Wednesday, March 31, 2010

It Happens Every Year

Our walkway sinks, our patio pavers sink, our stone walkway to the front of our house sinks, our north side stepping stones sink.  Some of the repair my husband can do with his crowbar and bag of sand.  The long walkway from front to back on the south side we had to have a professional do two years ago and the front ditto.  The stepping stones on the shady side my husband can do, grunt work but no special skills necessary.

On our patio, we have been looking at the leaning fountain for at least three years.  It has been shimmed up at far as it can go.  When one sits next to the fountain, your body leans to the right.  At a dinner party a couple of  weeks ago, my husband was going to ask the guests to help him take apart the three-piece fountain so that he could get at the bricks underneath.  Yikes, I said no way - it weighs hundreds of pounds and screams lawsuit if it falls on anyone.

So, yesterday he hired a professional, they started today, and the men have relaid the bricks, took apart the fountain, replaced a flagstone walk in the back of my garden and added two irregular bluestone walks.  They did all of this in a span of four hours, a job that would have taken my husband at least four weekends.

I will give the flagstone to my daughter to complete her walk on the south side of her home.  I am not a big fan of flagstone and am slowly replacing it and giving it away.  It gets really grimy and dirty, even with power washing it never looks clean.  In a wooded area, it would probably be more natural, but I do not have this type of garden. 

The fountain looks straight again, the pathways allow me into my garden without stepping all over my plantings and all's right with the world!  Oh, I forgot to tell you it's 70 degrees and the sun is out.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Mossing Around!

I received my Oregon green moss from http://www.kinsmangardens.com/ and it is always a process to get it ready to put on the baskets, hayracks and urns.  One note, it has never happened in my garden, the leftover moss I had from last year, I donated to my daughter-in-law's urns and the birds are taking it to build nests!  I am going to take a chance putting it around my urns and hayracks.  Mine is fresh moss, so maybe they will leave it alone.

It comes in a bale all tied with string which needs to be cut away.  The moss can then be peeled away in sections (do not soak what you are not going to use) and soaked in water for about thirty minutes.  It needs to be squeezed as much as possible and then can be torn, pieced, stuck inside of the rungs of the baskets, and layered between the plants if you wish.  This is not like the moss you will buy at Home Depot or the local garden center.  It is so natural, green and brown, almost seems like you plucked it from the woods.

Once used outdoors, it lasts for the season.  If you have kept it dry from last season, it is still good to go, maybe a little darker.  I am going around today to collect the old moss from last year, and I will place it in the middle of my posts between the plantings to conserve moisture.  This may seem like overkill and fussiness, but it really does conserve moisture in those pots that are exposed to the heat and sun.

Go ahead, begin "mossing around."

P.S.  I bought a large basket of pansys (10 pansies in the pot), and will separate them into two hayracks.
Remember, if you buy those small ones in the flats they will barely get big enough when you will have to take them out because of the heat (if you live in zone 5 or above).  I put mine on the north side of my house when they are big and beautiful (around May 1, here in Chicago area).

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Things Are Really Slow Out There

What is really going on in my garden?  Not much!  I am looking around and bulbs are poking through and my Early Sensation daffodils are blooming (almost two weeks now - I will certainly plant more of these next fall),, but my Tete-A-Tete daffodils are struggling to bloom.

I am beginning to feel disapointment that many of the bulbs I planted in the fall are not coming up and were probably taken by the squirrels before I could cover them with chicken wire.  I am using a new product (in three different gardens) for me called Plantskydd for Critters.  It is a granular, non toxic dried blood type material.  They guarantee that it will work and also make a deer repellant.  It is expensive, but if it works it will save many of the plants those little rabbits and squirrels (bulbs) feed on.  This is a bummer, I am definitely going to win next fall! 

I am going to begin feeding my evergreens, boxwood (boxwood take a general fertilizer not acid), shrubs and roses.  I used to buy spikes, but I haven't been too happy with the results in the past few years, so this year I am going to do an organic granular.  I have pruned all of my roses and cut down the perennials and the hydrangeas that grow on both old and new wood.  My Endless Summer Hydrangeas look good this year requiring very little pruning.  The Salome daffodils that surround these hydrangeas look good this year, just coming up through the mulch.

