Tag Archives: container gardening

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

 

July 30th Front Door Container Garden

The Gardening Tool That Is Always With You

Front Door Container Garden

May 10th

Do you forget each year exactly what you planted the year before or have trouble keeping track of how many plants you used in a planter or bed?

There’s an easy answer, and it’s probably in your pocket or purse right now. Our phone cameras are a great gardening tool.

I use mine to take pictures of new container plantings and garden beds and continue taking pictures through the season to track the progress of their growth.

Front Door Container Gardens

May 24th

 

 

The pictures here are one example. These planters are on a busy street and are seen from some distance, so they need to grow large. I took pictures the day they were planted and a couple of times after to show the progression of their growth.

July 5th Front Door Container Garden

July 5th

 

 

 

 

Taking pictures as a reference is helpful if you’re asking for help choosing plants for your garden too.  Simply take your pictures into the garden shop the next year and let them  see what you did the year previous. Then you can recreate all or part of it – or none of it if it didn’t do well for you. It’s really a very helpful tool!

Front Door Container Gardens

July 30th

These containers are tall and narrow, and they’re planted intensively, so consistent watering is a must. The first pictures were taken at the beginning of May and the final shots are at the very end of July.

After 3 full months they’re still looking great, and with some clipping to cut back the coleus they should continue well into September.

July 30th Front Door Container Garden

July 30th

 

 

 

This is also an example of choosing the right plants for the person. She’s a busy mom who doesn’t want to fuss over the pots and is lucky enough to have her mom help water when she’s out of town.

I chose the lime green coleus and big leaf begonias because I knew they’d grow large and accented them with the variegated leaves of cuban oregano and caladiums, then tucked in the airy white blooming euphorbia. The potato vine is another toughie that contributed more of the chartreuse green color to show up from a distance.

July 30th Front Door Container Garden

July 30th

If you have a difficult time keeping track of names of plants, using the Notes feature of your I-Phone can help. As a matter of fact, I have an entire list of most of the plants in my garden in my phone. Believe me, I’ve always depended on pen and paper jotting down info here and there,  but more times than not I misplaced them. Now I keep notes on my phone and they don’t get lost!

By Kris Blevons

Ideas For Container Gardens In The Sun

 

 

Even in June we have folks come in to get planting advice for their garden beds and pots. It’s never too late to plant something! Here are a few ideas for your summer planters.
Bottega Planter

Keep in mind you don’t have to make fancy plant combinations if you feel unsure of yourself.  You can also choose to use just one kind of plant in a planter.

The bottom line? Do whatever you feel works for you and your landscape.  The staff at Oak Street Garden Shop and I enjoy putting together combinations of plants though, so here are a few examples of that type of planting.

The wire plant stand shown in the first two pictures lives at a local restaurant, receives lot of sun, and is well tended. It was first lined with a thick layer of green sheet moss, then soil and Osmocote were added  (We mix in this slow release fertilizer to all of our plantings.), and finally plants were positioned.

Bottega Plant StandBecause this needs to show up in the evening as well as during the day, the color scheme is white and silver with a touch of blue. It’s sited in front of a window and needs to look good all around as patrons also view it from inside the restaurant.

Blue salvia  and silver germander will give height to this planting and spiky blooms, silver artemesia, sun tolerant caladiums, and an airy white euphorbia will add fullness, while a trailing artemesia, spreading angelonia, helichrysum, and silver dichondra will spill out the front.

The next example is simpler since the container, a bowl made out of hypertuffa, is smaller. Again, the plants chosen will work in the sun if care is taken to keep the contents watered. Our advice, unless it rains, is to water each morning, thoroughly in the heat of summer, and check the planting again each afternoon.Container Garden For Sun - Trailing Pentas, Spreading Angelonia, Ornamental Oregano

Three types of plants fill this bowl: spreading angelonia, ornamental oregano, and trailing pentas. Each of these will either spread out or trail, so the overall look will be of a mounding planting. Each of these has a different shape bloom, so there will be contrast in form as well as color of foliage or flower.

