Decorated Pumpkins

Decorated PumpkinIt all began with my Mother’s 85th birthday in early October. She has macular degeneration and would rather stay close to home now.

Since I am in Birmingham and she is in Wisconsin, unfortunately, with this a busy time in the garden shop business, getting together on her birthday doesn’t happen anymore.

But she is on Facebook. I decided a couple of years ago to get her a Nook that she could use to listen to audio books, thinking it would be a perfect way to open her world. It also allows her, through Facebook, to see pictures of the garden shop and my garden. It has been a joy for her, and I’m thrilled!IMG_0285

So, with this in mind, I decided to decorate a pumpkin for her birthday and put a picture of me holding it on her timeline as her birthday gift from me. I’d seen lots of pictures of succulents on pumpkins (more on that later), but I wanted something bright and happy from me to her on her milestone day.

IMG_0445I chose a bright orange jack-o-lantern pumpkin, glued some cut flowers of gomphrena and mums to it along with a couple of okra pods, added  a few succulents, and tucked moss around the edge. I even cut a couple of tiny hosta leaves. Voila, the birthday pumpkin was born.IMG_0444

 

A few days later a customer came in with a picture of the aforementioned succulent topped pumpkins. They’ve been everywhere the last few years, in magazines and various places on line.

Easy to do but requiring lots of cut succulents, I’d stayed clear of getting into the making of them. I dutifully tried to emulate the white pumpkins in her picture with the succulents we had on hand.

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When they were finished, I set them on the display steps up front, where people could see them, and decided to make a few more. Here’s how they turned out. We had a few more orders that day as people saw them!

if you’d like to make a succulent topped pumpkin, choose a pumpkin and have fun! Any kind of moss can be used. I chose green sheet moss, gluing it to the top of the pumpkin.IMG_0413

 

Purchase or take cuttings from succulents you might have growing in your garden or pots and simply glue them to the moss. Succulent experts advise misting the cuttings once a week.

It’s also fun to add other decorative elements like the okra pods I used on my Mom’s pumpkin. Try tiny pinecones, acorns, and more to add interest. It’s only limited by your imagination!

If you’re in the area, and would like us to decorate a pumpkin for you, stop in and place an order!

By Kris Blevons

 

Decorating For Fall With Pumpkins And Gourds

Pumpkin StackEven if the temperatures have been slow to reflect fall, we are determined to celebrate a change of season.

The arrival of so many pumpkins and gourds in all sizes, shapes, and colors spur us on in our quest for the perfect choices for arranging in containers or to artfully stack at the front door.Pumpkin Display

 

 

Each year begins the same, with the first shipment unloaded and carefully placed, separated by variety. Long Island Cheese, Jharadales, Lumina, Fairytale and Cinderella pumpkins, Turk’s Turbans and the wonderfully bumpy Lunch Lady gourds (Yes,  they’re really called lunch ladies!) and more, all neatly set out.

PumpkinsSoon though, usually beginning with the second large delivery, all semblance of order gets tossed out the window, as we place pumpkin after pumpkin wherever we can find a spot.

That’s really how I like it best, with piles of orange, green, blue, cream, and white pumpkins creating a jumble of chaotic color in all shapes and sizes. It’s difficult to choose just one!Pumpkin/Gourd Arrangement

The cats soon discover new places to nap underneath and In the shade of the raised platforms we use for display of this beautiful fall harvest, coming out only when little ones spy them at eye level.

Long, vining stems of bittersweet hang above, another decorative staple of the season. For over 25 years they’ve been hand cut for us from our North Carolina supplier high in the mountains.Cloche with Mini White Pumpkin

Mini pumpkins and tiny gourds find homes in all manner of containers, nestled in beds of moss and angel vine, or carefully arranged to look as though they were casually placed.

White Pumpkin Arrangement

 

 

 

Usually these designs come together easily, but sometimes it takes more than a few tries to get it just right. We are all perfectionists!Pumpkin/Gourd Arrangement

Please stop in and celebrate the season with us. Even if you just come to look, we usually have something fun to see that we’re either working on or have completed in our design area right up front. Know someone that needs a pick me up? Bring them along!

