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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alocasia lutea

Alocasias, Tropical Beauties of the Summer

Photo Courtesy Southern Living Magazine

Bold and dramatic, the alocasias are one of the most elegant  tropicals of the summer garden.

One look at the bright yellow stems of the showstopping giant Alocasia ‘Lutea’ rising at an angle upward can practically take your breath away. Mix it with darker green leaves and wispy foliage as a contrast and it’s unforgettable.

Alocasias are natives of Asia, from Sri Lanka and India through Southeast Asia to Indonesia. Keeping this in mind, Birmingham’s hot summer months are perfect for these giants from half a world away.

 

 

Alocasia luteaIf I had to give a favorite cultivar of Alocasia, it would be a tossup between the darker veined cultivars like ‘Mayan Mask’ and the above mentioned ‘Lutea’. But any of them offer a dramatic and large leaf presence in the summer garden.

 

Offer them dappled sunlight (More sun is ok, but be very sure to keep them well watered.) and ample moisture for the best growth. As large a pot as is feasible for your space, or well amended rich soil, if you’re planting them in the ground, will keep them happiest through the hot summer months.

Alocasias we have in stock now (as of April 26, 2018) include 10″ and 14″ Alocasia ‘Lutea’ and 5″ Alocasia ‘Portora, ‘Mayan Mask’ and ‘Calidora’.

 

Fiddleleaf Fig Houseplants…Identifying Leaf Problems and Tips For Growing A Healthy Plant

The fiddleleaf fig is the latest houseplant wonder, used by interior designers and houseplant owners across the country. Its popularity is well deserved as it’s a striking, large leaved plant, often trained into a tree form and seen on the pages of magazines everywhere.

Maybe you’ve succumbed to the “Everyone has a fiddle leaf fig, I need one too.” pressure but now aren’t sure how to care for it?  Well, first things first –  It’s always smart to look at where a plant originated, then try your best to duplicate that in your home.

Ficus lyrata are native to western Africa, from Cameroon west to Sierra Leone, where it grows in lowland tropical rainforest.  Their large leaves enable them to catch as much light as possible, and in this environment they can grow up to 100 feet in height.

Creating this environment in your home can be daunting. Light is the first challenge. Ficus lyrata will prefer an extremely bright room, but bear in mind too much direct sun may burn its leaves.

The ideal placement would be in a spot that is in very bright light most of the day. If there’s direct light through southern or western windows, don’t place your fiddleleaf fig directly in them but back it off so it receives the light but not the hot sun.

Fiddleleaf fig leaves are very big and they can be dust collectors. It’s important to keep these large leaves clean so they can absorb as much light as possible to aid in photosynthesis. To do this, carefully cradle each leaf in your palm and gently wipe them  with either a damp sponge or a microfiber cloth. Do this at least once a month.

Water is the next consideration. In its native habitat, the fiddleleaf fig stays uniformly moist all the time. The trick is to keep it watered just enough, but not to let it stay too wet which can cause root rot and bacterial diseases. Root rot will manifest itself in older leaves developing brown spots, then dropping off, a very common problem with ficus lyrata in the home. Leaves typically remain dark green with one brown spot that gets larger and larger.

If you suspect this is the case, take your plant out of its pot and inspect the roots. If any are soft and mushy, root rot is the problem and is affecting the leaves and health of your plant. Remove the bad roots and repot with fresh potting soil. Groom the plant, removing any affected leaves.

Try to let your ficus go just dry. Push your finger into the soil 2”-3”.  If it comes out dry, it’s time to water. When you water, water thoroughly, then let it go for however long it takes until your finger comes out dry again when you test the soil. Never let your plant sit in water.

If your fiddleleaf fig doesn’t receive enough water, it will be easy to tell as you’ll notice the edges of the leaves begin to turn brown, dry, and begin to curl. The overall look of the plant may appear wilted as well. Remove the brown leaves and try to be more aware of how much and how often you’re watering.

If the soil is coming away from the edge of the pot, that’s a sure sign you’ve not been watering enough. Check to see if your plant is near a heat vent that’s drying out the air and try misting your fiddleleaf fig to raise the humidity around it.

A serious problem, and another that also shows itself by brown spots on the leaves, is bacterial leaf spot. The difference between this and root rot is that bacterial disease affects all growth but especially attacks new leaves.  You’ll notice small leaves and stunted growth, yellowing, and many brown spots on each leaf rather than one large brown area.