The final example is an intensively planted, heavy glazed container that a customer brought in to be planted for a wedding party. Her color scheme was white, pink, and purple, and some variegated and silver foliage was used as well.

Container Garden For Sun - Iris Pallida, Artemesia, Scaevola, Angelonia, Silver GermanderBecause this needed to be intensively planted to look “grown out” immediately, maintenance will be important, and plants will need to be cut back periodically and groomed often. The planter sits against a wall in hot sun, so the view is 3/4 around.

 

 

Here Iris pallida  was the starting point, then silver artemesia, silver germander,  upright and spreading angelonia, and trailing plants of both purple and white scaevola were added to complete the planting. Again, there’s contrast in foliage color, bloom form, and growth habit.

The mixed planting combinations shown here  could just as easily work in a sunny garden bed too.

Experiment with new plants you might not be familiar with, try different combinations, whether they’re all in the same pot, one plant type in a container. or in the ground. You just might find a new favorite!

 

Plants used in these containers include:

Sun tolerant caladiums: There are many out there. The sun caladiums generally have lance shaped leaves.  Blue salvia: Again, look for salvias  that grow between 12″ and 18″  the size best for most mid-size container gardens. Euphorbia: There are many, and they all offer an airy growth habit with small white blooms. You can’t go wrong with any of them!  Helichrysum ‘Silver Star‘: This is an excellent choice for southern gardeners, usually available only early in the season. Doesn’t “melt out” like most other helichrysums do for us.

Silver dichondra: Don’t let it’s skimpy appearance in the pot fool you. This is one of the best choices to create a silvery waterfall of coin shaped leaves to trail out of containers in the sun, and  it loves the heat too!  Angelonia: Sometimes referred to as summer snapdragon because of it’s bloom shape. Angelonia comes in an upright form perfect for the center of containers or in garden beds and as a spreading plant, more lax and outward growing.

Artemesia: Good for a silver foliage element. ‘Powis Castle’ is big and billowy, ‘Silver Brocade’ spreads out and down. Silver germander: A lovely upright growing plant used for foliage texture and color. An excellent plant to add structure to plantings, though it can be difficult to find.

Pentas: A workhorse for us. They’re available in an upright form, useful for adding height in containers, and now there’s also a trailing variety. They do require deadheading to perform their best. Ornamental oregano:  Another that can be difficult to find, but if you can, the trailing habit and pink bloom bracts make it a winner.

Scaevola: This spiller comes in a range of colors: white, pink, blue, or purple, so it can be used with any color scheme. Clip it back periodically to keep it from getting ragged. Its other name is fan flower because of the charming fan shaped blooms.

Iris pallida: A striking iris, with either yellow (‘Aurea’) or white (‘Variegata’) variegated leaves, it prefers sun and dryish soil. Lovely light purple blooms appear in early spring.

A few more good choices not used here include:

Coleus: With their colorful leaves they brighten shady areas, but there are also many sun tolerant varieties as well. Sunpatiens: Provide plenty of water if you place them in full sun. Begonias: There are many excellent varieties out there including ‘Dragonwing’, ‘Big Leaf’, and others. It’s not your Grandma’s begonia world any more! Calibrachoa: Also known as million bells, these diminutive petunia look-alikes spill from containers with every color imagineable. Purslane: Colorful blooms close in the late afternoon on succulent, drought tolerant plants. Lantana: An old workhorse, new varieties are more compact and extremely floriferous.

 

 

 

Contained…Plantings To Inspire

It’s difficult to keep up with blog posts through the busiest stretch of spring, but now the pace has slowed and there’s time to show a sampling of the plantings we’ve done. This is by no means all of them, so there will be another post documenting more soon!

Cork bark containers continue to inspire us and can be used in sun or shade. This one, planted with a beautiful begonia, coleus and a tiny leaved maidenhair fern, is for shade.

White and green is always a hit.

Others were all color!

 

Succulents are still very popular, and herbs are too.

 

We made basil topiaries (and are working on some coleus topiaries too)!

And a vertical planting using foliage plants.

