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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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

Preparing the garden for a tour—part 6 of a series. illustrated

This is part five of a series devoted to getting a garden ready for the Rome, Ga. Junior Service League tour of gardens which will take place on April 28, 2012. To find the other articles of this series, CLICK HERE

There’s less than a week left until the day of the tour. The good news is that last week we started the fun stuff. I went by the greenhouse to check out the dragon wing begonias. They were looking really good, so I loaded some in the truck and took them to the job site.

dragon wing begonias in the greenhouse

dragon wing begonias in the greenhouse

There are a lot of urns to be planted in and around the back patio and pool area. We tried geraniums in these planters for a number of years but found them to be maintenance intensive. I love the dragon wings, though. They are low maintenance and provide dependable color. I planted one of the urns and stood back to admire it.

Dragon wing begonia in urn

Dragon wing begonia in urn

While I was playing with the flowers, my helpers took on the field behind the pool. This area only gets mowed a few times a year because it is steep and not conducive to any machine other than a weed eater. They sure did a good job.

back field mowed with weedeaters

back field mowed with weedeaters

My job was to get the flower bed concept. I had decided to use a mixed colors of verbena, coleus, and angelonia for the focus bed in front. I laid out the trays of plants and stepped back to get a mental picture of what the beds would look like.

getting a design concept for flower beds

getting a design concept for flower beds

The best way I have found to get a really good looking flower bed planting is to lay each plant out exactly where I want it to be. Then we go back and plant them, being careful to maintain the design.

place-plants-exactly-where-they-will-be-planted.jpg

place-plants-exactly-where-they-will-be-planted.jpg

I used angelonia for something tall and bushy last year as a test and I really liked them. They gave me a bushy, floriferous statement behind lower plants. I highly recommend this plant for full sun.

angelonia my new favorite bedding plant

angelonia my new favorite bedding plant

I found these coleus and I think they will make a statement and give some height to the rear of the garden. I love the color combination.

brilliant coleus for a color statement

brilliant coleus for a color statement

Friday afternoon we carefully planted the flower bed. I like to use lots of time release fertilizer such as Osmocote.

planting-the-flower-bed-as-planned.jpg

planting-the-flower-bed-as-planned.jpg

As we cleaned up from the day’s work, I hooked up my wonderful home made sprinkler to water the plants in. I designed this sprinkler several years ago. It is easy, it works well, and it’s cheap. You will find directions for building the sprinkler if you CLICK HERE (this is the most visited article on my site.)

I’m going to have lots of fun next week– planting more flower beds, trimming and mowing, and tweaking the garden and its special areas.

If you live around Rome, Georgia, get you some tickets and come check out the tour. The information may be found on the Junior Service League of Rome web site

 Here is the information for the tour:

 The Junior Service League of Rome is pleased to announce the first Rome in Bloom Garden Tour and the Twilight Blooms Garden Tour and Party on Saturday, April 28th 2012.
Click Here to See the Gardens on Tour

Click Here to Order Tickets Online

You can also purchase tickets from a Junior Service League Member or at one of the following locations:

Living and Giving
Traditions
Bussey’s
Pineapple Place
Visitors Center / Last Stop Gift Shop
Lavender Mountain

Thank you to all of the above locations for your cooperation and support!!

Click Here for a Rome In Bloom Garden Tour Map

Click here for a printer friendly version of the gardens and maps

The Rome in Bloom Garden Tour is from 10 am to 5 pm and allows you to view six local gardens.  Tickets can be purchased online, from a league member, or at the list of Rome locations below.

The Twilight Blooms Garden Tour and Party is from 5 pm to 7:30 pm and showcases Rose Hill in Historic Downtown Rome.  Tickets are $35 each and can be purchased online or at the list of Rome locations below.

Tickets for both tours are $50 each

Both the Rome In Bloom and Twilight Blooms Garden Tour and Party are rain or shine.  All tours are self guided and you are welcome to view the gardens at your preferred pace.  Gardens can be viewed in any order but please be aware that the natural terrain could be uneven so dress accordingly. 

