Monday, October 13, 2014

October Surprise

 It's mid-October and things are looking better than I thought they would.  I still see a few bees here and there and the occasional butterfly.  This one really seemed to like the purple coneflower.  It stayed long enough for me to take about a dozen or more pictures at fairly close range.  I did a little reading and apparently purple coneflower is one of the top butterfly-attracting flowers.  Others are phlox, verbena, and the aptly named butterfly bush.  Purple coneflower is perennial and likes full sun.  You can get it in a dwarf size, like this one, that's best suited for containers. It's not too late to plant perennials here in zone 7, in fact, you might still find some good deals at your nursery or local big box store.  Just make sure your container is large enough because perennials multiply in their second and third years.  You don't want to have to repot too soon. 

Bookshelf:  Container Gardening Books

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Little Lime

Hydrangea "Little Lime"

Little Lime is the name of my newest hydrangea.  I've always been a hydrangea fan; their blooms make fantastic focal points for flower arrangements.  And there are all different types, including those well suited for containers.  Little Lime is one of them.  It's a dwarf version of a plant the produces lime green colored blooms that gradually turn pinkish as the cooler temperatures of fall arrive.  It's hardy to zone 4, grows 3 to 5 feet tall, blooms from July through September, and flowers on current year's growth.  

I bought this hydrangea at my local nursery.  I also know it's available by mail order through White Flower Farm (and probably plenty of other online plant retailers).  
Little Lime with Xanthosoma in back

I'm going the conservative route and won't prune it until the spring when new growth starts to sprout so I can really see what survived the winter and what didn't.  With hydrangeas, if you get too aggressive with the pruners, you may prune yourself right out of blooms the next year.  That would be a shame.

Bookshelf:  Container Gardening Books

Sunday, September 14, 2014

More Visitors

Visiting Finch
It's been a great summer so far and a good season for Flat Bottom Flowers.  The bees were in abundance this year, which is always a good sign.  I had a couple of other frequent visitors as well including hummingbirds and finches.  The finch shown here took a liking to my basil.  I had to shoot it through the glass door because I knew if I opened the door, it would fly away.

I had another visitor as well though finding himself in my garden was probably never part of his plan.  I went to the garden center last weekend and bought some onions, lettuce, and a few cool weather annuals.  I also bought a couple of pots (like I need more--but there are worse habits; that's what I tell myself anyway).  I got home and put everything out on the deck.  A while later I went to sort everything out and found this guy in one of my newly purchased pots; he must have hitched a ride back with me.  I keep calling him a frog but I guess he's really a toad because he has a dry appearance.  The difference is that frogs have a wet, slimy appearance. Whatever.  Welcome to your new home.

Hitchhiking Toad
Bookshelf:  Container Gardening Books

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Big Picture

These pictures don't show my entire container garden, but about two-thirds of it is captured here.  It's difficult to get everything in the frame and I didn't want to lug heavy pots from one end of the deck to the other just to get it all in one picture.  What's missing here is a huge Japanese Maple and a rose bush that gets bigger every year.  Also one of my most prolific cherry tomato plants is not shown--neither are various mixed plantings.  But you get the idea.  It's been a good season so far and I'm not finished yet.  I just planted some onions today as well as lettuce and annuals that grow well after the dog days of summer are behind us.  

Now is a good time to be on the lookout for perennials that might go on sale at your local nursery or big box store.  You can get them potted well before frost and while they may not look like much now, you'll be rewarded next season.  Just be sure you know what hardiness zone you're in and choose accordingly.  

Still lots of planting days ahead if you live in a milder climate.

Bookshelf:  Container Gardening Books

Sunday, August 17, 2014

A Delightful Little Rose

Jean Mermoz
I lost two roses over the winter and decided not to replace them.  Roses in general are just too high maintenance for me; I'm a carefree type of gardener.  I don't like all of the attention roses demand especially when, in the end, they often disappoint you.  But this little rose has not been a disappointment at all this year, in fact, it's been just the opposite. I bought Jean Mermoz 5 years ago from Antique Rose Emporium and I think this has been its best year yet.  It's been in the same pot the entire time and I dig a couple of annuals into the soil surrounding it just fill out the space.  Jean started blooming in May and has not stopped.  In fact, today, I counted at least 25 buds ready to open up at any minute. 

