Category Archives: Flowers

The Million Pollinator Garden Challenge

I recently learned of an exciting new program called the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge. Since I love watching all the bees, butterflies, dragonflies and hummingbirds that come to both my home garden and the  “Better Late Than Never Garden” across the street from the shop, it was great to hear of a national program designed to help preserve them.

Pollinator bee on dahliaThe  National Pollinator Garden Network, encourages home gardeners, cities, community and public spaces  to plant for our all-important pollinators.

So, in your own gardens, plant flowering nectar plants  with your vegetables, add herbs like curly parsley, dill and fennel for caterpillars, basil, rosemary, mint, and lavender for bees, and stay away or at least please minimize the use of pesticides that kill beneficial insects as well as bad bugs.

I’ve learned I’d rather live with a few holes in leaves and a less than perfect garden than not have as many bees, butterflies, and hummers that add so much enjoyment to my personal space.

Rudbeckia, coreopsis, zinnias, purslane, gomphrena...

Rudbeckia, coreopsis, zinnias, purslane, gomphrena…

 

 

 

The National Wildlife Federation, national garden clubs and other organizations are joining in this effort to create a million (or more!) pollinator gardens across the country. I’m planning to register my garden and the “Better Late Than Never Garden”  and hope you’ll join in too!

 

                                                 

Butterfly Weed

Butterfly weed…

Pollinator Plants For Bees, Butterflies, and More

Perennials include: Anise hyssop (Agastache),  Aster, Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias sp.), Baptisia, Coreopsis, Daylily (Hemerocallis), Dianthus, Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia sp.), Bee balm (Monarda), Joe Pye weed (Eutrochium), Blazing star (Liatris), Gaura, Lavender, Mint, Thyme, Oregano, Phlox, Daisies, Yarrow (Achillea), Sunflower, (Helianthus sp.), Goldenrod (Solidago), Coneflower  (Echinacea sp.), Verbena

Butterflies like these cosmos, zinnias and marigolds

Butterflies like these cosmos, zinnias and marigolds

Annuals include:  Zinnia, Sunflower, Purslane, Mexican Heather (Cuphea sp.)  Mecardonia, Salvia, Cosmos, Alyssum, Basil, Nasturtium, Verbena, Lantana, Fan Flower (Scaevola), Gomphrena

For Hummingbirds: Ajuga, Bee Balm, (Monarda sp.), Begonia, Spider Flower (Cleome), Salvia, Cardinal Flower (Lobelia), Lilies, Penstemon

These lists are by no means exhaustive, and don’t include shrubs and trees that are host plants for caterpillars as well. Don’t hesitate to do research into pollinator gardens as you create your own!

Posted by Kris Blevons

It’s Planted! The ‘Better Late than Never Garden’ Summer 2015

Better Late Than Never Garden - June 2015Just about this time last year we planted the community garden across the street with flowers to attract bees, butterflies and other pollinators. The two years previous it had been a vegetable garden, though the first year of veggies turned out a bit better than the second. Regardless, this little plot of land has had a lot growing in it!

By the end of summer I’d begun calling it the ‘Better Late than Never Garden’,  and it’s certainly been a lesson to many in the neighborhood that a garden can be started any time of the year with care and attention.  I think the zinnias and other heat loving plants performed as well, or better, than if they’d been put in the ground 2 months earlier. In  fact, I’d probably be pulling a few out right about now!Better Later Than Never Garden - June 2015

When the summer seeds arrived early this spring, I perused the seed rack, choosing a good assortment of sunflowers and zinnias since they’d done so well last year. I squirreled them away and took them home, knowing it would be months before they’d be planted.

Finally, the other day I brought all the packets back, walked across the street, and laid them out on the ground in the four planting beds, randomly choosing spots I thought might work well between the various groupings of plants already in the ground.  I thought I’d picked the perfect day, since there was a good chance of rain that afternoon and for the next few days as well.

I’d been sure to set aside some packs of tithonia, the beautiful orange mexican sunflower too, and picked a spot in the garden for some, though there already were plants growing in random spots that had seeded from last year.  What a happy surprise that’s been! I’ve left them to grow in the spots they’ve picked and know the monarch butterflies will appreciate them again in late summer.

