Make a Beautiful Mixed Flower Creation With a Wire Basket and Coconut Fiber Matting.

Use coconut matting to line a wire hanging basket for mixed flowers. Read on

Use coconut matting to line a wire hanging basket for mixed flowers. Read on

I call it “coco mat” and it is one of the nicest innovations for planting wire hanging baskets to come along in a long time. Wire baskets are wonderful because they “breathe” and thereby form the base for more vigorous flowers. Wire baskets come in all shapes and sizes. I needed to plant eleven hand-crafted wrought-iron baskets the other day.

If you are planting in mass manufactured wire containers, your nursery will probably carry coco mat liners that are formed to fit. In my case, I had to custom cut each piece. So I bought a roll of the matting and I got a roll of painter’s paper with which to make patterns.

You can usually find pre-formed matting for your baskets but sometimes you just have to cut your own,

You can usually find pre-formed matting for your baskets but sometimes you just have to cut your own,

We didn’t want to waste any of the coco mat so we wrapped the basket with the paper and cut out around it.

Wrap paper around the wire basket and trim to make a pattern

Wrap paper around the wire basket and trim to make a pattern

I found that a carpenter’s pencil or a magic marker would work to trace the pattern onto the coco mat.

a carpenter's pencil or magic marker will mark the mat for cutting

a carpenter’s pencil or magic marker will mark the mat for cutting

I thought about using a razor knife but found that scissors would do the job.  Tip—use cheap scissors and throw them away afterwards. This will probably ruin your good scissors.

Do not use Momma's expensive scissors for this job--go buy some cheap ones

Do not use Momma’s expensive scissors for this job–go buy some cheap ones

We cut a triangle out of the circle where a big fold would be and then we pushed the liner down into the basket and pressed moist potting soil in to hold it in place. A little extra trimming was necessary.

Pack in moist potting soil to hold the coconut fiber mat securely in place

Pack in moist potting soil to hold the coconut fiber mat securely in place

I always like to add a liberal sprinkling of time-release fertilizer on top of the potting soil so that it will mix in as I plant. I’m using Osmocote this time.

add Osmocote to the hanging basket for season-long fertilizing

add Osmocote to the hanging basket for season-long fertilizing

I decided to use Dragon Wing begonias for the center plant. These plants are very versatile and I really get good results from them.

A dragon wing begonia will be beautiful in the center of this hanging basket

A dragon wing begonia will be beautiful in the center of this hanging basket

I used two colors of calibrochoa (they look like miniature petunias), bachopa (trailing with small white flowers), and Wave petunias around the large begonia. I really enjoy making a royal mess and this time I succeeded.

A good planting job calls for a good mess.

A good planting job calls for a good mess.

The baskets will hang from the eaves of the house facing the pool and courtyard. In the picture below you will see that I am using chains to train a white mandevilla up and over a doorway.

wire hanging basket with mixed flowers planted above a white  mandevilla.

wire hanging basket with mixed flowers planted above a white mandevilla.

The most important consideration in choosing plants for a mixed planting is that all of the varieties must have the same sun or shade preferences.  You may wish to visit some articles I wrote about planting other mixtures, CLICK HERE for articles on mixed plantings.

 

 

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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October pansies for a May wedding

Planting pansies in October for a May wedding.

 Dekie has decided that the wedding will be in the middle of May at her father’s northwest Georgia farm.  The ceremony will be down by the lake and the guests (family only) will walk past two extensive flower beds.  The problem at hand is to figure out how to have a beautiful flower show in these beds for the middle of May.  We realized that if we go with summer annuals, the plants will be small, recently planted, and will not give us a good show, so we decided to plant pansies.  Pansies should be at their best in May.

 We started by going to the wholesale grower somewhere around the middle of September.  David, the grower, showed Dekie all of the plants that he was growing and they discussed sizes and colors.  I just watched and listened, because I knew that any color decisions were definitely not a guy thing.  She chose blue shades, solid yellow, solid white, and white with a purple blotch.  We reserved 30 flats (1080 plants).  That should make a show.

 On Saturday, October 16, –the middle of October—we loaded the truck with pine straw and pansy plants and headed to the farm.  The beds were prepared and relatively weed free.  It was time to plant for an event that will be held in seven months. We started with the pine straw.