With bacterial leaf spot, the leaf  will also turn yellow as the bacteria spreads. Eventually leaves will fall off. If less than 50% of the plant is affected, the best course of action is to remove all the diseased leaves and repot with new soil. Do not overwater as it’s recovering and place it in the maximum amount of light possible.

If your plant continues to decline or if more than half your plant has diseased leaves, it’s better to discard it and start over with a new plant.

Fertilize once a month through the growing season as they are very light feeders and let it rest through the winter. It also responds well to light pruning if necessary.

Finally, ficus lyrata prefer to be a bit potbound, but, if you see roots coming out the bottom of the pot and it needs to be moved up, repot using quality potting soil (We use Fafard.) into a pot no more than 2″ larger. The best time to repot is spring as your fiddleleaf fig is resuming more active growth.

Once you’ve found the right spot and have a handle on the proper care of your Ficus lyrata, you’ll find it to be a very durable and tough plant that should give you many years of enjoyment.

We offer Ficus lyrata at Oak Street Garden Shop when they are available. Please stop in and browse – you might find some other plants too! 

~ We’re sorry, but we don’t offer online sales or ship plants at this time ~

 

 

A New Planting Season Brings New Possibilities…Don’t Be Afraid!

Sunny Bed with Annuals & PerennialsI read a piece that Tony Avent of Plant Delights Nursery wrote a few years ago about some people being “controlling” gardeners while others are “gambling” gardeners. I really thought it was spot on, and I can say I’ve worked with both types.

 

Of course, many of us gamble each year, planting marginally  hardy plants that have done fine with our mild winters of past years. Boy, can some winters give us a whammy though!

Annual caladiums, coleus and pentas are added to this perennial bed

Annual caladiums, coleus and pentas are added to this perennial bed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I really liked this comment from Tony Avent,  “Controlling folks want everything to work out just as the gardening books say, and struggle when plants don’t do exactly that, while the gamblers take a chance, try new things and hope for the best.

For the gamblers if things don’t work out quite as expected, it’s an opportunity for something new, rather than a failure. Personally, I like the gamblers approach to gardening much better, and think it causes a lot less anxiety! So, what’s the point? The point is to relax and enjoy gardening, remembering that nature is always in charge.

Life and death in the garden are no different than life and death outside the garden. Our options are to dwell on the sadness of death or celebrate the life that passed and embrace the next life that lies ahead.”

Fall in the Herb GardenWith the beginning of a new planting season, my personal outlook is going to be that of looking on my  gardening efforts as a joy and an opportunity to not only beautify my landscape and surroundings but to nourish my soul as well; and, if there are failures, that will be part and parcel of the process. Some of my  best plant combinations have been happy accidents!

Herb Garden with Self Sown Vinca, Allysum & GomphrenaThe pictures here are of my garden – plants are allowed to self seed, failures are yanked out, and plants that strike my fancy are tucked in here and there where I think they might look good. It wouldn’t make anyone’s list of a perfectly designed space, but it’s mine and that’s how you should treat yours too.

Above all, whatever the outcome of your garden, take time to appreciate the life you bring into it…a butterfly on a zinnia bloom, a hummingbird hovering over a salvia, and bees doing their important work with them of  pollinating your flowers and vegetables.

Mid Summer Perennials & AnnualsMy ultimate hope is that many of you adopt the gambler attitude. It doesn’t have to be the high roller, high stakes approach, but try to roll with the plant punches, knowing they’ll come, and  treat your gardening efforts as what they should be – a relaxing, and therapeutic addition to your  daily schedule rather than a chore that’s only done on the weekends.

Posted by Kris Blevons

Native Azaleas and Hybrid Aromi Deciduous Azaleas Add Blooms, Scent, and Structure to the Garden

Spring Garden

March garden scene…

March and April are the months in the south that finally drive winter out for good, after the usual roller coaster rides with temperatures rising then falling, and multiple cycles of freezing and thawing.

Though our last average frost isn’t until mid-April, this year the fat buds of cherry trees and crabapples, spiraea, forsythia, and many more have burst into fragrant, beautiful bloom, and neighborhoods are awash in color.

Snowball Viburnum buds

Snowball viburnums blooming in March

 

 

 

Favorite shrubs of mine that add to the spring symphony are our native deciduous azaleas and the hybrids that have come along in recent years.