Some served double duty – arranged beautifully for a party, then taken out and planted elsewhere, or used exclusively as an indoor design element.

A few container gardens in a sunny section of the nursery…and next door at Dyron’s restaurant.

Driftwood pieces…planted. We had a lot of fun with these!

We hope this has inspired you!

 

By Kris Blevons

Cork Bark Planters for Shady Summer Spots

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

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

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

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

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

Cork Bark Planting For Shade

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

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

By Kris Blevons

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

Container Gardening Design Tips

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

Summer Container GardenDyron's Urn - Summer 2015

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Herb Box with VincaSummer Container Garden

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

Summer Container Garden

 

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

Dyron's Planter Tubs - May 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Container Gardening Tips:

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Kris Blevons

 

 

 

A Trio of Pots – Color and Texture In A Late Summer Planting

Summer can be hard on container gardens in the south. It’s so easy to finally just give up on them, especially when a last end of the season getaway beckons, or you’ve forgotten to water once too many times and the poor plants just look too sad for words. Well,  I’m here to tell you it’s ok.

You can forgive yourself for your forgetful plant parenting, because September is the beginning of a new season – we can call it the pre-pansy season, because even though it’s still too early to plant pansies and violas,  there are some other options to tide you over until cooler weather finally comes.

I had the opportunity to give a trio of pots just such a makeover the other day. There were actually two – a half planter, a terra cotta pot, and a cast stone pedestal the owners wanted a new planter set on.

Arranging them...

Arranging them…

Because their pots and pedestal are all of different materials and colors, I chose a simple lightweight black bowl to sit on the pedestal. The size works well with the others and adds a different shape too. I’ve suggested in past posts that wandering the garden shop picking up plants and grouping them together to see how they’ll work together is a great way to design plantings, and that’s just what I did here.Trio of Fall Pots

I changed and rearranged them until I was satisfied. It’s important,  however, to understand how each plant will grow out in a composition like this since  there are “many parts to the whole.”

Here’s what I came up with  for this trio of pots. I started with the deep red fountain grass for its beautiful fall color, and  I liked how it blended with the dark leaves of the heuchera in each pot. They also show up well against the cream color of the brick.

Trio of Fall PotsA blue-green fescue adds another, shorter, grass element, contrasting with the smaller, rounder leaves of the trailing angelvine and creeping jenny. White petunias add brightness and will also trail.

The red fountain grass is an annual, so it will be pulled out with the onset of cold weather and the bay planted with it will stay. In the terra cotta planter there’s a small arborvitae, and In each pot some elements are repeated so it’s not too chaotic looking…

Trio Of Fall PotsMaintenance will mean consistent watering since the planting will become root bound – in the smaller pots especially, and the petunias will need to be deadheaded to keep them  blooming. A few pumpkins and gourds would also look great at the base through the fall…

With the onset of cooler weather and pansy season, the petunias can be replaced by white (Or a color if they prefer.)  pansies or violas. The remainder of the plants are perennial, so can be left through the winter. They’re situated against a wall which should help keep them warm, but it would be smart to protect them with a covering if temps fall below freezing for any length of time.

By Kris Blevons

Summer Horse Trough Planting…Caladium Encore 2015

Horse Troughs Planted For SummerThe troughs in front of Dyron’s Restaurant took a real hit this winter, so I was more than happy to pull out all that had died and replant for the summer.

Last year’s planting included a pretty yellow thryallis,  but this year I opted to leave it out. I did repeat the ‘Red Flash’ caladiums that had done so well last year and left the Carex ‘Evergold’ and Golden Acorus in each trough as well since they had sailed through the winter cold. Keeping  some perennials in planters as large as these makes sense.

This year, instead of zinnias, I opted for vinca and lantana for some white and yellow blooms respectively. They should definitely take the hot blazing afternoon sun. A dark leaf potato vine will trail over the edge, and its color should contrast nicely with these containers.

Last summer the Red Flash caladium almost overwhelmed the thryallis, so this year I decided to give them a run for their money and added a chartreuse coleus called ‘Wasabi’ that will get just as enormous. Here’s to another growing season!

