Moss It

DSC_9020The signs of spring in my area are still few and far between.  I do have a few crocus just coming into bloom now – in April, for pete’s sake. My garden cannot be cleaned up yet, as a layer of ice still covers most of it.  I have winter pots still so frozen in place I cannot take them apart.  But I have other options for spring.  As in planting pots for spring.  We are in the process of planting lots of them for the shop.  Shortly we will be planting spring pots for clients.  I do have a love for mossed containers.  Nature represented in both the top and the bottom is a very good look. Lining moss baskets has always been about the art of patching.  Florist’s moss comes packed in cases of pieces.  Some moss pieces are big and thick.  Rob calls these moss hides.  Some pieces are thin and small.  A wirework basket may need a number of pieces of moss, stitched together via a puzzle of overlapping pieces.  Any natural material comes in all manner of natural shapes, sizes and thicknesses.

DSC_9021One of our suppliers had the brilliant idea of attaching moss to a biodegradable backing.  Don’t ask me how they do this-I have no clue.  But I do know that mossing a wire basket just got a whole lot easier.  For a round wirework container, Rob rolls the container in a natural arc across the moss mat.  He marks that radius with a nursery marking pen.  The marks describing the top of the container, and the bottom.  That pair of lines create an arc.  He cuts that arc big and wide- oversized.

DSC_9025That arc derived from the top and bottom of the container means that the moss mat fits smoothly inside the basket.   Of course there is a lot of fussing.  Anything in the garden that means much to a gardener requires the work of a pair of hands.  A pair of hands on a shovel, or a hose, or a rake.  As for my gardening efforts today, I am putting my hands to planting containers for spring.

DSC_9026Not that I do as good a job as Rob does.  He has infinite patience.  He eases the moss mat into place.

DSC_9028The bottom of this wirework container is filled with drainage material. By a third.  Container plantings require more drainage material than soil.  Waterlogged plants never prosper, unless you plan to pot up bog plants.  A seasonal pot planting does well with bark as drainage material. Making sure that water can drain from a container is essential.

DSC_9031After the bark, the container is filled with soil.  We use a soil mix that is custom blended for us.  Lots of compost.  A big dash of sand.  And soil.  We do not use peat based growers mix in our pots.  Soilless mixes are perfect for professional growers who can manage the fertility levels and water to a tee.  For gardeners, we recommend a soil based mix. We like dirt.

DSC_9033The upper side of the moss mat gets folded over. A rolled moss edge looks generously finished.  That thickness contrasts beautifully with the thin wire that describes the shape of the container.   That roll also helps to keep the soil right where it belongs-inside.

DSC_9034Once the wirework container is moss lined, it is time to plant the plants.  For this pot, white tulips, white English daisies, and white variegated ivy.

DSC_9038Planting a pot no doubt involves design.  Color, texture, mass-and a vision about the mature shape of the planting.  But planting a pot is also about that magical moment.  An idea. The plants. The dirt.  The act of planting.

DSC_9043This mossed wirework basket-an expression of spring.  An expression of spring?  I expect both nature and every gardener to be making news, soon.

Potting Up

hellebores.jpgOur winter is stuck on repeat like a CD playing with a giant gouge-is it not?  If only nature would choose to bring this song to a close. If only the channel would change.  OK, I realize the timing of the change of the channel is out of my control.  The only thing keeping me on an even keel-a greenhouse full of hellebores.  I am on the verge of being afraid for spring.  The sun and slightly warmer temperatures today meant melted snow was streaming into the shop under the front door. What other disasters does this brutal winter have to visit upon our spring?  I don’t have any answers, just a lot of theories that are most likely off target or irrelevant.   March?  lion-like, so far. And no relief in sight.  But any gardener has the option of creating a little spring indoors.  I am beginning to see pots of spring flowering bulbs available at nurseries.

spring-flowering-bulbs.jpgThis pot of muscari came in a plastic pot.  No gardener should be dismayed by the nursery presentation.  What they do well is bring a plant on.  Representing the magic of spring is not their thing.  They grow.  What they grow is available at a very reasonable cost.  That bulb that has shot forth leaves and flowers is a miracle of nature.  Spring flowering bulbs have flowers and leaves stored in in those juicy orbs we call bulbs.  Given the proper temperature signs, those bulbs break dormancy and grow.