We have a selection available now, and, as they’re considered by many to be some of our most beautiful flowering shrubs, you might like to add one or more to your garden this year.

 

Hummingbird Moth on Deciduous Azalea

Hummingbird moth…

Large, fragrant, honeysuckle like blooms open gradually, offering nectar to swallowtail butterflies and hummingbird moths. It’s a delight to catch these pollinators “working” the blossoms!

 

 

 

 

 

A mistake many people make when deciding where to put their deciduous azalea is placing it in too much shade.

 

They do need some sun to bloom well, so be sure to think about how much shade mature trees cast in your landscape when considering your placement.Hybrid Deciduous Azalea

Once you’ve decided on your spot, don’t make the next mistake many people do when planting a new shrub, especially deciduous azaleas which are shallow rooted, by planting too deeply. Plant the rootball slightly high, water well, and mulch with pinestraw.

 

 

 

Once your shrub is planted, don’t neglect water. Though they need a well draining soil, they also need even moisture, so be mindful of this especially through the first two summers and possible dry spells.

Though they can grow up to 12’ in height, I do very minimal pruning on my deciduous azaleas, because they’re in a rocky area and haven’t quite gotten that big.

If you wish to prune yours, it’s best to prune early blooming varieties right after they bloom, since the following year’s flower buds form in June. With judicious pruning you can achieve a smaller shrub at around 6’.

Native Azalea R. canescens bloom

 

 

 

 

Do you think you have just the right spot for at least one of these beauties? I hope you do. You’ll be creating  your own magnificent symphony of color and scent for neighbors, pollinators, (and you!) to appreciate and enjoy.

By Kris Blevons

 

Design Tips For Container Plantings Focused on Foliage

I’ve talked before about creating beautiful combinations using primarily foliage as a starting point and adding flowers to complement  leaves. Container Gardens - Green Pots

While this post is about choosing interesting plants for containers, the design concepts are used by the best garden designers for beautiful landscapes too. Plantings in pots are much less intimidating, though, and are a way to try new things just for fun.

 

 

 

Use your container as a starting point to give you hints about what will look best. Does it contribute color or texture, or is it fairly plain? The point here is that leaves in plantings add color too and sometimes last longer in a design than flowers; so think about this as you study the look and shape of your pot.

 

when the ligularia on the left and the iris aren’t in bloom, it’s the foliage contrasts that will capture your attention…

Are you looking for a container planting to be a focal point in a particular area? Some of the most dramatic plantings I’ve seen have made use of extremely large foliage plants, elephant ears being a notable example.

The photo here showing black elephant ears, fern, and ligularia in my garden is an example of a landscape design that would work in a contained planting too.  The addition of the chartreuse color of a creeping jenny to trail would add additional impact.

Conversely, smaller pots work well to showcase one striking specimen plant, and groupings of pots with one variety in each can be very beautiful.

Take a walk through a favorite greenhouse or nursery, looking for leaves that catch your eye (If the plants bloom too, consider it a bonus.) or start with some foliage plants you like and add blooming plants to accent them. Be sure to match the choices with the amount of available light, whether it’s full or part sun or shade.

The first collage shown here is a small sampling of heuchera leaves, a perennial that shows off its leaf color in the late winter and early spring. Houseplants are also very useful in plantings for shade and love the humidity our summer days and nights provide.

This planting of ferns, acorus and a rex begonia will appreciate a spot in filtered sun through the summer…

The second collage shows a few common but very beautiful houseplants. Showcasing a grouping of a few favorite and well grown rex begonias could also be a stunning tableau on any shady patio or porch.

The bottom line: Try to choose plants that play off your container’s size, color, and shape. When choosing your plants, consider your light and find those plants that have contrasting foliage shape, texture, varied sized leaves and that need the same water requirements.

 

 

All of these plants for a sunny spot will work well in a container…

Don’t be afraid to experiment with a new plant you’ve never tried before, and ask for help if you have questions. Enjoy your new plantings, and show them off to your friends!

 

All foliage…

Now that you’ve taken the time to choose just the right plants, take care of them. Start by purchasing a quality, light-weight soilless potting soil (We carry Fafard, and use it for all of our plantings.). Add a slow release fertilizer such as Osmocote. 

 

Position the plants in the container, then remove the plants from their pots and set them on the soil. Do any have roots completely encircling the rootball? Loosen them gently before planting. Firm each plant into the pot, and water them well.

