Zinnias In The Garden

It seems like every year I pay attention to a particular flower in the garden. Last year was the year of the cone flower (Echinacea) and the year before that I fell in love with the Dragon Wing Begonia.  This year I have noticed zinnias.

A bed of seed-planted zinnias in August

A bed of seed-planted zinnias in August

It’s not that I have just noticed the existence of any particular flower or plant, it’s that I have lent more appreciation to the particular species. Most of the ladies for whom I garden (including my wife, of course) ask for cut flowers to be available as much as possible.

One day, earlier in the summer, I was having a garden planning conversation with Patsy. She said, “I remember flowers that my grandmother grew for cutting—I can’t recall the name, but they were big and they smelled bad.” I couldn’t call the name, either, and we laughed at our mutual mental block.  The very next time I saw Patsy, we looked at each other and simultaneously said, “zinnias”.

Growing zinnias gives cut flowers in many vibrant colors

Growing zinnias gives cut flowers in many vibrant colors

Joel Todino, (who is one of the most dedicated vegetable gardeners I know) and I have had several discussions on the theory of “WTLD” which stands for “Whatever The Lady Desires.” We both understand the beneficial effects that adherence to this theory has on our lives. I also added into the discussion a quote from my father-in-law, Bob Hicks: “Happy Wife, Happy Life.” In case you are wondering how this applies to zinnias—Joel’s wife wants cut flowers and she loves zinnias.  Therefore, Joel grows zinnias every year.

Zinnias for "Whatever The Lady Desires"

Zinnias for “Whatever The Lady Desires”

At the front of his vegetable garden, Joel tills up a bed about eight feet wide and twenty feet long. In the late spring he opens up rows and plants lots and lots of zinnia seeds. The seeds are cheap and they grow quickly. Other older gardeners have informed me that one may purchase new zinnia seeds or also save the seeds from one year to the next.

In August, Joel’s zinnia bed looks like this. Look at the long stems just right for flower arrangements.

Some zinnia varieties have long stems which are ideal for cut flower arrangements

Some zinnia varieties have long stems which are ideal for cut flower arrangements

While visiting my younger clients (younger being under 60) I have noticed that they like zinnias also. The difference, though, is that instead of growing the plants in a flower bed from seed, they purchase the plants from the nursery. An August visit to Home Depot found the following:

 four-inch pots of zinnias at Home Depot

four-inch pots of zinnias at Home Depot

The larger pots of zinnias seem to be a popular item. I also noticed one in my wife’s back yard garden. I guess I should pay better attention to WTLD.

 Larger pots of zinnias at Home Depot

Larger pots of zinnias at Home Depot

I would bet that if your grandmother’s grandmother’s grandmother had a flower bed she grew zinnias.

 Thanks for visiting John the plant Man

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

Here’s an article on Joel in his garden in February:

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Foundation planting with containers

 

Today’s article is about what I call a “Barbie Doll Garden.”  Here’s the story:

One of my favorite clients for a number of years is very easy to please as long as she gets ­exactly what she wants.  The problem is that I sometimes have to get really creative to reach that goal.  I spent a lot of time trying to get the entrance planting just right but she kept asking me to move this or change that.  Finally, in order to make the moving and changing easier, I got some nice clay pots and created a garden that can be moved around and changed easily.  I got tickled when I figured out that it was kind of like playing with a doll house and being able to change things easily and at will.

Containers in foundation planting for easy maintenance and change
Containers in foundation planting for easy maintenance and change

The planting is divided into three sections.  In this one by the drive, we installed a fieldstone border and added pea gravel for the “floor.  We set containers where we thought they should go and planted a combination of evergreen and flowering plants. The plants have been pruned to shape using bonsai techniques. Whenever Betty decides that something doesn’t look right, we can move it, prune it, or change the plant out for another one.  The next picture shows the end of the planting area which is framed with an arborvitae in a cast iron urn

containers in the foundation planting. Not the urn framing the end.
containers in the foundation planting. Note the urn framing the end.

The second section takes in a porch by the drive and curves around the corner to the main entrance.  I like the way pots of impatiens and caladiums flash their colors from an area behind the autumn ferns. We are able to move the accent plants around to get the placement just right.  As they say on the infomercials, “It really, really works.”