By Kris Blevons

Pumpkins, Gourds and our Annual Fall Festival

PumpkinsThe temperatures are still summerlike,  but the pumpkins that need harvesting don’t know that, and what a harvest it’s been! We get the most beautiful pumpkins and gourds from a small farmer in Tennessee, and when he calls letting us know the harvest is ready, we make room for bin after bin of familiar and unusual varieties.Pumpkins

 

 

 

 

We have to get creative with our small space when so many come in at one time; but last year Billy came up with a method using sails to shade them from our hot southern sun, and Bert built platforms to keep them off the sometimes wet asphalt. Even so, we’ve commandeered table space too! It seems wherever you look there are pumpkins and pumpkin stacks!

Pumpkin Stacks

 

Saturday, October 8th we’ll be offering the orange jack-o-lanterns for carving and pie pumpkins for the little ones to decorate during our annual fall festival. Then they can check out the bounce house – it’s all free! This year we’re contributing a portion of the proceeds to Studio By The Tracks, and owner Billy Angell will be braving a dunk tank for donations. Our friends from SBTT will be here  with art work, artists painting, and merchandise from the studio as well. If you’re in the neighborhood, come on by!

 

By Kris Blevons

Early Fall Arrivals

 

August and September are usually hot and dry, but even with the lack of rain the transition into a new season has begun.  Many summer garden beds are tired and planters are overgrown or just plain gone. In the nursery business we look forward to October and new offerings of plants, as well as the beauty of pumpkins and gourds. Just when we need a fresh start, it arrives with new selections for the autumn plant palette, mumsmarigolds, and the first of the violas and pansies.

Marigolds come in all sizes, from tiny starter plants in cell packs or 4″ pots  perfect for tucking into tired pots, to 10″ offerings big enough to fill a planter all on their own. Mums covered in buds come in 8″ and larger pots, in many colors and make a big statement where it’s needed.  Be sure to handle them gently, as bud laden stems can break easily. Mums and marigolds aren’t available for long, but they offer transitional color if you choose to plant pansies and violas when the weather is cooler.

More herbs are beginning to fill  the nursery,  including rosemary that will carry on through the winter. We’re just beginning to get the first of the curly parsley that is so beautiful in winter beds and planters, and  ornamental and edible kale, mustards and more are beginning to appear also. Late summer brings perennials too. Have you tried heuchera in the garden or pots? They’re beautiful in part sun or full shade. Just be certain not to over water.

The greenhouse goes through transitions too. From succulents to many types of ferns and more, the amount of plants stays constant, though the variety changes with availability. So if your plants need refreshing with the new season, come take a look!

By Kris Blevons

 

Kris’ Gardening Tips (From the September 2016 Issue of Alabama Gardener Magazine)

Alabama Gardening Magazine - September 2016 - Kris' GardenHave you seen the September issue of  “Alabama Gardener” magazine? Well, if you haven’t, I’ll just tell you that the Blevons garden is in it!

Now, I’ll be the first to say this is a plant person’s garden. We could use a windfall in cash to take care of issues with retaining walls, steps, and other hardscape details that “finish” a well designed garden.  But I hope the huge, ancient moss-covered rock outcrop makes up for it…and well-placed, interesting plants.

The fun thing about being in the issue of the magazine was that writer Peggy Hill let me contribute my thoughts on gardening tips for readers. Here they are, since the article isn’t online yet and I’d like them available for anyone to read.

    • A great garden with healthy plants begins with the soil. Get a soil test, add amendments, and start a compost pile.
    • Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. Studies have shown that gardening can be an anti-depressant. It’s good for the body and the mind!
    • Be careful with your plant selections, especially groundcovers. Our mondo grass (Ophiopogon japonicus), planted by the previous owner to prevent water runoff, threatens to overrun nearby plants, and keeping it in check consumes almost as much time as dealing with the neighbor’s bamboo. (!!)
    • Do a little bit in the garden each day. If you see weeds on a walk through the garden, pull as many as you have time for – they multiply fast!
    • Groom and deadhead plants regularly.
    • Find a good independent garden shop and frequent them for healthy plants and advice.Cuphea 'Bat Face' Alyssum, Pentas, White Roof Iris - Kris' Garden
    • Plants are great! Try something new or unknown just for fun, and research everything you can about your new acquisition.
    • It’s okay to start small. That shrub in a one gallon pot will grow just as well as one much larger, and your reward is tending it and seeing it mature. While small shrubs and trees are growing, add annuals to fill space and provide additional color.
  • Kris' GardenProvide for and protect wildlife in the garden.
  • Limit pesticide use as much as possible and, if needed, start with the least toxic option.
  • Educate yourself. There’s so much to learn and more ways than ever to get information. Take classes, consult botanical garden and university websites, follow favorite gardening bloggers, and read books about gardening. There’s a wealth of knowledge out there!
  • Be observant in your own garden space.
  • Gardening takes some work, but try not to let it overwhelm you. Don’t fret if things don’t get done exactly when the books or experts say. You’ll be forgiven. Spend time strolling through the space, enjoying what you’ve accomplished so far.

