A Particular Planting

A friend much more tuned into the 21st century than I let me know that this container planting of mine from 2005 was getting considerable interest via Pinterest.  Pinterest?  I was curious.  Based on my recent research, Pinterest is an on line venue by which anyone, any invited anyone, can post images they fancy, in personal albums organized by subject matter of their own choosing.  As for who posted this collection of photographs from my blog that had been pinned by lots of different people, I have no idea-it was not me.  http://pinterest.com/source/deborahsilver.com/   This picture of a container planting I did in 2005 has gotten a lot of interest.  Though the Wedding White zinnias from Burpee, the petunias and the lime licorice are easy to identify, I am embarassed to say I have no idea what the center plant is.  I am almost certain it came from Landcraft Nursery.  For several years we bought unusual and exotic tropical plants from them.  A quick scan of their plant list did not ring a bell.  If you can identify this plant, will you please write me?    

I am very pleased to see an annual container planting generate some interest.  Gardeners are happy to share-I am no different.  This was a new house, with a landscape design and installation imagined by my clients and I from start to finish.  Once I was close to that finish, there was the matter of selecting and planting containers.  The pool terrace was an obvious choice for containers.  My clients planned to spend a lot of time there.  The pool deck of concrete aggregate with bluestone detail was part of the original landscape plan.  My client chose the furniture all on her own-and did a great job of it.  The French flavor of the landscape asked for simple and spare choices in plant material, lots of pleasingly simple geometry, and a largely green palette for the plants in the pots.   

This pair of tall Belgian zinc planters in contrasting heights are kept company by one low simple English lead square.  The star of the show in the tallest pot-datura metel “Belle Blanche”.  In the shorter, melianthus.  The low lead box features a fistful of white geraniums.  I like green plants.  Datura, melianthus and geranium are eminently attractive in leaf.  The flowers are welcome, when they come.  

In keeping with what I would call a landscape with a French flavor, the plant choices are simple, and edited.  Lavender, white and shades of green.  Simple, elegant, spare. 

Dahlias do not come into their own much until September and October.  But during the summer, the dahlia plant has significant stature, great texture, and presence.  A little in the way of Verbena bonariensis and scaevola, and tufts of a grass whose name I cannot remember makes for a container planting that is much about form and mass-stature-, and not so much about flowers. 

Simple and serene, this.  The containers stand proud, but not too proud.   

My favorite part?  A border of Panicum Virgatum, faced down with a tall salvia and verbena bonariensis.  A rhythmic and subtle planting that spills over the edge of the pool terrace. 

A good landscape does a lot of things.  Trees get planted, where there were none.  Spaces get created that are friendly to people.  Plants of visual interest to people and of vital interest to butterflies and birds get added.  Everywhere you look, there is green.   

 In April I will have been been posting essays about gardens, landscape, and the design thereof for three years.  As a matter of course, I post lots of my own pictures in support of what I write.  Generating those images takes every bit as much time as the writing.  An image can no doubt be very powerful, and compelling.   This is what is interesting me so much about Pinterest.  What we see matters much.  An image speaks in a way all its own.

Petunias Popping

I was asked recently if I had any tips for growing great petunias-this from Ann who writes the Plumsiena blog.   If you have not read it, give it a try. I enjoy her point of view. But back to the petunias;  my first tip-if you love petunias, keep growing them until you get the culture down pat.  I really like the fragrance.  I like the shape and simplicity of the flower.  I like all of the colors.  White, cream, yellow, orange, red, all the shades of pink, cerise, lavender, purple-and don’t forget the bicolor petunias.  They come single and double.  They come mini, standard, and trailing.  What do I like?  I put my effort behind this.

The Surfinia Blue Sky petunia is one of my favorites.  It is a lavender unlike any other lavender-very blue.  Blue flowers are in very short supply in a Michigan garden.  Cornflowers, and bellamosa delphiniums about wraps up the list. I am having a great run with this petunia this year.  I keep them as dry as possible.  I lift up the foliage with my forearm, and water the soil only.  I keep my fingers crossed that summer will be short of rain-as it usually is. What usually is-I cannot depend on this.   

No kidding, I lift this skirt of petunias up so my water hits the soil, and not the plants.  I never put water to the foliage.  This plant likes dry-I try to oblige.  Rain and high humidity-your petunias will pout.  I have had them rot and die overnight in wet weather.  I trim the stragglers right along.  Hard pruning a petunia means many weeks of recovery.  I try to trim a little at a time.  Every trailing stem gets a little haircut, frequently.     

It helps to choose the right cultivars.  Misty lilac wave petunias are my favorite.  The color of this petunia reminds me of the species, while rewarding my efforts with vigorous growth and easy care.  Double petunias are leggy-plant them with a frothy friend, like euyphoriba Diamond Frost.  Some petunias need a buddy to shine.   


Misty Lilac wave petunias-when they are happy, I am happy.  Petunias may be the most common of annual plants, but they have an uncommon beauty.  When they are good, they are very very good-and when they are bad, they are horrid.   