Bleeding Hearts have poked through, no hosta yet, daylilies up in the vegetable garden and elsewhere.  There is no Astilbe, no Foxglove, Phlox poking through, no Coneflowers, some Clematis showing buds, no grasses showing any growth, some roses budding, Shasta Daisies lots of green leaves, Hyacinths and Tulips poking through, no ferns, Heuchera showing growth, no Astrantia showing, no Polygonium (Soleman's Seal) , no Peony buds, no  - Why am I doing this?  It is making me so depressed!  I guess I will just have to wait like I do every year.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Matisse In The Garden

I went to my monthly workshop at the Chicago Art Institute on Thursday and was priviledged to view the Matisse collection.  The collection was from a period in his life from 1911 - 1916 approximately, so it was a surprise to me that I was not seeing all of the bright colors that I associated with Matisse.

I immediately began relating his paintings to how I could reproduce them in plants either in containers or in my garden borders.  It is amazing how fast I was able to reproduce the triangles and linear aspects to what Gordon Hayward had spoken about at the Morton Arboretum in regard to Art In The Garden.  I could pick out that important focal point, that object to view from a window (Matisse had several window pictures) and that white that draws your eye into the picture.

Matisse embraced cubism during this period of his painting and actually owned a Cezanne painting of the "Three Bathers" that influenced his paintings from then on.  This was a surprise to me as I never associated Matisse with cubism, but obviously this was a major part of his work.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Most Unusual Garden

I have talked about my xeric garden which runs along the south side of my house right next to the foundation, but I have not told you about my xeric garden along the back of the fence facing our alley.  My hose barely reaches back there, so I was required to plant only those perennials which needed very little water.

The first thing we did was to have this strip dug out (it was all gravel, clay and asphalt) and filled with good soil which was then topped with a heavy river rock that would not wash into the alley in heavy rains. 

,Along the back I put in Panicum 'Northwind' a tall upright blue-green grass that turns tan in the fall and stays standing until the most heavy snows.  I also used some Sedum 'Autumn Fire' which stays more upright in the winter than Autumn Joy.  Interspersed throughout this thirty foot plus strip is Nepeta 'Walker's Low', Agastache 'Rosita', Agastache ' Blue Fortune', Centhantrus Ruber Alba 'White', and Sedum 'Vera Jameson'. These perennials are all xeric (requiring very little water) http://www.highcountrygardens.com/

It was a challenge planting these among river rock, but mulch would not work in this area because of the water flow, it would wash down the alley.  A few other neighbors have begun to beautify the back of their homes in the same way.  We now get some walkers down our paved alley to look at the garden.  I live in the suburbs but the lot is very citified.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Algerian Ivy

I have two clay planters attached to the walls of my patio.  I have tried several different plantings through the years and the most successful is Algerian Ivy (Hedra Canariensis).  It is a perennial in zones 8 - 10 and an annual elsewhere.  This is obviously considered a "spiller" in your container plantings.

I prefer the variegated Algerian Ivy because in the partial shade under the pergola it has a glow about it.  I have learned to buy the larger plants and also to purchase two for each container.  Many years I would try to get by with one in each planter because they are expensive, just didn't work, was not full enough to make a statement.

This is an unusual ivy because it is so large.  The leaves are at least 3" across.  It is very effective in containers with multiple plantings as it trails down the sides.  The varieties are in a solid green and green with a white rim.  I prefer the variegated but both are attractive.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Dahlias

I can't believe I am writing about Dahlias!  Many years ago I grew Dahlias and they did very well in my summer garden.  I had ordered them through a catalog and planted them directly in the ground when it became warmer outside, sometime in May, as I remember.

They were of the smaller variety, about 15" high and had  the vibrant colors of red and yellow.  I did not grow them again because I thought they were a bit stiff looking and not at all natural in my garden.  Also, they were expensive, and I did not dig them up in the fall.  In zone 5 they are not perennials.

For some reason, I found myself thinking of Dahlias again this year when envisioning containers for myself and my daughter-in-law.  We both needed something taller with a bright pink mostly for a Cezanne color scheme in our containers.