As your plantings grow, they will need occasional trimming and grooming. This is part of gardening, and should be looked on as a normal part of plant ownership. Don’t be afraid to clip a plant back that is overgrown and remove any yellow or discolored leaves. If you’ve added blooming plants to your combinations, be sure to deadhead, or remove old blooms, regularly.

By Kris Blevons

 

Early Spring Container Garden

March…The In-Between Month

Container Gardens

These containers can easily be covered or moved if temps drop…

Sign Planter - Poppies and ViolasThere’s really no in-between month for hard core gardeners, as there’s always something to do or a new revelation in the landscape.

 

 

 

 

But for the more casual plant person, a few warm days signal it’s time to call or visit the garden shop to buy all the spring bedding plants they can get their hands on.

 

Unfortunately there are more than a few businesses willing to sell them, even knowing our last average frost in the Birmingham area isn’t until mid-April. But please understand, March soil is too cold for basil, tomatoes, begonias, caladiums, and more that are offered to tempt even the smartest of us.

Container Gardens - Green Pots

Planters with perennials and a few annuals that prefer cooler temps.

 

 

This is why I call March the in-between month. It’s getting late to plant pansies and winter annuals, but it’s still early for the heat lovers, though we know their time is getting closer. Remember the blizzard of 93? That was 25 years ago –  in March.

Heucheras - March

Perennials -Heucheras

 

 

A better choice to spend money on now are perennials, those plants that return year after year. If you have planters small enough to cover easily or bring inside when temperatures drop, many herbs, cool season vegetables like lettuce,  broccoli, and cabbage and some annuals (See list below.)  that appreciate more moderate temps can be planted as well.

Container Garden with Herbs and Violas

Container garden with herbs and violas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some perennials available for early season purchase include Veronica ‘Georgia Blue’, creeping and summer phlox, daisies, daylilys, many ferns, hellebores, stokesia, and lobelia to name just a few. If you don’t see something you’re looking for always ask!

Annuals and some herbs that do well in very early spring before our last average frost include thyme, chives, oregano, tarragon, lavender, sweet alyssum, bacopa, calibrachoa, geraniums, dianthus, marigolds, and diascia. Remember, you must protect newly planted greenhouse grown annuals from freezing temperatures. 

By Kris Blevons

 

 

 

Just In Time For Valentine’s Day – Flowering Plants For Your Love

If you need a beautiful flower for your Valentine, look no farther than your nearest independent garden shop.

 

 

Sure, you’ll see all sorts of blooming plants in every other store on the block  (They are everywhere!), but we like to think that, since plants are what we do, 365 days out of the year, we offer the best. And isn’t that what you want for your love today and every day?

The weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day really are beautiful in the greenhouse.

 

 

 

Orchids of all colors, forced hydrangeas in bloom, and the promise of spring with daffodils and other bulbs fill the tables.  It may be winter on the calendar, but it’s spring in the greenhouse!

 

 

 

 

 

Whether your gift is an elegant orchid in a pretty pot or an arrangement of mixed plants and flowers in bloom, we’ll make this holiday with your love special.

 

To place an order for a custom design give us a call at 205-870-7542.

 

Lightweight Stone Fountains

It’s A New Season… Planters For 2018

New planters arrive in January, filling one end of the nursery, and 2018 was no different. Right on cue, mid-month the delivery truck arrived and pallet after pallet of planters were unloaded and priced.

 

 

 

We’ve purchased from this supplier for almost 30 years now and have always been certain of their quality of workmanship.

 

 

 

So if you’re looking for one planter or a grouping, we might just have what you need, including a selection of animal planters for your whimsical side.

 

 

 

 

 

You’ll find Saint Francis, the patron saint of all animals and nature,  and Saint Fiacre, the patron saint of the garden.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not to be left out are the yoga cat and frog and buddha statuary for that calm space in your landscape.

 

 

 

 

There are traditional and very beautiful cast stone planters with simple, clean lines.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The selection of lightweight planters will expand as the season goes on.

Lightweight Planters…

2018 Lightweight Planters

Lightweight Planters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a sampling of what is available now. Please keep in mind that this will change as the year progresses, so if you’re looking at this post in July some of what is pictured may no longer be available. Remember, the early bird gets the worm!

 

It’s Spring In The Greenhouse!

