Category Archives: Succulents

Container Gardening – Pointers & Possibilities…

Early spring in Birmingham….the temperatures fluctuate up and down, and it’s still early to be planting the real heat lovers like caladiums and vinca in the ground – oh, but your fingers are itching to dig in the garden again…

Trailing pink vinca works well with sun loving herbs of lavender, sage and chives in this trough planting....

Trailing pink vinca works well with sun loving herbs of lavender, sage and chives in this trough planting….

Here perennial lamb's ear mixes with lavender and a pepperomia - a common houseplant that also adds great texture...

Here perennial lamb’s ear mixes with lavender, sedum and a pepperomia – (a common houseplant that also adds great texture…)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This sun lover includes pentas, scented geraniums, vinca and a 'Red Rubin' purple basil as well as a variegated Swedish ivy to meander through the entire composition...

This combination for sun includes pentas, scented geraniums, vinca, purple basil, and variegated Swedish ivy meandering through the entire composition…

Happily, you can begin planning your summer container plantings, which can also be great springboards for future garden groupings – testing them in a pot first is a safe and fun way to experiment.

This hanging basket for sun includes a sun loving caladium, angelonia, pink fan flower, trailing silver dichondra, and an airy white euphorbia...

This hanging basket for sun includes a sun loving caladium, angelonia, pink fan flower, trailing silver dichondra, and an airy white euphorbia…

 

 

 

 

 

 

These pictures are container combos from seasons past  – all lasted through the brutal heat of summer given water, deadheading and cutting back as necessary.

 

The old cliché of using a “thriller, filler and spiller” has been much used, (Maybe a little too much?) but don’t feel tied to it please! Designing creative plantings shouldn’t be absolute or bound by rigid rules.

'Indian Dune's' fancy leaf geranium, cordyline and thyme work in half day or full sun...

‘Indian Dune’s’ fancy leaf geranium, cordyline and thyme work in half day or full sun…

 

However, do try to combine plants that appreciate the same amount of light and water and have  growing habits that compliment one another.

 

 

 

If you can do that, any plant combo you like within those parameters is fair game. There are many plants that will handle a lot of sun but still appreciate a little shade, especially in the afternoon, when the heat is the most brutal. Others will need partial to full shade in our climate. The important thing is to choose  the right plants for whatever conditions you have.

Elephant ears add drama, with a heat tolerant fuschia, 'Gartenmeister' and a trailing maidenhair fern - this one was planted with a shady area in mind...

Elephant ears add drama, with a heat tolerant fuschia, ‘Gartenmeister’ and a trailing maidenhair fern – this one was planted with a shady area in mind…

The larger the container your space can accommodate the better! Not only will you be able to add more plants, but watering will be easier as well. Having said that, when maintaining large planters, if temperatures are in the 90’s every day and lows don’t get below the 70’s at night (July and August in Birmingham!), be prepared to water every day, even if your planters are in only half day sun. Of course, there are always exceptions…succulents, purslane, portulaca – these are a few plants that can take dry soil and heat, but even they will need water eventually!

Cordyline, fancy leaf geranium, baby tears...morning sun and afternoon shade or filtered sun suit this planting...

Cordyline, fancy leaf geranium, baby tears…morning sun and afternoon shade or filtered sun suit this planting…

Plant choices change weekly during the height of spring and it can be overwhelming…we’re happy to help you come up with the right combinations of plants for your containers if you’re unsure. Just be sure you know how much sun (or not!) they receive and the sizes of your planters,  and we can take it from there.

 

 

Another tip: Flowers aren’t always what adds the most pizazz. There are great foliage choices out there, many that add color with no blooms at all. Some of the most striking planters are those done with just foliage – try it sometime!

Foliage is as interesting as flowers!

Foliage is as interesting as flowers!

A shade planter - all foliage!

A shade planter – all foliage!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Kris Blevons

 

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.

 

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!

