At A Glance: Petunias

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What brings a hot summer day to mind quite like a petunia?  I love the simple shape, the vibrant colors, and its robust habit of growth.  They grow companionably with other annual and tropical plants.  They are not in the least bit demanding or troublesome to grow.  Petunias even smell like summer.  Why are they on my mind today?  We have had a very cool and very rainy start to our summer.  Early mornings the end of June-still jacket weather.  We’ve had many more inches of rain than our average.  The petunias are looking bedraggled and forlorn.  Here’s hoping for some hot and dry weather-for the sake of the petunias.

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The Fourth Of July

Campus-Martius-Detroit.jpgMy fourth of July was a holiday of an unusual sort.  We installed and planted 9 steel Branch planters at two commercial locations in downtown Detroit.  The decision to install on the holiday made sense to us.  This is a hopping busy place during the week.  There are thousands of people who work in this area.  Parking is always at a premium, and parking for 4 trucks right off Campus Martius is just about impossible to find.  The planters were located just outside the buildings.  But at 8am on the Fourth of July, we were able to park close by.  No Detroit police officer gave us a second glance, even though we were parked in no parking zones.  Tents were being set up for Fourth of July festivities, but by and large we had the locations to ourselves.

planting-annual-containers.jpgHaving a favorable set up means the work goes fast. We were able to spread out and stage the work on the sidewalk, without bothering any pedestrians.  The First National Building, a 25 story limestone building, was completed in 1930. The stately old building is undergoing an extensive renovation, courtesy of Bedrock Real Estate Services.  The planting of these large steel Branch planters are part of that renovation.

annual-planting.jpgFrom what little I could see from my scouting and planting visit, it appeared that ground floor spaces were being renovated for retail use.  Who knows what is going on upstairs.  What a pleasure to see a historic building such as this one in loving hands. It reminded me of my trips downtown better than 45 years ago.  There is an energy, a sense of purpose, and a determination to endow a downtown business district down in the heels with new life.  Impressive, this effort.

watering.jpgGiven some time, these plantings should grow up into these very large pots.  They are 36″ in diameter, and 36″ tall.  The pink mandevillea Alice Dupont is the most floriferous, vigorous, and brightly colored of all the pink mandevilleas.  Though I love the glossy leaves of the Sun Parasol Giant pink mandevillea,  I opted for the size and heavy blooming characteristics of Alice DuPont.  This cultivar will endure the hot conditions of a downtown location.  The Persian Queen geraniums feature bright chartreuse leaves. Alternating with the Persian Queens, a brilliant orange sunpatiens  that have already outgrown their 6″ pots.  The giant pink petunias, lime licorice, and small plugs of red mandevillea will make for lots of color and volume around the rims of the pots.

Bedrock (26)The Bedrock staff turned on the street level spigot, so we could soak all four pots.  A good watering settles in all of the plants, and eliminates any air pockets.  We wanted to drench the plantings with water; this is our idea of good bon voyage.  Being July, we planted 3 gallon size mandevilleas,  and 6″ and 8″ pots of the other materials.  All of these annuals love hot weather. Given that our summer weather has only recently warmed up, I think these flowers will settle in and start to grow quickly.  They have made a great start, protected by the greenhouses in which they were grown.

First-National-Building-Detroit.jpgEveryone we have had contact with over this project has been enthusiastic, hard working, and willing to get things done.  Young people, of course.  So much good energy in one place-it was a treat to be involved.  I will admit I was a little bowled over.  So much discussion and sharing.  My design charette with them-on the streets.

wired.jpgOwen and Lucio wrapped the tops of the bamboo poles for the mandevillea in purple aluminum anodized wire.  It seemed to be an appropriate gesture.

variegated-willow-on-standard.jpgOur second location-the Chrysler House.  The neoclassical building was completed in 1912, and has already undergone extensive renovation.  The facade outside had some “improvements” made in the past.  By this time, I was absolutely certain that Bedrock would restore the outside of this building with the same spirit and care that fueled an extensive renovation of the interior spaces.  Each of our 5 steel Jackie boxes-4 rectangles, and 1 27″ cube, features a variegated willow on standard in the center.  Salix integra “Hakuro Nishiki” is a dwarf cultivar with white variegated leaves. The willows grow fast, and can be left as a starburst, or trimmed for a more formal shape.

palnted-Jackie-box-rectangle.jpgThe exposure is from the east.  All of these flowers and coleus will thrive in this setting.  The building across the street features a glass facade.  I am thinking the reflected afternoon light off the glass will provide enough sun to make the petunias thrive.

cleaning-up.jpgWe had no access to water from this building given the holiday.  We brought our own, in 3  40 gallon plastic garbage cans.  I wanted to be sure the new plants were soaking wet, just in case they had to go without water over the weekend.  There are advantages to choosing to large planters for commercial settings.  The big size seems in better proportion to a building that is many stories high. The not so obvious advantage – a large soil mass is slow to dry out.  Big pots buy you some time.

