Fall Planting Tips To Creating A Great Spring Garden

Yellow snapdragons and white foxglove…

Fall Planting Tips To Create A Great Spring Garden:

  • Amend your soil. You might think since you followed our advice and added soil conditioner, PlantTone, cow manure or compost  to your beds last spring you’re done. Not so fast! High temperatures break down soil amendments quickly, and plants take up nutrients. Continue adding to your soil every season. Healthy, loose soils create healthy plants.  (Instead of putting fallen leaves to the curb, start a compost pile with them, or run over them with your lawn mower and throw them in your beds. They’ll decompose and add to your soil’s structure and health.)

 

  • After you get your plants home, be sure to keep them watered, especially if you can’t plant them right away. We water small transplants in 4″ pots and cell packs at least once a day, especially if it’s hot and sunny. Of course, less water is required in cloudy, cool conditions. Right before you plant them, be sure they’re moist.

 

  • Early in the season while the soil is still warm, you can still plant with Osmocote. However, later in the winter months, use Calcium Nitrate to feed your plants, especially if the foliage of your pansies turns a reddish color. Remember, you’re planting for spring color, though on warm days through the winter you should also have some blooms.

 

  • Water your bed thoroughly after planting, and keep it watered while your transplants are getting their feet settled in their new home. Take care not to overwater, though, especially as the temperatures cool down going into the winter months.

    Mid-December. Mulched and growing…

 

  • Mulch your beds with shredded mulch or pine straw  to keep soil temperature around the roots as warm as possible.

 

  • Deadhead your pansies and violas! I can’t stress enough how important this is. A pansy that you leave a dead bloom on will form a seed there, instead of putting that energy into more flowers. Make a practice to walk through your garden at least once a week, taking a good look at your plants and deadheading  faded blooms. If you’ve missed some, you’ll see the seed pod beginning to form. Pinch any and all off! This will go a long way toward keeping your pansies happy!

By Kris Blevons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Fall Inspiration With Pumpkins And Gourds As A New Season Begins

Late Summer Kris' GardenIt sure hasn’t felt like fall, but sooner or later the temperatures will begin to drop, the days will become shorter, and summer’s heat will finally give way to perfect days when we all want to spend as much time outside as we can.

That’s when we look at each other and say, “We are so lucky to work outside!” We’ve been looking forward to this, and with the arrival of pumpkins, gourds, and fall decorating staples, we are willing the temperatures to fall.Hanging Pumpkin/Gourd Garden

 

The hanging “platforms” shown here were used to create a pumpkin/gourd garden in the air.

Hanging Pumpkin Gourd Garden

 

 

 

 

We envision them as an elevated centerpiece for a party, hanging on a screened-in or covered porch area, or simply set in the perfect place to spotlight the abundance of the season.Pumpkins and Gourds

There are so many varied sizes, shapes and textures of gourds and pumpkins  that can be used alone or with plants for centerpieces and gifts.Pie PumpkinsPeanut PumpkinsGourdsMini White PumpkinsPumpkinsLunch Lady Gourds

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Simply gather those you like, being sure to get enough of a selection. With so many to choose from, it’s more than likely you’ll gather more than you need!

Pumpkin/Gourd Arrangements

 

 

We use all manner of organic materials to complement them and have a customer who brings us beautiful fallen acorns to use. We add lichen, mosses, branches, burlap, and ribbon too, depending on the container.

Our succulent topped pumpkins have made a return for the season as well. If you’re in the area and would like one, give us a call!

 

 

 

Stacking pumpkins is a popular way to display them in front of your house.Pumpkin Stack

P:umpkin Stack

 

 

 

 

 

 

Simply find two or three that are different colors (or the same!), stack them as is or add another element like moss between them, and, voila,  you have a beautiful entrance for the season.Pumpkin/Gourd Arrangement

 

 

 

We are just beginning to work with the small gourds that can be grouped together in containers for tablescapes, on bedside tables in guest rooms, or on coffee tables. Make a nest of angelvine or moss and position them however you like them.Gourd/Pumpkin Arrangement

 

 

 

 

 

Our pumpkin supplier comes weekly with the best assortments hand picked for us. We hope you’ll stop in if you’re in the area!