Better Late Than Never GardenOne flower I thought there’d be plenty of, because it’s a notorious reseeder, is the beautiful cleome or spider flower. I’ve been disappointed to find only one plant coming in the spot it was last year though. After giving it some thought,  I’m sure the reason no seeds that might have fallen to the ground germinated was  the heavy layer of pinestraw mulch I used in the winter garden. It was great for the pansies, snapdragons and foxglove but must have smothered any seeds that tried to come up through it.

Working my way through the beds one at a time, I used my pick to loosen the soil and make  shallow trenches. Most rows were planted 1/4″ or so deep, lightly sprinkled out, and then the soil gently pushed back. After all the seeds packets were opened and planted, the beds were lightly watered.

Remember I said rain was forecast that afternoon? Well, it turned out to be an absolute gullywasher.  I watched the rainstorm through the doors to the greenhouse, wondering if any of the seeds I’d just planted would still be in the same spot. Only time would tell, I thought.

The zinnia and sunflower seeds are coming up....

The zinnia and sunflower seeds are coming up….

There are at least 6 different varieties of zinnia and as many sunflowers planted in the four beds, and, if last year is any indication, the garden will be an explosion of color in another month or so and the bees and butterflies will be enjoying the patch of blooms in the middle of the village.

The hyacinth bean vine has been replanted too, on the first arbor closest to the sidewalk. The seeds were soaked overnight to soften them and planted all along the length of the arbor on both sides.

Luckily the torrential downpour didn’t wash all the seeds away and the zinnias, sunflowers, and hyacinth bean vine seeds are already coming up. Now the smallest plants will need to be taken out so they’re not too crowded. Crowding of tiny plants isn’t good, and none will be very strong if they’re left too long. This is called thinning and, hard as it is to do, is a necessary step to a beautiful garden.

So, it’s planted for another season, though a garden is never finished, right? Following is a list of the seeds planted in this year’s summer garden:

Zinnias:  Envy, California Giants, Fireball Blend, Northern Lights Blend, Solar Flare Blend, Persian Carpet

Sunflowers: Lemon Queen, Peach Passion, Flash Blend, Vanilla Ice, Moulin Rouge, Evening Sun

Cosmos:  Bright Lights Blend

Tithonia – Mexican Sunflower/Torch Flower

Signet MargoldsTagetes tenufolia – Tangerine & Lemon Gem

Hyacinth Bean Vine

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 sunpatiens 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, Sunpatiens, 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 many heucheras 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 Beacon 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 

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.

 

Here’s A Look At Our Plantings in the Southern Living Magazine’s Container Gardening Collector’s Edition!

One of our favorite things to do at the shop when there’s a little extra time is to create imaginative and creative plantings to give people ideas for their own planters. The trick is using the right plants for our southern climate,   and maintaining them well.  So there just happened to be quite a few growing out last summer when the producers of the Southern Living Container Gardening Special Collector’s Edition stopped in to see if there were any they could use. The special publication would be available on newstands beginning February, 2015. All of the plantings in this issue make sense for southern gardeners since they utilize the plants that will withstand the heat and humidity we all contend with.

I wanted to do something a little different in this cone shaped basket, so I started with a pot of chives and added rhoes (oyster plant) Echeverias and trailing string of pearls for a textural feast... Photo Courtesy Southern Living

I wanted to do something a little different in this cone shaped basket, so I started with a pot of chives and added rhoes (oyster plant) Echeverias and trailing string of pearls for a textural feast…
Photo Courtesy Southern Living Magazine

One of my favorite shade planting designs because of how wonderfully it grew out after this picture was taken. The 'Babywing' pink begonia was a showstopper, growing through the large 'Garden White' caladiums and the carex 'Evergold' mingled with the silver waffle plant, (hemigraphis) trailing over the edge beautifully... Photo Courtesy Southern Living

One of my favorite shade planting designs because of how wonderfully it grew out after this picture was taken. The ‘Babywing’ pink begonia was a showstopper, growing through the large ‘Garden White’ caladiums and the carex ‘Evergold’ mingled with the silver waffle plant, (hemigraphis) trailing over the edge beautifully…
Photo Courtesy Southern Living Magazine

Between myself, Jamie, Molly, Pinkie, and Lauren, we are well represented in this informative issue, and I am so proud! Here’s a look at our designs (You can pick up a copy of the magazine while  it’s on newsstands until May, 2015).   Look HERE to see a post on a few more  of our plantings from  last summer including a couple of these right after they were planted.   Posted by Kris Blevons