Containers of impatiens behind autumn ferns
Containers of impatiens behind autumn ferns

Permanent plantings of well shaped lorapetalum and dwarf nandina give a background for a bed of containers on the house side of the walkway to the front entrance.  We chose a combination of variegated cypress, dwarf procumbens juniper, dwarf yaupon, and frost proof gardenia for the perennial evergreens.  The bed is bordered with rock and has been filled and leveled with compost and cypress mulch for stability and levelling

cypress chips, rocks, and containers with shaped evergreens
cypress chips, rocks, and containers with shaped evergreens

We also left room to plant flowers.  I love the dragon wing begonias.  These are the most dependable begonias I ever worked with.  They can be used as bedding plants or in containers.  The begonias are replaced with pansies for the winter garden.

Bedding plants form a nice frame for the containerized evergreens.  I love the gardenia bloom
Bedding plants form a nice frame for the containerized evergreens. I love the gardenia bloom

To add balance for the planting at the end of the walkway, we added one more small bed around the cast iron horse head.  I selected three upright junipers and pruned them into an interesting topiary.  These plants will never be finished.  I have a picture in my head of each of the limbs having a flat top with rounded edges.  The final picture will take years.

Three carefully shaped topiaries in containers anchor the end of the stone walkway
Three carefully shaped topiaries in containers anchor the end of the stone walkway

To add color, I found a large dragon wing hanging basket and planted it in this terra cotta pot.  The plant had been root bound in the basket and it almost exploded when it received room for its roots and a goodly dose of liquid fertilizer.

Dragon wing begonia and procumbuns juniper in separate containers
Dragon wing begonia and procumbuns juniper in separate containers

I really like this garden.  I like the way it looks and I like the fact that when something doesn’t look right I can move it or easily change it.  When some of the plants become root bound or out of shape I can plant them in the yard and replace them with new ones.  I am planning to renovate my new wife’s back yard and I think that we will use the “Barbie Doll” concept for at least one or two sections. I love the aspect of being able to modify the scope and balance by easily moving or changing a plant here or there.

This is also a wonderful concept for someone who finds instant gratification a bit on the slow side.

Other articles relating to this topic:

How to start a bonsai

The basics of pruning

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

If you would like a consultation with John Schulz, Landscape Artist, in your yard,Please contact me by email

Planting Pansies and Bulbs the Easy Way.

Well, it’s time to plant pansies in Georgia but my operation in September involved cutting a muscle in my right shoulder and has limited my strength and use in the attached arm. Last week I wanted to plant some pansies in my own yard and my pride would not allow me to ask for help.  Fortunately, though, I had found a new tool in the form of an auger designed to fit on my electric hand drill. I can remember having one of these years ago and was delighted when I found a new one at Lowe’s. (read on for a scam alert)

My new bedding plant digging tool. The drill is for scale.

My new bedding plant digging tool. The drill is for scale.

I don’t remember what I paid for this auger. I probably wouldn’t have spent any more than $12.99 for it knowing me, but when I looked the item up on the web to find a link for my readers, I found it listed at astounding prices—Amazon had it at around triple the $12.99—so be careful if you look for this on line. Anyway, I went to Lowe’s this morning to look again and I wasn’t able to find the item at all so if you want one, you will have to look around.

I had some beautiful pansies that were left over from a couple of jobs and I didn’t mind hiring a little help with leaf removal. I’ll bet you can imagine what the leaves look like on Oakwood Street. There are piles and piles.

leaves on Oakwood Street

leaves on Oakwood Street

I cleaned out the begonias, zinnias, and angelonia that we had enjoyed all summer and then checked out the plants that I wanted to use

available pansies on the pick up truck tailgate.

available pansies on the pick up truck tailgate.

The big problem with planting the flowers is that with a bum right arm, I have trouble getting up and down. I was tickled with myself when I started drilling holes with my new tool (Oookay, ladies, “toy”). The more I think about it, too, the auger seems to also make a better hole for the plants and the excavated dirt is piled up right beside the hole ready to go back in around the roots. So I drilled holes everywhere I thought a plant should be. The auger seemed to help with spacing.

using an auger to dig holes for pansies.

using an auger to dig holes for pansies.

With the holes dug, it was very easy to dump just the right amount of time release fertilizer in each one.

Time release fertilizer in every hole.

Time release fertilizer in every hole.