Maintenance of this planting will involve consistent watering and the occasional clip back of the lantana and coleus. Seed pods that form on the caladiums will also be cut and any yellow leaves removed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Container Gardening With Herbs – The Basics

for summer - lots of herbs and some flowers too...

for summer – lots of herbs and some flowers too…

Herbs are beautiful additions to any container garden, either on their own or combined with seasonal flowers. They add colorful leaves, texture, scent, and culinary usefulness to plantings and attract bees and other beneficial insects as well.

Planting Basics:

Use as large a pot as possible.

Use good quality potting soil.

Fertilize lightly.

Maintenance of Herbs in Containers:

Herbs often suffer from overfertilizing, overwatering, and overcrowding. Water when dry so that water runs out the bottom of the container. Remember pots will dry out quickly in the heat of summer and during windy conditions. Empty water that may be standing in saucers. Clip your herbs regularly. This will keep them from becoming leggy and overcrowded, especially if they’ve been used in combination plantings.  Harvest herbs in the morning and just prior to bloom. Near the end of the season, allow your basil to bloom; the bees love it! Finally,  never prune woody herbs like rosemary to bare wood.

Using Herbs in Combination Plantings:

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….

Start with the herbs you’d like to most use, either for an ornamental or culinary addition. Knowing their growth habits is helpful in deciding their placement in your container.

For example, use chives for a grasslike effect; thyme, trailing rosemary, and oregano to spill over the edges; lavender or upright rosemary for height; and parsley and sage as fillers in containers.

Another idea is to use one herb in a pot and group many such pots together. A rosemary plant, once mature, will easily fill a large 14″ or bigger planter, as will lavender. Mid-size (10″- 14″) pots can be filled with parsley, chives, sage, French tarragon, or, more easily grown in the south, Texas tarragon. The larger the pot the better!

Annual Herbs Basil, Lemon Verbena, Lemon Grass (warm season); Cilantro, Dill (cool season); parsley (biennial).

Herbs and Succulents...

Herbs and Succulents…

Perennial Herbs Rosemary, Oregano, Marjoram, Thyme, Sage, Chives, Mint, Lavender, French Tarragon, Texas Tarragon, Savory, Hyssop, Lemon Balm, Catnip, Rue, Santolina, Fennel, Germander, Summer and Winter Savory.

Cool Season Herbs Cilantro, Dill, Salad Burnet, Chervil.

Plant Sizes

Small  – under 1 foot in diameter: Parsley, Dill, Chives (garlic & onion), Cilantro, Salad Burnet, Chervil.

Medium – 1-2 feet in diameter: Thyme, Tarragon, Basils, Mint.

Large 3 feet or more in diameter or over 4 feet high: Rosemary, Oregano, Lemon Verbena, Sage.

Sun/Moisture

Dry, sunny, Mediterranean conditions: Rosemary, Oregano, Marjoram, Sage, Lavender, Thyme, Tarragon, Germander, Santolina.

Cooler, afternoon-shaded locations: Mint, Cilantro, Dill, Chives, Parsley, Lemon Balm, Salad Burnet, Lemon Grass.

Common methods of propagation of perennial herbs: Divisions: Chives, Mint, Thyme, Oregano. Cuttings: Rosemary, Lavender, Sage, Winter Savory, Lemon Verbena, Rue.

Rosemary looking a little rough after this past winter...

Rosemary looking a little rough after this past winter…

Pests & Diseases Of Herbs Careful cultivation of your herbs will help keep them healthy and less susceptible to pests and diseases. Provide adequate water when needed, plant with the proper spacing for the best air circulation, and place them in the right amount of sun. Chemicals, obviously should not be used on any herbs you plan to harvest. Insecticidal soap or a strong spray of water is generally enough to deter most pests.

Aphids – Soft-bodied insects found on new growth and easily controlled by a strong spray of water or insecticidal soap.