For all of you winter weary souls, February is approaching and spring won’t be far behind. Here’s a peek into the greenhouse to brighten your day…

Bright bromeliads…

Orchids and more…

Twig and Pussywillow Wreath

Twig and Pussywillow Wreath…

Zen frog

Zen frog…

Rieger begonias

Rieger begonias…

Hydrangeas

Hydrangeas…

Liam

Liam found a new spot…

Hydrangeas and Jasmine

Hydrangeas and Jasmine

Oncidium and Paph Orchids...

Orchid Arrangement…

Azaleas and Cyclamen

Azaleas and Cyclamen…

Pansies and Muscari

Pansies and Muscari…

Cyclamen – Winter Beauties For Your Home

Florist cyclamen, with their beautifully patterned leaves and pretty blooms, are one of the best flowering houseplants for winter color, and they’re usually available any time from November through late February, or until the weather warms. In nature hardy cyclamen grow naturally in cool, humid environments, and tubers gradually go through cycles of growth and dormancy.

In your home florist cyclamen prefer a bright spot with temperatures around 68 degrees during the day and preferably a bit cooler at night. If your room is very warm, or you overwater, the leaves will begin to yellow and the flowers won’t last long.

tiny buds unfurl from the center of the plant

Once you’ve found the right placement, water sparingly, but don’t let it get so dry that the leaves wilt. It’s best to water cyclamen from the bottom. Let it sit in a tray of water for about 30 minutes or until the soil is moist, then repeat when the soil begins to dry.

As flowers fade, keep them deadheaded to prolong the bloom. Usually there are tiny buds down in the very center of the plant, much like violets and another reason to water from the bottom. If your cyclamen is happy the buds will continue to offer flowers until it’s time to rest.

Eventually your cyclamen will bloom out and begin to go dormant. You’ll know this is happening because the leaves will yellow and eventually all disappear. This is normal, and hardy cyclamen in the garden do this naturally as the plant goes into a rest period through the summer months.  In your home, stop watering and place the plant in a cool dark place.

beautifully patterned leaves…

It will look like your plant is dying as the leaves turn yellow one by one.  After a period of some months of dormancy with little to no water, it will be time to bring it back into more light and begin to water again. Water it thoroughly until the soil is completely saturated, then resume normal care. You’ll begin to see leaves reappear, and buds should follow.

Cyclamen are a little more demanding in their water and light needs, but they more than reward you if you persist!

****If the buds on your cyclamen don’t open, you might have cyclamen mites. These tiny insects lay their eggs around the buds. The larva enters the bud after it hatches and suck sap from unopened petals. Unfortunately buds infested with mites won’t open and since these pests are difficult to manage its best to discard infested plants.

If you think your cyclamen has mites and you’d like to treat them, the information below is from the University of Kentucky:

“Often, it is better to discard infested plants than to attempt to control the problem with pesticides. If chemical control is attempted, isolate the infested plants to reduce potential spread of the mites. Spraying the plants with…insecticidal soap can provide effective control, especially after pruning back the growth. Three to four applications should be made at 3 to 5 day intervals with insecticidal soap.  Direct applications at both the lower and upper leaf surfaces.”

 

The Holidays…Making Memories

Every so often the wonderful opportunity we’ve been granted to be a brief part of our customers’ lives and help create memories for their little ones becomes clear. This moment of clarity usually happens on hectic holiday afternoons when the light is waning and the greenhouse is at its most beautiful.

On those crazy, busy days we catch glimpses between our work tasks of young families with little ones gazing at the animated Santa Claus display we put up each year. Smiling, we watch the children pet the garden shop cats sleeping there (It was their favorite spot this year!) as parents or grandparents take pictures.

 

Perhaps its because I’m getting older and my childhood memories seem more distant that appreciating this opportunity occurs to me more often. This year a family with a tiny boy in tow told me he remembered our Santa from the year before. Creating memories begins very, very young…

Memories are made in other ways too, with special decorations brought out and lovingly placed, delicate heirlooms carefully unwrapped for another season, and the “best tree ever” standing proud and tall, its lights and sparkly ornaments twinkling in darkened rooms.

A few weeks ago a favorite project reappeared, a family holiday tradition that we’ve been fortunate to have become a part of. Every year this particular family bought a new tiny elf for the children and, as their children grew older and had families of their own, for grandchildren. These elves would be brought out each season, and it wasn’t Christmas without them.