By Kris Blevons

It’s Blooming! The ‘Better Late Than Never’ Pollinator Garden

Kris - Better Late Than Never Garden Summer Prep 2016

Preparing the beds…

The pretty but very shy bright yellow goldfinches that have found the ‘Better Late Than Never’ Pollinator Garden across from the shop were still coming to the last of the bachelor buttons, larkspur, and some sunflowers that had seeded from last year’s plants when Bert and I began prepping the four beds for a new season mid-June.Better Late Than Never Garden - Early Summer Prep

So, rather than pull every bachelor button and larkspur out to make way for new, I left what had been the prettiest colors of both, including a lovely lavender larkspur. Who knows, maybe some seeds of it will return in next year’s spring garden…Kris - Better Late Than Never Garden Summer Prep 2016

The beds needed some additional organic matter, and we added bag after bag of topsoil, soil conditioner, and PlantTone to each.

Better Late Than Never Garden

Front beds, early July

Bert and I took turns with my heavy pick axe, each strike of the tool working the amendments in without turning the soil, since that would only turn up buried weed seeds to the light where they’d happily germinate and grow. Then I took a garden fork and loosened it even more.Better Late Than Never Garden

Any good garden begins with this all important work. Remember this in your own and always add more  to your soil before replanting for the new season. We usually have bags of soil conditioner and topsoil in stock, and the PlantTone is a great organic amendment that adds nutrients too.

Tall Marigolds and Zinnias - 'Better Late Than Never' Pollinator Garden

Finally the beds were ready for planting. After raking the beds smooth, it was time to sow the zinnia seeds in the two front beds. I also added lots of plants.

Malabar Spinach Vine - 'Better Late Than Never' Pollinator Garden

Malabar Spinach…

'Better Late Than Never' Pollinator Garden Summer 2016Tall cutting marigolds from a small grower north of Birmingham, tall purple and red gomphrena, a beautiful deep purple salvia and peach porterweed for the hummingbirds, angelonia, pentas, purslane, ornamental okra just for fun, pink mandevilla and malabar spinach vines on the two arbors, as well as seeds of moonvine and hyacinth bean to climb them too.

A few weeks later the last of the bachelor buttons and larkspur were pulled out, and the back two beds were planted with lots of sunflowers and tithonia, the orange flower the monarchs loved last year.  Annual milkweed that had returned from seed was already blooming, and I noticed that a yellow lantana and perennial butterflyweed  had come back from last year too.Annual Milkweed - 'Better Late Than Never' Pollinator Garden

Cleome and Zinnias 'Better Late Than Never' Pollinator GardenOf course the old fashioned Cleome, or spiderflowerhad reseeded, but I also added another, shorter variety and a few more perennials this year, including coneflowers and caryopteris on each corner of the two back beds.

Coneflowers...

Coneflowers…

 

 

 

'Better Late Than Never' Pollinator Garden - Looking Through The Arbor

 

 

 

 

Just as plantings change and evolve with the years, so do structures in the garden. Pinkie painted the back fencing white this year, and we added a trellis piece painted a beautiful blue. I think we should try to grow sweet peas on it this fall, though I’ll have to tie string onto it for them to climb on.

