Tag Archives: container gardening maintenance

Garden Alert! Summer To-Do List

Rudbeckia 'Herbstonne'

Rudbeckia ‘Herbstonne’

It’s almost July in Birmingham, time for weekends at the lake and trips to the beach or mountains (and aren’t we lucky to be so close to both?)  So I promise not to make you work too hard in the garden… but remember, a little work now will mean less later – and a prettier garden too!

So, here are a few things to be thinking about – and you don’t even  have to do them all at once! Simply walk through your garden at least every week and try to do at least a couple of the following tasks each time:

Pull weeds that may be coming up and dispose of them. Never put weeds on your compost pile unless you want more! Pulling weeds a bit at a time is so much easier than ignoring them and doing a marathon weed pull later. Trust me on this; I’ve been there. Did you see the post on mulberry weed? It’s one you need to keep out of your garden!

 'Becky' daisies
‘Becky’ daisies

Deadhead (cut off dead “heads” of blooms) any flowers that have passed their prime.

 

Along the same vein as deadheading is cutting back. Planters benefit greatly from being cut back when they are geting “out of control” in size  (usually around this time of year if you planted them in the early spring).  It’s a difficult thing to do for folks, but try it. Cut back those weedy looking zinnias. That coleus that’s gotten enormous? Cut it back! Those trailing plants that are looking a little worse for wear? Cut them back by at least half.

There, you did it! Now give those plants a bit of fertilizer, keep them watered, and then  stand back while they flush back out. You can thank me later!

Deadheading a phlox bloom...

Deadheading a phlox bloom…

 

Perennials in your garden will also appreciate a little attention here and there. When your phlox has pretty much bloomed out, trim the spent flower head off.  It will usually rebloom a second time. Once they’re completely done blooming, cut them back by half to neaten things up a bit. Rudbeckias, daisies and coneflowers will also continue to bloom longer if you pay attention and deadhead them just as you do your annuals.

 

Deadhead individual blooms on balloon flower

Deadhead individual blooms on balloon flower

 

Balloon flower is one perennial that you should never cut back while it’s blooming or you’ll lose out on a lot of flowers. Simply pinch off old blooms – this is best done daily. Confused about annuals and perennials? Refresh yourself by reading this post on them.

 

 

Do you see yellowing leaves on perennials or annuals? It only takes a few minute to “groom” a plant  – simply remove the yellow leaves; after all, they’re not going to turn green again! Daylilys definitely look better if you pay attention to this after you’ve cut back the faded bloom stem. You can even cut their  foliage back by half to neaten the plant up after it’s bloom period is completely over.

midsummer...perennials and annual share this bed.

midsummer…perennials and annual share this bed.

Some late blooming perennials should be getting taller…inserting wide border supports keep them in line (They are one of my favorite support systems.).  Take a look HERE  if you missed the post on late blooming perennials and what to do with them early in the season. The Rudbeckia ‘Herbstonne’ shown in the picture at the beginning of this post  is an example of a perennial I cut back in the spring to control it’s height and bloom time. They are in full bloom around town now.

See the mulch?

See the mulch?

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you need to refresh mulch in beds, now is a good time to get this necessary task done. Not the most fun job, but it keeps the soil temperatures at the root zone of plants at an even temperature – especially important in our hot climate! Mulch conserves moisture, smothers weeds, and eventually will break down, contributing  to the health of the soil too. Pretty good stuff all the way around.

Okay, that wasn’t so bad was it? Now you can pour yourself a glass of wine, pat yourself on the back and enjoy your beautiful, cared for landscape!

By Kris Blevons

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.