Category Archives: Succulents

New Year’s Day…A Look Back And Wishes For The New Year

design Jamie Cross

design Jamie Cross

design Jamie Cross

design Jamie Cross

design Jamie Cross

design Jamie Cross

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s a quiet, rainy morning as I write this,  too chilly to make my usual morning walk around the garden. The time the shop is closed between Christmas and New Year’s Day is a welcome respite from the previous month’s hectic pace. It’s such a relief to be still and have no demands, if only briefly.

design Kris Blevons

design Kris Blevons

Miniature Garden...design Molly Hand

Miniature Garden…design Molly Hand

design Kris Blevons

design Kris Blevons

design Kris Blevons

design Kris Blevons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

design Jamie Cross

design Jamie Cross

I’m looking forward to the new year, and soon I’ll be writing of primroses and spring flowers…the ones that our growers magically produce for greenhouses much earlier than in nature – blooming daffodils, tulips, crocus and more.

design Kris Blevons

design Kris Blevons

design Molly Hand

design Molly Hand

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

sleigh...design Kris Blevons

sleigh…design Kris Blevons

design Kris Blevons

design Kris Blevons

Today, though, I’m thinking of the holidays just past, when winter white azaleas, calla lilies, hydrangeas,  paperwhites, larger than life blooms of amaryllis in every color, jewel-toned cyclamen, traditional poinsettias, and all the most wonderful orchids on dazzling display turned the greenhouse into a wonderland.

design Jamie Cross

design Jamie Cross

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I hope these pictures bring a smile at the start of this new year. The artful combination of plants, branches, textural mosses  (and other happy discoveries),  are our resolution for the coming year. Here’s to beauty and creativity in 2016!

A holiday terrarium...design Kris Blevons

A holiday terrarium…design Kris Blevons

While these designs are mostly mine,  Jamie’s, and Molly’s,  I’d be remiss not to mention that many more were created by Pinkie, Danielle, and Angie – worthy of a future post!

By Kris Blevons

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Head Planters – Planted!

Pinkie's planting in a cast stone head planter...

Pinkie’s planting in a cast stone head planter…

I’ve seen some interesting head planters on Pinterest and other social media sites over the past few years, and decided this spring it was time to get in on the fun. Since these pieces are heavy cast stone, they’re not going to tip over in winds and consequently won’t break easily either. The planting space isn’t terribly roomy though, so extra care needs to be taken to ensure they don’t dry out.

Pinkie planted the one shown in the first pictures here using mostly succulents. They’re the perfect choice for planting in small spaces like this since they tolerate dry soil.  Though the aeonium at the front is a short-term cool season plant,  you can see in the second picture that the peach purslane and yellow  bulbine were happy to take over the show once the aeonium  pooped out in the heat.Head planter

 

 

A sedum ‘Blue Spruce’ is the single plant in the second, smaller head planter. It was planted at the end of June, and this picture was taken the beginning of September. Not bad for a tiny planting space!

For part shade...

For part shade…

We had one head planter left at the end of August, and it looked too empty. Since Pinkie had planted the other two for sun, I decided to try one with something in it for shade or filtered sun. While Pinkie’s head planters really  look like hats, I decide mine would be a bit more bohemian.

One of my favorite plants is Hemigraphis ‘Red Flame’  or waffle plant. In container plantings it will steal the show, spilling out in a silvery purple wave. To it I added a tiny piece  of a blue  carex, a sedge that works very well in dry shade. The final addition was a dried pod for a “hat pin”. Now to find just the right spot…

By Kris Blevons

Succulent Arrangements…A Sampling

Succulents can be quite colorful...

Succulents can be quite colorful…

Have you found a spot this year to try a few succulents? These tough plants will make any sunny  spot more interesting, come in all shapes and sizes, and can be combined with air plants and others that don’t mind dry feet.

These oval containers offer interesting planting possibilities...