Jean Mermoz has a low-growing, compact habit and likes full sun.  The bloom is less than 2 inches across and the plant is hardy to zone 5.  
Jean Mermoz

I'd say that if you want to take a chance on a rose, this one is probably worth the risk.

Bookshelf:  Container Gardening Books

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Thanks for Stopping By

Hummingbird and Agastache "Bolero"
My garden gets great visitors of the nonhuman kind.  Butterflies, bees, ladybugs, praying mantis, and on rare and special occasions, a hummingbird.  I think this one lives nearby.  Actually, his (or her) visits might not be so rare, it's just that they likely occur mostly when we're not home.

Anyone who's ever tried to take pictures of hummingbirds knows they can be elusive.  This one is no exception.  Plus, you've got to be fast with a camera at the ready.  With wings that flap an average of 50 times per second (and up to 200 times) and flight speed that can top 34 mph (forward, backward, and upside down, by the way), the hummingbird is not going to hang around for some slowpoke photographer.  

Summer visitor
I tried to plant a few things that hummingbirds like but it seems that this one is especially attracted to Agastache "Bolero."  I've planted Agastache before, but not this particular one so we'll see how it does over the winter.  It grows to about 16" high, likes full sun, blooms July-October and is supposed to be hardy to zone 6.  Because I have it in a pot, that might not be good enough--usually I'm safe with zone 5. But we'll see.

Meanwhile, this hummer is enjoying what Bolero has to offer right now.

Bookshelf:  Container Gardening Books

Monday, July 21, 2014

Summer Harvest

Get a load of these.  They're Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes and they're ripening (almost) faster than we can eat them.  Once you try one of these, you'll never go back to those insipid looking tomatoes at the supermarket that taste like cardboard.  The Sweet 100s are like a taste explosion--you won't even want to take the time that's required to make a salad.  You'll just pop them in your mouth one after another like I do.  And I only share with people who are really (and I mean really) nice to me.

I bought these as tiny little plants online at White Flower Farm; however, I also saw them at the local nursery.  I ordered them because my mom gave me a White Flower Farm gift certificate for Christmas--this has been a gift that keeps on giving.  I have three plants in total--two red and one yellow (though more like gold). They're in rather large pots with tomato cages.  They grow FAST and need lots of support.  We even had to lash the cages to the deck railing when a couple of windstorms came through.  Mine are now 5 feet tall and the fruit is about 1-inch around.  They require full sun and are disease resistant.  Some of the leaves are turning a bit yellow though I don't see signs of pests or fungus.  They also get plenty of water.  I think that because they are in pots, the nutrients in the soil get washed away with practically every watering.  So even though I don't usually use much fertilizer, these plants demand it.  So I use Espoma Tomato-tone.  

Put Sweet 100s on your list for next year--and put people on notice that they better be nice.

Bookshelf:  Container Gardening Books

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Bug Repellent Imposter

Bug repeller or nice smelling plant?
I think I've been duped.  I bought this plant thinking it was the real deal mosquito repelling citronella plant.  What made me think that?  Only the tag that said "Citronella Plant" with a picture of a mosquito that had a big ol' red "x" through it.  However, I've come to find out that its botanical name is "Pelargonium 'Citrosa,'" which clearly puts it in the geranium family.  Say what?  The real plant that produces the citronella oil commonly thought to repel mosquitoes looks more like a lemongrass shrub.  Well you can see that's not what this looks like.  Repellent or not, I like how it looks and I like how it smells even better.  It's actually a lemon scent that is further enhanced when you brush by it or crush the leaves.  

This plant needs at least six hours of sunlight and will grow 24-36" tall.  It is a tender perennial so that means it won't survive winter in Virginia.  But if you're in zone 9-11, you're in luck.  