One year the owner of the elf tradition spotted a garden tray filled with tiny poinsettias, cut greens and mosses, a beautiful miniature garden that she decided would be the perfect setting for her collection of family elves. She loved it so much she brought it back the following Christmas to be “reworked” for a new season.

I look forward to seeing her each year now and enjoy creating a new garden for her elves. She told me this year her grandchildren asked her where it was.

 

It’s coming, she told them. The pictures here give you some idea of what they are enjoying this year – a river, a pond with a tire swing, and lots of places for her elves to perch.

I hope another happy memory is about to be made, this one on December 25th, when a pretty miniature garden is presented to the 11 year old girl who said it’s all she really wants for Christmas.

As I finished putting the last bits of moss in and repositioned the tiny hummingbird feeder, my mind wandered as I imagined being the young girl seeing this little garden for the first time on Christmas morning.

Smiling to myself, I stood there studying each little piece, trying to see it through her eyes.

Sometimes the memories we make are our own…

By Kris Blevons

 

The Change Of Season Inspires Us – We Love Fall!

The other day I reran a blog post from last year showing some of our fall-inspired arrangements, noting that I needed to write another for this season. A quick reply came from a FaceBook friend. “I want to see them. Get posting!”

So, while there are so many more we’ve done that aren’t pictured, here’s a sampling of arrangements using pumpkins and gourds, bittersweet and burlap, plants and dried materials, acorns and pinecones, literally anything that has inspired us this season. We hope they inspire you too.

Mums…And More!!!!

Every year around August and September, when the heat of summer has wiped out once fresh spring plantings, almost daily we hear one of two questions from multiple people – “Do you have any mums?” and  (insert desperate tone here) “When can I plant pansies??!??”

Well, as of this writing we do have plenty of mums, and, no, it’s not time to plant pansies – yet (October and November are the months, when temperatures begin to cool a bit.). But why settle for a simple mum now when growers are offering so much more this time of year? Here are a few interesting plants to use with the usual mums until its time for the winter fare of pansies, snapdragons, ornamental veggies, and more.

A difficult plant to find but one that offers gorgeous fall color is hamelia. Enjoy it’s orange blossoms and beautiful foliage in a special container. Add some sweet alyssum and petunias to add even more interest. The planter shown here also has a small pot of asters that once finished blooming can be removed and planted in the garden.

Marigolds are my unsung heroes of the autumn season. They bloom like crazy given some sunshine, prefer the cooler temperatures of fall, and offer loads of color. Who wouldn’t love that? I use them in the garden and tuck red or green lettuce and sweet alyssum in between for even more color. Try to use marigolds in planters or places you won’t be planting pansies though, because it can be difficult to make the decision to pull them out as they last even through a light frost.

Another that has become a popular addition to the fall plant palette is the ornamental pepper. These small plants loaded with colorful fruit are an unexpected and fun way to usher in a new season. Add some cosmos too for added interest.

Don’t forget that foliage plants can add color as well. Heuchera offers colorful leaves for just about any combination, and the lowly ajuga can be beautiful  too. Whatever you decide on,  remember that there’s much more than mums for long lasting fall beauty; so venture out of the mum comfort zone and give them some companions this year!

By Kris Blevons

 

 

 

In Appreciation Of Pollinator Gardens…Large and Small

This summer’s “Better Late Than Never” pollinator garden is coming along and, as in years past, will get even more colorful as the end of summer approaches. I’m happy to see that private and public gardens and gardening for wildlife is a growing trend across the country.

I recently returned from a trip back to my home state of Wisconsin, where I  visited a couple of county parks my late father helped make possible many years ago near the beginning of this movement in public gardening. My mother, sister, and I are certain he’d have been very pleased with the progress of this prairie reclamation in the middle of southern Wisconsin farm land.

At Dorothy Carnes County Park & Rose Lake State Natural Area we watched as dozens and dozens of purple martins flew back and forth to houses set up for them, butterflies soared through prairie plantings, and a group of special needs children returned from a morning hike.

 

 

The next day we visited Korth County Park on Rock Lake and hiked down to a bench overlooking the water. Visitors can hike or bike along paths skirting the lake, and both parks have shelters used for picnicking. I feel so lucky to have visited these lovely and well maintained public spaces.

Our pollinator garden is tiny in comparison but there’s so much life in it too. This year I had trouble finding the peach porterweed that the butterflies adore, but a few weeks ago noticed that a number of them had reseeded from the previous summer’s garden. These volunteer surprises make this garden extra special.