By Kris Blevons

 

Gardening…One Step at a Time…One Plant at a Time…

Kris' Sunny Border - Planters InterspersedAre you frustrated with your gardening efforts…or lack thereof? Recently a friend and I were discussing work issues we encounter in our respective jobs when this subject came up. “Kris, I see what other people are doing in their gardens, and I look at mine and get so frustrated. Then I waste a bunch of time on Facebook and feel even worse.”

I told her quite quickly that, as smart as she was, she shouldn’t be so self-defeating. “Take one step at a time , one plant at a time,”, I said. I should have added that there is no “right” way to create a garden. “Garden design” is such an intimidating notion for many. Who is the arbiter of good garden design anyway?  It’s your garden; do with it what you like and don’t be afraid of the garden police!Kris' Woodland Garden

Of course, you want to do your homework if you’re planning to plant a tree or a lot of shrubs. No one should put a tree that will eventually grow  50′ tall three feet from their house or sun loving shrubs in the shade. Even if you’re a free gardening spirit, certain things must be thought out!

But choosing to create a path through your garden, deciding whether you’d like a bird bath to attract more feathered friends,  contemplating where to put a piece of garden art you bought on a whim..,This is all part of creating your own garden space that reflects your personality.

A Path Through the Garden...It’s so easy to become paralyzed with indecision before you take a first step, but, once that hurdle is jumped, the next one is easier. Think of it as gardening building blocks. Once you have the path, where does it lead and what can you discover at the end? Sometimes the hardest choices, once made, lead to more discovery.Olive Jar in the Garden...

For others, it’s not so much indecision as lack of time or interest. New parents have young children to take care of; others are empty nesters and may be traveling and away from any garden activities for long stretches of time. For them, the ready-made landscape of a garden home or condo is just right for where they are in their lives.

Art in the Garden - BuddhaBut for so many, like my friend, creating a beautiful outdoor home environment is a somewhat anxious endeavor that eventually simply  immobilizes them. If you’re feeling this way, always remember it only takes one step, one plant, then the next step…small steps at a time. Learn what your plants need and provide that as best you can. Once you’ve been successful at one thing, try another. And you’ll find that, just like those building blocks, eventually something amazing will be your  reward.

Beautiful Lightweight Fountains Perfect For Your Garden, Patio, and Landscape – Come Take A Look!

Lightweight Stone FountainsThe first shipment of these beautiful fountains sold quickly even though we’d increased our order from the year before.

Usually I let these things go, not wanting to push my luck, but a couple of people asked if we could get more of them, so I wrote up an even bigger order and sent it in.

Light Weight Stone Fountain

In a customer’s Florida garden…

 

Unfortunately for us, they must be popular all over the country because there was a back-up in production and they weren’t scheduled to be shipped until the end of July, well past the busiest part of our season.

Their popularity is well deserved. The stone color is so realistic most people who saw the first grouping  asked how heavy they were. And, while the water adds weight,they are not difficult to move when empty. The LED light can be used for a very nice effect both day and night, and the sound is pleasant too.

The new shipment arrived this week. Perhaps one might be just right for a special anniversary or birthday gift? At any rate, we’re happy to have them in stock to beautify the greenhouse and nursery too. If you’re in the market for a pretty fountain, stop in and take a look!

 

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

Nursery - Late June 2018 Japanese Painted Ferns

Snapshots of the Nursery In June…It’s Not Too Late For Flowers!

One cloudy morning right before a deluge of rain, the light was finally right to take a few pictures of the nursery. Usually the light is too bright, or we’re busy unloading trucks, helping customers, filling orders, and generally running around.Nursery Late June 2018

I’m certain the shots here would be better with a great camera (These are IPhone pictures.), but this gives you an idea of the amount of material still available, fresh plants from local growers ready to take on the midsummer heat.

 

 

Nursery Late June 2018 - Vinca

Vinca

Some of the best annuals for summer planting and filling in tough spots are vinca. They come in a range of colors and once established are extremely drought tolerant. Trailing varieties are also available.

Upright pentas are another workhorse of the summer and are butterfly favorites too. This is another that hybridizers have improved upon each year, and one that also has a trailing version, perfect for sunny containers.

Nursery Late June 2018 - Pentas

Pentas and Angelonia

 

 

 

Nursery - Late June 2018 Caladiums

Caladiums

 

 

 

 

We still have a selection of caladiums too, and the majority of them will tolerate sun as well as brighten shady spots in the garden. If you’ve ever looked at your garden beds and seen nothing but little leaves and a few blooms, caladiums might be just the thing to add that interesting and colorful foliage element to your design.

