Monday Opinion: When I’m 64

When I am 64-that would be yesterday.  How is being 64 going so far?  Sunday had to be one of the most beautiful June days in recent memory. 78 degrees, and breezy.  Delightful.  I put my feet up, whenever I could.  No worries-I took the time to enjoy the day.  I have sketchy plans for the work this week-sketchy is good enough.  What was I studying on, having turned 64?   Orange geraniums, and roses.

Many years ago a client in the fashion industry was miffed that I planted orange geraniums in her pots.  She thought they were too pedestrian.  I have been planting container gardens since 1987.  I have seen a lot of plants come and go.  I have passed on a lot of plants that couldn’t stick out a summer season in a container, start to finish.  Ordinary plants are ordinary for very good reasons.  They deliver. The dandelions bloom and prosper, no matter every effort that is made to eradicate them.  Queen Anne’s Lace prospers and blooms in every field, and every crack in the highway.  Pachysandra is a green mulch that covers the ground in almost every condition.  As for orange geraniums, I love their color and robust habit.  They bloom profusely. My client who felt she was getting pedestrian  was mistaken. I appreciate any plant that is willing.  They are a sensational shade of orange.  Orange flowers and ordinary plants did not interest me much, 30 years ago.  What did interest me was too embarassing to to repeat.  I was a young person, endowed with all those ideas that reeked of  babyhood.  As for that planting of orange geraniums for my client- I switched her plants out, and took the orange geraniums home.

I was thinking yesterday  that my fascination for orange geraniums might be a function of my age.  I worry about that. Too much history can smell musty.  I have been at planting containers a very long time. I  like to think that every year my choices get better, my eye gets sharper.  In an orderly scheme of things, my ability to compose gets better at the same rate that my knowledge of horticulture gets better.  But maybe my love of orange geraniums, picotee petunias, yellow variegated foliage and purple sweat shirts may be a sign of my age.  I have a memory of my Mom in her sixties-how old fashioned she was!  It could be I am following in her footsteps. What would a young client think about picotee petunias?  They might be appalled. At 64, I am thinking much about how I can continue to be relevant to my clients.That said, I think it is important at any age to put aside fashion, and think independently.  Plants go in and out of fashion.  Fashion is a concept that applies only given permission. An old windbreaker from the seventies may suit you just fine.  My Chevy suburban with 110,000 miles-I am still quite happy with it.    So even if a love of orange geraniums is a function of my 64th year, I will go ahead and plant them.

As for the roses, on the occasion of my 64th birthday, I have this to say.  I was sure that every one of my 26 roses were dead this spring.  I have not touched them for two months, as I have not had time to touch them. Given my neglect,  25 of my roses have come back strong from the root.  I was not in any way patient about the trouble they suffered from our winter.  I have ignored them, as I had to.  I have been so busy, working.  They had time to do what they would do, without interference from me.  The spring is a very busy time for me.  A late spring is all about work day and night.  I was not expecting them to burst forth and grow from underground.  The day I saw new growth from the bottom shocked me.  I was so sure they were dead.  Not so.  Many of them are going on 5 feet tall now.  Five feet of growth in 6 weeks?  Astonishing.  I have not taken any of the dead climbing rose canes off the wall.  Those dead canes still have dead leaves attached to them.  The few canes that are blooming are surrounded by dead rose leaves from last fall.

I have never seen anything like this, even though I am 64.  I thought about cutting all of the dead canes of the wall, but I decided not to interfere.  This decision was pure instinct.  I will just tie the new canes to the old.  This seems fitting.

I have just about driven Buck crazy, wanting to go see the dead roses every night after work.  He is such a good sport about touring the garden, every day.  But even he has gotten caught up in the rose drama.  The roses are roaring back.  I am thinking I might need to hard prune my shrub roses every 2 or 3 years.  To force basil growth.  Truth be told, my roses were rangy and overgrown. I did not prune them back hard.  Maybe I was too old to be tough on them.   Our past winter was decisive. Nature may have done for my roses what I needed to do, and didn’t.