I had fun liberating the well-rooted plants from the six packs and dropping them in the holes. This job was getting easier and easier.

dropping the plants in the holes.

dropping the plants in the holes.

The next part of the job that I had to figure out how to do without getting down on my knees was to get the plants actually planted with the soil firmed in around the roots. I mustered up a smile and then asked my sweet wife to help with this job. Bless her heart, she got down there and did a beautiful job. I decided not to charge her for allowing her to help.

finishing the planting with a loving touch

finishing the planting with a loving touchGiving the roots a loving touch

When Dekie finished the planting, she looked at me and said, “Don’t put that thing away, I’ll be right back.” She headed for the front porch to get some tulip bulbs that had been sitting there waiting.

tulip bulbs to go among the pansies.

tulip bulbs to go among the pansies.

That’s when I found out what this here auger was made for. It digs absolutely perfect holes for planting bulbs. We dug holes like prepositions—over under around and through the pansy plants (well, leave out the over and under part) and then we dropped the bulb fertilizer and the bulbs right in there.

the plant auger makes perfect holes for bulbs

the plant auger makes perfect holes for bulbs

I don’t happen to possess a stout battery operated drill at the moment, so I used my plug in model which performed very well with the auger. A battery powered drill would be very nice, but I think it would have to be a strong one.  Anyway, I intend to get a lot of use out of this auger as time goes by. If you plant a lot of bedding plants and/or bulbs, I would recommend purchasing one. Here’s a picture of the hanger label that came with it.

auger label

auger label

 

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As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

If you want a consultation in your yard in N.W. Georgia, send me an email at wherdepony@bellsouth.net

A North Georgia Chrysanthemum Show, Brunswick Stew, and a History Lesson.

 

Chrysanthemum flowers grown for show

Chrysanthemum flowers grown for show

We didn’t know that we were going on an historical adventure when we decided to go to the Stilesboro Improvement Club’s Centennial Celebration Chrysanthemum show. We took the back roads through some pleasing farm land. The cotton had just been harvested and the old homes and surroundings took us back in time.

Stilesboro Academy, Just outside of Cartersville, Ga.

Stilesboro Academy, Just outside of Cartersville, Ga.

The StilesboroAcademy was built in 1859 by local landowners and I am told that students from all over Georgia attended. The classes ranged from kindergarten to the equivalent of today’s junior college. General Sherman ordered the building spared during the burning and looting of his march to the sea and occupied it for a limited time. More information may be found at The Stilesboro Improvement Club website.  When I travel, I like to take pictures of historical markers just in case I want to go back and look at them.  Here’s the sign from the Georgia Historical Society:

Stilesboro historical marker

Stilesboro historical marker

As I entered, I grabbed a shot of the StilesboroAcademy sign:

Stilesboro Academy sign

Stilesboro Academy sign

We paid our admission (a whopping $2.00 each) and entered the display area. It took a while to take in the array of different types and classes of chrysanthemum flowers. Most of these flowers had been carefully grown for size, using disbudding techniques. I was taken by the spider mum right off: (I tried to get Dekie’s hand in a lot of the pictures to show the size of the flowers)

Prize winning Chrysanthemum flower

Prize winning Chrysanthemum flower

We looked at the displays for a while until I glanced through an open doorway  and saw that they were serving Brunswick stew. In my book, Brunswick stew takes precedence over looking at flowers most of the time. Mark Twain once said, “I never eat Brunswick stew at a restaurant because I don’t know what’s in it and I never eat it at home because I do know what’s in it.”

Chrysanthemum flower display

Chrysanthemum flower display

We took a break to eat and I pronounced the Brunswick stew some of the best ever—and I consider myself a well-informed judge. As to the flowers, though, I was familiar with growing the show flowers but I wanted to find out a bit more about what was going on. I’m still without a voice, but my wife Dekie is very helpful and patient in assisting me with an interview. It was not difficult to find help. We met Jan and LeeRoy Shepherd.

Jan, LeeRoy Shepherd and a jar of Brunswick Stew.

Jan, LeeRoy Shepherd and a jar of Brunswick Stew.

I found out right off that LeeRoy was the “Stewmaster” and had put together gallons and gallons of the wonderful Brunswick stew. I told him how impressed I was with it. Jan was very helpful in offering us a history of the show as well as giving me information on the growing of the flowers. I was told that the ladies of the organization ordered rooted cuttings in the spring and grew them carefully. A process called disbudding is used on the plants, removing all but one flower bud as the plant grows in order to increase the size and vigor of that one flower. I remarked that they do the same thing to produce prize winning watermelons and pumpkins. She agreed.