Whiteflies  Can be problematic, spraying the undersides of the leaves consistently with insecticidal soap is necessary to eliminate them. In large infestations they’ll fly out of the center of the plant in a white cloud when disturbed. An important point to keep in mind is that spraying with the wrong insecticide can make whitefly problems worse, since spraying with the wrong insecticide will kill important predatory insects and tiny parasitic wasps that help control whiteflies. These naturally occurring beneficial insects are the best way to control whiteflies, and whitefly outbreaks generally occur when this natural control is disrupted. The best course of action is to preserve beneficials by avoiding unnecessary insecticidal treatments.
Look HERE  for more information from Mississippi State University.

Leaf Hoppers – These insects hop from plant to plant so are known to spread diseases. Control with insecticidal soap spray.  Remove any garden debris each fall to reduce over-wintering sites. Thorough coverage of both upper and lower infested leaves is necessary for effective control.

Leaf Miner – Burrowing insects that live inside leaves and are identified by the white “trails” on the leaves. The best control is to cut the plant back and throw away (Do not compost.) those leaves. Common on parsley in particular.

Caterpillars – Always try to identify caterpillars before you get rid of them! Swallowtail butterfly caterpillars are commonly found on parsley, fennel, and dill. Bt and Sevin dust will control those you do want to eliminate, as will hand picking.

Powdery Mildew – Mildew is caused by too little air circulation. Thinning the plant and clipping back surrounding plants to improve air movement will help.

The following organic fungicide of baking soda and water can also be applied on your herbs:

1 Tbsp baking soda. ½ Tsp liquid soap   1 Tbsp light horticultural oil  in 1 gallon of water.

Always spray in the coolest portion of the day, avoid spraying when bees are active, and test this on a small portion of the plant first. The oil coats and smothers the fungi, and the soap helps the mix cling to the upper and lower portions of the leaf.

Latin names for herbs listed in this post:

Anise Hyssop: Agastache foeniculum;  Basil: Ocimum basilicum; Chives: Allium schoenoprasum; Garlic chives: Allium tuberosum; Cilantro: Coriandrum sativum; Dill: Anethum graveolens; Fennel: Foeniculum vulgare; Germander: Teucrium chamaedrys; Lavender: Lavandula sp.; Santolina: Santolina chamaecyparissus, Santolina virens; Lemon Balm:  Melissa officianalis; Lemon Grass: Cymbopogon citratus; Lemon Verbena: Aloysia triphylla ; Marjoram: Origanum majorana; Mint: Mentha sp.; Oregano (Greek) Origanum heracleoticum; Parsley: Petroselinum crispum; Rosemary: Rosmarinus officianalis; Rue: Ruta graveolens; Sage: Salvia officianalis; Salad Burnet: Sanguisorba minor; French tarragon: Artemesia dracunculus; Texas tarragon: Tagetes lucida; Thyme: Thymus sp.  Winter Savory: Satureja Montana; Summer Savory: Satureja hortensis

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!

 

A Brown Bowl…Planted 2 Ways For Sun

The other day I noticed we only had two midsize, light-weight brown planter bowls left in stock,  and they were just calling to be planted. Since summer is relatively slow and we have time on our hands, we’ve been planting all sorts of mixed containers with annuals, herbs, perennials, and everything in between to tempt folks coming in; and I thought one of these might be just the right size for someone.

Usually if I plant two of something for display, I make them similar, but, with these, I decided to play off the brown color of the bowls with two different plantings – both for sun, but each quite different, using annuals. Here’s what I came up with. Of course, there are endless variations of plants out there; these are  simply my two versions using annuals available mid-summer.

The first planting uses light colors that are quite harmonious – white, blue and yellow. A variegated Swedish ivy and yellow duranta are the all-important foliage accents here, and the white flowers of the angelonia will add a spiky bloom in the center (The yellow duranta will need some clipping eventually to keep it at the right proportion for this planting.). Pretty blooms of a blue daze trailing over the edge complete the picture. If the container were larger, I might have added a silver thyme as well.

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Color is an interesting thing. You can either go big, bold, and wild and mix many together, or you might choose  two or three very opposite colors (Think purple and orange, for example.). Combinations can also be fairly calm, using colors closely related.