I chose a medium sized Dahlia called Mystic Beauty (Biltmore Estates Collection), growing from 28" - 36" tall, requiring full sun.  Some Dahlia flowers are 12" in diameter and can grow to eight feet in height.  I have started Mystic Beauty indoors so they have a jump start because of their later bloom time, August through frost.  I am hoping I can at least bring on an early July bloom time.

I am choosing Dahlias this year mainly for height and color, so we will see if this works out.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Bringing The Outside Indoors

I have to stop myself many times in the spring when I go to buy cut flowers for a special dinner or just to enhance my home during this exhilarating time of the year. 

Why not use something more sustaining than the traditional grouping of gerbera daisies, iris, mums, etc.  Take little pots of pansies, daffodils, primrose or hyacinths, place in a decorative pot and moss them.  When the festivities are over and you have enjoyed them in your home for a few days or more you can plant them out in the garden.  Believe me, they will come back, just do not cut down the foliage.

I am doing pansies today for my daughter-in-law's birthday, and of course I could not resist buying some beautiful daffodils for the children's table.  I love doing this, such as beautiful pink geraniums on the dining table for my daughter's birthday in May, plant them in the garden and think of that special day all summer.

Another idea for seasonal flowers is to decorate your home with potted geraniums, gerbera daisy, lavender, fibrous begonias, etc. (they can be small 4" pots) wrapped in foil and given as party gifts to the attendees to take home, such as for Mothers Day.  Don't hesitate to intermingle some faux items to enhance the overall setting.

I love to moss my outdoor containers and hayracks with an Oregon moss.  It adds a wonderful woodland feel that cannot be duplicated with the moss found at local garden centers.  I order this greenish-tan moss from http://www.kinsmangarden.com/ .  It can be soaked in a large bucket and then easily handled to moss all of your baskets and containers.

When I am doing this outside I will show it on my blog.  But, I know now is time for me to order before they run out!  If we can't have spring outdoors, let's move it inside for awhile.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Preparing the Raised Bed Vegetable Garden

I went to Home Depot and purchased some new topsoil and a humus, manure mix to work into my small vegetable garden.  They had only one employee in the garden center, and he had to call to get someone else to put those really heavy bags in my trunk (40 lb.)  They are absolutely not expecting us this year!  I am getting ready to plant my cool season crops. 

I need to tell you that I have daylilies at one end (Ice Carnival) and some chives at the other end.  The plants I have in the nursery will stay for awhile until I can move them to a perennial bed.  I also must dig out the parsley from last year.  Oh, I almost forgot, there are some onions that I planted from seed in there also - I may leave them if they look like they are going to grow.

I even bought some plant markers so that I can mark the rows as I plant.  After I have mixed up the topsoil and humus mix I will plant radishes, lettuces (green oakleaf panisse and red rose romaine),spinach (bloomsdale long standing) onion sets and onion seeds.  I am into only planting what we will eat. 

A layering method is an important procedure when the garden is as small as mine.  I planted carrots (a shorter Nantes variety) between the lettuce and seed onions (guardsman) in with the onion sets, parsleys layered with the red emperor radishes.  I do not know if anyone else has the problem of the onion sets deteriorating.  I have even tried putting them in the refrigerator to no avail. I use a vegetable fertilizer that I work into the soil in front on the rows as they sprout.

In May I will plant four tomato plants along the back of the bed, two Celebrity (determinate) one on each end, a new heirloom mix called Brandy Boy and I have to have a Beefmaster.  Some hot and milder peppers will be interplanted between the lettuce across the front (about four or five plants).  I will sow bush cucumber and basil seed right into the soil (has to be warm or they won't germinate).

I used to plan my plantings by spring break for the schools, and I can't tell you how many years my garden did not get planted, cold, snow, etc.  But, this year I was determined to get my cold crops in earlier than ever.  They are in for better or worse - lots of rain and cold weather coming this weekend.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Make My Day!

It didn't start out as a great day!  My grass looks terrible, I needed a haircut and I could only see a lot of work ahead of me in the garden.  It was 64 degrees and my bags of admendments were still strewn around my raised bed vegetable garden.  I needed to move out some plants before I can work the soil and plant my cold weather seeds.