Chrysanthemum bloom, Incurve variety

Chrysanthemum bloom, Incurve variety

When I asked about varieties, Jan gave me a catalogue from Kings Mums and told me this was the company they ordered their cuttings from every year and that the catalogue was full of information. I found a page on King’s Mums website that showed me the flowers by class and variety. If you are interested in seeing a variety of impressive flowers, click here to go to King’s Mums page on “Cultivars”. I clicked on the pictures and enjoyed the show.

More Chrysanthemum prize winning flowers

More Chrysanthemum prize winning flowers

This is a centennial celebration of the chrysanthemum show. Miss Campie Hawkins is credited with having originated the idea for the first chrysanthemum show in the state of Georgia in 1912. This annual chrysanthemum show is known as the oldest continuously held show of its kind in the state of Georgia.

blue ribbon mum flower

blue ribbon mum flower

Jan Shepherd told me that the worst enemy of the large flowers was the grasshopper. She said that there have been quite a few instances of a carefully tended flower bud being eaten just before it opened. I could imagine the dismay with which one could watch months of careful attention turn into a meal for a grasshopper. That didn’t happen to the flowers pictured here, though.

Centennial mum show

Centennial mum show

You may wish to click the link review a related article on perennial garden mums from the first of October.

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As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

If you want a consultation in your yard in N.W. Georgia, send me an email at wherdepony@bellsouth.net

Chrysanthemum Concepts

Fall is in full swing, meaning that beautiful Chrysanthemums are showing up not only at the nurseries, but at the grocery stores, drug stores, and lots of other places. It was easy to find a picture, also. I just swang through the local Home Depot parking lot. I didn’t even have to get out of the truck to take the picture.

You don't have to go far to find a chrysanthemum in October

You don’t have to go far to find a chrysanthemum in October

Other than when they are rooted cuttings, these plants rarely see the inside of a greenhouse. They are usually field grown. The wholesale growers usually order rooted cuttings from the breeders. These cuttings come into the grower some time around the first part of June. When the cuttings reach the grower they have already been treated with a growth retardant that will keep them compact and branching. The wholesale grower will pinch the tip and plant one or more cuttings to a pot—according to the size of the pot. I have seen acres of these pots sitting on a black landscape fabric and irrigated with a drip system that keeps excess water off of the leaves and flowers.

The plants are usually grown with a constant fertilizer injection through the irrigation lines. They may or may not be “pinched” to induce branching and the last pinch will be made the first of August. Mums start to bloom with the onset of short days. The finished plants hit the market around the middle to end of September looking like this:

Market mums are bred and grown for just the right shape

Market mums are bred and grown for just the right shape

One of my favorite gardening experiences happened a few years ago when I was asked to have the yard on the mountain ready for an October wedding. Since we had enough notice and enough time, I ordered a thousand rooted mum cuttings to be delivered on the fifteenth of June. The bride-to-be chose the colors. We planted the mums and then pinched the tips often to encourage branching. I fed the plants with liquid fertilizer every week.

I remember being a bit uptight about the thousand plants. The timing had to be perfect. One expert told me that they would never bloom in time for the wedding. A noted horticulturist told us that they would be bloomed out and gone before the wedding. I sort of averaged that out and the plants performed perfectly, being wide open and beautiful to greet all the guests who entered the yard.  Here are a couple of pictures I found—this occurred just before the wide availability of digital cameras.

1000 mums were planted in June and in bloom for an October wedding.

1000 mums were planted in June and in bloom for an October wedding.

Some came back the following year, then none.

Some came back the following year, then none.

All of the above is nice—but it’s not really what this article is about. I used the word “concept” in the title. To me, a concept occurs when something happens to make me think about something I never thought about before. I view a concept as a little ball that floats around in one’s peripheral vision, blinking on and off. Every now and then the ball will blink on at just the right time and you can grab it and open it. And what is inside? Questions. Questions that you never thought to ask. The concept then leads to the answers and new found knowledge.