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Thanks for visiting Johntheplantman 

To read about Johntheplantman and the rednecks

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 with John Schulz in your yard in N.W. Georgia, send me an email at wherdepony@bellsouth.net

The illustrated guide to rooting begonia cuttings

 I’m going to need a lot of nice flowering plants. The Junior Service League garden tour is scheduled for April 28 and all of the urns and flower beds will have to look really good. I usually don’t even start the planting until the first of May because of the variable weather patterns in the North Georgia hills. Patsy’s going to love this.

I love dragon wing begonias for pots or flower beds

I love dragon wing begonias for pots or flower beds

I have access to a greenhouse, however. Due to health and other issues, I haven’t used the greenhouse for the last couple of years but when I found out about the garden tour last October, I decided to clean up the greenhouse and to save a lot of Dragon Wing begonias that would have ordinarily gone to the trash pile. As we changed out annual color last year, I saved a number of the begonias and potted them up to use this spring. Last week (march 7), they looked like this: (if you are following these instructions at home, you don’t need a greenhouse, just a warm, well-lit area)

begonias saved from last year

begonias saved from last year

The situation is multi-faceted. I need about thirty really nice plants to plant in the urns around the pools and at doorways. I also need quite a few smaller plants to use in extensive flower bed plantings. My strategy will be to get the plants ready in the greenhouse and to do the planting at the last minute. The job is to clean up and prune the existing plants so that they will grow out big and to make some new ones. The two jobs go well together. We start with some careful cutting.

Pruning and taking begonia cuttings.

Pruning and taking begonia cuttings.

I am cutting as a pruning process that will make the plant branch out and shape right, but I am also looking for just the right size of tips to root for new plants. A desirable tip will look like this:

begonia tip suitable for rooting

begonia tip suitable for rooting

To prepare the tip for rooting, pinch off any blooms and a lower leaf or two.

begonia tip prepared for cutting

begonia tip prepared for cutting

A rooting hormone is not a necessity, the cuttings will root without it, but using the hormone will provide quicker, healthier results. The main ingredient that I search the label for is “indole 3 butyric acid.” This is a growth hormone and it may be found in liquid or powdered formulations. I found it at a garden center.

rooting hormone gives good results

rooting hormone gives good results

We dip the cutting in the powder to coat the fresh cut end.

dip the cutting in the hormone powder and wiggle it around a bit.

dip the cutting in the hormone powder and wiggle it around a bit.

The cuttings are then stuck in moist potting soil. I used Hyponex moisture control potting soil this time, but any other high quality preparation will do. You can actually use clean sand and get really good results.

Stick the cuttings in a tray of high quality potting soil or clean sand

Stick the cuttings in a tray of high quality potting soil or clean sand

I like to use nursery flats to stick the cuttings in. I get 40 to 50 cuttings per tray. A flower pot will work well if you are only doing a few cuttings.

A nursery tray works best for cuttings, but a flower pot will do.

A nursery tray works best for cuttings, but a flower pot will do.

As we take cuttings for new plants, we also clean any old stems and bad leaves from the larger plants. I want to encourage the new spring growth to come from the bottom of the plant. This will give much better shape and durability.

cleaning and pruning last year's begonias

cleaning and pruning last year’s begonias

After sticking a number of cuttings in the rooting medium, I use a gentle spray of water to wash the soil in around the base of the plants and to wet the leaves.

water the cuttings to settle the soil and wet the leaves

water the cuttings to settle the soil and wet the leaves

.The cuttings are fully prepared at this time. They should be placed in a bright location-but not in full sun. I suggest misting the plants lightly once or twice a day. Be careful not to over water them, though. Misting works best in the morning. The leaves should be dry at night to reduce the incidence of fungal infections. The rooted cuttings should be ready for pots in two or three weeks.

The plants that we will grow out for specimens have now been totally cleaned and they look like this:

clean begonias ready to grow out for spring planting

clean begonias ready to grow out for spring planting

You can use this method for rooting cuttings with many different plants. Geraniums, begonias, impatiens, and many more plants will respond readily.

 I hope you enjoyed the article. I’ll bet you will also enjoy my novel

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?

Foundation planting with containers creates “a changeable garden”

Foundation planting with containers-a “changeable garden”

 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

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

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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