I worked around the back garden cutting, raking bagging, etc.  The grasses are always beasties to cut down, tried cutting the Unique Hydrangea but the stems are so thick I am going to have to bring out the monster pruners to do this.  The Blue Dart Vinca (unlike my grass) is this rich color of green.  I have never seen the leftover fall leaves glued to the grass.  I literally picked some of them off the grass by hand - rake could not lift them. Nothing is blooming in my garden!  I even cut down the rest of my type 3 clematis because I couldn't get to them last week - leftover snow.  Before I rest I must spread my fertilizer in all the beds - just like feeding chickens. 

Oops, gotta run and get that haircut, going right by Home Depot, stopped on the way back home, and what I found made my day!  It is the beginning of my Spring containers - it's early, but I can throw a bag over them if it snows, or I can bring them inside, as the pots slip out.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Solomon's Seal

I have grown Solomon's Seal in three of the four homes that I have owned.  In one of my homes, I had a woodland garden, really a woodland because behind my house had once run a creek that over 100 years ago people came from the city of Chicago to their summer homes.  My house was never a summer home (built after the turn of the century) but my neighbor's home was.  People came by horseback, buggy and the early automobile.  So, you can see why my backyard was a small area of shade grass, farm lilacs, woodland plants on the side and all across the back.

I grew up in Chicago, so I had no idea what I was looking at.  I met the neighbor who lived in a summer home property (not a cottage but quite large) who would come over and rattle off every Latin name of all the plants in my yard.  I immediately went out and bought a wild plant identification book.  I found out several years later that this plant savvy neighbor of mine had a PhD. in Botany - didn't want to intimidate me!

I had a homemade woodland in the previous home to one I am in now.  With a large property I was able to plant a sprawling shade garden but never a "real" woodland like what I had.  Now, I am really limited,to that small long strip along the north side of my house, but I still have my one last woodland plant Polyonatum Variegatum (variegated Solomon's Seal).  The woodland Solomon's Seal was not variegated but plain green'

Solomon's Seal is a medicinal herb with diverse healing properties.  It can be used as a herbal tincture, salve, tea or supplement.  It is a beautiful arching plant with small white to pale yellowish green flowers, blooming April to midsummer.  It will take partial shade to sun if there is sufficient moisture.  It looks great with hosta, ferns and astilbe.

Childrens Book Review:  is there a monster over there? 
http://www.bookpleasures.com/websitepublisher/articles/2271/1/Is-there-a-monster-over-there-Reviewed-By-Eileen-Hanley-of-Bookpleasurescom/Page1.html

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The West Suburban Chicago Flower and Garden Show

We have all heard of the Chicago Flower and Garden Show, but I am sure not too many of you have heard of Wannamakers Flower and Garden Show!  I think it began about ten years ago and each year has become better and better.  It is not elegant or overplanned but is a composite of what we are all about, small planting areas, barbqueing, seating areas, water features.  Best of all, it is free!

Not everyone in suburbia lives on an acre of land.  In fact where I live and many of the surrounding areas we have city type lots that will not accomodate a swimming pool or an expansive patio or deck.

I attended yesterday and I looked like a roving reporter with my small digital camera snapping pictures of the displays.  I had to make a choice between my big digital camera and the pocket version.  I went for the pocket version because I didn't want to make a spectacle of myself.  It is a very personal show, speaking to the owners of growing nurseries, people who make food for hydrangeas that give you pink or blue hydrangeas, your choice!

There were flowers for sale, in fact just about everything was for sale at a discount for the show days.  I was so busy taking pictures and talking that I really was not a focused shopper.  There was this new tomato cage which I bought as an experiment because I have never found a cage that really worked and believe me I have had them all.  Right now I am using an expensive one from Gardeners Supply which still doesn't keep the tomatoes within bounds.  I purchased just one of these new cages because she said Burpee was their biggest customer.  We'll see if it can keep my Beefmaster within bounds!

Maybe these local flower shows are where it's at, servicing and inspiring the locals.  I bought the tomato cage as an experiment and six lilies.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Glorious Grasses

Panicum 'Northwind' is named after a grass found at the Northwind Perennial Farm in Burlington, Wisconsin.  I have been to this business many times and it is a delightful place, filled with perennials, antiques, roosters and of course Panicum 'Northwind.'  The reason I highly recommend this grass is it does not flop even if left standing for the winter.  It is greenish-blue in color and tan in the fall and winter.  I have it in several places around my home.  It finally gives up the ghost about now when it is ready to be cut down.