I wanted to capture a Mediterranean feel with this summer planting in a large terra cotta bowl. I started with a variegated yucca and added drought tolerant silver thyme and sedums, a trailing jade plant (portulacaria) and a wispy Mexican feather grass (Nasella tenuissima)... Photo Courtesy Southern Living Magazine

I wanted to capture a Mediterranean feel with this summer planting in a large terra cotta bowl. I started with a variegated yucca and added drought tolerant silver thyme and sedums, a trailing jade plant (portulacaria) and a wispy Mexican feather grass (Nasella tenuissima)…
Photo Courtesy Southern Living Magazine

Large rounded leaves of a flap jack kalanchoe, thin, strappy leaves of an agave and trailing peperomia all combine beautifully in Molly's composition... Photo Courtesy Southern Living

Large rounded leaves of a flap jack kalanchoe, thin, strappy leaves of an agave and trailing peperomia all combine beautifully in Molly’s composition…
Photo Courtesy Southern Living Magazine

Three succulent plantings by Molly certainly showcase all the variety available... Photo Courtesy Southern Living

Three succulent plantings by Molly certainly showcase all the variety available…
Photo Courtesy Southern Living Magazine

An Alocasia is the star of this "large and in charge" planting by Jamie. She added Alternanthera 'Ruby Star' to fill out the base... Photo Courtesy Southern Living Magazine

An Alocasia is the star of this “large and in charge” planting by Jamie. She added Alternanthera ‘Ruby Star’ to fill out the base…
Photo Courtesy Southern Living Magazine

We love using houseplants in shade containers through the summer. Molly used various shapes and textures here, beginning with an anthurium and adding the parlor palm, agloenema and ivy... Photo Courtesy Southern Living Magazine

We love using houseplants in shade containers through the summer. Molly used various shapes and textures here, beginning with an anthurium and adding the parlor palm, agloenema and ivy…
Photo Courtesy Southern Living Magazine

Jamie used Oncidium orchids and Pilea 'Aquamarine' in this vertical planter... Photo Courtesy Southern Living Magazine

Jamie used Oncidium orchids and Pilea ‘Aquamarine’ in this vertical planter…
Photo Courtesy Southern Living Magazine

A glazed, blue footed urn was the inspiration for Pinkie's pink, blue, and white combination...the caladiums are a sun tolerant variety called 'Aaron' Photo Courtesy Southern Living

A glazed, blue footed urn was the inspiration for Pinkie’s pink, blue, and white combination…the caladiums are a sun tolerant variety called ‘Aaron’.
Photo Courtesy Southern Living Magazine

Succulents! Look at all the different leaf shapes and sizes here...Lauren's vertical planter is wood from a pallet with pots wired on. Photo Courtesy Southern Living

Succulents! Look at all the different leaf shapes and sizes here…Lauren’s vertical planter is wood from a pallet with pots wired on.
Photo Courtesy Southern Living Magazine

Begin your planting combinations with one plant you love, and add to it. I wanted to use this coleus, then added the trailing torenia and SunPatiens to compliment it... Photo Southern Living Magazine

Begin your planting combinations with one plant you love, and add to it. I wanted to use this coleus, then added the trailing torenia and SunPatiens to compliment it…
Photo Courtesy Southern Living Magazine

This brown bowl I designed was actually featured in another post on our website titled 'A Brown Bowl, 2 Ways'. This is the chartreuse, blue and white version for sun... Photo Courtesy Southern Living Magazine

This brown bowl I designed was actually featured in another post on our website titled ‘A Brown Bowl, 2 Ways‘. This is the chartreuse, blue and white version for sun…
Photo Courtesy Southern Living Magazine

A pretty blue glazed pot was the starting point for my planting using a dramatic elephant ear called Maui Gold. Look at that color! This was featured on the cover too... Photo Courtesy Southern Living

A pretty blue glazed pot was the starting point for my planting using a dramatic elephant ear called Maui Gold. Look at that color! This was featured on the cover too…
Photo Courtesy Southern Living Magazine

Hypertufa containers work well for herbs and flowers. In this bowl I used a lavender, ornamental golden oregano and added a splash of color with pink vinca... Photo Courtesy Southern Living