potting-spring-bulbs.jpgNot so much is required of a gardener to bring a spring flowering bulb into bloom.  Tulips, daffodils, hyacinths,and a whole host of small flowering bulbs will represent in the spring, if you can just manage to get them below ground before the ground freezes so hard it cannot be worked.  I am embarrassed to say that I have had to ditch plenty too many bulbs in my gardening life, as I did not make the deadline.  Happily, the fall planting deadlines need not apply, should you pot up.  Pots of bulbs wintered over in the garage will come on and bloom with as much vigor as bulbs planted on time in the fall.

muscari.jpgShould you have no pots of spring flowering bulbs waiting for spring in your garage, shop your favorite garden store.  Rob spent the day transplanting muscari and cyclamen into containers.  How he transforms a nursery grown plastic pot loaded with muscari into a strong statement about spring might interest you.

finishing-touches.jpgThe first time I saw him wash the soil off of the upper half of a spring flowering bulb, I worried.  Would a bulb exposed to view mean disaster?  That has never happened.  As he says, the bulb from which all that life springs is beautiful.  A statement about spring should surely include a view of that bulb that is part of the experience of spring.

cyclamen.jpgHe has repotted cyclamen, taking great care to select a container of a proper scale.  I greatly admire how he subtly pairs plants with appropriate containers.

spring-pots.jpgThe only spring going on in my neighborhood is a direct result of the intervening hand of a passionate gardener.  In  our shop, those hands belong to Rob.  As anxious as I am about the length of this long and very hard winter, I appreciate his gestures towards the turn of the season.

crocus-pots.jpgWe had customers in today taking the results of his potting up home.  Not near Detroit Garden Works?  Visit your local nursery, and bring home a few pots of spring flowering bulbs.  Then do what you can to make those pots a personal expression of spring.

spring-pots.jpgStuck in a zone  with no spring?

spring-pots.jpgCreate your own version of spring.  Add a few touches from the forest floor.  Take some pictures. Enjoy the process.

 

 

At A Glance: More Spring Plantings

 

Blue in a Michigan garden?  That would be blue pansies and lobelia.  OK, there are some true blue delphiniums, and cornflowers to come later on.   But if you have a big love for blue, express yourself now. 

Bright yellow and dark purple pansies, orange grass, and cream stick stacks-a spring wake up call. 

creme brulee coral bells

Creme brulee heuchera-great in pots.  The habit, the leaf size and shape-and that color-the stuff that spring memories are made of.  I am not crazy about black and silver leaved coral bells, but these enchant me.    The backs of the leaves-a faint version of red violet-echoing the punch of red violet from these dark pansies.

Fresh cut copper willow twigs, and a spring assortment.  I like lots of spring voices looking for a little harmony.  This-a simple pleasure. 

Picoteed and whiskered violas-I love them all.  They look especially at home in small low terra cotta pots-bulb pans, we call them. 

On the right, a trailing viola I have never seen before.  It may be my favorite bicolor viola-what a treat that it trails.  Pale blue and dark purple-stunning.  On the left, clear sky yellow pansies and angelina. Prairie and copper willow provide a little natural vertical interest.

planting for spring

Lemon cypress and dark red dracaena contrast dramatically with each other.  The softening part?  lavender and peach violas with that lime.  Citrus mix pansies and Ogon sedum with that dark spike.

Ornamental kales and cabbages are great for spring pots-they will grow to a decent size before they bolt.  Barely visible in the right pot, a one gallon pot of asparagus. 

Green spikes are common in summer pots-but they handle the cold in the spring and fall very well.  Any ordinary plant used in an unusual season warrants a fresh look.

This tuft of a lime cypress will grow up to a shrub of considerable size, should you baby it over a few winters.  That lime green says spring like no other color.  Other choices?  Bibb and leaf lettuce.  Green oakleaf lettuce.  Lime green hostas.  Lime green hops.  Lime green leaved columbines and bleeding hearts. Green flowered hellebores. Lime green leaved tradescantia.  You get the idea. 

 Any spring pot makes a better show right off the bat with a plant climber in place.  Some seasons ask for a little backup from some structure.  In this case, steel structure.   Given a few weeks of warm weather, these blue pansies and white variegated ivy will grow, and make a better statement.  All of these plantings need to grow on and up.  But today, these freshly planted pots still say welcome to my spring.

At A Glance: 11 Good Reasons To Plant For Spring