Mad For Orange

Though the annual planting at the shop this year was inspired by a client’s planting of Orange Punch cannas, I owe part of my infatuation with orange this year to Margaret Roach.  She published a picture of this potunia “Papaya” on her blog-  www.awaytogarden.com ; it did indeed look delicious. I knew if anyone was growing it, Telly’s would.  George sent me up to his growing farm for 8 cases of 4″ plants.  This petunia is planted along the shop driveway, along with Freckles coleus, lime licorice, and red violet petunias.    

An all out, all orange annual garden seemed like it might be difficult to achieve, since the color orange in plants varies so widely.  One small strip of Sonic orange New Guinea impatiens at home is as loud as a brass band.  I decided a mix of all of those colors that look great with orange would be better.  Yellow, lime, and red violet seemed like a more visually interesting way to go.  The rain has been tough on the petunias.  I quickly realized that the petunia “Terra Cotta” is not the performer that other petunias are.  One of the best reasons to have a mix of plants-the weather.  One never knows what a season will be, but for sure some things will do poorly, and others will do well.    

The red pigment in this banana leaf reads orangy-brown to my eye.  I have never grown “Siam Ruby” before.  I have it placed at a sunny corner of the shop building; this is a very sunny and very hot spot.  There is plenty of room, should it grow large and tall.      

I have underplanted it with that Sonic Scarlet New Guinea impatiens, which is as orange as orange can be.  I think they will appreciate a little shade from the banana leaves-we’ll see.

This rhizomatous begonia is called “Madame Queen”; it is perfectly named.  The large crested olive green leaves are a fiery red/orange on the obverse.  I underplanted it with Ruby Red spikemoss, or clubmoss- a red foliaged selaginella.  The combination is one of my favorites in my series of containers featuring orange. 

The Bullseye series of seed geraniums is a great performer for containers and window boxes-I have better luck growing these than I do with zonal geraniums.  The tricolor geranium right next to it is just as easy to grow.  Sometimes known as Skies of Italy, the variegated leaves of green, orange brown and cream yellow look great with lots of other plants.  The orange flowers are not so showy, but they are obligingly bright orange.   

I have had plenty to say about the Solenia series of begonias.  They are tolerant of lots of sun, and relatively easy to care for.  I just make sure to be sure they are in need of water before I add some.  When I do kill them, it is almost always from rot.  Their thick juicy stems are very watery-I wait until the soil seems tgo be just about dried out before I water.      


My annual garden is well on its way-a little dry warm and sunny weather will help bring on the orange.  The freshly trimmed boxwood and arborvitae provide some cooly elegant structure for what will soon become riotous color.  This is a substantial change from last year’s green and white scheme-this I like.  For those of you who would rather visit an Orange Punch garden than have one, we will be ready for company in short order.

The Garden Cruise 2011

There are but 10 annual plantings left to go this season-I am very happy to be on the far side of what is the most intensely felt and most rigorously engaging part of my gardening year.  I did have a client tell me yesterday that it was too late for me to plant herb pots for them.  For Pete’s sake, I told him, the first day of summer is ten days away.  I am trying myself to keep that in mind-my pots at home are barely half done. In the cracks between the days, I have been organizing our 4th annual garden tour to benefit the Greening of Detroit.  The fabulous garden pictured above is but one of 7 gardens on tour this year.  Please save the date – Sunday, July 17, from 9 to 4:30.  

The Greening of Detroit has been actrively involved in the reforestation of my city for the past 21 years.  I greatly admire their focus, and their results.  In recent years, they have sponsored over 600 urban farms. They teach.  They never give in or give out.  I am in awe of what they have been able to accomplish; I even more admire their dreams.  It is my simple intent to provide my clients with a landscape better than they thought they could have it.  It is even more important to me that they experience and engage with their environment in a successful way.  I sit on the board of the Greening, but I am not much good with meetings.  The only way really for me to help them is to try to raise money in support of their programs. The landscapes and gardens are of my design, or influence.  One landscape was designed and planted from scratch 15 years ago.  Another was designed and planted from scratch last year.  Some gardens are renovations.  One garden has but one connection to me; his mother is one of my oldest and best clients.  His garden is solely of his own making-and beautifully made at that.  You won’t want to miss it.   

My garden is on tour, as usual.  I tinker with it often enough every year that there is always something new to see.  At least people do not seem to get bored with it.  Another member of my group has graciously agreed to put his garden on tour-my landscape superintendent. This garden goes far beyond a design and installation.  Almost everything in his garden has been handmade by him.  A beautiful privacy fence and pergola.  A fountain.  A terrace of handmade concrete tiles.  Anyone with an interest in creating a gorgeous garden space with their own two hands will find a lot to look at here. 

The 7 gardens are uniquely styled.  I would say my garden is very traditional and formal.  There is a very contemporary garden, and a traditional garden with contemporary overtones.  There is a classic French influenced English garden and a cottage style garden.  A 1970’s modern garden on a large piece of property is in contrast to a small, intimate and uniquely styled garden.  Many points of view are persuasively represented. 