Hypertufa containers work well for herbs and flowers. In this bowl I used a lavender, ornamental golden oregano and added a splash of color with pink vinca…
Photo Courtesy Southern Living Magazine

In this large shade planter I decided to use a trailing 'Neon' Pothos instead of the ubiquitous chartreuse potato vine. Don't be afraid to use houseplants in outdoor shade planters! Here coleus, caladiums and an airy white euphorbia complete the design... Photo Courtesy Southern Living Design

In this large shade planter I decided to use a trailing ‘Neon’ Pothos instead of the ubiquitous chartreuse potato vine. Don’t be afraid to use houseplants in outdoor shade planters! Here coleus, caladiums and an airy white euphorbia complete the design…
Photo Courtesy Southern Living Magazine

I filled this old wheelbarrow up with lots of zinnias, fan flower and vinca, then added some purple basil, ornamental Kent's Beauty oregano, and scented geranium for additional foliage and texture. It bloomed all summer! Photo Courtesy Southern Living Magazine

I filled this old wheelbarrow up with lots of zinnias, fan flower and vinca, then added some purple basil, ornamental Kent’s Beauty oregano, and scented geranium for additional foliage and texture. It bloomed all summer!
Photo Courtesy Southern Living Magazine

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…

Need a Valentine? We Can Help!

Mixed Planting with Téte a Téte NarcissusJust a quick post to point out the many beautiful flowers in the greenhouse. Our baskets and containers  are one of a kind…special creations custom made for each order.

Orchid Arrangements

 

 

 

 

If you have a basket, bowl, or other container you’d like us to fill with beautiful plants, just bring it in and we’ll take it from there, or choose one of ours.  Valentine’s Day is this Saturday, so get your order in soon!Orchid Arrangement

 

 

Some of the many blooming plants we have in now, or will be getting in this week, include cyclamen, campanula, primroses, rieger begonias, narcissus, violets,  orchids, hydrangeas, hyacinths, freesias, azaleas, and more. Stop in to browse or give us a call to place an order for pick up or delivery.

 

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!

 

 

More Holiday Inspiration – Arrangements, Flowers and Greens – Part 2

Redtwig dogwood stems echo the red of this striking bowl...

Redtwig dogwood stems echo the red of this striking bowl, filled with rieger begonias, amaryllis and ferns…

Simply hydrangeas...

Simply hydrangeas…

 

 

 

Holiday Arrangement - Close-Up- Lady Slipper Orchi, Air Plants

Lady slipper orchid…

The greenhouse is literally overflowing with so many flowers we’ve had to move most of them onto the tables outside.

 

 

 

Holiday Arrangement

Traditional red poinsettias…

Holiday Arrangement -  Shooting Star Hydrangea,Amaryllis, Curly Willow

With curly willow, cinnamon sticks and cut greens…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Many of these holiday flowers – hydrangeas, amaryllis, paperwhites, azaleas, stephanotis, flowering jasmine, and cyclamen – prefer the cool temperatures.  It works out well, unless temperatures drop below freezing; then the nursery carts are loaded up and they’re moved back into the warmth of the greenhouse.

Phalaenopsis orchid in mercury glass with cut greens and berries...

Jamie added cut greens and berries to this phalaenopsis orchid in a Mercury glass container…

Orchids and air plants...

Orchids and air plants…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Holiday Arrangement - Amaryllis, Shooting Star Hydrangea, Fantail Willow

Amaryllis, hydrangea, jasmine…

 

Holiday Orchid Arrangement with Phalaenopsis Orchids and Jasmine

A gift of orchids and jasmine…

There it’s a riot of color, with orchids seemingly in every nook and cranny, trays of ferns and other foliage plants in abundance, and of course, poinsettias too.  It’s a crazy, slightly chaotic time of the year!

 

 

 

 

The two weeks prior to Christmas find us focused on projects big and small in the design area, and there’s not much time for anything else.

A tiny pot with cut greens...

A tiny pot with cut greens…

 

 

 

We’ll put plants in just about anything, including porcelain and glazed bowls, mercury glass containers, pots of every size and shape, jardinieres, wooden boxes, dough bowls, silver pieces and everything else imaginable. You can too!

 

 

 

Holiday Inspiration – Arrangements, Flowers and Greens – Part 1

A trio of miniature orchids...