These oval containers offer interesting planting possibilities…

 

 

 

 

 

A succulent planting in a stone bowl...

A succulent planting in a customer’s stone trough…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Think about using them with purslane, portulaca, creeping thyme, Mexican heather, bulbine, yuccas, or anything else that likes it hot and dry.

These will hang on porch columns...

Molly’s cork pieces will hang on porch columns…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Succulents in a Clam Shell

 

Going into the warmer months many succulents can be used.  Some are winter hardy, and those we’ll always have outside in the nursery. Tender succulents that you’ll need to bring inside when fall arrives can be found in the greenhouse.Succulent Vertical Planter

 

 

 

 

 

If you have a dry, sunny spot in your landscape, try a few of the hardy sedums. If the drainage is good, they’ll be happy and will spread, though the test of their hardiness will be in the winter.

 

Succulents in Stone TroughHen and chicks (Sempervivum species) is extremely cold hardy and will breeze through the winter if they’re not waterlogged. Soggy, cold soil is definitely not to their liking!

Keep in mind that a single pot filled with one type of succulent can be as beautiful as many in combination and, with the right container, can be quite dramatic. So there’s no need to feel intimidated; just dive in, pick a plant you like, and have fun!

Posted by Kris Blevons

 

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

These Miniature Gardens are Centerpieces…

 

At the end of a path, there's a bench with a book...

At the end of a path, there’s a bench with a book…

I recently received an email letting me know of a much anticipated  visit to Birmingham of a certain Connecticut gardener, Douglas Thomas. She was coming on the invitation of a friend and member of one of the oldest garden clubs in the city, and, to celebrate her visit, a joint meeting of  two Garden Club of America groups had been arranged at the Birmingham Museum of Art.

Through an arbor...the cat wants the goldfish in that bowl!

Through an arbor…the cat wants the goldfish in that bowl!

The miniature gardens shown here were designed as centerpieces for a small gathering in a private home to honor her visit. Ms. Thomas gardens on a grand scale, so the hostess and I decided having miniature gardens as part of the tablescape was bound to

A seating area under a  Chamaecyparis "tree" and a pond, with sedum 'Ogon' as a "groundcover"...

A seating area under a Chamaecyparis “tree” and a pond, with sedum ‘Ogon’ as a “groundcover”…

be something unexpected and fun. First a little background:

A croquet set and puppy underneath a chamaecyparis "tree"...

A croquet set and puppy underneath a chamaecyparis “tree”…

A gazing ball in the distance...

A gazing ball in the distance…

Douglas Thomas is only  the third owner of Twin Maples, a beautiful 400 acre estate in Connecticut. She would be in Birmingham in early February speaking on it and of the 40 acre meadow that she and her late husband, Wilmer, created with the help of noted Pennsylvania landscape designer Larry Weaner.

On the table...

On the table…

In 2011, the Foundation for Landscape Studies awarded her their Placemaker Award. See the link HERE to read more about this award.

Delving more thoroughly to learn more before going to hear her speak,  I came across a New York Times article from 2008, which described the meadow in their headline as “The Natural Look, With Much Effort.” This phrase could certainly be applied to any garden I thought, including miniature versions!

Miniature Garden Centerpiece - 2 years earlier...

Miniature Garden Centerpiece – 2 years earlier…

These particular miniature gardens had actually  been created two years earlier for another eventful gathering, and, due to the owner’s  exceptional care,  many of the original plants were still thriving. The chamaecyparus “trees” had grown (Just as real trees do!),  and the succulent landscape around one of the ponds only needed a bit of pinching back. Still, there were areas that needed fresh “landscape” plantings.

On the table...2 years later...

On the table…2 years later…

Some of these new plants included the addition of a fresh angelvine climbing on the arbor and air plants at the entrance to the succulent garden. In another,  sedum ‘Ogon’ was added near a pond as a “groundcover”. More tiny ferns and some selaginella were added to the existing tiny leaved maidenhair fern  in the largest garden, and beyond it a strawberry begonia was planted to frame the rabbit hutch. Great care was taken to place plants with like water needs together.

