WPC: Containers II

July 19, 2014 Container 013

When we want to take care of something special, we put it into a special container of some sort.

Michael included an extra plant with the Lemon Lime Hosta he traded with me for some re-blooming German Iris. 

July 19, 2014 Container 007

He send me a beautiful Japanese Iris division.

Yesterday I potted up the Hosta divisions, and they are snuggled safely in a shady spot on the deck while they recover from their Fed-Exed journey in a cardboard box.

The plants as they appeared when I opened the box this morning.  They look healthy and ready to grow!

The plants as they appeared when I opened the box.   They look healthy and ready to grow!

And I decided to start this beautiful Iris division off properly in a container as well.

We have too many hungry voles, and the weather is too variable in summer, to start these  Japanese Iris off in the ground.

Growing perennials in a container is a little trickier than growing annuals.

Although it is easier to move a container around until you find the perfect spot for the right amount of light during the annual cycle of the plant, perennials offer special challenges.

For one thing, most have a fairly short season of bloom.  These Iris for example, bloom once in the spring for a few weeks, and then they rest.

Although their leaves will grow during the summer, storing up energy for spring, they won’t be ready to command “center stage” in a container until next May.

But in the meantime, perennials are heavy feeders.  They grow extensive root systems, and their need for moisture in the soil varies according to whether or not they are in active growth.

So before settling on a planting plan, I went to consult an expert:  Joel Patton of the Homestead Garden Center.

July 19, 2014 Container 003

There I found the perfect deep pot which will accommodate the massive root system perennials grow, and there Joel helped me select appropriate companion plants for the Japanese Iris.

Iris with the other perennials Joel Patton helped me select for this container.

Iris with the other perennials Joel Patton helped me select for this container.

We settled on three: a Salvia, an Artemesia, and an annual Penta; all of which will appreciate the partial sun and moist soil enjoyed by the Iris during a southern summer.

Since there won’t be any Iris flowers during the remainder of the season, I wanted something which would provide flowers in this container garden from now until frost.

The Salvia nemorosa, “New Dimension Blue” is a sturdy bloomer which will keep sending up blue,  bee-satisfying blossoms over the next three months.  A compact grower , this Salvia will bloom happily in partial sun.

These Penta still have small root systems, so I could tuck one into the pot without crowding the other plants.

These Pentas still have small root systems, so I could tuck one into the pot without crowding the other plants.  Pentas attract all nectar loving wildlife.  The Artemesia, to the left, has insignificant blooms.

The annual Penta will also stay in bloom, provide nectar, and will continue to grow taller until taken down by frost in November.  Joel offered these blooming Pentas in a six-pack, so the root ball was quite small.

Finally, this beautiful Artemesia, reduced here at the end of the season, has plenty of light blue foliage to serve as “filler” as the other plants take off.

As the Iris grows in its new leaves, they will become the tall “thriller” in this pot for the remainder of the season.

I purchased the next to the largest pot Homestead had in stock today, to provide plenty of room for growth.

Recycled soil, in the base of the pot, is enriched with a handful of PlantTone to feed the perennials as they grow.

Recycled soil, in the base of the pot, is enriched with a handful of Plant Tone to feed the perennials as they grow.

It is fine to recycle used potting soil in the bottom of large containers such as this.  Potting soil doesn’t really “wear out” over time.  Its nutrients can be replaced easily enough.  The main problem with old potting soil would be the roots of former plants, which should be removed.

I filled the bottom of the container 2/3 full of recycled compost, and then amended it with Plant Tone to provide food, minerals, and beneficial bacteria.

The Homestead Garden Center is a valuable local resource for organic gardeners.  They only offer organic products and use mostly organic methods with the plants they raise in their greenhouse in Lanexa.

The Homestead Garden Center is a valuable local resource for organic gardeners. They only offer organic products and use organic methods with the plants they raise in their greenhouse in Lanexa.

All of the extra rich soil which Michael sent with his Hosta and Iris went into the mix, and then I topped off the pot with fresh, good quality potting mix.

One thing to keep in mind when planting nursery perennials in mid-summer is that these older plants will generally have become root-bound.    Good garden centers, like Homestead, will re-pot their stock into larger containers as the season progresses.

Gently break up the root ball of pot-bound perennials like this Artemesia before planting in fresh compost.

Gently break up the root ball of pot-bound perennials like this Artemesia before planting in fresh compost.

I chose perennials today from their clearance table; those they would rather move out than re-pot again.

So I was careful to loosen and “rough up” the roots a bit before tucking the root balls into their fresh container.  Over the next week or so, these roots will grow into the fresh soil, and will probably fill this container before frost.

This is a “Four Season pot.”

July 19, 2014 Container 012

The only plant I’ll need to replace during the next year should be the Penta.  I’ll switch it out for a Viola in autumn.

I’ll probably tuck a few  Daffodil bulbs into the center of the pot in November, and possibly some Crocus bulbs around the rim for early spring color.

July 19, 2014 Container 014

The bulbs will wake up first, followed by fresh leaves on the Iris and Artemesia.  The Salvia will show new growth by April, just before the Iris comes into bloom.  As the Iris blossoms fade, the Salvia will come into bloom again next spring.

Micheal’s gift Japanese Iris can live in this pot indefinitely.  They will eventually crowd out the other perennials, or will need dividing.

July 19, 2014 Container 016

That is the trade off with perennials:  although they may offer a fairly short season of active bloom, they return again and again, year after year, for so long as their needs are met.

In a Forest Garden like ours, growing special perennials in containers allows them to reach their potential for beauty and growth, which might not otherwise be possible without the controlled conditions a container garden makes possible.

Thank you again, Michael, for these beautiful Iris.  I can’t wait to see them bloom next spring!

July 19, 2014 Container 017

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Container

WPC: Container I

WPC: Container III

 

 

 

 

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About woodlandgnome

Lifelong teacher and gardener.

4 responses to “WPC: Containers II

  1. Great step-by-step guide. The container turned out lovely!

  2. Good afternoon! Boy your container with the iris and companion plants looks great! I use the plant-tone all the time in my garden, I think I have all the different kinds they make. The Rose-tone really does well for the roses too. With all the rain we had it won’t be long and our trade plants will be doing good! 🙂 Thanks for the trade and have a great Sunday!

    • Thank YOU for the trade, Michael. So glad you like how the container with the Iris came together. Now to watch them grow 😉 Yes, we use the full line of Espoma products, too. I buy the biggest bag of Holly Tone they sell once a season and go around spreading it on all of the acid loving plants we have. Great products- especially since they won’t burn the roots if you slip and spread too much. Hope you’ve enjoyed your weekend, best wishes, WG

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