'Canary Wing' Begonia

‘Canary Wing’ begonia

 

 

This year there’s a new begonia called ‘Canary Wing’ that’s been fun to play with in mixed containers, but it would also be stunning as a single specimen in a pot or massed in a shady garden bed. The red blooms on this large begonia contrast beautifully with the bright yellow leaves.

 

 

 

Angelonia and Canary Begonias in Nursery Late June 2018

Angelonia and ‘Canary Wing’ begonias

As you walk through the nursery, you’ll see a myriad of other choices including angelonia, a great bedding plant for sun. It’s best used in masses, and the spiky blooms add visual contrast when used with other blooming plants like lantana and vinca in sunny spots.

Nursery Late June 2018 - Silver dichondra

‘Silver Falls’ dichondra

 

 

 

 

Silver dichondra adds its silvery sheen to plantings, cascading down the side of pots, over walls and between plantings. It’s a tough plant and drought tolerant too.

 

 

 

 

Nursery - Late June 2018 - Lantana

Lantana

So, if you simply need a few fill-in flowers or have a larger area that still needs planting, we have plenty of healthy and beautiful choices for your garden.  And, while you’re here, take a browse through the perennials and herbs and stroll through the greenhouse as well!

 

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

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.

 

 

 

Don’t Stress If A Plant Is An Ugly Duckling – Imperfection Can Be Beautiful Too!

Oak treeI have a tiny oak tree out back that used to be on its way to attaining an impressive size – until Hurricane Ivan hit and toppled a huge hickory tree onto it, effectively topping it.

I know I should have taken it down when the tree company came to clear out the downed hickory, but I couldn’t do it. I liked that little oak, and over time it’s become my crazy tiny oak tree up in my rock outcrop – a hurricane survivor.

I was working up around that oak this morning, cutting a few dead branches out of it and wondering at its tenacity. Below it, also improbably growing in the rock outcrop, is a shrub called Thujopsis dolobrata – a prized specimen I planted years ago.Thujopsis dolobrata

Unfortunately the Thujopsis started dying last summer, a victim to the previous fall’s drought. I watched anxiously as branch after branch eventually turned brown and died.

Unbelievably, about a third rallied and is still alive. I cut out the dead and now have half a shrub under my dwarfed oak tree. What a pair of misfits in the garden!

My imperfect garden might not be to everyone’s taste; but I’d rather have a little imperfection than everything being “just so”.  A friend in the horticulture profession said it well:

Imperfect Leaf“Plants are living things like humans. They need water and sun and some need food and each grow in different ways. That yellow leaf at the bottom of the dracaena doesn’t mean that there is something wrong or that the plant is dying – it’s just a natural part of the life cycle. People need to understand that imperfect is beautiful.”

My physically imperfect tree and shrub were caused by events out of my control – a hurricane and a drought. Other imperfections are simply part of a plant’s life cycle, yellowing leaves, and damage caused by insects or animals.

While it’s important to maintain a healthy landscape, it’s also important to know when to relax and appreciate that some imperfection is normal and not always cause for immediate alarm.

With proper watering, fertilizing, pruning and general maintenance, your plants will be better prepared to weather anything nature throws at them – and you will too.

By Kris Blevons

 

 

 

 

Paph, Chiritas, Episcias, Oncidium, and Jewel Orchid

Orchids, Episcias and Chiritas… A Pretty Vignette in the Greenhouse

Jewel orchid and air plant

It can be a challenge to display all the beautiful plants we have, rotating and changing displays on a consistent basis.

Multi-bloom Paphiopedilum

Multi-bloom paphiopedilum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Many times during the busiest of seasons long-time customers know to look on tables and even on the floor to be sure to see everything available.Paph, Chiritas, Episcias, Oncidium, and Jewel Orchid

I wanted to share this pretty collection that caught my eye the other day – a grouping of diverse and beautiful orchids and interesting house plants Jamie had arranged at the entrance.

The multi-bloom paphiopedilums, chiritas, (Primulina), jewel orchids, and episcias were especially captivating on this cool April day, as their blooms and leaves glowed in the afternoon light.

If you’re interested in beautiful and well kept plants, please stop in!