 

mulching with pine straw, getting ready for pansies

mulching with pine straw, getting ready for pansies

 

The pine straw on the beds gave us a “picture frame” so that we could better see the scope of the planting.  Dekie studied the beds from all angles and said things like, “a clump of white here, maybe surrounded by clusters of white.  I think a blue background on the back side of the straight areas with a front border of white with a splotch.”  I wish all my customers could be that specific. 

 

Getting an overall color concept

Getting an overall color concept

So, we unloaded the pansy plants and separated the colors.  Note the bottle of Osmocote.

 

pansies-blue shades, yellow, white, white with blotch

pansies-blue shades, yellow, white, white with blotch

 

Dekie laid out six packs of plants to get the general idea of color separation.  We found this step very helpful.  She moved the packs around until she got the general lay out just right.

 

Approximate color placement

Approximate color placement

 

The next step was to remove the plants from their containers and lay them exactly where they were to be planted.  This way, we could shift the plants here and there, make adjustments, and only have to plant them once. 

 

Specific plant placement, laying them out.

Specific plant placement, laying them out.

 

When Dekie got far enough out ahead and was satisfied with the plant placement, we started planting.

 

Everything is right.  Start planting

Everything is right. Start planting

 

The job took a while.  Here’s Dekie adjusting plants, heading around the back side of the last flower bed.  It took almost as long to lay them out as it did to plant them.

 

Almost through with the layout

Almost through with the layout

 

The pansies were standing up looking pretty as I watered them in.  It looks like it will be dry for a few more days.  We’ll water them every other day until the weather changes a bit.

 

Pansies planted and fertilized--Just add water!!

Pansies planted and fertilized–Just add water!!

 

It had been a tiring day of supervision for Speck, the coon dog.  We drove the van across the pasture to the Chatooga River (the little one) and let Speck swim around a bit and cool off.  It was quite a day.

 

The supervisor takes a break

The supervisor takes a break

 

This is one of those projects that I categorize as “No Guts, No Glory.”  We’re taking a chance, but if everything works out just right, the flower beds will be glorious for the wedding in seven months. 

 *******Would you like a consultation with johntheplantman in your yard? Contact John Schulz 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?

 

Time to think about pansies.

pansy vase

Time to think about pansies.

Dekie and I are going to plant pansies at the farm next weekend.  Last week we went to the grower and picked out the colors she wanted. We will plant about a thousand plants, nestled down in pine straw.  This will give us a magnificent show for the wedding in mid May.

My friend Marion Shaw has stated that if we want a true spring time show, the pansies should be planted while the ground is warm enough for them to grow a good root system.

I’m getting ready for a few days off and I thought I would publish this post on pansies that I wrote about a year ago:

It’s pansy planting time here in the southeast.  We are busy cleaning up the spent begonias and petunias before they turn to mush in the next week or two.  Then we replace them with pansies.  Glorious pansies.

I like pansies for several reasons:

  • They brighten up the winter landscape.
  • They seem to be hardy enough to survive the harshest winters.
  • Pansies not only offer a beautiful flower, but they offer it when not much else does.
  • A bed of pansies will offer a wonderful show of color when it matures in the spring.
  • They are nicely fragrant and offer a source of cut flowers for inside.

Actually, with these flowers, the more you pick, the more you get.

When I was a teenager, in the late fifties and early sixties, I can remember my grandmother and my mother purchasing pansy plants.  They didn’t come in six packs or pots like they do today.  They were sold bare root, wrapped up in bits of moist newspaper or in paper towels like the ones that were available at the gas station for washing windshields. (Of course, at that time, you didn’t have to wash your own windshield, either, you drove up to the pump, said, “give me two dollars,” and they pumped your eight gallons of gas, washed your windshield, and checked your tires and oil.)

Pansies later started appearing in stores in six packs, usually 36 plants to a flat (tray).  Now they are in all sized containers and are available 18 plants to a flat, in round 4 inch pots, and in larger sizes.  I find that it is cost effective to go with the six packs as you get twice (or more) plants for the money and that means they can be planted thicker for less money.

When buying pansies, I look for the following:

  • First, ask when the plants will be delivered and meet the truck.  Get them fresh from the nursery. This gives the nursery (or big store) less time to mess them up.
  • Look at the plant, not the bloom.  Look for plants that are stout, not stretched out.
  • Pull a random plant out of the container and look at the roots.  They should be white and well formed.  Do not buy plants with brown roots.
  • Look for indications of grey, powdery mildew.  Avoid any that show this fungal disease.
  • Remember, unless instant gratification is too slow for you, bigger is not always better. They will grow.