The path leads to a seating area beyond the rabbit hutch...

The path leads to a seating area beyond the rabbit hutch…

With careful attention all of the “hardscape” paths and placement of small pieces were  redone for each garden, and some redesigning of certain areas was accomplished as well. This takes a good bit of time and a lot of patience, but,  above all, it’s quite a bit of fun too.

Through the arbor...

Through the arbor…

It really is exactly like laying out a real garden, with decisions of where the paths need to be, what materials they should be made from, what they lead to, and more questions  needing to be answered to make it realistic. Scale of materials is very important too and can be difficult to accomplish, but it makes all the difference!

 

 

I received a phone call from the hostess the morning after the dinner party. “Your ears should have been burning,” she said. “They were a hit! Everyone enjoyed them, and kept finding new things the more they looked at them.”  What a compliment, and how kind of her to pass it on.

Take a look HERE for another post on miniature gardens, and type in “miniature gardens” in the search field for more.

 

Our Miniature Garden Wonderland – A Year Later…Look How It’s Grown!

Sedum 'Ogon', and Hen and Chicks in the "landscape"

Sedum ‘Ogon’, and Hen and Chicks in the “landscape”

Last March, during the doldrums of spring break (Does anyone not leave town that week??!), we decided to have a little fun of our own, creating our miniature garden table.  Well, it’s been almost a full year later, and it’s still growing strong, having been tended to faithfully… like any garden should be, right?

A miniature landscape

A miniature landscape

 

Rhypsalis, sedums and hen and chicks...with a peperomia at the very top...

Rhypsalis, sedums and hen and chicks…with a peperomia at the very top…

 

 

Some features didn’t last through repeated watering and little children playing however. Many of the Skulp-It figures either disintegrated, disappeared, or, in the case of the gardener who looked suspiciously like owner, Billy Angell, somehow lost his head (Literally!) and was banished from the garden…

The peperomia and holly fern have needed some judicious clipping...

The peperomia and holly fern have needed some judicious clipping…

 

The house at the top of the hill...

The house at the top of the hill…

 

 

 

The cute treehouse at the very top  was finally replaced with another little cottage, the yoga class on their mats are taking a break, and the oversized people have been replaced with tiny gnomes, a garden table and various and assorted accessories, including a tire swing over the waterfall.

Variegated strawberry begonia, ajuga 'Chocolate Chip', ferns and pilea have been growing quite happily together...

Variegated strawberry begonia, ajuga ‘Chocolate Chip’, ferns and pilea have been growing quite happily together…

 

Lemon Button Fern, Pilea 'Aquamarine', and Kalanchoe 'Copper Spoon'

Lemon Button Fern, Pilea ‘Aquamarine’, and Kalanchoe ‘Copper Spoon’

 

 

 

And the plants!! Some, like the tiny pepperomia,  have grown to enormous proportions, requiring judicious clipping to keep in bounds. The ferns have also loved their space, spreading up and out in every direction.

Air plants have done well on the succulent side of our planting...

Air plants have done well on the succulent side of our planting…

 

 

 

 

On the other side, the succulents have settled in nicely, filling every available nook and cranny, spilling over the beach “caves” and onto the “beach” before being clipped back.

A miniature violet flower garden...

A miniature violet flower garden…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our fun project  will certainly continue to evolve. Just  the other day Molly painted a backdrop of a blue sky with puffy clouds, so it will always be nothing but blue skies in our garden…

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…

 

Succulent Wreaths For The Holidays

Succulent wreaths might not be what one thinks of first as a component of holiday decorating, but these pretty echeveria wreaths just might change your mind. The best thing about these wreaths is that there is room for the little echeverias to grow, and this also makes them easier to take care of through the winter months.