Miscanthus 'Udine' is difficult to find but is different than other miscanthus in that it is not as spreading, does not flop easily and throws out a pink tinged flower starting much farther down on the stalk than other miscanthus.  I did not cut it down this year in the fall, and actually it looked pretty good all winter.  I think the heavy snow held it up because it certainly needs to be cut down now.

Pennisetum 'Hameln' lines my path as it goes from the front to the backyard.  There are only about five plants, and the first year I wasn't sure this was the right plant for this area.  I had tried Nepeta 'Walkers Low' in the area at first but it was covered with bees, needed consistent cutting back over the walk and just never looked right in this narrow area.  I looked at Hamlin today, never cut down in the fall, and it still looks good with daffodils poking up through it.  It is small and graceful and fluffy looking.

Carex 'Ice Fountains' is on the north side of my house bordered by my home and a cedar fence.  I have these small connectable iron fences that I purchased several years ago placed in front of Ice Fountains all along the planting from front to back..  I just leave them in place all year and when the grass grows and arches slightly the fences are obscured and the grass stays in bounds on this very narrow pathway.  It is not always easy to find a small grass that will grow in the shade and look great all season.  This one fills the bill, but I have found it is important to cut this one down in the fall or you have lots of flat mush in the spring.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Mary Rose

Mary Rose, it sounds like a name from a past century.  I believe I purchased Mary Rose at Costco bundled with a Knockout rose.  I had no idea what she was, but I planted her about four years ago.  I started with three and am down to two.  This seems to be what happens to me when I purchase in threes, I always lose one.  She is a wonderful David Austin rose with a marvelous old rose fragrance.  I have her in my border so as you can probably guess, she peeks out among other perennials.

Mary Rose grows about four feet tall and four feet wide and is one of the first roses to bloom in the spring.  The pink color is delicious and when the petals fall it looks like a wedding has occurred in your garden.  I do not have it planted in the most ideal conditions as it is not total sun and there is a lot of moisture in this border. 

It is a repeat flowering rose and very hardy with hints of honey and almond.  Just as a side note, it was named after Henry VIII's flagship which was recovered from the sea after more than 400 years.  For this reason alone it is another rose worth growing!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Groundcovers

I am going to travel around my home and talk about the various groundcovers noting their pros and cons.  In the back garden under my Regent Serviceberries I have Sweet Woodruff.  It was off to a slow start the first  year and was sparse for the first few years.  Then, it really took off and it is beautiful, little white flowers on top of a field of green.  It survives and thrives in full sun even though it will do well in dappled shade, but there is a lot of moisture where it is planted.  It seems fragile, meaning if you pull on it to interplant it seems to be unraveling.

In the remainder of this back garden and in the front garden I have a pretty common groundcover with many names, periwinkle, myrtle, vinca.  I have a newer variety called "Dart's Blue," which grows more from the center than previous varieties, therefore not as leggy. and more disease resistant.  However, I do find that it requires some clipping in the spring just to make it neater and more dense. 

On the north side of my home I have Pachysandra "Green Sheen."  When I planted this six years ago, I could only find it online. It is very shiny and has a wet look, very little maintenance a trim once in awhile. 

Towards the front on the north side is Euonymous Fortunei Coloratus Wintercreeper.  It is a strong grower, roots in the ground and develops long vining arms that reach everywhere and also upwards if there is a structure on which to climb.  It does require clipping to keep it contained and off pathways and walks.  It turns a beautiful burgundy red in the fall and keeps its leaves most of the year.  I am now battling a scale on this groundcover which I hope I can cure in the spring.

It is always interesting to have different groundcovers as you stroll through the garden.  Also realize that some groundcovers make it difficult to insert plantings.  I would say the myrtle is the most difficult to plant through although once done, the plants easily emerge. 

Groundcovers save on the expense and labor of mulch, although it is comfort to the eye to have areas with both mulch and various groundcovers.  Avoid groundcovers bordering a lawn which can eventually root into that lawn (Ajuga and Lirope).  Aegopodium (Goutweed) is still sold in nurseries - do not buy this, it will take over your world!