A trio of miniature orchids Jamie put together…

Stephanotis Wreath

Stephanotis Wreath

Amaryllis in a very large bowl...

Amaryllis in a very large bowl…

 

 

 

 

The last few weeks have flown by in a colorful blur of customers, Christmas trees, and deliveries of beautiful plants and flowers. Phalaenopsis Orchid Arrangement with Curly Willow

 

 

Holiday Arrangement

Miniature poinsettias, cut greens and a lemon cypress in a low tray Jamie designed…

Now Christmas is almost here, though soon enough a new year will be upon us, filled with possibility and fresh beginnings.

 

Lady Slipper Orchid

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Holiday Arrangement with Paperwhites, Air Plants, Cut Greens and Curly Willow

Paperwhites, cut greens and curly willow…

To celebrate, here is the first post of a few of our arrangements of flowers and cut greens from the past few weeks, our gift to you this holiday season.

Holiday Greenery...

Pinkie’s cut greens and berries…

The End Of The Season…Fall Arrangements

A reindeer moss wreath, with burlap and pods...

A reindeer moss wreath, with burlap and pods…

A copper planter for a table. Jamie's colorful fall design of chartreuse, orange and white...

A copper planter for a table. Jamie’s colorful fall design of chartreuse, orange and white…

Autumn  passes far too quickly. As usual, when a season is nearing the end, I find myself wishing I’d made the time to take more pictures of the many arrangements that we’ve created the past few weeks. Jamie, Molly, and I looked through those we had and here are a few of them – a simple goodbye to the autumn season for another year as we set our sights ahead to the holidays.

A vignette Jamie created with an orchid, sedum, tiny pumpkins and more...

A vignette Jamie created with an orchid, sedum, tiny pumpkins and more…

Pinkie used little white pumpkins, succulents, and bittersweet in a dough bowl...

Pinkie used little white pumpkins, succulents, and bittersweet in this dough bowl…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This simple tray became home to a gourd, mushrooms and moss, with Heuchera and autumn Fern adding more rich color...

My simple tray became home to a gourd, mushrooms and moss, with Heuchera and Autumn Fern adding more rich color…

A dough bowl Jamie designed...

A dough bowl Jamie designed…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fall is a favorite time, as the materials we work with are so interesting and organic. There’s none of the shiny, glittery, in-your-face glitz that will be here, oh, so soon enough, with the approach of Christmas. No, this time of year is quieter, as we embrace the down-to-earth beauty of mushrooms, soft green moss, natural branches, dark wiry angelvine, pods of all kinds, and interesting gourds. I enjoy the combinations that result, melded at times with the muted tones of burlap and raffia.

Molly's spirited fall arrangement with bright yellow Oncidium orchids...

Molly’s spirited fall arrangement with bright yellow Oncidium orchids…

I really enjoyed creating this "woodsy" piece...

I really enjoyed creating this “woodsy” piece…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fall flowers in pretty pots for a fall luncheon...

For a fall luncheon..

Oncidium Orchid 'Twinkle' Arrangement With Okra Pods and Pinecones

Oncidium ‘Twinkle’ in a sweet combination of Jamie’s. Okra pods and pinecones add even more texture…

My simple lady slipper orchid arrangement, watched over by pretty Tacca, our garden shop kitty…

 

 

Dená carved this pretty blue pumpkin, and daughter, Molly, planted it...

Dená carved this pretty blue pumpkin and daughter, Molly, planted it…

We see such interesting pieces in the fall too. Earthy dough bowls, dark metal planters and copper containers, low wooden trays just perfect for mossy vignettes, a majolica bowl the right size and shape for a woodsy arrangement. Soon enough we’ll be making quite different sorts of combinations through the holidays, with quite different materials. For now though, I’m content to enjoy these last few days of fall.

A colorful fall piece Molly created using houseplants and mini pumpkins...

A final fall piece Molly created using houseplants and mini pumpkins…

 

Amaryllis – Beauty In A Bulb

Amaryllis, unquestionably, are one of the most dramatic and elegant of flowers. That bold, beautiful blooms of all colors and sizes can emerge from such a drab, unassuming brown bulb is amazing. They are truly a wonder of nature!

Decorative moss and pebbles dress up this amaryllis bulb...