When you purchase the pansy plants, also ask for a package of Osmocote.  This is a time-release fertilizer that I use religiously with my bedding plants.

osmocote

Since writing this I have received a comment from Karen McDuffie about Osmocote.  I appreciated what she had to say:

You should warn your fans that pink capped Osmocote is high nitrogen, and if they want blooms (who doesn’t if they buy pansies) they should select the green cap container. At one time a certain ‘big store’ displayed the pink cap product prominently, and a sweet young clerk, younger than my granddaughter, rolled her eyes and argued it was all the same! “

Karen is right on target with this observation.

The technique for planting is basically the same as with any bedding plant.

  • Choose a location with as much light as possible, preferably use a prepared bed.
  • Space the plants 6 to 8 inches apart.
  • Dig a hole that is approximately half again the size of the container.
  • Sprinkle in a half a teaspoon of Osmocote.
  • Chop up the dirt from the hole and fill it back in.
  • Mulch with pine straw or wood chips and water them in
  • That’s it!!
  • You will find that if you pick the spent blooms (deadheading) and/or pick for cut flowers, you will get an increased yield of flowers.

It doesn’t hurt when the plants are freshly planted to pour a little liquid feed over them. Use something like Peter’s, or Hyponex.  I really like Schultz’s plant food (no relation).

Enjoy your pansy bed.  The only hard part is when you have to pull them out in the late spring to replace them with summer annuals.

***********

Would you like a consultation with johntheplantman in your yard?Contact John Schulz BY EMAIL

These articles are brought to you by John P. Schulz, author of the novel, Requiem for a Redneck .  You can read more of the adventures of John the Plant man here:

ebook edition: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00FOAJCGO

or the print edition:

http://www.amazon.com/Requiem-Redneck-John-P-Schulz/dp/0981825206/Try “see inside the book”

 

********

Summertime care for Knockout roses

Knockout Roses and summertime maintenance.

Over the last few years nothing has affected the color of our landscape like the Knockout rose.  Originally this rose was praised as “maintenance free” (and it is, to a point) but we have learned that there are certain tricks to getting the most out of the plant.  Read on—

Beautiful flowers on a Knockout rose, but the spring flush is starting to fade.

Beautiful flowers on a Knockout rose, but the spring flush is starting to fade.

After over 30 years as a landscaper and plant grower, I have learned that there is no such thing as “no maintenance”, only “low maintenance.” The Knockout rose is definitely in the low maintenance category.  After the first beautiful flush of bloom, the plant begins to fade.  This is because the first blooms have been pollinated and the plant is busy with its inherited job of making seeds.  This shows up as dead blooms and an overall dropping of the early spring petals.

The seed pods develop and the petals fall.

The seed pods develop and the petals fall.

Here’s what is going on.  The flowers have been pollinated and are in the process of making seed pods.  There is a chemical produced in the plant that slows down the next blooms so that the seed pods can mature.  In order to fool the plant that it needs to make more flowers, the seed pods must be removed.  This is called “deadheading.” All serious flower growers know about deadheading and I talked to Judy about her Knockout roses the other day about it.  Judy said that cutting off each spent bloom took a lot of time and trouble.  It started me thinking about the best way to accomplish the job.

My feeling on the deadheading job on the roses (and the way I do it on the job) is to combine the job of deadheading and cosmetic pruning into one operation.  I start by looking down into the plant to isolate the stems which have mostly spent blooms.

Look inside the plant to isolate the stems with spent blooms

Look inside the plant to isolate the stems with spent blooms

In performing my task, I am trying to promote new growth and more flowers.  I want to be careful to leave any new growth which looks like this:

Careful pruning and deadheading will produce new growth like this--with lots of flowers.

Careful pruning and deadheading will produce new growth like this–with lots of flowers.

If I reach inside the plant and cut the stem (directly above a new leaf node) I can not only get the plant deadheaded in less time but also cause the stem to branch out and make even more flowers than before.  You may read about some of the principles of pruning in this article onhow to prune a jade plant.”  The principle is the same. I carefully cut a stem in a manner that performs two tasks.  Here is what I cut.

deadheading and pruning the Knockout rose at the same time.

deadheading and pruning the Knockout rose at the same time.