Flowers obviously add color to any composition, but don’t forget the importance of foliage too. Many times I’ll begin a design by pulling foliage plants to accent a particular planter, then add blooming plants to play off of those  leaves. In fact, leaves and their shapes are extremely important  to the overall look of a planter once it’s completed and growing out.

Lightweight Brown Bowl Planted - Babywing Begonia White with Bronze Leaf, Euphorbia, Yellow Joseph's Coat and Silver Dichondra

The second is quite different, though once again there’s a yellow foliage (Yellow works so well with brown!), this time a dwarf Joseph’s coat, and white blooms too, represented here by a dark leaved baby wing begonia. Its  leaves match the color of the bowl almost perfectly. The begonia is a heavy presence in this planting; so, to lighten it up, an airy blooming white euphorbia went in next. Finally, the silvery foliage of a trailing dichondra spills over the edge, adding  a nice contrast to the brown of the pot.

So, there are now two fairly simple, yet quite dissimilar plantings in the same bowl. At another  time of the year, the choices would have been even more different…yet another reason container gardening is so entertaining!

Stop in and take a look at our container planting designs if you’re in the Birmingham area. We try to have as many made up as possible to give you ideas and inspiration! 

 

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. 

Summer Shade Planters…Foliage and Flowers for Lasting Impact

As the hectic pace of spring gives way to summer and the necessary routine jobs around the nursery of  grooming plants, watering, and cleaning, it’s a real treat for us to be able to “play” and indulge our plantaholic ways. Truthfully, we do this as often as possible. First, because it’s just plain fun to try different combinations,  and, if a planter stays long enough to grow out, you can see the end result and we can explain how we maintained it. It’s a win-win situation for everyone! So, here is a gallery of planting combinations for shade that we’ve put together recently. When combining plants it’s necessary to understand light and water requirements for compatibility. If you know this, the next goal is to pair plants with contrasting leaf shapes, color, and texture. Echoing or contrasting flower colors and shapes will also factor into the design.

For Filtered Sun or Shade...

For Filtered Sun or Shade…

The first planter for filtered  or morning sun utilizes the big white  leaves of ‘Garden White’ caladiums, the airy white blooms and leaves of a euphorbia, a ‘Babywing’ Pink begonia, the grassy foliage of Carex ‘Evergold’, and the dark shiny foliage of hemigraphis, or waffle plant. There’s also a touch of a selaginella for a lighter green, low-growing skirt at the edge of the planting. Maintaining this will involve cutting any seed pods from the caladiums, removing any unsightly leaves and watering regularly. Urn - Juncus, Swedish Ivy, Alternanthera 'Ruby' Potato Vine 'Caroline Green'

 

The next is a simple planting using only foliage for contrasting color and leaves. Grassy juncus, variegated Swedish ivy, a tough alternanthera with reddish purple foliage, and a chartreuse potato vine provide as much color as flowers…and don’t need any deadheading! This combination only needs occasional clipping if necessary and regular watering.

Shade Planter For Summer

Caladiums and coleus should be go-to plants for continuous color and big, bold foliage. The dark leaved coleus in the very center of this planting will need to be cut back if it has overgrown its companions, and the caladiums will need seed pods removed to ensure the best leaf production. This planter is mostly caladiums and coleus, with the dainty white blooms of a euphorbia acting as a filler plant.  Pothos, a common houseplant, will trail over the edge and add even more color to this shady composition. In fact, many houseplants work well in these types of shady container gardens.

 

imageSometimes it’s fun to try a plant that’s more unusual as the centerpiece of a design. In this glazed pot the dark leaf of  the Alocasia is a beautiful contrast to the coleus, grasslike juncus, maidenhair fern, trailing torenia, and creeping jenny.

Shade Planter for Summer Finally, here’s a simple planting for shade using a begonia and the contrasting leaf and brightness of carex ‘Evergold’,  which will spill over the edge of the container. Simple, yet effective. The begonia will continue to bloom with a couple of cutbacks if it gets “leggy.”

Need help with container plantings in sunnier spots?  The next post will highlight some of the plantings for sun that we’ve designed recently. 