Decorative moss and pebbles dress up this amaryllis bulb…

Amaryllis in the greenhouse...

Amaryllis in the greenhouse…

Our final shipment of amaryllis bulbs arrived the other day and now is the perfect time to pot them up for the holidays. It’s so easy to do too.  My  friend, Nancy Wallace of Wallace Gardens  in Atlanta,  swears by soaking the bulb in Haven Brand Manure Tea, an odorless tea that we have in stock now, for an even better display.

In a shallow saucer filled with about an inch of this concentrated tea, soak the roots of the bulbs for no more than 20 minutes, then plant. From her picture I featured in the above link, she’s on the right track. I’ll be soaking mine this year!

Amaryllis arrangement...

Amaryllis arrangement…

So, you want to purchase an amaryllis bulb (or more than one) for yourself or as gifts for friends? First, you need to know that the size of the bulb corresponds to the size and amount of blooms. Their sizes range from “miniature” amaryllis bulbs to jumbo amaryllis and there are midsize bulbs as well.

Large blooms of this amaryllis offer a contrast to the fragrant jasmine...

Large blooms of this amaryllis offer a contrast to the fragrant jasmine…

Beware of gift boxes and bags already prepackaged. I’ve stopped carrying them because, inevitably, the bulb begins to grow in the box prior to purchase. Believe me, there’s nothing sadder than an amaryllis, stem bent toward the light, growing sideways out of a box. It’s just not right!

Potting them up is quite simple. First, soak your amaryllis bulb as described above so the roots rehydrate. Next, find a pot that is no more than an inch or so wider than the bulb and fill it with good quality potting soil (We use Fafard.) about half way up the pot. Next, position the bulb on the soil, pushing the roots firmly in place. The “shoulder”, or widest portion of the bulb, should be above the soil. Fill in around the bulb, push down gently, and water with some of the remaining manure tea.

Amaryllis Arrangement

The hardest part is the wait for the bud to begin to emerge. It may take just a few days in a warm, sunny room, but it can just as easily take longer. Amaryllis don’t always cooperate with our timetables. Take a look at this “Holiday Flowers” post from last year and you’ll see what I mean. When you do see new growth starting to emerge, begin to water just so the soil stays slightly moist and watch the magic happen! You can also “dress up” the top of the soil with decorative moss or pebbles. Amaryllis

In bloom amaryllis can get quite tall  and will usually benefit from some type of staking. In addition to simple bamboo stakes,  stems of red and yellow twig dogwood, birch, curly willow, or branches from your landscape can be used. Insert the staking material at the edge of the bulb and tie it with raffia or ribbon.

Amaryllis, budded, with ferns, and stems of pussywillow...

Amaryllis, budded, with ferns, and stems of pussywillow…

The pictures here show what we’ve done in the past using amaryllis. They make wonderful presents during the holiday season and simply watching the bloom stalk grow taller and the enormous buds begin to open is a gift in itself!

In addition to bulbs that are available for you to plant, we also will be receiving many amaryllis already potted up from our growers. So, if you’re in the Birmingham area, there’s  no excuse not to have one of these holiday favorites!

 

 

 

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.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Watching the Butterfly Migration… And Transitioning the Summer Garden to Fall

Tithonia - Mexican sunflowerThe other day I slipped across the street to check the ‘Better Late Than Never’ garden – ostensibly to check new transplants for water. Really, though, I wanted to see if the butterflies were still there. Now, not just any butterflies (Though I admit I’m partial to them all.) but the imperiled monarch butterflies, who, I was told, are coming through now on their migratory paths. And they were still there, sailing through and landing on the Tithonia rotundifolia ‘Torch’,  (Mexican sunflower) feeding on the bright orange blooms. I’m doubly glad now that I left it standing while it was still in full color. I’ve been planting the winter garden under cover of its thickened stems, fully weighted down with its nectar filled flowers.

Monarch butterfly on tithoniaWhether these monarchs spotted the tithonia as they were coming through, or were a result of the butterfly weed  Asclepias tuberosa, is anyone’s guess. Butterfly weed and milkweed are the plants that monarch butterflies lay their eggs on – the caterpillars then eat the foliage, form their chrysalis and hatch to become the beautiful butterflies I was watching soar through the garden.Monarch butterflies on tithonia

I called out to a mother and her young son about to get into their car.  “Do you see the butterflies? They’re monarchs!” Oh my goodness!”, she answered. “Look at all of them!” Her little boy stood, transfixed, watching them maneuver gracefully through the garden. I told him how special these butterflies are, and that since they’re on a long journey to Mexico, it’s very important that they find the flower nectar to give them strength and energy so they’ll be able to fly such a great distance.