Orchids…Early Fall Arrangements

A lady slipper is framed by angelvine...

A lady slipper is framed by angelvine…

Orchids, succulents, dried pods and foliage are the common theme in these four arrangements. With the heat of summer receding (Thankfully!) and fresh material arriving to work with, it’s a happy time in the greenhouse. So, between new shipments of pots, plants, ribbon and more, these were a few of the pieces we created. Let’s take a look.

Orchid, succulents and dried pods Someone who worked for us many years ago called from North Carolina to order an orchid for her mother’s birthday. She likes succulents too; so a double stemmed phalaenopsis and a lady slipper orchid were paired in a container and succulents nestled at the base. The addition of  angelvine and a touch of brown ribbon complete the design.

The next two small containers both started with an orchid, then succulents, ribbon, and, in the second, Jamie selected just the right white miniature pumpkin and burlap bow…the perfect gift for someone!Fall Orchid Arrangement

No two designs are ever alike for us, though sometimes a customer will see something they particularly like and will request another version of it.  Our least favorite thing is when someone brings in a picture with the request that we copy it, though we’ll always accommodate as best we can.Fall Orchid Arrangement - Customer's Dough Bowl

Happily, this large dough bowl of a longtime customer is one we see fairly regularly and one that we have complete creative license with. This go-round I filled it with orchids and under planted it for fall with Rex begonias, a pretty ivy, and added dark, shiny pods for their color and shape. A touch of chartreuse mood moss picks up the light green veining in the begonia leaf. Some tiny cattails are placed as accents, and my design is done.

Cotton stems, dried sunflower seed heads from the garden, and fern fiddleheads were the starting point for the last piece in a pretty brown and white bowl. . I added an air plant at the base and wound angel vine up through the cotton for even more interest. Some days are so much fun in the greenhouse!

Cotton, sunflower seed heads, fern fiddle heads and an airplantThis is just a sampling of the early fall things we’ve been creating! Since we’re always searching for new ideas and ways to make our arrangements more interesting and  unique, who knows what we’ll come up with next…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Succulent Plantings…When Summer Heat Sizzles!

Cork Bark and Succulents - Echevaria, Variegated Jade, Rhypsalis, Cryptanthus, Haworthia, String of PearlsWhile parts of the country are enjoying an unusually cool summer, here in the heart of the south the temperature and humidity can still soar. Unfortunately, even nighttime temperatures rarely provide respite from the unending heat, though, thankfully, we (and our plants!) have had a couple of welcome breaks this year.

Succulents: Albuca spiralis 'Frizzle Sizzle', Rhypsalis, EchevariaWhile there are plenty of tough, heat tolerant plants that, with the proper maintenance, work very well in our landscapes, this post is going to concentrate on succulents, with examples of some recent container plantings.  Look HERE for more succulent arrangements we’ve done in the past too.

Three bright yellow pots provide a temporary home as a centerpiece trio, then these plants will move outside for the rest of the season. The curly little number here is an interesting, and new to the plant scene (at least for us), succulent-like plant (It’s actually a bulb.) called Albuca spiralis  ‘Frizzle Sizzle’. Native to South Africa, its growth actually slows during the heat of summer, and it must be kept on the dry side during this resting period.  As we move into the colder winter months, it will begin to grow again and should make a relatively easy indoor plant for a  bright room inside.

Succulents: Echevarias, Rhypsalis, Variegated Jade, Sedum and Pilea 'Aquamarine'The basket planting shows a tiny leaf blue-green succulent-like plant that is actually a Pilea called ‘Aquamarine’. It has fast become a favorite for succulent and other arrangements in containers. The tiny leaves grow quite quickly, mingling with other plants and eventually trailing, seemingly indefinitely! This mixture also has echevarias, workhorse succulents that can grow to enormous proportions.image

The square brown planter is home to a variety of succulents, including a number of Hechtia glomerata.  It’s  in the Bromeliad family and native from Texas down into Central America. Species of Hechtia are terrestrial and inhabit dry, rocky places and often seen growing  on vertical walls along rivers, where the soil drains exceptionally well. Hechtia is a plant that’s new to us this year. We’ve noticed it has  the spiny edges on leaves that some bromeliads are known for.