The light for me flashed on one day last year when my mother asked, “Have you noticed that the perfectly grown mums we get these days don’t perform like the old fashioned ones?” She continued, “The old fashioned mums seemed to grow differently and they came back year after year. The new mums may come back for a year or two, but that’s it. I loved the old fashioned mums for cut flowers.”

Old fashioned perennial mums are reliably winter hardy

Old fashioned perennial mums are reliably winter hardy

This was new to me, but I knew just where to go to get the answer—My friend Marion. We discussed it and figured that in breeding the commercial mums, the breeders had paid attention to shape, the size of the flowers. They had bred the mums to bloom a bit earlier in order to lengthen the sales window before winter. They had bred out the longevity and the “wildness” of the mum. Marion sent some rooted cuttings of the special plants to my mother who was delighted with them.

Marion said they would be wide open in a week or so

Marion said they would be wide open in a week or so

I decided that I can relate to the old fashioned mums. They don’t quite fit the generally accepted mold. They bloom profusely, but only when they feel like it, and they spend a lot of time out of bounds. These plants are strong, too and withstand all sorts of adversity, coming back strongly from life threatening forces. Yes, I can relate to them.

We decided we could get away with calling them "Little Old Lady Mums." You got a problem with that, Mom?

We decided we could get away with calling them “Little Old Lady Mums.” You got a problem with that, Mom?

I asked Marion how we would differentiate between the old fashioned mums and the refined ones. I asked, “can we call them ‘old lady mums”? She laughed and said, “Well, I guess so, I got these plants from Virginia Starr before I moved into the Second Avenue house and I lived there 21 years. I still have them here at the mountain house and I have been here for 29 years.”

So, I have her permission-She is definitely a lady, and she is proud of being “old” (of course, she’s pretty close to my age and that makes her young as far as I’m concerned).

I noticed a large stand of mums that looked like they would be late bloomers. I can relate to that, also. Marion told me that these were the yellows and that they will bloom around November 9. She said they loved the frost. The plants were tall and straggly. I can relate to that, also.

Marion doesn't know where this one came from. Evolution, maybe?

Marion doesn’t know where this one came from. Evolution, maybe?

Marion showed me one last plant just starting to flower. She said, “I don’t know where the apricot colored mum came from. It just showed up one day. The only thing I can figure is that a couple of the other ones cross pollinated and spread their seeds.”

I love the way these mums poke their heads up through the ferns.

I love the way these mums poke their heads up through the ferns.

So far, that’s as far as I’ve gotten into the concept. Marion told me that the pink mum is named Ryan’s Daisy and that she bought it from Blue Stone Perennials  That’s a new one for me, also. I guess I have some work to do because I WILL have me some “old lady mums” in my garden next year.

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

If you want a consultation in your yard in N.W. Georgia, send me an email at wherdepony@bellsouth.net

Preparing for Planting a Shady Border Flower Garden—part one of a series

Judy Kerns Well, a Facebook friend from Darwin, Ohio asked me to do a series of articles on shade gardening. This was good timing for me because I had been studying the border of the yard that I became involved with after getting married a year ago and moving in with my wonderful wife, Dekie. It all worked together. Even though it was over a hundred degrees and a Saturday, I felt good and motivated and my friend Adrian wanted to help so we started putting the project together. I had a lot to work with, too. I had already sprayed the area to get rid of the weeds. Here’s Dekie in her yard for the ‘before’ picture:

shade garden preparation, 'before'  picture

shade garden preparation, ‘before’ picture

One of the first problems associated with planting in the shade is that the soil is usually compacted and full of roots from the trees and shrubs that cause the shade in the first place. The second problem is that these trees and shrubs drink up all the water. I decided that for success with the project, I would install a low volume watering system from the start. This took about two hours but I had already bought the parts which would add a couple more hours to the project. Here’s a picture of the problem. You can see the offending root and the black irrigation pipe:

Roots and compacted dirt are main problems in building a shade garden

Roots and compacted dirt are main problems in building a shade garden

I knew that if I tried to run a tiller or something like that, I would run into problems with roots and rocks. Messing with that would take the entire day, and because I believe in the KISS theory (“keep it simple, stupid), I brought in a lot of compost and raised the areas where I will plant the flowers. The technique is easy, cheap, and it works well. The mounds of compost will be raked out to the proper shape.

add a pile of good dirt or compost to plant in for success in most shady areas

add a pile of good dirt or compost to plant in for success in most shady areas

I like the moisture holding features of cypress mulch much more than pine straw. The cypress chips seem to be cost effective because even though they cost more to start with, they last much longer. The chips also do a good job of holding the compost in place and they turn into dirt when they rot out. Lowe’s had a “cypress blend” for $2.25 per bag and I got twenty of them. Here’s one of the prepared areas. I had turned on the irrigation system prior to raking out the compost so I would be sure that all of it would be watered.

shade garden --rake out the planting area and mulch with cypress chips.

shade garden –rake out the planting area and mulch with cypress chips.

