus, air plants and even a tiny phalaenopsis orchid! This post on creating a living wreath give you some tips on how to make your own masterpiece. To see yet another that Jamie made, take a look HERE.

imageBecause succulents, air plants and even bromeliads (another great companion) come in so many different shapes, colors and sizes, it’s fun to come up with endless combinations. Here are more that we’ve created in the past few months.

In this long, narrow planter Lauren used a number of different plants including succulent echevarias, sedums, haworthias, and a pretty pink aloe. Meandering through this combination are pilea ‘Aquamarine.’

this will get large!

this will get large!

 

This two tier planting is going to get quite large! Flapjack kalanchoes share the space with a trailing succulent-like plant called dorotheanthus which will have charming little red flowers as the weather gets hotter. It’s also quite cold tolerant, though not completely hardy for us here. This container would be best moved in for the winter.

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We’ve used cork bark planters to great effect in the past, and here Molly planted one with some really beautiful hen and chicks, sempervivum sp., and a couple of hardy sedums. This planting could be kept outdoors through the winter with the exception of the tiny aloes on each end, which can be repotted and moved inside during the colder months. The entire planting could also be moved into a sunny room for the winter.

one of two...

one of two…

air plants add height until the flapjack kalanchoe gets larger...

air plants add height until the flapjack kalanchoe gets larger…

The two pretty white pots shown here work together (There’s actually a third as well.) I used a tall tillandsia to add some height to this planting until the flapjack kalanchoe attained some size. The cryptanthus adds some color at the front and the pilea will contribute delicate trailing leaves to this composition.   In the second pot I added an echevaria to the planting, keeping the pinky color scheme going.

Be careful not to overwater if a container doesn't drain...

Be careful not to overwater if a container doesn’t drain…

Succulents can be planted in anything! This copper planter does not have drainage though, so the plantings need very careful attention to be sure they’re not overwatered – always be mindful of what kind of containers you’re using. Those that drain are always best. I have to confess I just really liked how this looked anyway! And, it’s been growing quite happily in the greenhouse since February.image

Succulents can be used as accents. too. Here a container is home to a tall sanseveria and  pussy willow stems with  sweet allysum tucked between for it’s dainty white blooms.

Finally, if you’re designing a container with succulents (Or anything!) remember the container you’re placing them in is part of the design as well.  This little log shaped planter is brown in color but  tinged with a touch of pink. I liked how the cryptanthus on the left picked up on that but contrasted with the other plants chosen to offset it in color and weight.image

So, with warmer weather right around the corner,  grab a pot, stop in , and find some succulents and air plants of your own to plant up – you can’t go wrong – promise!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer Watering Tips for Your New & Established Plantings

photo (63)With 2013 beginning with a wet, cool spring and the rain continuing into early summer, it seemed like we’d been transported into a different universe than Alabama, didn’t it? All the rain may have caused some complacency – everything seems so much lusher than it usually is this time of year…now the heat is here, though, and it seems certain we’ll be entering our usual summer pattern of hit and miss rain showers with lots of warmth and humidity…

photo (62)Established plantings in your landscape should be doing well, but be aware that new plantings of shrubs, trees and perennials will need supplemental watering this first summer – pay attention to them. The requirement for new plantings is an inch of water each week.

It’s also a good idea to group plants together that need the same amounts of moisture. For example, you wouldn’t want to place a water loving Japanese Iris in the same bed as sedums…one will surely die from too much,  while the other may not receive enough. Either way, it’s not a good scenario!

When you determine that new plantings or even established ones in your landscape need water, remember that the early morning hours are the best time. If you have an irrigation system, schedule it to run between 4 a.m and 7 a.m. or handwater as early in the day as you can.

All gardeners should be aware of conserving water, and an easy way to save water and money, if you have an irrigation system, is to install a water sensor. It will detect when the landscape is receiving moisture and will shut off your system, so you’re not one of those watering your lawn when it’s raining! It’s one of those easy fixes everyone with an irrigation system should be aware of.photo (64)

If you handwater using a hose, direct the water onto the soil, not over the foliage of the plant. The goal is to water deeply but infrequently, so the roots of your plants travel down into the soil looking for moisture. Too many short  watering cycles will create shallow root systems that are less able to withstand dry periods.

 

A very good resource for irrigation and other landscape information is available at  http://www.aces.edu/pubs/docs/A/ANR-1359/index2.tmpl, the Alabama Cooperative Extension System’s Manual on Alabama Smart Yards, authored by Dr. Ken Tilt of Auburn.