Planted For Shade – Chez Fonfon Planters – Summer 2014

The large square planters outside chef Frank Stitt’s French bistro, Chez Fonfon, are my babies to plant each season, and it was interesting to see how things fared after a particularly harsh winter. Not surprisingly, even with the excellent maintenance their staff provides, it was time to redo for the summer heat.

Chez Fonfon Shade Planters - A New SeasonA testament to its common name of cast iron plant, the aspidistra looked amazingly good considering the bone-chilling temperatures Birmingham dipped to in January.  It only needed a few leaves cut out, and no thinning was required this season…probably due to the cold. A heuchera, that had been added in the winter planting for its beautiful leaves, was removed to be planted in a bed at another of the Stitt’s restaurants, Bottega.  I also removed the branches that had been added to give extra interest in the winter planting.

This year, instead of using the Aaron caladium of last summer, I switched it up and put in some caladiums that are all white, named ‘Garden White’. They should get quite large and work well with the kimberly queen fern, a tropical fern with an upright growth habit.  Next, a couple of white sunpatiens were placed. These will also add mass to the center of the planter and, with the trailing white torenia, add more color to this shady spot.

I love foliage in planters such as these, so I couldn’t resist using Carex ‘Evergold’ to spill over the edge, along with torenia and a pot of angelvine, muehlenbeckia complexa, a tough-as- nails little vine that will also trail.

Chez Fonfon Shade Planters...Caladiums and More For SummerTorenia is an interesting plant, useful in shade plantings such as this. The white one used here (They are also available in blue, purple, magenta, and a yellow.) will trail over the edge of the planter, but there are also plants in this same genus that grow more upright and are useful in garden beds and planters in light shade as well. This is a good plant to get to know, since regular bedding plant impatiens are susceptible to downy mildew of impatiens.

So…another planting finished. The best part is yet to come, though, as patrons and passersby can watch the transformation of small plants as they gradually  grow together and flourish with  a little help from the capable staff of this fine Birmingham restaurant.

 

 

Branching Out…A Teal Bowl Planting

Laying the branches...

Laying the branches…

Adding the bird's nest fern...

Adding the bird’s nest fern…

Lichen covered branches are so beautiful in their own right, but we ultimately are a plant shop and every project we create begins and ends with plants; so, incorporating these branches into our designs has been a lot of fun.

This one started with a beautiful, large teal colored glazed bowl, really very pretty all on it’s own. I chose a few lichen covered branches and positioned one upright on an angle into the potting soil and laid the other across so I had some planting pockets to work with. The ends needed just a few loose lichens and moss glued to them to cover where they’d been cut.

The trick when using something like this is in not hiding the beauty of the branch and finding plants to compliment both the color of the bowl and the added texture of the lichen as well. Of course, the plants also have to work together as far as water and light needs.

Wandering the greenhouse contemplating the choices, I decided to go the woodsy route, with ferns as the go to for this planting. So, a bird’s nest fern, Asplenium nidus; button fern, Pellaea rotundifolia; a selaginella,; and an austral gem fern, Asplenium dimorphum x difforme, were gathered.

Finished...

Finished…

The bird’s nest fern was the largest, and I placed it toward the front and tipped forward to show off its form. The button fern was the next to be placed, the austral gem fern was tucked in the back (not shown in these pictures) and, last, a small selaginella was added to the front to spill over the edge.

A smaller, more delicate lichen branch connects the two larger ones and gives it a pretty, woodsy look in contrast with the glazed container – ying and yang in a pot!

Contained – In Cork…Indoors Now, Then Outside For the Summer!

I planted this cork planter the other day for a birthday celebration. This one has a double duty life ahead of it: First, as part of a happy get-together, then, later, outdoors, possibly in a shady nook for the rest of the growing season.