The days have passed. It’s now August and the true heat has settled in; the zinnias love it and are in a riot of bloom: California Giants, Cactus, Peppermint Stripe, Northern Lights – beauties every one.Zinnia Collage

Watering, pulling stray weeds, and deadheading are the important chores on hot summer days, but sometimes I have to stop and simply watch. I see tiny skipper butterflies, bees, and even a garden spider weaving its web near the arbor and bench.

Garden Spider - 'Better Late Than Never' Pollinator GardenThe sunflowers and tithonia will be blooming soon. They were planted a few weeks after the zinnias. I look forward to these towering bee and goldfinch magnets, in every color from pale yellow to deep red, and the brilliant orange flowers of the tithonia too. And, just the other day I threw out some seed of tall yellow cosmos, another butterfly flower.image

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunflowers and Zinnias - 'Better Late Than Never' Pollinator GardenThe garden will reach its exuberant crescendo in the coming month before beginning a slow descent into fall. The zinnias will most certainly get mildewed leaves, and the heavy sunflower seed heads will droop on sturdy stems. But for now, it’s summer, and the garden is glorious.

By Kris Blevons

High Summer In The Garden

Last year about this time I wrote about the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge. I hope at least some of you are also participating, either formally or simply by planting some nectar rich flowers and providing for wildlife in your landscape.

Rudbeckia 'Indian Summer' and PollinatorHigh summer here in Birmingham brings sizzling heat and lots of it, along with the welcome abundance of life in pollinator gardens. In mine the perennial summer phlox, coreopsis, coneflowers, butterfly weed, salvias, rudbeckias, and daylilys are abuzz.Zinnias and Skipper

 

Annuals, especially those in the sun, are also capturing bee, butterfly and hummingbird attention, and I try to plant a variety for each in my sunniest beds.  Angelonia, gomphrena, zinnias, batface cuphea, Mexican heather, purslane, and more jockey for space.

Red Cuphea, Zinnias, LobulariaI take walks through my landscape early in the morning before leaving for work (And the heat builds.), deadheading, weeding, and simply admiring too.Dalily 'Joan Senor'

 

This is the tail end of daylily season, and on summer evenings I pull off unsightly yellow leaves, faded blooms that might be hanging on, and then cut spent scapes to the ground.

Kris' Garden - JulyAfter they’re completely through blooming, if foliage looks rough, I’ll grab a handful, twist it, and cut it completely off. It will reflush with more sightly looking leaves lasting until the end of the season. Remember, you see foliage more of the year than flowers on most perennials. Plan for that when deciding where to plant them or if you’re dividing and/or moving them.Stressed Gomphrena

If it’s been very dry, the early morning hours are spent watering any plants that look wilted. If they’re left without water too often, the stress will weaken them and they’ll be more susceptible to disease and insect attacks.

I’ve noticed some of the small white gomphrena that I planted quite late are struggling. I don’t think they’re getting enough sun, and they’ve gotten parched  more than a few times. I’ll be keeping an eye on them.

Summer Phlox and BeesThe summer phlox and coreopsis are in full bloom and the bees love them. I watch tiny skipper butterflys light  on the coreopsis; they move so fast! When these two play out I’ll cut the faded flowers off the phlox and wait for a second, smaller display.Bee on Coreopsis

The coreopsis will be sheared back since there are too many small flowers and not enough hours in the day to deadhead each one.

As with most summer blooming perennials, I’ll cut stems back completely to neaten the garden and give late blooming plants room to shine when the weather finally cools.

 

 

imageHonestly, though, it’s really too hot to do much more than water, deadhead, and pull opportunistic weeds that seem to come out of nowhere. Even as I water I’m dreaming of my vacation north to see family and friends. I know my garden will be here when I return, grown even more lush with high summer’s heat and, hopefully enough rain too.

By Kris Blevons

 

 

 

 

A Flag For The Fourth

Last year’s massive “Botanical Fireworks”  Fourth of July project was pretty hard to top. This year we went a little smaller, and had some fun creating this tabletop botanical  “flag”. So far it’s made its way onto Facebook and Instagram, and after this post publishes I’ll put it on Pinterest too. How did we manage years ago without all this social media? They were simpler times, that’s for sure.

Botanical Flag CloseupIngredients for our flag project included blooms cut from the bleeding heart vine  (Clerodendron) growing around our entrance,  kalanchoe, vinca, dipladenia,  euphorbia, and geranium petals, cotton bolls and blueberries (We couldn’t resist eating some!)