Bookshelf:  Container Gardening Books

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Rootbound Rosemary

Rootbound Rosemary
If you're just getting around to buying some plants--and you wouldn't be the only one judging from the shoppers at Home Depot yesterday--you might want to look out for plants that are rootbound.  It happens when plants have been on the shelves for a while; they start outgrowing their little nursery pots and the roots start twisting all around and getting matted up.  One way to avoid this is to buy your plants earlier in the season, but sometimes that's not possible.  Another thing you can do is while you're at the nursery or local big box store, just dump the plant into your hand and examine the roots.  If it's rootbound, go on to the next one.  However, if you really want that one plant and all the ones like it are in the same condition, don't worry.  It's been my experience that it will end up doing just fine.  

Recovered Rosemary
Take this rosemary for example.  I actually bought it about six weeks ago so there's no excuse for it having been so rootbound.  And, as sometimes happens, I didn't take my own advice--I didn't dump it out to check the roots.  So I got all the way home and was ready to plant only to discover this tangled mess.  Most gardening books will tell you to "shake out the excess soil and tease the roots apart."  These roots were in knots so "teasing" was not an option.  But I didn't just want to stick it in the pot as it was because there's no chance for the roots to spread into the surrounding soil.  So, I just cut into it vertically from the base with gardening scissors and ripped it apart so I could spread out the root base and plant it in the soil.  It was an aggressive approach, but take a look.  My rosemary has not only recovered, it's thriving.  

Bookshelf:  Container Gardening Books

Sunday, June 29, 2014

It's About Thyme

Thyme in a mixed herb planting
We cook a lot.  And we use a whole bunch of herbs.  It gets super expensive. Those of you who buy herbs know what I mean.  So that's why I try to grow as many as I can.  I'll have future posts about the other herbs I grow, but today it's about thyme. 

So thyme is native to southern Europe and the Mediterranean.  In the Middle Ages, it was thought to bring courage.  Well, it's 2014 and I say, who among us today couldn't do with an extra dose of that?

There are all sorts of thyme so read your plant tag carefully.  If you plan to cook with it, be sure to get "Thymus Vulgaris."  The name "vulgaris" would indicate otherwise, but it really is the kind you put in your food.  It's not to be confused with other types of thyme that you probably shouldn't eat like "woolly thyme" (a great ground cover) and "creeping thyme" (a great ornamental).

I have found that thyme likes full sun, heat, and excellent drainage.  It's perennial in most regions so mine often returns year after year.

I use thyme in my chilis and sauces as well as chicken marinades.  If you're a pork and beef eater, it's a great seasoning for those.  

So grow some thyme.  It's so easy and you'll save yourself some bucks (and add to your courage).
Thyme for cooking ("culinary" thyme)

Bookshelf:  Container Gardening Books

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Playing Catch Up

It's just dirt

I spent two straight weekends planning, buying, organizing, and planting.  I first had to get the basic supplies:  potting mix, earthworm poo, Osmocote time-release fertilizer, a few pots to replace the ones that were cracked beyond repair from the winter, and a new watering hose. Oh, and another pair of gloves.  The ones shown here keep my palms dry when things start to get messy. 

I'm often astonished at how much I pay for dirt.  It's just dirt.  But be sure not to use soil from your garden when you plant.  First, it's way too heavy and drainage will be a problem.  Second, it might harbor bacteria and fungus that will damage your new plants.

Start scooping
If you haven't started planting your containers, it's really not too late.  Just be sure not to buy anything that would have already bloomed in the spring.  Unless, of course, it's a perennial and you don't mind waiting until next spring.  In that case, make sure it will survive the winter in your pot by checking the hardiness zone.  You can get all of that information by reading the plant tag.

Now get digging.

Bookshelf:  Container Gardening Books

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Chaos Now. Order Later.

Temporary chaos
Off to a slow start this year.  The deck was looking pretty shabby by the end of last season.  And parts of the railing were on the wobbly side.  I wouldn't let anyone within three feet of the edge of the deck, which meant they could step to the center of the deck, and then not move one inch in any direction.  So we had some repairs done--and some sprucing up.  I'm still working on getting things in shape.  It's only the beginning of June so there's a long season ahead.  So stay tuned.  I have some things to show you that are new this year.

Bookshelf:  Container Gardening Books