Childrens Book Review The Up Down Day

http://www.bookpleasures.com/websitepublisher/articles/2242/1/The-Up-Down-Day-Reviewed-by-Eileen-Hanley-of-Bookpleasurescom/Page1.html

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Food for the Gods

The "fun group" had their Garden Club Meeting yesterday and it was fabulous!  As we approached the front door, there were emerging daffodils and tulips in painted tin pails and blooming primrose in a decorative urn. Our host is an artist by trade and her home is a testament to her talent.  I would compare it to Monet's garden with colors that make you feel alive, pinks, lime greens, yellow, deep pinks and white as the color that pops.  Her oils and other mediums were displayed throughout the home all blending with the bright backgrounds.  There were about thirty of us there today and we were invited for lunch and a program on olive oils and vinegars.

There were italian mineral waters, taglio and brie cheeses drizzled with balsamic vinegars with little crusty pieces of bread.  The smells coming from the kitchen were magnificant - I couldn't wait any longer -  I had to go in.  The cook (my artist friend) presented the menu, fresh roasted vegetables with cherry tomatoes drizzled with tuscany olive oil and three leaf balsamic vinegar, homeade pasta noodles drizzled with more olive oil, more balsamic vinegar, sea salt, Wow!  I haven't even gotten to the chicken yet.  The chicken was pounded flat, dipped in egg, rolled in japanese bread crumbs, topped with an apricot mixture and sizzled in the oven in more olive oil.

We learned that some olive trees are thought to be thousands of years old and that not all olive oil is the same.  In fact some may not even be olive oil but hazelnut oil mascrading as olive oil.  Do not keep olive oil indefinitely - it has about a two year shelf life from pressing.  Unless it says 100% olive oil on the label it probably is not.  We don't always know when this oil has been pressed unless bought at a speciality shop.

Balsamic vinegars are like wine although they are not wine vinegars. being made from grapes that have never fermented.  Balsamic spends time curing in kegs and comes in many different colors and flavors.  I had never thought of adding vinegars to fruit but it was delicious on the strawberries - three leaf balsamic.  The "leaf" notations have to do with the thickness of the vinegars, the thickest being four leaf.

I am always amazed how gardening interconnects throughout our lives.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Ghost Fern Versus Japanese Painted Fern

The Japanese Painted Fern (Athyrium niponicum pictum) is one of the most colorful ferns in the garden, gray-green, burgundy, green, always noticeable and adaptable.  I have a colony of  them under my Chanticleer Pear Tree along with Huchera Villosa, Lirope Spicata and Astrantia Lars Major (Masterwort).  They unfurl about the time my early bulbs have finished, and continue sending up new fronds throughout the summer season.  They will take a good amount of morning sun filtered by the leaves of the pear tree.

Last year I found a new fern that grew taller with less spread.  It was called the Ghost Fern (Athyrium 'Ghost') and literature was touting it as a companion for the Japanese Painted Fern.  I didn't want it as a companion but needed it to come up behind my Rhododendrums interspersed with August Moon and Halcyon hosta.  My tag said it would grow to three feet, although I am getting mixed messages from some of the descriptions out there.  It has more gray-green no burgundy and I really do not see them as being alike in any way.  They grow narrow and tall not broad and spreading.

At the symposium I attended last week the Perennials in Focus group was concerned that people would not purchase it because it was so similar to Japanese Painted Fern.  I didn't have an opportunity to tell them that after I purchased the first few I could no longer find it at Home Depot and had to go to my high-end nursery and pay double to fill in my plan.  It is obviously more popular than they realized!

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Container Concentration!

Containers are a lot of work!  However, they add such spice to our gardens and to our life during the growing season.  Every year I say to myself that I am not going to plant many containers - well, you know where that ends up.  Sometimes when I say this I plant more than the previous year!  Why are containers so obsessive?  Well, my one conclusion is that they are gardens in a pot that can be moved just about anywhere.  I am not talking about a basket of petunias, but more like a well thought out combination of plants, you know, the thrillers, fillers and spillers.  There is nothing wrong with containers of one type of plant, great accents, but they are not the interesting garden effect of plant combinations.