Chrysler-house.jpgI don’t have serious concerns with the care to come for this planting.  The other plantings and site furnishings in buildings on streets radiating from Campus Martius were well looked after.

planted-Jackie-box.jpgThis single box sits next to the door of a ground level restaurant.  Yes it belongs to the Chrysler House, but this ground floor restaurant space needs its own special sign.

Chrysler-House-Detroit.jpgThis was a great way to spend the beginning of my Fourth of July holiday.  Lingering on my mind was one very independently minded business who feels a substantial investment in the renovation of our city is well worth the effort.  There is every evidence of a fearless pioneering spirit that marks the best of what our country can be.  Brave American fought for our freedom.  Other brave Americans go on to forge a path.  They take risks.  They invest.  They go for broke.  Buck calls them the captains of industry-how apt.  I so respect the investment that Bedrock Real Estate Services has made with the core idea that the city of Detroit is a city well worth preserving.  A city well worth energizing.  They are lending a huge hand to the future of downtown Detroit.  Bravo, Bedrock.

 

Pruning The Boxwood

June 23b 2013 (1)The day the evergreens get pruned at the shop is one of my favorite days in the gardening year.  Mindy from M and M  Flowers comes with a crew; they make a day of it.  The first order of business is the discussion.  Are we pruning as usual?  Is there perhaps a new shape or different direction in mind?

pruning-boxwood.jpgMaking changes to the shape of a boxwood hedge- even an established hedge- is not difficult or impossible.  It just takes time. The spheres at the corners of the parterres have not grown in evenly all around. The west side spheres get more water, as the land drains in that direction.  The east side spheres are planted in what was once asphalt, and they are shaded by the lindens.

pruned-boxwood.jpgThe spheres to the east also suffered a considerable fungal infection that has been very difficult to cure.  Simply put, the conditions for the 4 spheres are not at all equal.  One pair is much larger and more robust than the other.  So there was discussion about a moving towards a different shape at all 4 corners.

boxwood.jpgThe corner spheres could be trimmed as follows.  The bottom of the shrub could be brought into line with the existing rectangular hedge.  The top of the shrub could be pruned as a top-knot, or a smaller sphere that would appear to sit on top of the hedge.  This pruning would take a few years to accomplish, as it means pruning down to old wood.  There would be bare spots that would need to grow in.

green-velvet-boxwoodWe have some time to think this over.  Though I like to wait until the spring growth is fully flushed out before any pruning is done, pruning back to bare wood as the heat of the summer season is imminent is a recipe for burn. Boxwood grows out of winter burn fairly readily, but summer burn is an unsightly state of affairs that persists.

formally-pruned-boxwood.jpgI am not so sure that it bothers me that the spheres do not match.  Perfection is a state that does not really apply to living things.  We may just stay the course. But there is always the option to change course in a landscape.  That just takes planning, and patience.

pruning-evergreen-shrubs.jpgThis hedge has been grown from the species buxus koreana microphylla.  It is a big growing boxwood.  The hedge has been maintained at a height of 32″ and a width of 48″ for a number of years.  Grown in full sun, it readily handles the winter wind and cold weather.  The only danger posed by the winter is when we have heavy snow, the weight of which can crack the woody branches.  Those cracks make the shrub more susceptible to fungal infections.  It’s not always easy to decide whether to remove the snow, or let it be.  Disturbing branches when they are frozen can produce more damage than the snow itself.

pruning-a-boxwood-hedgeKorean boxwood does have a pronounced orangy cast in the winter, a characteristic that is not to everyone’s taste.  Our most important issue is tending a hedge that is in good proportion to the size of the building.  If that large overall size were not so important, “Green Velvet” boxwood maintains its green color all winter, and matures at 3′ by 3′.  “Green Mountain” boxwood is  virtually indistinguishable from Green Velevet, but matures at 4′ tall, and 3′ wide.  “Green Gem” is a good choice, if a more refined leaf and smaller mature size is what your garden needs.

 

pruning-the-boxwood.jpgWe lost 2 boxwood in the hedge over this past winter.  We did have one replacement available. In this spot, we went another direction.  We stitched the hedge back together, with a pair of potted boxwoods.

pruning-the-boxwood.jpgThe pruning makes a world of difference in the appearance of this garden.  I am enjoying that change thoroughly.  If you have a boxwood hedge or specimen boxwood plants that ask for a precision pruning, I highly recommend M and M Flowers.  Their work is superb.  248  340  0796.