Other “volunteers” this year are red gomphrena, rudbeckias with huge blooms, many zinnias, celosia, sunflowers, cosmos, hyacinth bean and moonflower vines on the arbor, cleome where the compost bin had been, and a lone dill plant. It’s truly an old fashioned cottage garden for the pollinators and the enjoyment of anyone who stops to look!

 

 

We also added a few new plants this year. Verbena ‘Lollipop’ and pentas for butterflies, cigar plant, pineapple  and Mexican sage for hummingbirds, African blue basil and purslane for the honeybees,  and red ruellia too.

The Mexican sunflowers, tithonia, are also slowly getting larger and will add their bright orange blooms that the butterflies love as the summer wanes. The annual milkweed is in bloom now too.

Perennials that return are always welcome in the garden!  The butterfly weed, purple coneflower, and salvia greggii are old friends.

A woman approached me the other day as I was watering to say thank you and said she’s created a pollinator garden of her own after following the progress of this small space in the middle of Crestline Village.

Talking with her and others has been so gratifying. I hope my Dad is watching from wherever he is and smiling at our efforts to create a beautiful space for community and nature too. If you’re in Crestline Village, I hope you’ll take time to stop and appreciate this little slice of pollinator heaven!

By Kris Blevons

 

 

A Mandala Inspired by Art

I grew up watching my mom create beautiful works of art using only a sewing needle and the colorful threads and yarns that she stitched into amazing designs on fabric.

She showed her stitcheries in a few  museum textile art exhibits, but mostly they were an artistic outlet for her and a joy for  friends and family.

 

One hot, slow summer day Jamie mentioned it would be fun to make another Oak Street Garden Shop Mandala (designs using blooms, leaves, and other materials around the shop.).

I agreed and mentioned the pieces of driftwood we’d gotten in reminded me of my mom’s stitcheries. She displayed them hung on pieces of driftwood found at area lakes where I grew up in Michigan and Wisconsin.

So we decided to try to make a mandala  in the same manner as one of my mom’s stitcheries and started out by laying fabric onto a table and positioning a piece of driftwood at the top.

 

 

Jamie began gathering colorful blooms and leaves, and I laid out stones to create the lines and forms we could work from. I remember my mom saying it was the relationship of forms that she enjoyed most.

 

 

I did mention it was a hot summer day, right? Of course that’s why it was a slow day too, perfect for a project like this. However I have to say that it might have been even hotter than normal on this particular afternoon in the greenhouse.

The table was set up up by the front door to take advantage of as much air as possible, but we had to  eventually close one of the doors because it was too breezy and nothing would stay where we placed it.

 

A few people came in looking for things here and there, and it was easy to tell the ones that didn’t really get it. “What is it?” was the usual question. “It’s a design”,  we’d answer, “using leaves and things.” “Ahh…” they’d say uncertainly and slowly walk away.

But one woman and a group of young girls were intrigued and asked what various things were and why we were making it, exclaiming that it was beautiful.

Here then are pictures of our “tapestry project” using my mom’s stitcheries as inspiration. And, whether you “get it” or not, we hope you enjoy the idea! If you like this one and would like to see some others we’ve made, look HERE. You can also click on Blog Posts,  go to Archives and use the Search feature. Just type in mandala.

By Kris Blevons

 

 

 

A Place To Sit…

This afternoon, glass of wine in hand, I take my usual late day walk through the garden, observing the landscape in the afternoon light. I can’t help but pull stray weeds – pull them now or pull them later, right? I hear the water rushing below after the recent rains, and decide to sit for awhile on a bench there.

A dear garden friend (now gone) once turned to me after seeing this bench, saying, “I bet you don’t sit here much do you? There’s always something to do.” I think of her comment often, but now is the perfect time of day to sit, listen, and watch. A movement catches my eye and my gaze settles on the tiniest of tiny worms dangling in the air in front of me. It jerks down, then sways. What is it? I watch as it moves down a bit more, with seeming enormous effort, until it hangs in front of me on its invisible thread.

I watch as it slowly, impossibly, begins to rise. I tilt my head up, looking at the branches of the Japanese maple above me, wondering. How would that distance translate for a human? A mile? 5? I watch til it disappears up and away from sight. This is why there are benches in gardens…

By Kris Blevons

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