After this cutting, the old stem will branch out and form new growth which will develop more flowers and will, again, look like this:

New growth on the Knockout rose

New growth on the Knockout rose

The process is really rather simple and you probably won’t mess up.  You can cut the stem short and get more branching at the top of the plant or you may wish to take out a larger cutting which will let more light inside the plant and increase the later flowering even more. You may wish to try deadheading on all of your flowers, especially marigolds and petunias. It does make a difference in the number of flowers you will get.

An application of a high phosphorous plant food or fertilizer will also help the plant to flourish and produce even more flowers.  Maybe use something with an analysis of 15-30-15 or a similar ratio.  Liquid feeds are fine and it doesn’t hurt to pour it all over the leaves as well as around the roots.  The upside for liquid is that it works faster.  The downside is that it doesn’t last as long.

Time release fertilizers such as Shake ‘n Feed or Osmocote will work well and last the entire season.  You need to scratch these into the soil or pour them into a small trench around the plant for full effect.

Time release fertilizers break down slowly and feed for the entire season

Time release fertilizers break down slowly and feed for the entire season

You may wish to read my article on fertilizer here.

Another article on pruning Knockout roses

And an article on pruning crape myrtles is here.

Every now and then you may get fungus on the roses, and sometimes aphids will set in.  I suggest a combination fungicide/insecticide which you can purchase at any good nursery.

Got Questions?  Enter a comment.  I always try to answer.

I try to put up a new article every Sunday. Stay in touch.  Share it with your friends.

If you live in or around the northwest Georgia area and would like to have a consultation on your property with johntheplantman, you may contact John Schulz by email at

wherdepony@bellsouth.net .  Do not send pictures or attachments as they will be deleted.

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?

Or the traditional print edition:

http://www.amazon.com/Requiem-Redneck-John-P-Schulz/dp/0981825206/

Try “see inside the book”

 

How to deal with mums

How to deal with mums:

Ruth Shaw asked,

What do I do with my Chrysanthemums when they quit blooming?

 

mums2

Garden mums custom grown for a late October wedding

I am writing this with the expectations of being able to refer people to my blog instead of answering it six times a day.  You can plant and grow mums in the garden outside.  Here’s how it works:

 

mums3

In mid November, this mum has seen its better days

A lot of beautiful mums were sold in the months of September and October.  Chrysanthemums are fun to watch and grow. There is a trigger for the blooms on most plants.  Crape myrtles bloom with the effects of temperature.  Azaleas bloom after their flower buds have gone through a period of cold followed by a period of warmth.  (This excludes the Encore azaleas which are different—more about these in a separate blog.).

Chrysanthemums respond to a phenomenon called “photoperiodism”. This means that their blooming is regulated by day length (photo=light + “period”).  Mums grown in an unregulated environment will bloom naturally in the fall.  They will develop their vegetative growth in the summer months and then form flower buds in August and September.  There are many different varieties that bloom earlier or later.  The professional growers will produce several of these varieties in order to extend the selling season.  For seasonal mums at the nursery, rooted cuttings are planted in pots somewhere around the first of July and are “pinched” to form branching until about August 15, timing depending on variety.  The fully branched plants are then grown out into the specimens that you see at nurseries, grocery stores, and flea markets.

Poinsettias also set their bloom by the number of hours of daylight/darkness.

Florist mums are grown differently.  Special and fancier varieties are grown in a greenhouse in which the light may be regulated.  This is commonly done by pulling a shade cloth over the plants at a certain time of day.  The production of florist mums is highly specialized and takes quite a bit of knowledge, talent, and educated labor.

Chrysanthemums are perennial plants and should grow and return anywhere south of the Mason Dixon line.  I’m not quite sure how far north they will survive, but they do will here in north Georgia and my mother grows them in Kingsport, Tennessee.

When your chrysanthemum quits blooming cut off the spent blooms.  Cut the tops of the plants down to 2/3 of the plant’s original size.  Keeping in mind that mums like lots and lots of light, prepare a space in the garden.  Due to photoperiodism, you will want to find a place that is not under or near a street light or other long burning outside lighting fixture.

Shake the pruned plant out of the pot and look at it.  Most growers will put two or three or more plants in the pot, depending on the pot size.  You may divide these if desired, or you may just choose to plant the entire plant as it comes from the pot.  If you wish to divide the plant, carefully slide a butcher knife between the individual plants and cut the root ball.