Tillandsia ( Air Plants), Succulents (Hechtia glomerata) and RhypsalisSucculent plants and air plants, Tillandsia, are  perfect partners, as you can see in this cork bark composition. Here’s the Hechtia again, with another plant called Rhypsalis. Rhypsalis is another fascinating plant. It’s actually in the cactus family and most are native to Brazil. Its name is derived from the Greek word rhips, which means wickerwork and refers to the slender, flexible, reed-like stems.
Rhipsalis are primarily epiphytic, meaning they live in trees, but some also grow in  the cracks of rocks. Quite a versatile little cactus! It doesn’t have spines like a conventional cactus; instead the stems seem almost flattened and branch frequently. Flowers are among the smallest of cactus flowers and usually white, though some may be tinged with yellow or red.

Succulent Planter with Hen and Chicks, Echevaria and CryptanthusThe wooden bowl shows an old favorite, sempervivum or hen and chicks, a well known succulent and widely available in many rosette colors. One thing we’ve learned about “semps” is they really do appreciate a bit of shade in the afternoon here in Birmingham. Maybe it’s our constant humidity. At any rate, a touch of shade seems to help.

Succulents and Cactus in a Marble DishAnother cactus called ‘Old Man’ and a little succulent called Haworthia are at home in a small marble container. There are no drainage holes in this piece, so careful watering must be done sparingly.

Succulents in Cork Bark - Close-Up. Rhypsalis, Variegated Jade, Echevaria, Cryptanthus, HaworthiaFinally, a long, very narrow piece of cork bark is home to a varied selection of succulents including Portulacaria afra, sometimes called miniature variegated jade plant though it’s a different species.  Its small, cream-variegated leaves on reddish stems are striking combined with the echevarias, haworthias, Cryptanthus, and  Senecio rowleyanus or string of pearls (not shown in this picture). With  bright light and a light hand with water, this planting should  flourish.

These plantings are just the tip of an amazing succulent iceberg. We’re constantly on the lookout for others to expand our design repertoire. So far we’re having a grand time!

 

Aloes…There’s More Than Just Vera Out There!

You're undoubtedly familiar with this Aloe vera...

You’re undoubtedly familiar with this Aloe vera…

A basic aloe plant - and it's soothing gel...

A basic aloe plant – and it’s soothing gel…

The succulent world is full of an amazing and beautiful variety of plants with mysterious names like Echevaria, Hechtia, Aeonium, Senecio, Crassula, Haworthia, and Graptoveria, just to name a few! Even the basic Aloe vera plant has been hybridized. It’s definitely no longer the aloe your mom had on the windowsill in the kitchen, there at the ready to soothe burns from the stove or the sun.

One of the preeminent hybridizers of aloes is a gentleman by the name of Kelly Griffin, formerly of Rancho Soledad Nursery. As is so often the case in horticulture, folks like him become interested in a particular group of plants, become educated in them,  and have the great fortune to be able to pursue their interest, traveling the world and crossing plants to create beautiful hybrids.

The link HERE  gives you a great picture of the man and his passion for aloes, agaves, and other succulents. The hybrids Mr. Griffin has produced really are very special, and many are a cross between Gasterias and Aloe to create the hybrid Gasteraloe. Pretty nifty, right? They are also commonly called “Table-Top” Aloes. Gasterias  have been in cultivation for hundreds of years and can easily be crossed with Aloes, so there are many of these hybrids available.

With the interest in all things succulent lately, it’s only natural that these aloes would cross our path, and we’ve added them  to the greenhouse collection of succulents as they become available from our suppliers.

