Friday, September 26, 2008

What's in a Name?

I almost didn't buy this plant because I didn't like its name: Wormwood. But its fancier name is Artemisia so that's how I always refer to it because it is so much easier on the ear. Plus, the common name does it no justice. I never would have associated it with a plant that has this beautiful silvery foliage that is sort of velvety in texture. And what I didn't realize until just a few minutes ago (because I didn't read the label as I should have) is that it is perennial to zone 5. This is both a good thing and a bad thing for me. The good thing is that it will come back next year but the bad thing is that just after one growing season, I'm going to have to divide it because it has gotten quite large. I wasn't really prepared for that so now I'll have to plan what I will do with the divisions.

I have this Artemisia planted in a huge pot with butterfly bush, rose 'Cecile Brunner', zinnia, coleus and a few other things. It is in a spot on my deck that gets full sun and it has not been bothered by pests of any kind. I also have it on good authority that this plant thrives in the desert southwest so for my friends in New Mexico, take note.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Keeping it Simple

By now you've noticed that I enjoy getting big pots and loading each of them with a variety of different plants. And I'll admit that it can get complicated when trying to make sure each plant in the combination has similar needs. Not only that, there's more room for error (and wasted money) when one (or more) of the plants doesn't work out and you have to make replacements. I usually factor all of that into the equation but I also know that some people can't be bothered. That's why I wanted to post this picture--to demonstrate that something can be exceedingly simple yet astonishingly beautiful at the same time.

The real work of art here is the cast iron urn. It is one of my all-time favorite pieces and with it, there's not much chance I'm going to go wrong, no matter what I plant in it. Still, one has to keep in mind color and proportion so that's why I chose this Carex grass. First, the shade of green is a nice complement to the bluish hues of the urn. And second, the height and growth habit of the foliage make the whole thing work.

Carex is perennial to zone 5 and appreciates partial sun. It's a slow but steady grower and, like almost all plants, requires excellent drainage. So there you have it. Life is complicated enough, but your garden doesn't have to be.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A Different Perspective

From time to time I'll be out watering my plants and a neighbor will walk by and offer nice words about my garden. I never really see it from their point of view so I thought maybe I should walk around to the back of the house and have a look (click photo to enlarge). While the only way to get the full sense of it is to actually be standing on my deck, the rear view is pretty decent--particularly when you consider that there is many a bare deck in our development. So if I can make someone's view a little nicer while they walk from their car to their townhome after a long day's work and commute, then I'm pretty happy about that.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Glorious Geranium

When I bought this geranium earlier this year, it was in a sad, pitiful state. I found it at the closeout sale of the little garden tent that comes every year to the parking lot of a nearby shopping center. At the end of June, they get ready to close up shop and mark down all of their plants to clear them out. This was in a most unappealing white plastic hanging basket so I brought it home, pulled it out of the basket and put it in a pot. It looked bad for a really long time but mid-August came around and suddenly it erupted in a riot of color and hasn't stopped blooming since. We're still having some pretty warm days here (a humid 97 degrees yesterday) so I'm glad I'll get to enjoy this and the rest of my garden for a while longer.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


Shown here is Cuphea which is also known as 'cigar plant', 'tobacco plant', or 'firecracker plant'. I've never grown this annual before and I'm not sure why. It has just the sort of interesting bloom that adds variety to an arrangement. Plus, I'm forever trying to attract hummingbirds to my garden (without being so obvious as to put out an actual hummingbird feeder) and the design of this plant seems perfectly suited for that purpose. I have had one visit but he's been somewhat elusive.

As I mentioned, this is an annual so it won't survive past frost. It loves the sun and blooms repeatedly although it really starts to show its stuff in August. I think next year, I might actually be more thoughtful about how I plant it and maybe design a mixed container around it. I can see it now, a small pot with this firecracker plant, some Zinnia 'Profusion Orange', purple Angelonia, Creeping Wire Vine or Creeping Jenny. That would be a smokin' arrangement.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Two Gauras

In this post, I am showing you side by side pictures of my two gauras. There are a bunch of reasons I like gaura, not the least of which is it can be relied upon to return every year in my containers. When it gets too large, I just divide it and replant the divisions in different pots and it continues unfazed.

Gaura is a spring to late fall bloomer that requires mostly sun and the blooms appear all along each thin but resilient stem. When the breeze catches it, it's just so pretty.

After blooming (late fall/early winter), I hack it back aggressively using no particular technique.

While this plant grows nicely here in our warm and humid Virginia climate, it is also quite drought tolerant. So for my friends and readers in the Southwest who are accustomed to only growing desert-loving succulents, you might give gaura a try.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Lee's Corner

My friend Lee gets all the credit for this post. I went to visit her last week and this is what awaited me on her front steps. You'll immediately recognize one of my all time favorite plants: Red Abyssinian Banana and although you can't really see much of the pot in this photo, I can tell you that it is gargantuan. You have to go really big when you plant this tropical because it grows so large so fast. Lee intends to overwinter it in her garage so she can have it again next year. I have never done that only because I don't have the space so we'll use Lee as our test case and I'll report back.

As far as the other plants in the pot, she has done an expert job of incorporating a nice selection, including some coleus for fillers and calibrachoa as a trailer. Lee and I got together last summer to plant some containers and I had shared with her the tip I got from Fine Gardening magazine about Thrillers, Fillers and Spillers. I think her arrangement is a terrific example of this technique. Way to go Lee!