Echeveria WreathsThe wreaths are just about 10″ in diameter and can just as easily be laid flat on a table and made part of a holiday tablescape as hung. Though they’re beautiful just as they are, adding other elements is easy to do. The one shown here was “dressed up” with small loops of a pretty, sheer ribbon, tiny pine cones, and small tufts of real cotton.

The echeverias in these wreaths have been planted in a sphagnum moss wreath form and will continue to grow with the proper care. Give them as much direct light as possible, and, when the wreaths feel very light when lifted, it’s time to water. Place them in a shallow pan filled with a few inches of water and leave them in it for at least 30 minutes or until the form feels heavy, indicating it’s saturated.  Do not water again until it feels very light once more. Remember, succulents prefer to be on the dry side.

Loops of ribbon and tiny pinecones embellish this echeveria wreath...

Loops of ribbon and tiny pinecones embellish this echeveria wreath…

These sweet wreaths are in limited supply, so, if you’re interested in trying one, now is the time to stop in and take a look. On their own or “dressed up”, what a lovely, unexpected,  and long lasting addition to your holiday decor!

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

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

View From the street…Hyacinth Bean Vine on the Arbor

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

Indian Summer rudbeckia - "Better Late Than Never" garden

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

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

The tithonia came on strong, late summer...

The tithonia came on strong, late summer…

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

Tithonia...

Tithonia…

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

Variegated hibiscus with the tall pink gomphrena growing through it…

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

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

Zinnias and gomphrena…moonvine and red leaf hibiscus…

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

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

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

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

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

Cleome - Spider Flower...

Cleome – Spider Flower…

 

 

 

 

 

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

Porterweed and Sunflowers...

Porterweed and Sunflowers…

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

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

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

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

Hyacinth bean vine, sillouhetted against a blue sky…

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Malabar spinach vine

Malabar spinach vine

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

One of the many sunflowers in the garden...

One of the many sunflowers in the garden…

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

Cactus zinnia...

Cactus zinnia…

And the rest….

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

Dwarfed by the sunflowers...

Dwarfed by the sunflowers…

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

By Kris Blevons

 

 

 

 

 

 

Succulents Planted in Cedar and Hypertufa…

Made out of cedar...

Made out of cedar…

Even an ordinary day can bring pleasant surprises. Every now and then people stop by, peddling items they’ve created, hoping we’ll carry them. We try some,  hoping they’ll be a good fit for our location and things our customers will like.  Some work for us; some don’t.

The other day  a gentleman stopped in with his truck loaded with beautiful hypertufa pots of all sizes and cedar frames planted with hen and chick succulents, sempervivums. Right away  I knew these were right up our alley! If you’re on Pinterest (Oak Street Garden Shop is!), you no doubt have seen succulents of all sorts in many combinations. Whoever the very first person was who came up with this great idea deserves a prize!Cedar Frames with Hen and Chicks

These frames are made of long-lasting cedar,  are lightweight, and are actually designed to stand on a table like a picture. Even set completely flat they could be a beautiful centerpiece. The planting box also has drainage holes so plants won’t get waterlogged.

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Little cedar boxes wrapped with burlap and planted with sempervivums also caught our eye. Really such a simple idea…and so pretty. We’d like to also get more of the cedar planters with metal fronting; they are fantastic looking!

Cedar and Metal Planter with Hen and Chicks

Rounding out the offerings were different sizes of planted hypertufa pots. The tiny pots with one sempervivum are just the right size for party favors or a “Thinking of you” gift. There were also a selection of larger pots, some wrapped with burlap with the addition of a medallion for added interest.

Fortunately, this gentleman used to work for one of our excellent wholesale plant suppliers in Alabama years ago and has a lot of experience growing quality plants. Taking this knowledge a step further and offering planted  containers was certainly a natural progression. After a move to Georgia and time spent working in garden center retailing, he and his brother are back in Alabama with this new, local business. We wish them the best of luck!

if you’re in the Birmingham area, stop in and  take a look at these pretty plantings from our newest local supplier!