A the dawn of the age of 64, I am learning so much I never knew about nature, roses, and the color orange.

Still Spring

June 13 2014 (3)As I am writing this, the temperature outside is 54 degrees.  This morning, I woke up to 49 degrees. Why do I think this is news fit to print? A 54 degree daytime temperature is a spring temperature.  Should you be thinking that summer has arrived in Michigan, I would ask you to think differently.  In my opinion, we are still in the spring season. Opinion aside, there is plenty to suggest that each of the four seasons lasts just about three months.  I rarely see any deviation from a spring season that spans late March and April, May, and most of June.  The temperature today reminds me that we are in the late stage of spring.  The beginning of summer, the summer solstice, arrives on June 21, still a week away. I have other signs that spring is still holding forth.  This April planting of mixed colors of nicotiana and violas at the entrance to our driveway is just about peaking.  It is astonishingly beautiful and lush.

June 13 2014 (6)Spring annual planted  in April grow and peak the middle of June.  I wonder what these early planted nicotiana will do, come summer.  How could they be any better?  It used to be that no one planted summer annuals before Memorial Day.  I see many people planting out annuals Mother’s Day weekend.  I do not plant any summer annuals on May 10.  Better that all of those tropical annuals have the shelter, sun and heat of a greenhouse in May.  Annual plants in my zone like warm soil, warm days, and warm nights.  Michigan weather is rarely able to deliver those conditions until the beginning of July.

June 13 2014 (9)My spring window boxes look great right now. Lovely and lush.  Pansies and violas like cool weather-spring weather.  Once the heat of our summer comes on, the pansies and violas will fade.  As of today, June 14, they are still getting the weather they need.

June 13 2014 (10) The sweet peas are coming into full bloom.  The plants themselves are prety wild, but the flowers are beautiful and fragrant.  Having never grown them before, I am happy for the cool weather that suits them.

June 13 2014 (12)If you did not plant your pots for spring, so be it.  Every gardener has a schedule and a mission all their own.  I would only point out, on this 55 degree day in June, that the summer season is yet to come.  I did get a few of my own pots planted.  I hope to have them done by June 21. I know they will take right off, given warm temperatures and warm soil.

June 13 2014 (15)The cool weather plant club is a big one, and includes rhubarb, pansies and parsley.

June 13 2014 (17)nasturtiums and bellis

June 13 2014 (7)We did plant the front of Detroit Garden Works for summer a few days ago.. No doubt we are anticipating the summer. We cut the dinner plate dahlias back by half.  It will take them the summer to get going.  They will be at their best in September and October.  I have not planted the roof boxes yet-it is still to cold for what I have in mind.

June June 9 n2014 (25)The early summer cannot hold a candle to the peak of the spring season.  Think of it.  The start of a season is the start.  The conclusion of the season can be glorious.  I call that the super nova stage.   This spring container designed and planted by Rob-exquisite today. The  spring gardening season lasts every bit of three months.  Into late June.  Just saying.

 

 

Luminous

DSC_1204So many clients and customers of Detroit Garden Works are stymied by their shade.  Shade containers don’t blare like a brass band.  They are reserved.   No doubt a shade container garden does not have dahlias, zinnias, geraniums or heliotrope on a to plant list.  But shady conditions mean that lots of interesting and subtly colored plants will thrive.  Is container gardening in the sun better than in the shade?  Not in my opinion.   Choosing plants for containers has a lot to do with lighting conditions.  Every pot you might plant, no matter the light conditions, can be all you would hope it could be.  Gorgeous, and satisfying, yes.  The shade along the east side of our building is considerable.  18 year old lindens have grown up and in, cloistering that east wall in shade.  We like how the shade helps keep the building cooler.  This shady spot is a relief in the heat of the summer.  The shade is a given.   But by no means do we feel like we have no options for our window boxes and pots.