Aloe 'Delta Lights'

Aloe ‘Delta Lights’

One of the most beautifully patterned  is the Aloe ‘Delta Lights‘, released in 2011. The parent plant, Aloe deltoideodonta, comes from southern central Madagascar, an island in the western Indian Ocean. Here in Birmingham, this, and the others mentioned here, will be a houseplant or one that can be summered outside in a container. Morning sun and occasional watering are perfect for this tough plant. Ultimately this beautifully patterned aloe can reach 18 inches tall by about 2 feet wide, with leaves on a healthy plant 3 inches wide at the base and tapering gently at the tips.

Aloe 'Green Sand'

Aloe ‘Green Sand’

If you like ‘Delta Lights‘, the next one, ‘Green Sand‘,  is even more colorful and unique and considered one of Griffin’s best. More compact, it boasts  reddish to maroon tones that  become  a very deep, rich red the more sun it is provided. The serrated, bumpy leaves add even more interest to this pretty aloe.

Gasteraloe 'Flow'

Gasteraloe ‘Flow’

 

The final Gasteraloe  is one called ‘Flow‘. It has thick, oblong leaves with white, bumpy protrusions that give it quite a wonderful texture. This fascinating plant is yet another  cross, this time using Gasteria verrucosa, a native of South Africa. If only world human populations could get along as well as these plants!

We will continue to carry these and other Table-Top aloes as they are available throughout the year. Any of them would make a wonderful gift for plant lovers in your life or an easy office or houseplant in plenty of bright light and minimal water.

Summer Container Gardens…The Heat Is On

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Owner, Billy Angell’s deck might not be finished yet, but his pots are!

It’s high summer with the 4th of July just past… time for vacations and lazy days at the lake, the beach, or maybe just spent lolling by the pool with a good book. I’m off on a much anticipated vacation to visit family and friends too, but I wanted to share a few more plantings first. If you are off and away, be sure to make arrangements for a friend to tend your plantings and container gardens so they’re as pretty when you return as when you left. No one wants to come home to a sad garden, after all.

Here, then, are a few plantings we’ve done recently:

All flowers...Pinkie's creations for a customer

All flowers…Pinkie’s creations for a customer

Flowers obviously add blooms for bees and butterflies. Pinkie used an assortment of flowers for a customer’s containers. She included pentas, lantana (The butterflies love them!), angelonia, million bells (calibrachoa), purslane, plumbago and salvias for loads of color. With plantings like this, it’s necessary to keep old blooms cut off (deadheading).

Container Planting for SunMany of the container plantings we do are in light, mâché pots that can either be used on their own or placed in another planter. Here’s one with a mix of sun coleus, a dracaena (Barely visible in this picture, it adds a spiky leaf.), lantana, red million bells to trail,  and a white angelonia. This planting will get much larger and fuller as the heat of summer settles in, and daily watering will be necessary.

The coleus will also need pinching back as it gets larger. This may seem difficult at first, but it’s really quite good for the plant and will allow it to grow fuller rather than getting leggy and scraggly. Think about it this way: Every time you cut it back, there will be two stems of colorful leaves rather than just one. It rewards you for your efforts!

Hanging Basket for Sun - Rhoeo spathacea, String of Pearls, Echeveria, ChivesThe white, cone-shaped hanging basket shown here is now home to a common houseplant, an herb, and some succulents. While it may seem an unusual combination, it’s working quite nicely and has a cool, summery look. The houseplant is a pink and green tradescantia (It’s also known as Rhoeo spathacea.), sometimes called Moses In The Cradle.

It’s keeping company with some succulent echevarias and trailing string of pearls, just beginning to peek over the edge of the basket in this picture. I added a pot of chives in the center, just for its spiky green leaves. This is hanging in the nursery waiting for someone to give it a home.