It is important that you break up the root ball of the plant so that the roots will grow out and into the soil instead of remaining in a tight ball that is caused by the flower pot.  Don’t be afraid to be a little rough with the roots.

The rest is easy, dig a hole, add some organic material, add a teaspoon, more or less of  Osmocote,  cover the roots, pack the dirt down, and water when needed.

For growing out the following spring, you should cut back the dead stems from the year before and watch the little plants grow.  Prune the plants around July 1 and then again around August 1-15.  This will encourage branching which will give you more blooms.  During active periods of growth, fertilize the plants every couple of weeks with a little liquid feed.  This will supplement the effects of the Osmocote.

I found out by accident one time that you should leave the dead stems all winter and remove them after the plant starts to grow again in the spring.  This seems to insulate the new shoots from the cold.

Florist mums that have spent their lives either inside a greenhouse or in another warm environment may not do as well as the garden mums.  If you take a plant out of the warm house and plant it outside in the winter time it won’t have time to become acclimated to the cold and will probably croak. These plants will probably do better if kept in a warm, bright window until spring.

By the way, did you know that you can bonsai a chrysanthemum?  I think there is a chrysanthemum bonsai society.  I’ve never done it, but I have seen some beautiful pictures.

Enjoy the planting

Grow it.

John P. Schulz

How to Plant Pansies

pansy vase

It’s pansy planting time here in the southeast.  We are busy cleaning up the spent begonias and petunias before they turn to mush in the next week or two.  Then we replace them with pansies.  Glorious pansies.

I like pansies for several reasons:

  • They brighten up the winter landscape.
  • They seem to be hardy enough to survive the harshest winters.
  • Pansies not only offer a beautiful flower, but they offer it when not much else does.
  • A bed of pansies will offer a wonderful show of color when it matures in the spring.
  • They are nicely fragrant and offer a source of cut flowers for inside.

Actually, with these flowers, the more you pick, the more you get.

When I was a teenager, in the late fifties and early sixties, I can remember my grandmother and my mother purchasing pansy plants.  They didn’t come in six packs or pots like they do today.  They were sold bare root, wrapped up in bits of moist newspaper or in paper towels like the ones that were available at the gas station for washing windshields. (Of course, at that time, you didn’t have to wash your own windshield, either, you drove up to the pump, said, “give me two dollars,” and they pumped your eight gallons of gas, washed your windshield, and checked your tires and oil.)

Pansies later started appearing in stores in six packs, usually 36 plants to a flat (tray).  Now they are in all sized containers and are available 18 plants to a flat, in round 4 inch pots, and in larger sizes.  I find that it is cost effective to go with the six packs as you get twice (or more) plants for the money and that means they can be planted thicker for less money.

When buying pansies, I look for the following:

  • First, ask when the plants will be delivered and meet the truck.  Get them fresh from the nursery. This gives the nursery (or big store) less time to mess them up.
  • Look at the plant, not the bloom.  Look for plants that are stout, not stretched out.
  • Pull a random plant out of the container and look at the roots.  They should be white and well formed.  Do not buy plants with brown roots.
  • Look for indications of grey, powdery mildew.  Avoid any that show this fungal disease.
  • Remember, unless instant gratification is too slow for you, bigger is not always better. They will grow.

When you purchase the pansy plants, also ask for a package of Osmocote.  This is a time-release fertilizer that I use religiously with my bedding plants.

 

osmocote

 

The technique for planting is basically the same as with any bedding plant.

  • Choose a location with as much light as possible, preferably use a prepared bed.
  • Space the plants 6 to 8 inches apart.
  • Dig a hole that is approximately half again the size of the container.
  • Sprinkle in a half a teaspoon of Osmocote.
  • Chop up the dirt from the hole and fill it back in.
  • Mulch with pine straw or wood chips and water them in
  • That’s it!!
  • You will find that if you pick the spent blooms (deadheading) and/or pick for cut flowers, you will get an increased yield of flowers.

It doesn’t hurt when the plants are freshly planted to pour a little liquid feed over them. Use something like Peter’s, or Hyponex.  I really like Schultz’s plant food (no relation).

Enjoy your pansy bed.  The only hard part is when you have to pull them out in the late spring to replace them with summer annuals.

Grow it!!

John P. Schulz

11/8/09

 

 

 

 

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