Containers can be just a variety of colors or a variety of plants that compliment your home.  They can be a combination of perennials and annuals.  Manytimes, I plant perennials in my containers and then transplant them to the border gardens in the fall.  Right now I have a little plant nursery going in my raised bed vegetable garden, sedums, mums, asters from my fall containers.  I will transplant these into the garden border when it warms up.

I use water absorbing crystals and water absorbing fabric in my containers. http://www.gardenerssupply.com/
Many of the plants that we put in containers grow huge and require much more water than their pots can hold.  Container plants also require consistent fertilization, at least every two weeks.  I use a heavy duty 10-52-10 Peters, Schultz or Vigoro liquid fertilizer in all of my containers.  With this super bloom formula, it is necessary to prune every so often to keep the bloom going. 

I see many people buying containers already in full bloom way beyond the time of year for which they are purchasing.  They look great now but will soon begin to shut down for the season.  Even cutting back will not help some of these containers survive because the stems have already turned woody.  Remember to buy the ones that are full but just beginning to flower.

I am very excited about trying out the Art in the Garden method of selecting a painting and using the color combinations in that painting.  I do containers not only for myself but for friends and family.  I have already selected a Cezanne for my daughter-in-law's large pedestal containers in a dark brown iron that are on the walkway up to her Nantucket style home.  The colors will be white, deep pink, light pink, yellow, blue, light green and brown.  This is exciting to steal the color palette from our great artists.

I think I am going have Henri Rousseau on my patio!

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Midwest Gardening Symposium

A whole day of just talking Gardening and Gardens what could be better?  I attended the Midwest Gardening Symposium on Friday at the Morton Arboretum.  It was a great day filled with wonderful garden books, authors as speakers and so much up-to-date gardening information:

  • Slow down on the garden curves, no amoeba shaped lawns
  • Go upstairs, if you can, and look out at your lawn shape
  • Use more straight paths with multiple centers in the garden
  • If you have a curving path keep it soft just enough to create mystery
  • Your multiple centers should have a destination focus, i.e., fountain, statuary, pergola, arbor, obelisk, etc.
  • Make sure there is something distinct to look at as you gaze through a window, i.e., statuary, structure, container, etc.
  • Release the inside into your outside, garden should be an extension of your inside home, color, style, etc.
  • Use art in your garden palette, i.e., Vincent Van Gogh colors for your patio containers, check out an art print book and use the colors of a favorite artist for your theme
  • Think of telling a story with your garden, antiques with a newer home, collectibles, painted vintage chairs, some eclectic modern surprises with a vintage home
  • Make vignettes such as sword (grasses), frilly (ferns) broad (hosta) all together
  • Plan or redesign your garden in the winter thinking  pathways, structures, raised beds, evergreens, trees for shape and deciduous shrubs and grasses
  • Use flower plantings in your vegetable garden and vegetables in your flower borders (many of us have been doing this for years)
  • Use light plants against dark
  • Borrow a pleasing view from a neighbor's yard, arrange your plantings so that their yard shows through
  • The new outside decorating color for furniture and pottery is aqua or turquoise
Our speakers were wonderful, Gordon Hayward author of Art and the Gardener, and several other books, Pam Duthie author of Continuous Bloom and Continuous Color.  Pam Duthie is part of a new group called Perennials in Focus who are in the process of evaluating plants over a three year period in real gardens.  They have a new website  http://www.perennialsinfocus.com/  We had other expert speakers talking about using vegetables in containers and garden plantings and garden maintenance. 

I spent too much on books!!!!

Friday, March 05, 2010

"Max Frei" Geranium

I was asked by a fellow blogger the other day if I had any geraniums that seeded all over the place.  Well, I do, it is Max.  I find him in many different areas of the garden some quite far away from where he was first planted.  At first I was quite shocked because I thought I had planted this beautiful little mound of magenta flowers, and now he has morphed into a much more leggy variety of himself.

My first impulse was to yank every bit of this alien that I could find.  But, I restrained myself and watched his offspring grow throughout the seasons.  They sported flowers that looked identical to Max's but their growth was much more sprawling.  I found I could live with it, and cut them back if they became too untamed.