Container Planting - Summer - Part SunWe have a few tall, lightweight planters still available, and this planting shows one of them off. A tall, white ruellia (They’re sometimes called perennial petunia.) is combined here with a caladium whose leaves will get very large. The name of this one is ‘Garden White’, and it’s impressive! The large leaves will contrast nicely with the smaller leaves of the ruellia. Another foliage contrast is provided by the silvery-purple leaves of a strobilanthes, sometimes called Persian Shield. A beautiful foliage plant, it benefits from a cutback every now and then if it gets to lanky in the planting. To trail there’s a blue fanflower, scaevola.

Container Planting - Sweetheart Pink Caladium, Alternanthera 'Little Ruby', Blue Daze, Lime Potato Vine, under 'Carolina Sapphire' CypressFinally, since we had a few ‘Carolina Sapphire’ cypress left, they were candidates for a planting using smaller plants at the base to add fullness, color, and trail. These planters will be in the sun and can be changed out in the fall with the addition of pansies and other cold weather plants for the winter season.

For now, though, the underplanting includes dwarf ‘Sweetheart Pink’ caladiums, trailing blue daze, lime green potato vine, a new silver helichrysum, and the purple foliage of an alternanthera ‘Little Ruby’. Watering, clipping out caladium seed pods (It’s best to cut them off so the energy of the plant goes toward making new leaves.), and keeping the potato vine cut back (if desired) will be needed.

These are just a sampling of the plantings we’ve done this season. Plants that are available from growers change rapidly, and so do our offerings. Hopefully you’ve planted a few pots this summer and are enjoying them now!

More Container Gardens…Foliage, Flowers and Pizazz!

The last post highlighted a few shade planters, and I hope this one will give you ideas for your hot, sunny spots. Even with large planters maintaining a set watering schedule is important when plantings are sited in full sun.  If your plantings wilt as a result of being too dry between watering over and over, eventually they’ll become so stressed they won’t recover. So, if you’ll be leaving for any extended period, ask a neighbor or friend to check your plantings and water regularly.

This planting is easy to hand water since it needs to be dry...

This planting is easy to hand water since it needs to be dry…

The first planting is a classic “Thriller, Filler, Spiller” combination, designed for a tall urn, using a silver foliage plant called cardoon. It will get very large, creating a dramatic centerpiece while the  mounding, succulent echevarias fill the middle with their pinky gray rosettes. The beautiful heat tolerant trailing dichondra creates a waterfall of shimmery silver over the edge. This is the most drought tolerant of the plantings shown here but still needs attention – even succulents need water!

Planted Container for SummerThe next uses a red fountain grass for height in a tall planter with the addition of white Profusion zinnias and white euphorbia as fillers. Spilling out are blue daze and potato vine. This planting will bloom continuously with regular water and periodic deadheading or clipping back of the zinnias. Late in the summer the grass will begin to bloom for an end of the season finale.

Wheelbarrow - Planted For Summer

 

This wheelbarrow is a fun and bright mix of flowers and herbs and will provide a riot of color through the hottest months. This type of whimsical container calls for a jumble of color,  and here it’s provided by zinnias, vinca, fanflower, rudbeckia, ornamental oregano, purple basil, and thyme. It would be perfect in the middle of a cottage kitchen garden! It will be necessary to deadhead the zinnias as they fade, cut back the fan flower periodically, pinch the vinca if necessary, and harvest the basil and thyme. Watering daily will be a must, since it’s planted very intensively with many plants.

Urn - Chamaecyparis and Summer AnnualsMany of you have pots that have shrubs in them that live year round, and just need some color added each season. In this example, the Chamaecyparis adds yellow foliage and is complimented through the summer with yellow million bells, white narrow leaf zinnias,  silver dichondra and some euphorbia. The million bells and zinnias will be cut back when they get too leggy (There’s no need to deadhead each individual bloom on these.) and it will be watered daily, since the Chamaecyparis has been in this planter for a few years and it’s roots are filling the planter quite extensively.

Planted Container for Summer - AlocasiaThe final planting uses a dramatic, and very large Alocasia – this speaks for itself, though it has supporting players as well, including dracaena, epescia, nepenthes, and alternanthera. It’s quite a combo.