No one knows what weather a summer season will bring.  The National Weather Service predicted a wet summer for my zone.  Did I lay off the petunias?  No; I was willing to take my chances.  Any garden planting is about taking chances.  Sometimes a season cooperates.  Sometimes a season rewards my efforts such that I feel blessed.  Some seasons challenge all of my good intentions, and leave me with a bad taste in my mouth. 

For the moment, my petunias are happy. This planter hosting yellow cannas is underplanted with Surfinia blue sky and Royal Velvet petunias.  They mix via an alternate planting of scaveola.  I am happy about what I see happening here.  How did this happen Ann?  I have no secrets.  Just a big dose of hope, and persistence.     

I almost always mix my container plantings.  I like to hedge my bets.  No matter how well I garden, I am always behind that 8 ball we call nature.  Plant what you love, tend your garden to the best of your ability, and hope even more for the best.     
My petunias-they look great.  Am I responsible for that?  Not really.  I do the best I can.  Madame Nature either helps me, or dashes my efforts.  Ann, some years my petunias are terrible.  Other years, like this year, they prosper.  I am not in charge of anything in the garden.  The best thing I have going for me is my hope, and my persistence.  I give all of the plants in my garden my best effort.  I learn new things all the time, and add that to the body of my experience.  When things do not work out in spite of my efforts-I do not like it, but I accept it.

Coming Along

How I enjoyed my fourth of July holiday.  The weather was perfect-partly cloudy, and not too hot.  With only one annual planting left to go, I had time to catch my breath, and tinker in my own yard.  My container plantings are coming on just fine.  As usual, I planted caladiums in my planters on the north wall-they thrive in that bright shade.  This small leaved variety whose name I do not know looks a little like fireworks-does it not?   

I suppose the fireworks designation really belongs to the Janet Craig dracaenas.  The large strappy lime colored leaved make a big statement in shade.  It will grow readily in very low light; direct sun will burn the leaves.  I trimmed off the lower leaves, to make room for the caladiums.     

I have planted one color or another of solenia begonias in the terra cotta boxes for years.  Non-stop begonias are not that easy for me to keep-but here they are, in the most intense shade of orange.  They succumb to rot so easily.  My plantes are staked up for better air circulation, and I remove any deteriorating foliage at the first sign of trouble. The green and white caladium with terra cotta blotches face down some lime irisine that needs more time and heat to get tall.  I like the change of texture provided by the liriope in front; lots of perennials are great looking in containers. 

My potunia verbena pot has finally stabilized; the heavy and just about daily rains have abated.  I keep this pot on the dry side.  The container is placed between two chairs, so I plant for a top view, rather than a side view.

This pot always gets planted green in some form or another.  The nicotiana alata lime is in its usual spot.  Nicotiana is probably my most favorite annual flower.  The cooly lime green, simple star shaped single flowers are my idea of a really great looking flower.  Two varieties of coleus some lime licorice and selaginella complete the planting.  I have had a tough time with licorice this year-I suspect the early cold rain is to blame.  

Though I planted an embarrassment of riches in Orange Punch cannas at the shop, I had to bring one home; my olive jar is the perfect place for a tall growing plant.  A shrubby growing orange lantana, and a couple of purple wave petunias complete the ensemble.  The companion planter is planted with the same scheme orange and carmine color scheme.  The heat of July will bring on the flowering of the dahlia. 

The University series of dahlias is new to me; this purple variety is a great color.  My coleus needs a little pinching, and my tricolor geranium needs to grow up, for all of the volumes to balance out. Annuals in my zone shine in July and August.   

The lime irisine in this box has yet to make much of an appearance, but the solenia begonias are thriving.  Like the non-stop begonias, I stake them with bamboo.  The solenias will fall over with the weight of the flowers-this habit makes them great for hanging baskets. The vinca maculatum has grown so long, I swept it up on the ledge.  I will be interested to see if it continues to grow, in this horizontal position. 

 There are 5 containers on the drive, and 2 in ground plantings at different levels.  I have tried a lot of color schemes here; warm colors seem to look the best with the yellow and orange stone. 


I have never planted any yellow flowers here before, but I am liking how it looks.  Yellow butterfly marguerites are a nuisance in the deadheading department, but when they are good, they are very good.  It seems like they are happy; they should double in size before the end of the season.  As much as I love yellow petunias, they are not particularly vigorous.  We’ll see if I can manage to keep them happy. 

In the rose garden, a different color scheme all together. In deference to my pink and white roses, I have pink mandevillea, nicotiana mutabilis and alata lime, white angelonia pink and white petunias, and Persian Queen geraniums.  Faintly visible is my steel plant tower; the vine and nicotiana get a lot of help staying upright from it.  By summer’s end, it will vanish from view.  This Tuscan style square is a very large pot; it asks for a planting that will grow large.  Watching plants grow is my favorite channel.

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.