I am hoping that if you live in this area, you will join us for the tour, and the afterglow reception at Detroit Garden Works.  In return for your contribution to the Greening of Detroit, we promise an exciting day of touring gardens, and great gin and tonics at the close. 


For more information, see our cruise website:  www.thegardencruise.org

Hot As Bloody Blazes

My shockingly chilly and record setting rainy spring has given way to temperatures hot as bloody blazes.  Temperatures in the mid nineties sounds like July or August-not early June.  I hate planting an annual, a perennial or a tree when it is 95 degrees.  That level of heat is incredibly stressful to transplants-not to mention people. This pool and terrace under construction needs containers-now.  It would be a challenging environment for plants newly transplanted even if it were not 95 degrees.  This will be a blisteringly hot spot in the summer, even on a cloudy day.   

Annual plants have very small root balls-think of it as a life trying to survive in a coffee scoop. Growers use soiless mixes for a lot of reason.  A soilless mix is sterile-no weeds or disease can infect a crop.  Soiless mix is light and easy to handle.  It provides a grower with a lightweight medium that they can fertilize to their personal specification.  If all annual plants were grown in home grown garden soil, no one would have the strength or patience to haul all that weight home and out to the garden.  I transplant all of my container plants into real soil.  That soil will give up its moisture slowly.  This will help the small plants to get established, in spite of their peat based root balls.


A soilless peat based mix can dry out in a matter of hours on a blisteringly hot day. What this means to me is every flat or case of 4 inch flowers needs to be soaked before we load in the morning-never mind that it has been watered 3 times the previous day. Those growers who have plants under glass right now-their lives are a misery. Anyone who grows plants is infected with that miracle of life gene. They would water non stop until bedtime if they needed to. There is that instinct to preserve life.  Preserving life in these containers will require careful plant choices. This means plants that like very hot and exposed locations.

Newly planted plants may need daily water when the temperatures skyrocket. Serious water deprivation may not kill a plant, but it can stress a plant such that its growth is greatly compromised. Make the distinction. Do not water just because it is hot. Some plants wilt from heat-not a lack of water. Butterburrs and dahlias come to mind. They will perk up when the temperatures drop. Water those things whose roots are dry, and water until you are blue in the face. A water bandaid does little-soak thoroughly.  Thern let the soil dry out before watering again.  Overwatering plants in very hot weather is like issuing an engraved invitation to any fungus that happens to be nearby.


Clustering pots in a smaller area is a good look, but it also has  some practical value.  I have containers in 4 places in my garden-and I have a hose nearby for every one of those spots.  Grouping enables me to display a collection.  The collection of pots and the collection of plantings will have interest individually, and as a whole.  These containers are made from large slabs of volcanic stone-hence the perforated surface.  I am assuming the slabs are cut with a giant saw.  The simple round French terra cotta pot is a good foil both in shape and color to the severely geometric grey stone.


Steel box and rectangle keeps a single stone square company midway down the length of the pool.  Of course this arrangement could change, once the pool furniture is placed.  No matter how many times I study the plans and diagrams, there is no ubstitute for seeing all of the elements in place.

This pool terrace asked for a good many containers.  Both the pool and the terrace are very large.  My clients selected what forms and shapes appealed to them; I put together a collection.  I placed all of their containers on the terrace today-it was 105 degrees.  During the entire time I was arranging, I was oblivious to the heat.  Not so my crew.  They were doing the really heavy lifting.  A pair of antique English cast iron horse troughs from the 1850’s weighed over 1 ton each-these we placed with a front end loader.  Once we set them in place, each trough was lifted off the ground via 12 pairs of hands, so a hard rubber spacer could be placed underneath each leg. 

 My clients are wicked intelligent, and have a clearly sophisticated point of view. Though they have a decidedly modern perspective, these antique troughs appealed to them immediately.  They were certain that they wanted them.  They work beautifully here.  They have a very dramatic setting here, which they can handle with aplomb.     

A pool terrace this size asks for a very large statement from every container.  I have some thinking, and some shopping to do.

The Greening Of Detroit

 

I sit on the board of the Greening of Detroit, although I never attend the commissioner’s meetings.  Meetings are not my long suit. I am much better in some other capacity.  My main contribution-I sponsor a garden tour every July to benefit the Greening.  Every dollar we take in from the sale of tickets goes to benefit their programs.  Sometimes I teach classes at the Eastern market. I help however I can. 

But back to the Greening-they have been planting trees, sponsoring urban farms, and teaching people how to grow in Detroit for the past 21 years.  They have been committed to the improvement of my city for a very long time.  Each and every one of them-friendly, engaging and focused.  I admire, and stand behind their misson, and their record.   Last week-a fund raiser dinner.  Every year Monica manages to persuade me to do the flowers-in early May, for Pete’s sake.  I protest, and then I do what I should do-help them.    This year- 26 fiber pots stuffed with pansies-each with their own banner.  Plant it, Detroit.