I hope this and the previous posts will give you the confidence to try new plants and combinations, to be braver about cutting plants back (Yes,  they do need it every now and then!) and the understanding that these types of intensive plantings need regular water whether you’re home or not to keep them looking their best. 

These Annuals Handle Our Summer Heat And Have Plenty Of Flower Power Too!

Finding flowers that will perform in Birmingham’s brutal summer heat and humidity is an ongoing challenge. Fortunately, we’ve found many that will do well…and thrive if given the right care. In a post from last summer, I highlighted a few summer annuals, and here’s an update.

A white penta in the garden...

A white penta in the garden…

Have you tried pentas? They are flower dynamos and butterfly magnets. I make sure to add them to my garden each year, knowing that, come the dog days of August, they’ll be hitting their stride. All they ask for is periodic deadheading to keep blooms coming and supplemental water if we go through summer dry spells. Available in a wide range of colors – white, red, pinks and lavenders –  they add a rounded, star-cluster flower form to the garden.

Tall purple gomphrena

Tall purple gomphrena

In last year’s post I highlighted gomphrena, and it’s getting an encore mention this year because I like it so much. The tall ones are my favorite, though they’ve been hard to come by this year. I’ve finally been able to find a tall purple one, though, and will be putting it in planters and recommending it to everyone for sunny, hot spots in the garden. The tall stems with rounded globe-like flowers, like the pentas, add another interesting flower shape to any flower bed.

Fanflower...

Fanflower…

Finally, here are two low-growing plants that can be used to spill out of containers or as a groundcover in garden beds. First, one I use all the time in containers and in the ground is scaevola, or fan flower (See the “fans”?).  You’ve probably seen the blue/purple selections, but there is also a white form shown here, as well as pink, a purple and white, and a yellow.

It’s interesting fan-shaped flowers are held on stems that in containers get quite long. Because of this, it will benefit from being cut back at times through the summer. You can either cut the whole plant back when it gets leggy, or you might choose to just cut a few of the longest stems back here and there. This won’t hurt it at all, so don’t be afraid to do this!

Purslane, just beginning to bloom...

Purslane, just beginning to bloom…

Last, but definitely not least, as far as heat tolerance and toughness, and loved by honeybees too,  is purslane. This little flowering succulent has been improved upon by hybridizers over the years. These improved varieties offer vivid colors from white to many shades of oranges, pinks, and reds. The flowers will close in the late afternoon, but do they make up for it the rest of the day!

New varieties have larger blooms on heat and drought tolerant plants, making them a definite winner in my book. Try them either mixed with other succulents in a container, trailing from a hanging basket, or in the ground, perhaps along a hot sidewalk or driveway.

So, while we struggle through the summer heat and humidity of the south, it’s nice to know our gardens and containers don’t have to. It’s all in finding the right plants for your tough spots and knowing what to do to keep them looking their best!

 

 

Brassidium Orchids – These Are Beautiful “Spiders” in a Beautiful Display!

Brassidium orchids and succulentsJamie put together this stunning display the other day at the front of the shop, using  a beautiful mix of containers and plants. The picture doesn’t do her designs justice,,,a  pony tail palm underplanted with succulents; another succulent planting in cork bark; and a gorgeous arrangement of a standing cork bark planter with brassidium, or spider, orchids.

Brassidium orchid display - succulentsBrassidium orchid blooms - closeupThis closeup picture of the succulent plantings shows both the diversity of this group of plants and why we enjoy working with them so much. In addition to the drought tolerant ponytail palm, there are echeverias, string of pearls, string of bananas, crassulas, and variegated trailing jade plant, all right at home in her design.

The spider orchids are so exotic looking with their long, long stems holding spidery-looking flowers all along their length. These flowers actually evolved to attract a certain female parasitic wasp that lay their eggs on spiders in their webs. Since the flowers look like spiders, The wasp lays the eggs on the flower and is covered with pollen. Not getting the spider it’s looking for, it moves on to the next “spider”, thus pollinating the plant. Pretty amazing stuff.