Happy Fourth of July!!

By Kris Blevons

Cork Bark Planters for Shady Summer Spots

A number of years ago a customer, seeing some of our cork bark plantings, decided she’d like to have one. The space she envisioned it living was on a hearth of a covered terrace, a beautiful outdoor seating and dining area.

That year, and each summer since, a large cork piece has become home to various houseplants that like the shade and summer humidity this spot offers. An experienced gardener, she appreciates and takes exceptional care of this design and others. It’s such a pleasure creating something that only gets better as the summer goes on!image

With this season’s planting, the original cork piece finally had to be replaced, and it’s now one large piece with a second smaller one added to create planting pockets. Wired netting and sheet moss contains the potting soil and plants.

It’s gratifying to see the ‘Bantel’s Sensation’ Sanseveria and fantail willow in context, creating the “flame” look I was hoping for on the hearth.  I hope you can see it too.

Rounding out the planting are a philodendron, trailing pothos and pilea, and a few air plants on the outer portion of the cork, all easily grown and not needing extra care if the family is away for an extended period of time.

Cork Bark Planting For Shade

The second piece was a project on a slow, hot, summer’s day.  Designed for a shady nook, it’s three pieces of cork  filled with a rex begonia, fittonia, and peacock selaginella.

This pretty planting will also get larger and fuller as the season goes on and the inevitable heat of summer builds. Rex begonias are under-utilized, very beautiful, colorful additions to shade planters and well worth growing.

By Kris Blevons

We just received a new shipment of cork bark pieces. Stop in and take a look if you’d like us to create a planting for you, or if you’d like to make your own!

Container Gardening Design Tips

Urn Planted for SummerSpring is for planting in the garden and in pots. Flowers, herbs, perennials, shrubs, and vegetables are all players in the annual game of  “What will grow in this spot?” or “What can I plant in this pot?”.

Summer Container GardenDyron's Urn - Summer 2015

 

 

 

Now that summer is here though, the pace is slower with fewer questions as more people slowly stroll the nursery for pleasure,  picking up the odd plant here and there or gathering more varied selections for filling in garden spaces that need extra color.Summer Container Garden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wheelbarrow - Summer PlantingMany of them come to see the planters we’ve put together, getting ideas for extra pots or to make note of a different combination of plants they might not have thought of.Hanging Basket Combination for Sun

 

 

 

 

 

We enjoy this time too (Since we’re all pretty much plantaholics!) and look on it as our play time with plantings, a reward for making it through another hectic spring season.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Herb Box with VincaSummer Container Garden

 

 

 

 

So, while our neatly lined tables are still filled with a good assortment of varied plants, you’ll also find our container plantings in various spots throughout the nursery too.

 

 

 

Summer Container Garden

 

Some find their way onto our Facebook and Instagram pages, others make their way to new homes. Wherever they end up we hope they give you as much pleasure as they’ve given us creating them.Dwarf Evergreen Planters

Dyron's Planter Tubs - May 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Container Gardening Tips:

Know your light. Plants that want sun won’t perform well in shade and vice versa.

If you want a pot filled only with flowers, choose blooms with different shapes for added interest. An example: A spiky salvia, rounded blooms of zinnias, flatter blooms of lantana.

Make it even more interesting and add a foliage for additional texture or color. Begin by choosing it, then add some flowers to compliment the color or shape of the leaves. An example: A spiky grass, a round pentas, an airy euphorbia, a trailing vinca.

Bigger planters call for bigger plants. Use at least one eye catcher or “thriller”. Add intermediate or “filler” plants, then complete the picture with a trailing or “spiller” selection. This is the tried and true Thriller, Filler, Spiller recipe. It never fails.  An example:  A black elephant ear (thriller), sunpatiens (filler), scaevola (spiller).

Think about the setting the planter is in. What color is your house? What trees and shrubs will be in bloom at various times? Do you entertain at night? What are your favorite colors? Are you there to maintain and water regularly?

No matter how small your planting starts out,  with proper care it may  grow  to enormous proportions. Be prepared to deadhead faded blooms at least weekly and clip back your planting as needed.

By Kris Blevons