Here is a picture of the border after I installed the chips. It looks a lot better already. I often tell clients that their yard needs “definition.” Definition sure did help the area here. It’s the first of July and I know it is late in the season, but I’m going to plant flowering annuals all along the border and then use every grower’s trick I have learned over the last 35 years to make them flourish and shine.

Notice that Sweetie was hiding in the house when I took this picture. It was 110 outside.

Notice that Sweetie was hiding in the house when I took this picture. It was 110 outside.

I spent last week repairing irrigation systems for people and I spent a lot of time driving from job to job and to lots of stores for parts. I really wanted a lot of impatiens but they just didn’t seem to be available. I didn’t quit, though and I ended up with a couple of flats of plants that really needed attention. They were all wilted an root bound, but a little care and water is bringing them back. I found green leafed begonias and a few other things that I can use. There are some nice coleus that will add a tall background.  I would like to get a few caladiums but they’re still pretty high priced right now. I will probably plant hostas for next year. Actually, right now I’m just playing—but I know it will look good when I get finished.

Collected plants for the shady border flower bed

Collected plants for the shady border flower bed

I plan to add to the shade gardening articles for the next two or three weeks. Stay tuned, or better yet, go to the top right hand corner of this article and sign up to get John The Plant Man sent straight to your email whenever I post an article.

AND REMEMBER

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

If you want a consultation in your yard in N.W. Georgia, send me an email at wherdepony@bellsouth.net

Mixed container plantings for summer color-part 3 of a series.

I was telling Russ and Shala Head about the blog series and they offered to send me pictures or their plantings. Russ and Shala own and operate Willow Creek Nursery here in Rome, Georgia. I have another friend, Bobby Mixon, who does very nice mixed planters for our mutual friend, Diane Harbin. I will start the pictures with those from Russ and Shala and then move on to those created by Bobby Mixon.

Russ decided that we can not only include pots, but that we may also add a container built from rocks or other soil raising borders. Here is one from the front of his house which contains a braided Bloodgood Japanese maple, tiramisu herchera, and purple veronica. He maintains that this garden is deer proof.

I think a raised, rock bordered bed qualifies as a container.

I think a raised, rock bordered bed qualifies as a container.

The container is hidden as this combination of elephant ear and trailing sedum grow out of bounds—as planned.

container growing out of bounds with elephant ear and sedum

container growing out of bounds with elephant ear and sedum

A large planting of red pennisetum (upright grass) and sweet potato vine is striking

There are a number of annual ornamental grasses that will work in containers

There are a number of annual ornamental grasses that will work in containers

Russ told me that this is his favorite combination. He wrote the varieties down on a piece of scrap paper for me. Fireworks pennisetum, mozelle lantana, golden pearls bacopa, and Neon purple wave petunia. The variety of bacopa is new to me and I will have to check it out. I dearly love white bacopa.

ornamental grass, petunia, and a trailing plant give a good Ikebana effect.

ornamental grass, petunia, and a trailing plant give a good Ikebana effect.

The picture below looks to me like it is made up of Cleome with a base of one kind of sedum and sitting in a base planting of a lower growing sedum.

Sedums make excellent trailers and ground covers in and under pots.

Sedums make excellent trailers and ground covers in and under pots.

I really like this grouping of geranium containers.

a grouping of containerized geraniums

a grouping of containerized geraniums

That’s all of Russ for now. I stopped to look at one of my own planters that I have had around for years. I enjoy cactus because of the ease of growing. I can keep this planter in the house and neglect it over the winter and then put it out in the sun for the summer and it will bloom over and over.

Cacti make interesting container gardens and may be kept through the winter in a bright location and treated with neglect. They will bloom year after year.

Cacti make interesting container gardens and may be kept through the winter in a bright location and treated with neglect. They will bloom year after year.