Cork Bark Planter - Autumn Fern, Rex Begonia, Angelvine, Nephthitis, Selaginella 'Frosty', Tooth Brake Fern, Bird's Nest FernThese pieces can be used either horizontally, planting along the top, or vertically, like I’ve designed this one, positioning the plants up the planter. Since it could be unsteady if it didn’t have something to stabilize it at the base, I placed it in a pulp planter that I’d covered with a layer of sheet moss. A plastic saucer underneath will protect the floor during its time indoors, then it can be used without the saucer out in the garden or on a patio, porch or other spot  that has some shade.

nephthytis, tooth brake fern, rex begonia and selaginella 'Frosty' nestled together...

nephthytis, tooth brake fern, rex begonia and selaginella ‘Frosty’ nestled together…

Because the cork has a tendency to open up as potting soil and plants are inserted, I also wrap it tightly with bark covered wire after it’s all planted and add  green sheet moss to keep everything in place. We were surprised when our first plantings gradually opened up, threatening to disgorge all the plants we’d carefully positioned, but the bark wire has been a good remedy.

Close-up Cork Bark Planter - Autumn Fern, Rex Begonia, Angelvine, Selaginella 'Frosty'This planting  has a variety of houseplants, including nephthytis, used for its lighter green and white foliage, rex begonias for a bit of color, tooth brake ferns and a bird’s nest fern, a  new selaginella with white tips called ‘Frosty’, and a large autumn fern in the top with angel vine spilling over the edge with one last, large rex begonia.

We’re getting in a new shipment of these cork bark pieces at the end of the month, so if you’d like to try your hand at planting one or you’d like us to plant one for you, stop in!

 

 

 

 

Herbs, Veggies, Cool Season Annuals Shine in Late Winter Containers…

Wondering what to do about your winter-weary container plantings? It’s still too early to put in the real heat lovers, but there is hope.

Sweet allysum, lettuce and violas

Sweet allysum, lettuce and violas

If your pots  look just plain awful, it may be time to, at the very least, empty them out and add fresh potting soil so you’re either ready to freshen them now  or get a jump on planting them in another month or so.  (You’ll be so happy you did this when you don’t have to do it later!)

 

 

Herbs add so much to container plantings. Whether it be some thyme to trail over the edge or a bit of parsley to add some fluff, they will add texture, color, and scent…not to mention it’s nice to snip a bit here and there for cooking! Take a look at this herb post from last year for more information. While not everything in that post has arrived yet, it will soon; so keep your eyes open!

 

Silver thyme and lettuce brighten this planting...

Silver thyme and lettuce brighten this planting…

Other great additions this time of year are lettuce and arugula…just in time for spring salads! Plant some now and you’ll be picking until the heat sets in and they “bolt”, or send up blooms. This will mean they’re finished for the season and need to be replaced with something that will withstand the heat of summer. Another really pretty veggie addition is red-veined sorrel…and it’s very cold hardy as well.

Poppy and cool season annuals, diascia, sweet allysum and pansies

Poppy and cool season annuals, diascia, sweet allysum and pansies

 

 

 

 

 

This is also the time of year for what is termed “cool season annuals“. These are the flowers that shine when the nights are brisk and the days aren’t too too hot. Think sweet allysum, lobelia, heliotrope, diascia, and nemesia for starters (Though breeders have now improved the sweet allysum to withstand even our brutal summers.),

 

We even have the first of the geraniums in stock now; they love this late winter, early spring weather. If your pansies survived this winter, they should begin to really blooom for the next month, as well, and snapdragons will even later.

Red veined sorrel adding some color...also shown Perennial Veronica 'Georgia Blue' and golden acorus.

Red veined sorrel adding some color…also shown Perennial Veronica ‘Georgia Blue’, golden acorus and lemon variegated thyme…

 

When the heat takes it’s toll on these cool season beauties, it will be time to plant your summer combinations. We’re so lucky to be able to have more than one growing season!

caution when using these cool season flowers, however. Be a weather watcher and protect these from any freezing temperatures. If you do this, you’ll have the prettiest planters of anyone on your block!

Remember, you can always bring your manageably sized pots in for us to plant! We also carry a good selection of the biodegradable pulp pots that look great on their own or can be dropped into another container. Like to do it yourself? Browse the nursery and collect what you want for your planters, or ask us for help choosing just the right plants.