 

The Pots At Home

scotch-moss.jpgThe last 2 weeks have been wicked busy.  Several extensive landscape projects swung into high gear, at the same time I began planting containers and annual gardens.  There are but 10 of us that produce all of the work. We have done 67 annual and container gardens, with 6 more to go. One landscape project-a brand new house that needed everything from start to finish. The other project-a new pool and pool house needing a landscape.  Needless to say, I have not done much at home.  The bed around the fountain got replanted with scotch moss.  I did get a few of the deck planters planted, so I wouldn’t have to celebrate my birthday looking at pots of dirt.

surfinia-sky-blue-petunias.jpgI have always liked the color purple in the landscape, but I have never made it the focus of my containers.  Last year’s silver and brown containers were my most favorite ever, but I hate to repeat a scheme.  The entire fun of planting annual containers is that you get to chose something new.  Since I already have Princeton Gold maples, Sum and Substance hosta, and now the lime green moss, I thought yellow might be a good companion to the purple.

purple-and-yellow.jpgThere are plenty of purple and yellow annual and tropical plants.  Scaevola and dark purple angelface angelonia are both on the blue purple side.  Yellow thunbergia, is a vine sporting sunny lemon yellow flowers.  The contrast of colors is lively and cheery.  I also like the look of these colors with my yellow brick.  The blue from the sky and the green from the landscape are important colors in any garden scheme.  The sky occupies a lot of square footage overhead.  But the color of a home will influence the look of any color you put next to it.

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But I was interested in something else besides color.  I have always been a proponent of growing plants that are willing and able to grow.  Some plants are not that demanding.  Some plants deliver lots of satisfaction without asking for much in return.  It is easy to become besotted with Vista petunias, as they grow and bloom profusely.  But this year, I thought I would try to grow some plants that would challenge my ability to grow things.  The lime scotch moss-it is hard to grow in larger areas.  Yellow petunias are not that easy either, although this Proven Winner’s variety “citrus” promises be be a better than usualy grower.

bicolor-angelonia.jpgButterfly marguerites are willing growers, but they require regular dead heading to stay beautiful.  They also seem to need more attention to the water than other annual plants.  If I comer home at the end of a very hot day, it is the marguerites that are wilted.  Angelonia performs well, as long as it gets heat.  The best looking angelonia I have seen in the past week have been in the greenhouse.  Our early summer weather has been especially cool.

lavender-and-pale-yellow.jpgLime licorice will not tolerate too much water. The felted leaves say that loud and clear.  The leaves will bleach, if the plant is grown in too much sun. It will wilt with too little water.  Finding just the right spot for licorice is a challenge.  Growing it with another trailer sometimes provides it with just enough cover to make it thrive.

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Million bells are trailing plants with loads of charm.  This new variety of super bells is called “Miss Lilac”. The color is very interesting.  Growing million bells can also be interesting.  They rot easily, and develop yellow stems and leaves.  I recommend watering in the am only, and fertilizing with miracid.  Million bells do not thrive when the Ph is too alkaline.  Petunias don’t mind the miracid treatment either.  The color of this million bells is delicate-we’ll see if it is tough enough to withstand my care.

variegated-foliage.jpgPurple annual plants for shade are few and far between, so I am trying torenia this year for the first time.  It is so true that the only way to learn how to grow plants is to grow them.  If I have questions about the cultivation of a plant, I like to ask a grower.  This is one of the best reasons to shop for plants at your local farmer’s markets.  The people who are there helping you select plants are growers.

variegated-boxwood.jpgThere are lots of ways to get yellow in a garden that don’t involve flowers.  The millet Jester is an excellent grass whose color is an intense lime yellow. The centerpiece of this container is a variegated boxwood.  The edges of the leaves are a creamy white.

coleus-Wasabi.jpgThe fairly new coleus cultivar called Wasabi is a very strong grower in either sun or shade.  In sun, the plant is butter yellow.  In shade, a yellow green.

annual-planting.jpgIn the center of these pots, I have planted cup and saucer vines.  The dark purple/green foliage sends out delicate purple tendrils which will attach themselves to the poles.  This is one of the few annual climbers that does not require a lot of support.  Once it gets going, it grows fast, and big.

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The flowers open pale green; they will turn lavender, and finally mature to a dark purple color. I have grown cobaea scandens on a wall, but I have never tried it in a pot.  We’ll see how it works out.

begonia.jpgEvery year I swear I am not going to grow any big flowered begonias.  But in spite of the fact that they are big and gaudy, I just can’t resist them.  The obverse of the leaves have a purple cast.  This non-stop yellow begonia is a deliciously intense sunny yellow.  I planted some.  There are pots that are not planted yet.  But I am beginning to feel like I will in fact get them all planted.  The process of the planting comes at a very busy time of year, but is a time I truly enjoy.  Next up, the growing.