Bobby Mixon is a retired public school teacher and he looks at container planting as a religion. He also breaks a lot of the rules, but he seems to get away with it. For instance, I have told him over and over again not to plant impatiens in the sun but every year he gets away with this combo of insence cedar and impatiens right out there in full sun. If I tried it, it would bake and die.

I keep telling Bobby that his impatiens won'd do well in the sun and he always makes a liar out of me. I don't know how he does it.

I keep telling Bobby that his impatiens won’d do well in the sun and he always makes a liar out of me. I don’t know how he does it. note the irrigation tubing.

An asparagus fern does well with geraniums on a retaining wall. Diane keeps the asparagus fern over in her basement all winter and brings it out after the last frost.

Geraniums and Asparagus fern do well together in a container with lots of light.

Geraniums and Asparagus fern do well together in a container with lots of light.

Here’s a tree formed rose with impatiens. I need to tell Bobby it needs pruning for shape maintenance

a tree formed rose with impatiens. The rose needs a bit if pruning, but nice, nevertheless.

a tree formed rose with impatiens. The rose needs a bit if pruning, but nice, nevertheless.

For a shady location we have a hydrangea, impatiens, and variegated ivy. The hydrangea may be planted later in the yard to go through the winter and get big.

hydrangeas, impatiens, and variegated ivy in a mixed container for shade.

hydrangeas, impatiens, and variegated ivy in a mixed container for shade.

Finally, a petunia and verbena combination coupled with a designer pink flamenco. I like the touch of whimsy.

That is one curious looking pink flamenco.

That is one curious looking pink flamenco.

These pictures may be a bit late in the year for now, but I’m going to store them and we’ll look at them again in early spring, next year. There’s always next year, right?

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

If you want a consultation in your yard in N.W. Georgia, send me an email at wherdepony@bellsouth.net

Plants in containers for summer color

 A couple of weeks ago Lovely Christine asked me to write about mixed plantings in containers. She wanted to do something outside the front door. At the time I was only prepared to do an article about window boxes. She liked that one, but I kept looking at container gardens wherever I went and got some good pictures. I will add to these as I visit more gardens.

The most important thing to remember in planting container gardens is plant compatibility. This means that the plants you use all require similar light and water conditions. A good dose of liquid fertilizer every week during the summer will ensure outstanding success.

Here is a combination of red begonia and yellow lantana. It should be magnificent in a month or two.

container color 1, begonia and lantana

container color 1, begonia and lantana

Sometimes a single plant is all that is needed. This is a specimen variety of angel wing begonia in a shady location.

container color -Angel wing begonia in urn

container color -Angel wing begonia in urn

A well pruned Knockout rose in a barrel will last for years.

container color 3 knockout rose in a whisky barrel

container color 3 knockout rose in a whisky barrel

.Here is a dragon wing begonia set so that it gives scale to a magnificent view.

Dragon wing begonia adds scale to a wonderful view.

Dragon wing begonia adds scale to a wonderful view.

For a shady location, begonias and impatiens work very well

container color 5-begonias and impatiens for shade

container color 5-begonias and impatiens for shade

Instead of planting several plants in one container, I have used three containers with single plant varieties. The triangle and plant sizes cast an ikebana illusion of Heaven, Man, and Earth-The three levels of existence. Ikebana always works.

container color 6-A grouping of container gardens for an ikebana effect.

container color 6-A grouping of container gardens for an ikebana effect.

Impatiens and begonias mixed in a hand made concrete planter.

container color 7-begonias and impatiens for shade

container color 7-begonias and impatiens for shade

Bonsai and other trimmed evergreen plantings can stay outside all year. Topiaries would also fit into this category. If well maintained, they last for years and grow in beauty and interest.

Container color 8-evergreen bonsais on the patio

Container color 8-evergreen bonsais on the patio

Herbs do well in containers and you can cut from the plants for culinary purposes. Here is a mix of rosemary, sage, and thyme.

container color 9-A compact herb garden

container color 9-A compact herb garden

I revisited a window box from a few weeks ago. It is growing in well. This is a mixture of verbena, bacopa, begonia, and angelonia.

container color 10--A multi color window box

container color 10–A multi color window box

In this planter for part sun, we used ivy, begonia and coleus. The ivy will, of course, remain through out the year.

container color 11--coleus, begonia, and ivy

container color 11–coleus, begonia, and ivy

And last week Kroger had white phaleonopsis orchids on sale for $9.99. Here are a couple of them in an urn with fresh moss around the base. They will bloom for a long time.

container color--phaleonopsis in container

container color–phaleonopsis in container

I plan to take more pictures of container gardens throughout the season. I think they will be of great interest earlier in the season next year. Stay in touch.