Butterflies like these cosmos, zinnias and marigolds

Butterflies like these cosmos, zinnias and marigolds

Over the next few days more people stopped to marvel at the butterflies, oohing and ahhing at the sight. It’s been such a pleasure to share this experience as fall moves toward winter. Soon the tithonia will have to be pulled up. Until all the butterflies are gone though, I think I’ll leave well enough alone…

If you want a butterfly friendly garden too, provide sources of food, (They love zinnias, cosmos, marigolds, and  tithonia, to name a few.) and  plants they can lay their eggs on. (And that you will allow to get chewed up by the caterpillars!) These include  the asclepias mentioned above for monarchs. Parsley, dill and fennel are commonly planted for swallowtails.

Provide pesticide free plantings, and cultivate a tolerance for the less than perfect garden. Learn to live with leaves that have been munched – more often than not, the culprits causing the problems are simply moving through your garden on their way somewhere else! Simple things like grooming plants by removing yellowed and chewed leaves, and practicing good garden sanitation by keeping fallen leaves and other plant debris out of the garden, will go a long way toward creating a healthy environment for your garden, you, and the creatures that inhabit its space. 

By Kris Blevons

 

 

 

Fall Container Planting…(There’s More Than Just Pansies Out There!)

Fall Planter With Chamaecyparis 'Crippsii'The temperatures are hopefully trending downward, and you’re thinking about redoing your summer plantings. There seem to be so many choices; it’s normal to feel overwhelmed at the garden shop, even though you probably thought you had it all figured out before you left home!

I’ve seen the slightly dazed look  on folks’ faces as they peruse the tables upon tables of pansies, violas, snapdragons, various herbs and ornamental greens. Invariably they turn to us with a bewildered look and say, “I have (insert number of pots here) and need to fill them. Can you help me?!”

Assuming you have at least a half days worth of sun for flowers, the usual pansies and violas will work just fine all on their own if you really don’t want to do a whole lot of thinking; but there’s so much more out there to play with! From the simplest addition of beautiful green curly parsley (It adds such great color and texture to a planting.) to a more complex mix of greens, grasses and herbs, there’s no limit to fun combinations.

Close up - fall planterThe large planter here is one of a pair, used at the top of stairs leading onto a wide open porch. I took my color cues from the red brick and cream color of the house in choosing my plants, using predominantly yellow with the evergreen Chamaecyparis ‘Crippsii’, yellow variegated  Acorus ‘Ogon’, golden creeping Jenny to trail, and Matrix ‘Lemon’ pansies. To this I added ornamental red mustard, and a chard with red stems called ‘Charlotte’. These will add big, bold leaves, beautiful foliage color, and added height.

Next, more flowers  with a trailing white pansy called Cool Wave White,  a few orange violas and a trailing rosemary  –  the brown grass trailing off to one side and tucked in the back as well is Carex ‘Toffee’. When the sun shines on this grass it glows!

Fall Planter - Cham 'Crippsii''These planters are quite large and can support this variety of plants. In smaller planters, a smaller shrub, some curly parsley, pansies and a trailing plant might be sufficient. Remember, more is always better in planters and windowboxes to give them a lush overflowing feel.These planters will make a definite statement as they grow out.

  • Tips For Maintaining Your Fall/Winter Planters:
  • – As always, keep faded blooms deadheaded.

– Don’t overwater.  As the weather cools in the fall and winter, it’s best to let planters go a bit drier.

– If plants like ornamental cabbage and parsley do get dry between watering, you’ll have some yellow leaves. Groom these and other plants regularly, removing any yellowing leaves that you see. Remember, they’re not going to turn green again!

– Watch the weather and be prepared to cover your planters if freezing temperatures are forecast. Prior to covering, water them thoroughly. Uncover them as soon as the temperatures are above freezing.

