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- ; 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.

At A Glance: Pruning The Boxwood

Mindy from M and M Flowers sends a crew every year in late June to prune the boxwood garden in front of the shop.  Pruning day is a really big deal; I make sure the spring growth is totally flushed out before I ask her to prune. This is a big job that takes a lot of planning and thought.  If you prune your boxwood too early, you may be faced with the prospect of pruning it again.    

I like the spring flush of boxwood growth to be done, and hardening off-prior to the music of the shears.  I so have patience for this part of my landscape maintenance. Once a year-the pruning of the boxwood. The boxwood cue me-I do not cue them.  The steel poles driven into the ground, and the carefully drawn level lines are a sure sign of a formal pruning event to come. 

Mindy’s crew prunes my boxwood with hand shears.  Corona is by no means a designer tool company.  They make reasonally priced and well engineered tools.  My point here?  Pruning boxwood is not about a tool.  It is about an experienced eye, and a willing and patient pair of hands.  Gorgeous pruning has everything to do with that individual who is willing to clip clip clip-with a sharp tool, for hours on end.

Techny arborvitae grow so so slow-it should have been named  Arborvitae The Snail. My short pair of techny arborvitae hedges enclosing the shop property-every bit of 13 years old.  They are just now coming into their own.       

The face of those Technys need a snip snip here or there-or everywhere. They need a top swipe, level with the horizon.   A tool that makes pruning way up in the air possible-an aluminum tripod ladder.   

Three men pruned from 8:30 this Sunday morning, until 3:30 this Sunday afternoon.  This means 7 hours, for each of three people.  My boxwood, pruned properly, takes 21 hours.     

As the pruning of the boxwood begins to take shape-I am so pleased.   

The boxwood in the front of the shop suffered terribly, given several winters with incredibly heavy snow loads.  We are on year two of a treatment for a rare fungal infection  from hell. The boxwood are being trimmed a shade looser this year.  Every move in a landscape asks for some thought.  Some spot on, current and relevant thought can make for a great garden.

By the end of the day today, I breathed a big breath.  The landscape at the shop looks beautiful to me.

The Natural Order Of Things


I had a client in the store a few days ago, needing some help with planting a pair of containers.  She told me she needed a thriller, some fillers, and some spillers for her pots.  ???  I was at sea.   This sounded like some popular container composition slang; I asked for an explanation.  The explanation was as follows.   A tall center of interest plant, with some slightly shorter supporting cast plants, and trailing plants to spill over the edges of the pots.  Voila-a perfectly designed and beautiful pot.  Formulas-I instinctively have an aversion to them.  The pot pictured above looks like a mess with no discernible design, but give it a few weeks.  The “spiller” plants are planted in the center.  The “filler” plants are planted on on the edge.  I abide by the natural order of things when I need to.  The seasons change-I get behind that.  The west sun is merciless, unlike the life giving east sun.  The natural order of things apply to natural phenomena.  All else-whatever idea you have, try it out.  Be confident enough to try things out of order.    

This may be my most favorite container planting of this season. A purple spike may bring the thriller status to mind-I had another idea.  What happens when I plant the thriller plant, in multiples,  in the spiller slot?  We’ll see how this planting matures-but I like the idea that I have dwarf and luminous white and green caladiums in the thriller spot.  The button ferns-they defy categorization.  They do not spill-they are drapy. I promise to take another picture in 6 weeks or so.    

Last year I planted white mandevillea vines in the front of the shop.  No stakes, no trellis.   I let them grow as they would-my thriller became a spiller.   They were beautiful. How they looked encouraged me to be free of an outline about the natural order of things.  Gardens that I see that are free-free from popular sentiment, free from formulas, free from preconcieved notions-are they not so beautiful?  I pin my climbing roses to the wall, and I stake my mandevillea.  I give my clematis a trellis on which to climb.   I follow the rules-mostly.  But there are those times when a preconceived order of things may not be the most interesting solution.

The Forecast Is For Rain


Our forecast has been, is, and will be for rain.  We have had lots and lots of it.  Three or four storms every day, and then all night long-these weepy skies are in a holding pattern right over the top of us.  Last night was the first time I have been able to get into the garden after work in four or five days.  Needless to say, I was anxious to get out there before the skies let loose again.  What a relief to be sitting on the wall, having a glass of wine.  My Japanese beech ferns have loved this weather; they are growing lustily.     

There was even a little pale and wan early evening light.  This is what passes for sun these days.   Not that I was fussing.  I have gone through 2 sets of clothes and 3 pairs of socks every day for at least a week.  Rain can be very wearing when you are trying to work outside.  Sopping wet pots weigh a lot, and soaked dirt is not all the fun to handle.  I am not crazy about handling plant material when it is wet.  I always have the vague suspicion that I am fostering water borne illness-don’t ask me where that comes from.  The wet dirt finds its way into my socks, and gets on my face. I was home, dry, and outside-it was lovely.  Just as Buck and I got settled down with the dogs-out of no where, a burst of rain.  Buck is not very keen about experiencing weather.  He likes the house warm in the winter, and cool in the summer.  Raindrops on his glasses irritate him.  He took off on me as if he had been struck by lightning.  Even Milo was shocked at how fast a getaway he managed to make.  I was sitting underneath a fairly heavy canopy of Princeton Gold maple tree leaves-would this not act as an umbrella?

Seconds later it was raining harder.  The drops bouncing off the surface of the fountain looked great.  I was beginning to enjoy watching the rain-at least I thought I was.  I just didn’t want to give in to it, and leave the garden.   

By now it was raining hard enough that Howard had ditched me, with Milo not far behind.  Be assured that if Milo runs off sans his ball, rather than taking it with him, he is feeling something coming on that he wants to get away from fast. Why wasn’t I smart enough to take a cue from him? 

Seconds later it was pouring.  My maple tree umbrella was suddenly breached; I had to make a run for it. 

By the time I got to the bottom of the deck stairs, I was drenched to the skin.The rain was bouncing up off the deck boards a foot or better into the air.  I don’t think I have ever been this wet.  I had to take a picture, which I did on the fly.   

Milo was waiting for me.  Clever dog-he must have remembered he had a ball inside.  He did not budge from this spot until the rain quit. 

These purple wave petunias plastered on the rim of a terra cotta pot perfectly describes how I looked when I finally got inside.  Buck couldn’t help but laugh.  I cannot remember the movie about the women’s baseball team when coach Tom Hanks looks at one of his players in tears and roars  “Crying?  There’s no crying in baseball.”  That is exactly what Buck said when he saw all the rain water rolling down my face – Come on Deborah-there’s no crying in gardening.