DSC_1194Shadow King begonias are perfect for a shady spot.  One gray cultivar shown in the above picture is the color and texture of a galvanized bucket. Love that.  Its companion is a striking combination of silver, green, pink, and black.  This is a color palette much different than that presented by a Bengal Tiger canna, and Persian Queen geraniums.  It is subtle, and subtly striking.

DSC_1201Any begonia, whether it is grown for its leaves or its flowers, requires a reluctant hand.  By this I mean, they will not suffer too much sun, nor will they suffer over watering.  Most begonias have fleshy leaves, and thick watery stems.  Over water them, and they will collapse in a rotted heap.  Give them the shade they want, and they dryish conditions they thrive on, they will grow like weeds.  This container is an asymmetrical arrangement of shade loving plants.  A black calocasia lords over all.  A pink and green caladium repeats that calocasia leaf shape in a lighter and brighter color.  The chocolate mint coleus barely showing now will grow, and help pull that calocasia down into the mix.  The pepperomia with its pale green blooming wands provides a little sass. The silver King begonia has chocolate stems-so great with the coleus and the calocasia stems. The dark begonia at the center will have orange flowers-good.  The pink polka dot plant will need trimming, given it is in the front of this container.  But the work will be worth it.  That pink, and the silver leaf of the begonia, are both key to a successful shade planting.  Any plants that brings light to bear in a shady spot will shine.

DSC_1192Containers in the shade are much about texture, mass, subtle color-and rhythm.  This container, even in its first planted stage, is jazzy.

DSC_1202Caladiums provide so much mass and luminosity in shade containers.  White caladiums challenge the shade in a big way.  This green caladium with a white center glows.  The gray begonia is pebbly in surface and subtle in color.  The watermelon peperomia will trail.  A planting such as this gives me every bit as much pleasure as a color lively container in the sun.  It is just different.  Maybe a little reflective.

DSC_1199We’ve had some rainy days recently.  These plants that thrive in the shade, saturated with rain, have a juicy look.

DSC_1205This window box was just planted a few days ago.  The shade from the lindens is considerable, but each of these shade tolerant plants will grow, and get lush.  Lush and luminous growth in the shade is just what a shade container asks for.

shade-window-box.jpgI like the looks of this.

 

At A Glance: Favorite Annual Plants

janet-craig-dracaena.jpgPlanting the annuals and containers is a very exciting time-and an exhausting one.  So in lieu of writing, I thought to just post some pictures of my favorite annual plants.  What makes them a favorite?  This glowingly green Janet Craig dracaena will thrive in very low light.

vista-petunias.jpgThe Vista series of petunia is very vigorous, even long into the fall.

Sept 9 2012 035White mandevillea vines produce large showy flowers, and the foliage is glossy and disease resistant.

Sept 24 011Persian Shield is a color like no other, and will grow to a large size in a partially shaded spot.

green 023Euphorbia Diamond Frost is like having a thousand tiny white lights dancing over the surface of a container planting.  Cirrus dusty miller has a velvety surface, and a beautiful texture. Petunias smell like summer.

coleus.jpg coleus are prized for the unusual color of their foliage, as are the variegated dwarf dracaena pictured above.

orange-punch-canna.jpgCannas grow big and tall, and come in a whole range of colors. Canna Orange Punch blooms profusely.

dahlias.jpgDahlias are the show girls of the annual world. They sport huge flowers in every imaginable color except blue. They are at their showy best in September and October. silverberry-petunia.jpgSilverberry petunias bloom profusely, and do not need deadheading.

mocha-velvet-coleus.jpgVelvet mocha coleus is a beautiful orangy brown

nicotiana.jpgAll of the nicotiana varieties are charming, and beloved by hummingbirds.  I grow them all.

verbena-bonariensis.jpgVerbena bonariensis is tall growing, and imparts a meadow like look to any in ground annual planting.

DSC08283Solenia begonias are easy to grow.  Just go easy on the water.  Are these my only favorites. Oh no. I like them all really.  They all have something different to recommend about them. Choosing which ones to grow depends somewhat on what you need from them.