Some Interesting Choices To Use With Pansies And Violas In  Winter Planters:

  • Chamaecyparis obtusa – various selections;  they make excellent evergreen accents.
  • Cupressus ‘Carolina Sapphire’ – beautiful blue evergreen, good in the landscape also.
  • Rosemary – large evergreen herb, upright or trailing varieties.
  • Juniper – ‘Blue Point’
  • Thuja – ‘Golden Globe’ arborvitae, nice, rounded form.
  • Heuchera & Heucherella selections – evergreen perennials, interesting as a foliage element – airy blooms in spring.
  • Acorus – adds another texture to plantings; grasslike variegated leaves add color as well.
  • Ornamental Kale – ‘Redbor’ and ‘Winterbor’ are two very upright growing forms of kale,  but there are many others. ‘Red Russian’ and ‘Lacinato’ are also edible. In a normal to mild winter they’ll last til spring. As heat returns, they’ll “bolt”, or bloom, adding yellow flowers.
  • Ornamental Mustard – These add a bold leaf and a darker color to compositions.
  • Chard – another beautiful and edible addition to containers or garden beds.
  • Curly Parsley – Adds texture in winter plantings; also a beautiful shade of deep, clean green.
  • Golden Creeping Jenny – A useful trailing element, it may get knocked back in a freeze but adds color until then and will come back as temperatures moderate.
  • Muehlenbeckia, Angel Vine – tough as nails trailer. Will lose it’s leaves in a freeze but normally reappears in the spring. Protect it and it will be green through the winter in Birmingham.
  • Sweet Alyssum – not available for long in fall, but a nice addition to planters until it succumbs to freezing temperatures.
  • Poppies – available through the fall; worth trying if you haven’t. They hunker down through the winter but will fill out in the spring, adding their bright, papery blooms to liven any planting. Take care to not overwater under cool winter conditions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Foxglove – Plant It This Fall For A Beautiful Spring Display!

Foxglove...

Foxglove…

Foxglove, Digitalis purpurea, is the quintessential English garden flower. It’s beauty has graced landscapes of great gardeners for hundreds of years, as well as those of more modest means.

Considered a biennial, foxglove is purchased as small transplants in the fall, growing through the winter and reaching their peak flowering time as the roses begin to bloom here in Birmingham.

Plant them in a partially sunny spot, ideally one that will receive some shade in the afternoon. This is especially helpful as temperature begin to rise in the spring and will help them bloom longer. Be sure your soil is loose, and add soil conditioner, shredded leaves, or compost if necessary. Mulch them with shredded pine bark or pinestraw after planting and Keep them watered during dry spells.

Foxglove and roses in my early spring garden

Foxglove and roses in my early spring garden

Foxglove look particularly lovely against an evergreen backdrop or a wall of some sort. Combined with other spring annuals and roses, they are reminiscent of a classic cottage garden.

Once they’re through blooming, plants can be left standing to drop seed, (You’ll see baby plants the following summer if this happens.) but they do get a bit bedraggled looking at this point, and I prefer to pull them out, replanting each fall.

 

By Kris Blevons

Snapdragons – Plant This Fall for Cut Flowers Next Spring!

snapdragons, poppies and a pass-a-long white dianthus...

snapdragons, poppies and a pass-a-long white dianthus…

Snapdragons! These childhood favorites certainly deserve a space in our spring gardens. Planted in the fall, these annuals will survive a normal Birmingham winter and give us glorious springtime color.

I’ve discovered that since their bloom time always seems to come after the pansies and violas have begun to fade in the late spring heat,  that placing them in garden beds intermingled with perennials, roses and poppies is the best way to enjoy them. There’s simply nothing like a spring garden with snapdragons in it – and they are beautiful cut flowers too!

IMG_0434Snapdragons can be purchased in the fall in cell pack flats and in larger pots as well.  Many times they’ll be  in bloom. When theses initial bloom spikes are finished, cut them back below the faded flowers.  This will ensure they’ll branch and be fuller and more robust.  Through the winter the plant’s energy will go into growing roots and strong leaves – the beautiful blooms next spring are your reward!

Be careful not to overwater your snapdragons, especially very young, newly transplanted ones. Let them dry out a bit between watering since their root systems can easily be overwatered at this stage and will not recover from it.  If they have been overwatered,  the plant will wilt, looking for all the world like it needs water. If, after being given some,  your snapdragons continue to look droopy,  it’s best to pull them out and try again with fresh plants.

By Kris Blevons