Sunday, November 21, 2010

Bouquet in 90 Seconds

Sage and Eucalyptus Bouquet
 I wanted to make an arrangement to put in the house on a small side table.  I am amazed that this late in November I have a lot of things that still look pretty good in the garden.  For this arrangement, I decided to just use foliage:  purple sage and eucalyptus.  I snipped a few stems of each and put them in a silver pitcher.

Sage is hardy to zone 5 and I keep it in my garden for two reasons:  it's great to use for cooking and its foliage complements so many other types of plants.  This one has a purple hue and its leaves are textured.

I like the fragrance and leaf structure of eucalyptus.  Unfortunately, it is not hardy in my zone so I replant it every year.

A nice little arrangement done in only 90 seconds.  No flowers required.

Bookshelf:  Container Gardening Books

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Not Quite Ready for Primetime

"Mini-Famous Vampire"
You know it's a big trend when the gardening world has to get in on it.  This is "Mini-Famous Vampire" Calibrachoa.  It is a blood red bloom that can be relied upon to perform from May until October.  Mine is still blooming--and I hacked it way back a couple of months ago when it was getting a little out of hand.  It trails beautifully and isn't picky about soil--and it also seems to do especially well in hot weather. 

So there it is--a vampire in my garden.  But a pretty one that's not at all scary.

Bookshelf:  Container Gardening Books

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Class Distinction

Society Garlic
This is Society Garlic.  It's known by other names:  Pink Agapanthus or, for the academic types, Tulbaghia violacea.  It's of the amaryllis family and is native to South Africa.  It supposedly got its name because it was believed that it could be eaten without producing "garlic breath" and so it was acceptable for use in polite society. 

Society garlic likes full sun to light shade, it grows to about 12 inches high, and is hardy to zone 7.  I don't expect mine to return next year because I have it in such a small pot and it won't have much protection from winter elements.  However, I may try to keep it alive inside.

The leaves do have a garlic-like aroma but it's not overwhelming.  However, I cook with a lot of garlic so my nose may be desensitized.  Still, I love it for its grasslike leaves and elegant bloom.  High class indeed. 

Bookshelf:  Container Gardening Books

Monday, September 6, 2010

Don't Let the Name Fool You

Purple Toadflax
You'd think with a name like Toadflax, it could not possibly be anything you'd want to put in your garden.  But you'd be wrong.  This is such a nice addition to several of my containers.  It's called Purple Toadflax.  It doesn't take up a whole lot of room and it grows upright on feathery-like stems about 24" high.  It's hardy to zone 5 and it reseeds very easily.  So it's not only attractive, it's economical too.  It likes lots of sun and grows well in pretty much any kind of soil.  Best of all, it grows all summer long. 

Bookshelf:  Container Gardening Books

Sunday, August 29, 2010

All That's Missing is a Margarita

Tomatillo growing on plant
Forget salsa out of a jar, there's nothing like making it yourself from fresh ingredients.  One of the key ingredients in the salsa I make is the tomatillo.  But I can't always rely on my local grocery to have them.  So this year, I decided to try my hand at growing my own.  I bought a tomatillo plant in the spring from White Flower Farm. 

A tomatillo plant looks a lot like a tomato plant and requires the same conditions, primarily lots of sun and good drainage.  The fruit is small, round, and green and it grows in a papery husk.  You know when it's time to harvest when the fruit has filled out the husk and the husk is straw colored.  When you peel the husk off, the tomatillo skin will feel sticky--just give it a good rinse and you're ready to start chopping.
Ripe Tomatillo

The final, tasty product

Bookshelf:  Container Gardening Books

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Oakleaf in Transition

This is a follow-up to my June 27th post in which I showed the bloom progression of my "Pee Wee" oakleaf hydrangea.  I mentioned then that as the summer progresses, the leaves begin to turn a wonderful shade of burgundy.  I didn't mention that the blooms change as well.  Here are two pictures, the first is the bloom at the beginning of summer, the second is how it looks now.  Either way would look terrific in a flower arrangement--that's if you have the fortitude to actually cut it.  I don't.

Bookshelf:  Container Gardening Books

Saturday, August 7, 2010


This is my sweet potato vine, after I had already cut it back.  It was taking over the deck.  You can find sweet potato vine in different colors, from this bright chartreuse to almost a purple black.  It loves the sun and even if you forget to water it and the leaves start wilting, it will bounce back quickly after a good soaking.  Sweet potato vine is an annual so I plant it new every year.  After the season is over and you do your garden clean up, you'll find the actual sweet potato (probably more than one) under the soil.  I still haven't tried eating them, I've always thought these were ornamental as opposed to edible.  Here's my post on that topic a couple of years ago.

Bookshelf:  Container Gardening Books

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Berry Picking

The plant featured in my June 6th post was the Cumberland Black Raspberry.  After its third year in my garden, it finally produced fruit.  Let me just say, it was a very small harvest but this is what the berries looked like when they were ripe for the picking.  They were definitely tasty.  There were just too few of them.  Now I fully understand why berries are so expensive in the grocery store.  Of course, those prices are nothing compared to what it has cost me to produce my tiny little crop.  Obviously, I don't have the economies of scale that a farmer has but knowing what I know now, I won't suffer nearly the degree of sticker shock when I see the berry prices at my local grocery or farmer's market.

Bookshelf:  Container Gardening Books

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Volunteers Welcome

This purple coneflower is a "volunteer" from a fellow gardener's landscape garden.  This particular plant was the result of hers reseeding last fall.  Lucky me, I was the beneficiary.  I replanted it in one of my containers and this was the progression of the first bloom I got this season.

The "official" name is Echinacea.  A bit of trivia:  the word comes from the Greek "echinos" which means hedgehog and refers to the spiny center cone.  Anyway, it's hardy to zone 3, if you can believe that.  Reason enough to put it in your garden.  It likes full sun to partial shade, is drought resistant, and blooms from June to October.  You may have also seen the name in the vitamin supplement or tea section of your local grocery.  Echinacea is well known for its immune boosting properties.

Finally, this flower is a big draw for butterflies and goldfinches. 

Bookshelf:  Container Gardening Books

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Then and Now

It's time for a "before" and "after" post.  You may recall the chaos on my deck in early May.  Right now, everything looks pretty good.  It's been pretty warm in northern Virginia lately so I give my plants a good soaking very early in the morning.  And then in the evening, I give the smaller pots a second drink.  I have only had one casualty since my initial planting, some new kind of fern that was supposed to be able to tolerate full sun--I really should have known better.  Overall though, I'm very pleased with how it has all turned out.  See below.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Mellow Yellow

This is a new plant for me this year.  It's called Belamcanda Chinensis--the more common name is Blackberry Lily.  It's supposed to bloom for several weeks in the summer.  Plant height is 18-24", it likes full sun, is perennial to zone 5, and its leaves are fan shaped--very similar to gladiolus.  I have noticed that the blooms open in the middle of the day but by evening have closed up.  Belamcanda doesn't just come in this very mellow color, it can also be found in shades of orange and some of the blooms are spotted.

Belamcanda grows from rhizomes, however, I found mine when they were already in the early foliage stage.  I planted them in mid-May and the first bud appeared mid-June. 

In my Google search, I came across an acupunture website that said the rhizome, when boiled in water to make a sort of tea, was effective in treating throat-related ailments such as general pain and swelling and laryngitis.  I think I'll stick with the over-the-counter Chloraseptic.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Bud to Bloom

This is "Pee Wee" Oakleaf Hydrangea in March of this year. It's pee wee because it doesn't grow nearly as large as traditional oakleaf hydrangeas but it gets plenty big to make a statement in a container. My container is pretty large--maybe 24 inches in diameter. The information on the plant tag said this shrub (hardy to zone 5) will grow to about 3 feet by 3 feet. Mine might be a little larger than that. It likes morning sun and will bloom through July. In the fall, the enormous leaves will turn a burgundy color so at least it will still look sort of interesting after all of the blooms are gone. I have it planted with a perennial geranium (see the last picture) which winds its way up through the gaps of the hydrangea in a most appealing way. Scroll for more pictures.

Bookshelf: Container Gardening Books

Sunday, June 20, 2010

A Perfect Fit

This is Canna "Tropical Salmon" and it's ideally suited for containers. Here's why: it's only 24 inches high. So you can easily use it as the "thriller" in your arrangement, and have plenty of room for fillers and spillers without throwing off the proportions of your entire combination. I've planted cannas in the past and, while they are certainly beautiful, I always had a difficult time coming up with ideas of what to plant with them because they are usually between 4 and 6 feet high.

Canna is a tropical plant, so if you want one every year, you're probably going to have to buy one every year. Unless of course you already live in the tropics or you want to dig up the bulb (technically, a rhizome) and store it indoors over the winter. I typically opt for the former.

Need a refresher on the thriller, filler, spiller technique of planting containers? Visit my "Tickled Pink" post from two years ago.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Third Year's the Charm

This is the Cumberland Black Raspberry plant. It's the third year I've had it and this is the first time I've seen any evidence of fruit. I usually don't have that much patience with plants because the real estate on my deck is valuable and I don't want to fool around with anything that doesn't fulfill its promise. However, this plant has looked healthy every season so I decided to give it one more year. The fruit is supposed to ripen in July and August. I'll report back to let you know if it was worth waiting for.

For those who have more patience than I do, here's some additional information: this plant is hardy to zone 5 and likes full sun. I've kept it elevated, of course, for good drainage and I've done nothing to it in the way of maintenance. Also, I have not used any special fertilizer, just a small handful of the time-release fertilizer every year.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Who Knew?

This is Geranium "Rozanne". I bought and planted it last year--talk about a garden workhorse. This is its first bloom of the season. Little did I know that it was awarded the 2008 Perennial Plant of the Year by the Perennial Plant Association. I did not even know such a group existed but I'm glad they do. You see, the organization gives its highest award to the perennial that successfully meets the sort of criteria that I'm always looking for. That is, a plant that survives in a wide range of climatic conditions, is low maintenance, is pest and disease resistant, and has multiple season ornamental interest.

Rozanne is a hardy (to zone 5), repeat blooming geranium. The violet-blue bloom is about 2 inches across. It likes full sun to part shade. Mine gets part shade because it's planted underneath a huge oakleaf hydrangea and butterfly bush. It grows to about 20 inches high and is exceptionally heat tolerant. It blooms all summer and shearing it mid-summer will encourage repeat blooms.

As soon as I finish this post, I'm going to the Perennial Plant Association's website to see other award winners. I love that they've done all the hard work for me.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Return of Jean Mermoz

Things are moving along in the garden. I was able to make some progress today. It was a very volatile week, temperature-wise. I hauled a bunch of things in the house because we had a few nights last week when the mercury dipped below 45F.

Meanwhile, many of my perennials have come back quite nicely. Here is Jean Mermoz, a delightful little shrub rose that grows to between 2 and 3 feet high. It's hardy to zone 5 and the bloom is but just 1" (maybe a tad more) across. I ordered it by mail last year from Antique Rose Emporium. Don't look for it this year, it's sold out. The early bird definitely catches the worm where this shop is concerned. They ship from September to mid-May and they sell out fast so you have to be one of those plan-ahead types. Mark your calendar now.

Bookshelf: Container Gardening Books

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Controlled Chaos

Actually, it looked worse about a week ago. But I'm making progress. Unfortunately, we're going to have a bit of a cold snap tonight (39F) so that means the container that I planted yesterday with the mandevilla and other plants will have to come inside. I'll have to wrestle it indoors with the trellis attached and everything. I'll also have to bring inside all of the little nursery pots of annuals that I have not yet gotten into containers. I hope that after this week, we'll be in the clear, temperature-wise.

Almost all of my plant shopping is done, with the exception of a few fillers here and there. I had many perennials return from last year but there are some gaping holes in certain arrangements where I had used annuals as companion plants.

I'm pleased to report that, as of last weekend, my local Lowe's had a fantastic selection of annuals, perennials, shrubs, vegetables, and herbs. I was so impressed. The big box stores are getting better and better every year.

I'll be back to planting next weekend after the cold snap and the forecasted rains pass.

Bookshelf: Container Gardening Books

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Pre-Game Show

If you've read any of my posts in the past, you know that I've had to learn the hard way about planting too early in the season. I try to resist all temptation until Mother's Day, lest an unexpected overnight cold snap arrive, threatening the lives of my newly planted friends and leaving me crying in my empty wallet.

And so I satisfy myself in the meantime with planning. I've studied and worked in the financial field for many years and so I have a penchant for spreadsheets--as you see in this picture. Not only does it help me monitor my gardening expenses, but it also reminds me of what I've bought every year, where I got it, when I bought it, and when it was delivered. I can also see how prices of certain plants change from year to year. And while the price of Xanthosoma "Lime Ginger" seems to creep up annually, still I buy--because I love it. But one day, I may have to put a ceiling on what I'm willing to spend on that particular plant. Number nerd that I am, I find keeping a gardening spreadsheet helpful and fun.

So stay tuned, now that I have a plan in place and a shopping list together, I'll be ready to hit the nursery on Mother's Day weekend. Rain or shine.

Monday, February 8, 2010