My book, Redemption for a Redneck has been nominated for a prestigious award. Read about it HERE

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

If you want a consultation in your yard in N.W. Georgia, send me an email at wherdepony@bellsouth.net

My mother taught me to Love Calla Lilies

I love calla lilies. The bulbs sit dormant in the ground all winter and then start sending up spearhead leaves in the late spring. Callas seem to know somehow when the time is just right for them to sprout up and send their lush foliage out into the world. They grow and grow until the time is just right to send up a lovely flower.

calla

The beautiful calla lily is also a good mother. read on…

           The flowers may be of many colors that range from deep purple to soft pastels, according to the variety. My mother had introduced me to these plants years ago by taking me out to her garden and pointing out the soft yellows, brilliant whites, and darker mauves that showed up in the late spring and early summer. Mom always loves having cut flowers in the house and she especially liked having vases of these beautiful flowers in every room. (Do not confuse these with canna lilies which are mostly trouble.)

          Callas are most prolific, too. Their bulbs make offshoots that may be dug and divided. If some of the flowers are allowed to mature, clumps of seedlings will sprout up in the late summer, die back for the winter, and then show back up the following spring. I got my start with these wonderful plants one fall when Mom handed me a shovel and led me out into her flower bed. She showed me just where she wanted me to dig. I put the shovel in the ground as instructed and pulled out a clump of dirt that held a number of bulbs. I shook the dirt from the bulbs and looked up at her for further instructions.

          “Do you know how to divide bulbs?” She asked.

          “Of course I know how to divide bulbs.” I giggled and started.

          “One for you, one for me. One for you, one for me. Two for my sister.”

          We laughed about that and made three piles. I replanted Mom’s bulbs, put sister’s bulbs in a bag for later delivery, and put my collection in the back of my truck to take home and plant for myself. That was years ago.

Reproductive parts of the calla lily bloom inside a "teepee"

Reproductive parts of the calla lily bloom inside a “teepee”

          I was never one to put flowers in the house, either. I just loved to watch them grow, and being a grower, I liked to study how any plant reproduces. Over the years, I had learned to root cuttings, make divisions, and grow plants from seed. I enjoy watching the plants grow and studying the ways in which they work to maintain their particular species. When the question is asked as to whether the tomato is a fruit or a vegetable, I can always answer that it is a fruit because a tomato is really a ripe ovary that is made up of seeds with a protective and nourishing cover. The reason that a lot of fruits are so nourishing for people is because they contain the elements that are necessary for growth and development of their potential progeny. There are, of course, a lot of fruits that are not good to eat, but that comes from methods developed by the plants to protect their seeds.

          I watched the calla lilies for a few years, wondering at the shape of the flower which looked as if it had been formed from a stiff, smooth cloth that was cut and wrapped around into an open chalice. I watched as the flower was fertilized by the bees and as it then lost its color. I watched the colorless bloom as it stood straight up for a week or two while seed pods formed inside. Next, the calla lily flower did something different. It took me a couple of seasons to realize what was going on, but here’s what I noticed.

Calla lily making a tent to protect the seedlings

Calla lily making a tent to protect the seedlings

          The flower stem bent over slowly and gracefully during the space of a few days, ending up with the bloom upside down on the ground. I watched this spent bloom for days and weeks until I realized that the shape of the flower was similar to an Indian teepee and that it was protecting the seeds from the elements as they germinated and grew. After a while, the tent went away and a clump of small plants appeared just where the tent had stood. That’s when I really fell in love with the calla. I had to admire a mother that went to so much trouble to care for her fragile young.

calla lily bloom and foliage

calla lily bloom and foliage

          You will find calla lily bulbs in nurseries or by mail order. You can get a very nice catalogue from K. van Bourgondien &Sons. I buy a lot of bulbs from them. You will also find blooming pots of calla lilies in nurseries or through a good florist. You can enjoy the blooms and then install the plants in your garden where they will thrive for years.

        

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

 

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