Max Frei is a lovely little geranium, growing in mounds throughout the spring, summer and fall.  It is flush with magenta flowers in the spring and can be lightly trimmed to keep a pleasing shape.   This trimming can be done more than once during the seasons producing a limited display up until frost.  It is not a rival to Rozanne but is perfect along a walkway as it never becomes out of bounds.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

A Rose Worth FInding

I began the planting area on the walkway from my patio with three Pink Meidiland roses.  I did not know much about them at the time except that they were shrub roses which meant carefree to me.  They grew well the first year, beautiful deep peachy pink flowers with branches that looked like they would like to weave if they could. 

The following year only two plants returned.  Not overly concerned and thankful that I had two left, I headed back to the nursery to replace one Pink Meidiland only to be informed that they were no longer available from the supplier.  I headed to the internet and to my amazement, there was only one nursery that had it listed.  At the same time I decided to order some Rainbow Knockouts and the one Pink Meidiland.  I was informed by return email that this nursery no longer had this Pink Meidiland - same story supplier no longer growing this rose!

I was so upset that nobody had this great rose, I emailed back to Garden Valley Ranch in California and told my sad story, but to no avail.  I did receive my Rainbow Knockout bareroot roses, and all of them are thriving to this day.  But what I didn't tell you is that as I opened the box, wrapped in newspaper, was a fourth bareroot rose.  As I unwrapped it out popped a little note saying, "Pink Meidiland, it's all yours."  I really think the owner of the nursery dug it up from his garden!

It is very difficult to find but I did notice on this California website that there are still some available. http://www.gardenvalley.com/  I can't imagine why they have virtually taken it off the market being as carefree as it is, no blackspot, wonderful rosehips in the fall and shiny leaves.

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Tuesday, March 02, 2010

More Geraniums!

I am not sure geraniums like to move.  Six years ago I moved Geranium Magnificum and Geranium Sanguinimum Lancastriense Striatum, three of each to my present home.  They each came up the following year, and I thought yeah!, they've made it.  However, for the past several years they are languishing, putting out a few flowers and then going to sleep for the season.  I even moved Magnificum again last year thinking it didn't like where it was.  It had no flowers last year, but I left it alone planted in between Rozanne.  It is supposed to bloom earlier than Rozanne and it is much taller, so I thought it would be a good pairing.

Magnificum did beautifully at my previous home, short bloom time but really spectacular flowers and wonderful red foliage (if cut back hard after blooming) in the fall.  Lancastrriense Striatum is low and ground hugging with beautiful pink flowers blooming throughout the spring and summer.  It is very restrained and contained, no weaving, no mounding acting more like a groundcover.  It seems to have taken but certainly not not growing by leaps and bounds.  It is not happy!  These are both wonderful geraniums, highly recommended but not flourishing at my home.

I think it is important to note that no matter how much we think we know about plants we cannot always understand how to make them happy.  I will try again this year, or maybe they will suprise me and finally accept their new home!

Monday, March 01, 2010

Is "Rozanne" A Winner For You?

This will be the fourth season for the Rozanne Perennial Geranium in my garden.  On the recommendation of a friend and a garden designer, I purchased three of them at a high-end nursery (they were the only one locally that carried this variety).  They were expensive about $20.00 each and bloomed beautifully the first year weaving through my impatiens.  I cannot remember what type of winter we had that year but only one came back and my friend lost all three of her Rozannes.  I guess it was a good thing that we both purchased them at this high-end nursery because they replaced all of our geraniums free of charge!

I planted my new ones a little higher on the edge of the bed because I thought maybe they became too wet.  They all came back the following year (very slow to show in the spring) and bloomed throughout three seasons.  Two years later, it was named The Plant of the Year for 2008.  The Rozannes I purchased last year for my daughter's garden were $7.99 at Home Depot.

Rozanne has been around quite awhile developed in Donald and Rozanne Waterer's garden in Somerset, England (1990).  It was introduced to the public in 2000 at the Chelsea Flower Show in England.

Even though Rozanne and I had a bit of a rocky start, it is certainly a winner in my garden for its heat tolerance its weaving nature and the fact that it blooms continually through three seasons.