As I’ve pointed out in other posts, the key to figuring out how to grow a plant is finding out where it’s native habitat is, and a previous post on bromeliads highlighted this. Brassia orchids are native to wet, tropical forests of Central and South America. They are named for the 19th century British botanical illustrator, William Brass.

Orchid hybridizers have crossed Brassias with Miltonia and Ondontoglossums to create some incredible hybrids, many of which are fragrant and have very large, spidery flowers.

How to grow your Brassidium orchid:

They require very bright light but not direct sun. Please don’t expect them to be happy in a dark, interior room! In the tropical forests they receive diffused light through the trees.

Keep your Brassidium orchid moist during the growing season. This is the period when the pseudobulb develops and flower spikes appear. After this period, when in flower, don’t overwater; the fat pseudobulb at the base is helping hold moisture. Water once a week or when the pot begins to feel light.

Brassidium orchids appreciate humidity, temperatures between 65F and 75F during the day, and good air circulation that can be provided by a fan. Since our homes tend to be dry, if you’d like to keep your brassia happy, add a shallow tray of pebbles in water that the pot can sit on (but not in the water). This  will help raise the humidity to the 50%-70% these orchids prefer.

 

 

 

 

Succulents…See Some Things We’ve Created!

succulents in the greenhouse...

succulents in the greenhouse…

air plants...

air plants…

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

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

living wreath...

living wreath…

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

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

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

this will get large!

this will get large!

 

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

image

 

 

 

 

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

one of two...

one of two…

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

air plants add height until the flapjack kalanchoe gets larger…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Miniature Gardens As Centerpieces…

tiny cloche...

tiny cloche…

In a few short weeks Mountain Brook’s  Little Garden Club, a charter member of the Garden Club of America, will host a regional zone meeting and flower show. It will take place April, 2014, and a lot of folks are involved in planning this important event. Members of GCA clubs will be attending from the surrounding states, so there will be a lot of visitors!

Miniature Garden

 

 

 

 

Miniature Garden

I’ll be assisting with a number of others in the “passing” of the horticultural exhibits – clearing them for entry into the flower show to be judged. I was very flattered to be asked and happy to help with this event, which has been two years in the planning.

Miniature GardenWhat does all this have to do with miniature gardens, you ask? Well, these tiny gardens have been very  popular the past number of years, and the garden club organizers decided it would be a fun thing to have on some of the tables for one of their meetings. And they turned to Oak Street Garden Shop for help.

The containers we chose are metal, and they will be wrapped with aspidistra leaves to make a “Ribbon of Green”, the theme of this year’s meeting.

These pictures show how some turned out. The miniature gardens are designed to continue living as a true garden, so plant material is chosen accordingly, with only minor exceptions.

imageBecause these take a great deal of time to make, I finally gave up on waiting for new miniature garden accessories I’d ordered since my deadline to have them completed was looming…but I still had plenty of fun things to play with. If you’ve ever made one of these gardens in miniature, you’re well aware how detailed and time consuming they are.

For some of the centerpieces I chose succulents, including haworthias and sedums, which work well for tiny plantings. Pilea ‘Aquamarine’ is a low grower with a great color; it just needs clipping regularly to keep it from overrunning its neighbors.

Miniature GardenTiny pots of ordinary houseplants also work in these gardens. Little parlor palms, ferns, polka dot plants and baby podocarpus make good companions, and selaginella is a pretty groundcover.

It’s nice to have different sizes of pebbles to create paths and larger stones to create “boulders”. Can you see the turtle sitting on one?

There’s still more tweaking to do (Just like a real garden that is never “done”!), and one more not even started yet…but that story is for another post. If you’re in the Birmingham area, stop in and take a look. They’re even more fun in person!

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone