Monday, September 3, 2012

Money Growing on Trees

Closeup of Eucalyptus "Silver Dollar"

Well, not real money.  This is Eucalyptus "Silver Dollar" and it actually does grow as big as a tree, if you let it (and if you live in a warm enough climate--which I don't).

Silver Dollar is an annual in my zone but it can be overwintered indoors (I haven't tried it yet).  It's native to Australia and likes part shade to full sun.  It is drought tolerant, in fact, take care not to over water it or you'll end up with an unpleasant case of root rot.  Mine was a little slow to get going in my pot but once it did, it grew fast.  It's branched out all over the place and is about 3 feet high now.  In tree form, it can grow as tall as 50 feet and as wide as 40 feet. 

This eucalyptus is very fragrant and the oil in the leaves repels insects.  That alone is reason enough to have one in my garden every year.
Eucalyptus "Silver Dollar"

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Two Red Peppers

Bell Pepper "Red Beauty"

I grew two types of red peppers this year: one hot; one not.  I'll talk about the one that's not first.  It's called Bell Pepper "Red Beauty."  I bought it as a very small plant rather than growing it from seed.  I planted it in mid-May and it started producing about a month ago.  But you should know that first the peppers are green and then they turn red.  It's perfectly fine to eat them when they're green, but I think they get sweeter once they turn red so I wait.  And these peppers are very sweet (they have 0 Scoville units, remember Scoville units?)  Red Beauty is an annual that requires full sun, grows to about 24" high, and the pepper is about 4-6 inches from top to bottom. 

Serrano hot pepper
The second red pepper I grew is the Serrano.  And it's hot.  Like Red Beauty, it starts out green and you can use it then if you want.  I mostly use serrano when I make salsa.  Full sun for these as well.

Neither of these peppers has been bothered by pests this year and they demand nothing in the way of maintenance.  Also, I like to plant them with other things in one container.  For example, I have my serrano planted in a container with basil.  Neither has seemed bothered by being paired together. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

True to Its Name (Sort of)

Butterfly visiting Butterfly Bush "Royal Red"

This is a new butterfly bush that I planted this year.  Yes, it's true, it does attract butterflies as you can see in this terrific shot (photo credit goes to my husband--thanks hubs).  But here's the name of this butterfly bush:  Royal Red.  Hmmmm.  Looks purple to me--not just in this photo but also in real life.  Well, I'm not one to quibble.  Red, purple, whatever.  I'm just glad the butterflies are coming around.

Butterfly Bush "Royal Red"
Royal Red likes full sun, will grow up to 6 feet high (maybe not as high if in a container--we'll see), and is hardy to zone 5.  I don't have it in a very large pot so I expect to have to replant it as early as next year.  I was just short on pots this year so I had to make do.

Bookshelf:  Container Gardening Books

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Worker Bee

Busy Bee
The bees have been pretty busy in my garden this year.  I try to do everything I can to welcome them.  Here's a list of things to do that are helpful in attracting bees:
  • Don't use pesticides
  • Plant native plants
  • Plant a variety of colors and flower shapes
  • Try to have something blooming every season
  • Plant in sunny spots
  • Plant in masses when possible
Here's one of my garden visitors who has taken a particular liking to my Calibrachoa "Double Pink".  It's a low growing annual that blooms profusely from spring until fall.  This is the first year I've seen Calibrachoa that's double flowered.  Cool.  And what's cooler still is it required no maintenance.   You read that right:  No deadheading, no fertilizing, no moving it to the shady spots when it's 100F here in northern Virginia.  The bees and I are in agreement:  We love it.

Bookshelf:  Container Gardening Books

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Another Hydrangea in the Collection

Hydrangea Serrata Preziosa

This is Hydrangea Serrata Preziosa.  It's the second year that I've had it and it's had a wonderful season so far.  While it's similar to a mophead hydrangea, the flower clusters are slightly smaller. What I like most about it is the way it changes color.  When it first bloomed in late May, it was a very light pink, and now it is a deeper burgundy.

I have this hydrangea planted alone in a terra cotta pot that's about 19 inches in diameter.  During these sweltering few days that we've had, I've had to completely soak it every day. It likes full to part sun, is hardy to zone 5, and grows to about 4 feet.  Also, it blooms on old wood so be careful about pruning--only cut spent flowers or damaged stems.

This is the third hydrangea in my container garden collection.  It joins my Endless Summer and Pee Wee Oakleaf. 
Hydrangea Serrata Preziosa in May 2012

Hydrangea Serrata Preziosa in July 2012

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

What's Up Doc?

Carrot "Tonda Di Parigi"
I bought carrot seeds last year that I never got around to planting so I planted them in May of this year.  This particular carrot is called "Carrot Tonda di Parigi."  I bought the seed packet online from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company.  This is a 19th-century Parisian heirloom carrot that only grows to about 2".  I harvested these a little early because I couldn't stand the suspense.  They still tasted fantastic.  They were very sweet and nothing like the bland, watery carrots that I always seem to get from the grocery store. 

So this type of carrot seed can be planted in 2-3 week intervals all the way up to the first heavy frost.  And because they are short and stubby, a deep pot is not really required.  It takes about 60 days for the carrot to reach maturity.

Bookshelf:  Container Gardening Books

Sunday, June 24, 2012

And Now For a Little Texture

This is Astilbe.  I've written about it before but I want to emphasize that it's a great way to add some interesting texture to your garden.  And talk about low maintenance.  It asks for no special treatment.  I inherited it from a fellow gardener two years ago when it was just a little stub of a thing.  I planted it in a pot that's about 19" in diameter and now it's huge.  I'm sure I'll have to divide it next spring.  Astilbe comes in lots of different colors--you'll find it in white, red, and various shades of pink and purple.  It is hardy to zone 4 and likes part sun.  It can tolerate full sun (mine does) as long as it's not the scorching afternoon sun.  And finally (drumroll please), it's virtually PEST FREE!  Actually, it's completely pest free in my container garden but I don't want to make that guarantee for everyone.

Bookshelf:  Container Gardening Books

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Summer Visitors

Visiting ladybug
 Some garden visitors are welcome and others are not.  Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference.  Ladybugs, all cute and nonthreatening, are always welcome.  Plus, they do an especially good job of taking care of aphids which can destroy a plant in no time flat.  So definitely leave the ladybugs alone and let them do their thing.  What about spiders?  Well, there's nothing cute about them at all, but when I see a web, I take special care to leave it alone.  That web is a sign that there's a barrier between my healthy plants and the annoying pests that seek to destroy them.  I've mentioned before that I avoid all chemical fertilizers and pesticides in my container garden primarily because we eat many of the things I grow.  But it's also been cool to see how nature works to solve a problem so that it does not get out of hand. 
Ladybug found home in Penstemon "Husker Red"

Web between carrots and hydrangea

Sunday, June 10, 2012

A Sample Harvest

Sample harvest
Here's a small sampling of the sorts of things I am growing this year in my container garden:
Early stage bell pepper
It's getting hot so the snap peas and lettuce are near their end for now--they are cool weather crops.  But I've gotten my money's worth from those seeds because we've eaten lots of salad this spring.  I will plant more seeds in September and, if the winter is anything like last year, I'll be able to harvest until December. 

I have also planted the following:
  • Carrots
  • Red Bell Pepper
  • Tomatillo
  • Serrano pepper
  • Italian Parsley
  • Bay Leaf
Cascadia Bush snap pea
Obviously, if I had more space, and if I were willing to sacrifice more of my flowers, I'd be able to grow more food.  But the reason I'm writing this post is to demonstrate that you don't need much space at all.  Even if you only have a few pots, you can grow some lettuce, or strawberries, or a selection of herbs that you use the most. 

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Never Say Never Again

Rosa Carding Mill

When I started my container garden 10 years ago, I swore off roses.  I thought they were just way too much trouble--picky, demanding, elusive.  Of course, I had no first-hand knowledge.  All I knew was what I heard from other gardeners who were forever feeding, pruning, coaxing, and babying their roses.  No thanks--not for me!  Well, a fellow gardener told me about the roses she bought from a company that specializes in "antique" roses--the kind that seem to thrive on neglect.  Sign me up!  I have accumulated several  of them over the past few years.  And after tiptoeing into those rose-y waters, I've gotten more brave and have bought others.  Here is "Rosa Carding Mill".  It's a David Austin English Rose.  All I can say is , "Wow!" Now, time will tell if I maintain my enthusiasm.  So far Carding Mill hasn't been a bit of trouble but I only bought it in March.  It's definitely going to have to prove itself. 
Rose arrives bareroot

Closeup of Carding Mill bloom

I bought Carding Mill online from White Flower Farm (WFF).  This rose is now out of stock but WFF still has a lot more roses to choose from.  Almost all of their roses arrive bareroot.  So basically when you get it, it looks dead.  Don't worry.  Just plant it according to the directions and within about 3-4 weeks, you'll see signs of life.  Carding Mill is hardy to zone 5, likes full sun, grows to 6 feet high, and is very fragrant.  It's also supposed to be a repeat bloomer (another big plus) between the months of June and September.  I planted it by itself in a pretty large terra cotta pot.  I don't know how many years it will be before I have to transplant it.  

Bookshelf:  Container Gardening Books 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Hydrangea Heaven

Hydrangeas in full bloom
My hydrangeas are nearly bursting out of their pots.  I didn't think that growing them in pots would be so easy but they have bloomed reliably for me every year.  But because they have gotten so large, I'm wondering if next year will be the year for me to unpot them and divide them.  I'll have to figure that out when the time comes.  For now, I am enjoying the abundant flowers. 

Hydrangea bud in mid-April

Hydrangea bloom closeup

       As I've said in the past, I do absolutely nothing to them.  No pruning, no fussing.  This particular hydrangea is called "Endless Summer"--you can find it just about anywhere including the gardening section of your local big box store.  I have it in a pot that's about 18 inches high and approximately the same diameter.  It has overwintered just fine.  I just add a little organic fertilizer and some Vermont Compost container booster mix early in the spring and what you see in the picture at the top of this post is what I get.  Heavenly.

Bookshelf:  Container Gardening Books

Sunday, May 20, 2012

From Seed to Salad

Mesclun Mix

One week after planting seeds

I've been harvesting lettuce like crazy and it's been great.  There's nothing like going out on my deck and cutting what I need for the day's salad.  I was able to start cutting lettuce leaves about five weeks after I planted the seeds and it seems like the more I cut, the more they grow. 

Once the weather gets really warm, the lettuce will "bolt", or go to seed and that pretty much marks the end of the growing season.  However, because it's a cool weather crop, I'll be able to replant in the fall--probably around mid-September.  So if you didn't plant any lettuce this Spring, I'll remind you that you'll have another chance when the weather cools. 
Ready for harvest

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Read Any Good (Gardening) Books Lately?

I've read several, and here they are. 

First up:  Small Space Container Gardens by Fern Richardson.  If you thought you didn't have space for a garden, you need only see the ideas that Fern presents in this terrific book. Full disclosure:  She included a profile my garden.  Fern shows you how you can optimize the space you have and offers lots of beautiful pictures, garden plans, project ideas, and plant color combinations. She proves that a container garden can be every bit as lush and serene as any landscape garden.

Gayla Trail has a couple of books that I really enjoyed:  Grow Great Grub (fabulous title, no?) and Easy Growing.  Neither are written strictly for container gardeners but both are focused on small spaces so the projects can easily be adapted to containers.  The first offers a complete rundown of food (vegetables, fruits, herbs) that can be grown in small spaces including growing spuds in (clean) trash cans--who knew?!  The second book is cool because Gayla rates projects on a difficulty scale so you can figure out what sort of commitment is required.  And there are plenty of easy projects for novices or those who are short on time.  Both books toss in some great recipes and craft projects for good measure--like making hot pepper ristras.

I found Apartment Gardening by Amy Pennington be to a delightful read with tons of information.  There are no glossy photos, but don't let that deter you.  She has lots of hand drawings which I find a charming addition to the text.  Amy tells you all about home composting, building a worm bin, and designing hanging planters.  Plus she has plenty of recipes so you can get the most out of your harvest. 

Finally, there's Grow the Good Life by Michele Owens. The secondary title is, "Why a Vegetable Garden Will Make You Happy, Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise."  That pretty much says it all.  This book is not necessarily focused on container gardening but it presents a wonderful case of why growing your own food is an endeavor worth undertaking.  Michele just makes you want to immediately go out and plant something...anything.

Now's the perfect time to check out these books.  They definitely inspired me to try out a few new things in my garden.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

First Rose to Bloom

Rose Perle d'Or
All of my roses are covered in buds just waiting to put on their spring show.  This is a closeup of Perle d'Or.  I think I've had it for about 4 years.  Depending on the time of day and the stage of bloom, it can look more orange or more pink. It's a repeat bloomer, is hardy to zone 5, and grows 3-4 feet high.  I have it in a pot that is 19" square and 15" high.  It shares that space with Heuchera Coral Bells, Beardtongue "Husker Red", Rosemary, and Creeping Jenny.

I ordered Perle online from Antique Rose Emporium and I currently have about 5 different roses from them--all in containers (of course), and all of which have bloomed reliably every year.  The company takes orders up until mid-May so there's not much time left.  All roses are $18.95 (plus shipping) and you can search on different categories such as shrubs, climbers, cold hardy, and nearly thorn-free.  The roses ship as plants (not bareroot) in 2-gallon containers.

Bookshelf:  Container Gardening Books

Sunday, April 15, 2012

How Do You Like Your Lilac?

Syringa (Lilac) Bloomerang
This is Syringa (Lilac) Bloomerang.  When it was introduced by Proven Winners (I'm sure you've seen their plant tags) a few years ago, there was a huge kerfuffle.  Bloomerang is a reblooming lilac.  What's that you say?  Yes, it's true--and it made some people mad.  There are the purists who look forward to lilac's bloom with great anticipation--and they appreciate it all the more because it is fleeting.  They believe that a reblooming lilac ruins what's so special about it in the first place.  Me, I'm not worried about violating some tenet of a hardcore horticulturalist.  The space in my container garden is at a premium and I can't afford to be so principled.  And yes, I have Hydrangea "Endless Summer" (though I also have traditional mophead) and "Knockout" roses (along side a couple of David Austins). 

Lilac buds

This is my lilac's 3rd season in my garden.  The first year, it didn't do much.  Last year it bloomed wonderfully but I did not deadhead the spent blooms so I never got repeat blooms.  This year I'll trim off the blooms and see if there really is truth in advertising. 

Bloomerang is hardy to zone 4, grows 4 to 5 feet tall, and likes full sun.  It's very fragrant and mildew resistant.  I have mine in a pot that is 18" high and 18" in diameter.

Lilac in bloom

As far as I'm concerned, Bloomerang can bloom as much and as often as it wants, for as long as it wants.  Who am I to argue?

Saturday, April 7, 2012

First Project of the Season

Seed packets (Buy at grocery, nursery, or online)
I've decided that I want a little more food in my container garden this year so last weekend, I planted lettuce.  Here's what I did:  (1)  I got a wooden wine box from the small grocery store that I visit often.  It probably helps that I had a full cart of paid-for groceries when I asked the manager for it.  You'd think a wine box would be easy to get your hands on but I've had stores that I'm positive get lots of them tell me "no" when I've asked for one. I'm not sure what they do with theirs but maybe it's no coincidence that these boxes can be found (for a price) on eBay. (2) I drilled holes for drainage.  Please wear goggles. (3) I bought different types of lettuce seeds.  (4) I filled the box with potting soil and added some Osmocote timed release fertilizer. (5) I planted the seeds.  They are teeny tiny so you barely have to press them into the soil.  Then sprinkle the soil with water.  Don't overdo the water part. (6) I check the box every 15 minutes to see if anything has sprouted.  So here are some pictures and I'll keep you posted on the progress.

Wooden wine box

Drilled holes (Wear goggles!)

Seedlings after one week

Don't forget to label!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Welcome to Spring!

The first signs of spring emerged much earlier than I (or almost anyone else) expected.  In fact, our winter here was so mild that I had several plants in containers that never fully died back.  And our recent warm temperatures have been the focus of many a gardening article and news segment. 

For me, one of the most delightful signs of spring is the blooming of hyacinths and daffodils.  Here is one of the many hyacinth that I planted in my containers two years ago.  The color is so vibrant and the fragrance is amazing. Hyacinth comes in bulb form and should be planted in the fall along with your daffodils and tulips.  And as the photo shows, they do perfectly well in containers but I recommend that they be planted in a rather large container because small ones might not offer enough winter protection for the bulb.

I intend to begin my weekly postings now that the season is getting into gear.  I'll have new plants to show, new books to recommend, and I hope to add more food to my container garden this year. 

Bookshelf:  Container Gardening Books

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Off to a Good Start

Amaryllis in bloom
A slightly belated Happy New Year!  I normally don't post in the dead of winter but this is something worth sharing.  My amaryllis have bloomed and they look terrific.  Unfortunately, I did not keep the tags for these bulbs so I can't provide their exact names.  I bought them at my not-so-local nursery.  They sell lots of varieties--some more exotic than others.  But if you want just basic white or bright red blooms, you can usually find them at your local big box stores beginning late October. 

Amaryllis take a little longer to get to the blooming stage than paperwhites.  Usually you can count 3 weeks from the time you plant a paperwhite to the time it blooms.  With amaryllis, it's more like 5 or 6 weeks.  Which explains why I never have blooms before Christmas because I never remember to plant the amaryllis that far in advance.  But I'll try to be more on the ball this year and I'll put together a little photo tutorial.

I'll return to weekly (or more) posts beginning in March when I start making preparations and placing orders for this season's garden.  Meanwhile, if you're in a cold place, keep warm this winter.  And if you're in a warm place, all I can say is, lucky you.

Amaryllis in bloom and paperwhites sprouting

Bookshelf:  Container Gardening Books