Switching It Up

This planting needs

This planting needs some  ‘switching up’ to renew it for summer.  I went to work last night removing all of the plants and finding new spots for them to grow.


When the weather finally warms up, late April or early May, those winter and early spring pots we planted so lovingly last autumn just don’t look so good anymore.

Between plants which never quite recovered from winter’s bite, and early season annuals gasping in the heat; there comes a day when you really look at a pot and say to yourself, “Enough! Time for a change.”


"Enough!"  Monday afternoon this poor planting looked ragged enough I was determined to change it out.

“Enough!” Monday afternoon this poor planting looked so ragged I was determined to switch it out for something fresh.


That day was yesterday for the large hypertufa tub installed on the ‘pedastal’ in our ‘stump garden’ last spring.

I like the idea of ‘four season’ pots which drift from season to season in the garden with only minor adjustments.  While that is an nice idea, it doesn’t always work out as planned.

The original Dusty Miller planted in this pot last spring lived, but was seriously burned by the cold.  I’ve moved it out of the pot now to a less conspicuous place in the garden where it can continue growing.

The Violas, still blooming, will not last much longer in full sun.  They have been moved to a bed in partial shade.  The snaps could have grown on here for quite a while.  Planted a few months ago in earliest spring, they often make it through our winters.  I’ve moved them to a bed in full sun where they should perform well this summer.

After a full year of watching this pot, I decided to populate it with plants which thrive in hot and often dry conditions.  I want a large and showy display which won’t need regular care of any sort to continue looking great.  Mission impossible?


May 25, 2013, before the Brugmansia gained much height.

May 25, 2014, before the Brugmansia gained much height.


The original planting last summer included Coleus, Dusty Miller, a Brugmansia, some golden Sedum and Creeping Jenny.  I expected the Brugmansia to grow several feet and bloom with huge pendulous flowers in late summer.


July 18, 2014

July 18, 2014


Although it grew, it never performed as expected.  Everything else in the pot looked great all summer, but required nearly daily watering to avoid the late afternoon wilts.

So I’ve chosen a new group of plants this summer in hopes of an even more vibrant display, even on those days when I don’t have the opportunity to water this trough.


May 5, 2015 garden 002


The headliner is a pink Mulla Mulla, Ptilotus exaltatus ‘Joey,’ which will grow to 15″ in full sun.  This tender perennial (Zone 9) loves neutral to chalky soil with sharp drainage.  Beside the Mulla Mulla grows a very large leaved variety of culinary Sage.  Sage thrives in full sun and well drained, even rocky soil.

There is a very subdued palette of color in the pot this year, moderated by two fresh new Dusty Miller plants.  Only a recent fan of Dusty Miller, I like the lacy texture of their leaves and their ability to withstand drought and sun.  I expect texture and scale to make this planting interesting as the season unfolds.


This heat tolerant Verbena will fill an area almost two feet in diameter.

This heat tolerant Verbena will fill an area almost two feet in diameter.


The only concession to soft trailing flowers comes from the Lanai Twister Purple Improved Verbena draping over one end of the pot.  I hope it will spread to soften the entire top of the ‘pedestal.’

Finally, I added several clumps of the golden Sedum back into the pot since it obviously thrives here year round and makes a nice pop of chartreuse against the silvery foliage and lavender flowers.  The entire pot is mulched in fine, light colored pea gravel.


The newly planted pot on its pedestal, this evening just before sunset.  All of these newly planted varieties will grow quite large over the summer with very little attention.

The newly planted pot on its pedestal, this evening just before sunset. All of these newly planted varieties will grow quite large over the summer with very little attention.


The Creeping Jenny and remaining Sedum removed from the pot is already earmarked for use in a new bed I’m ready to construct tomorrow.  It will grow alongside Oxalis triangularis in the back garden.

This is my first experience growing Ptilotus exaltatus and the Lanai Twister hybrids of Verbena.  It is good to try new things each year, and the Mulla Mulla is known as a good flower for cutting and for drying.  I am looking forward to growing them on and seeing how these varieties grow together over the coming months.


I plant to "switch up" this pot tomorrow adding Salvia, Ivy Geraniums, and maybe even some Basil.  The tiny plant on the far right is a "Kent's Beauty" Oregano which survived the winter.

I plant to “switch up” this pot tomorrow adding Salvia, Ivy Geraniums, and maybe even some Basil. The tiny plant on the far right is a “Kent’s Beauty” Oregano, which survived the winter.  The bare stump is from the Brugmansia I tried to over-winter outside.


There are still lots of pots with actively growing Violas around the garden.  I’ll be moving them to shady spots this week as I continue re-planting containers for summer.  I purposely waited this long both to enjoy them, and to give time for some of the dormant plants in the same pots to awaken.  While patience is a virtue, at some point patience creeps into procrastination.


May 5, 2015 garden 012


I’ve collected several trays of new plants this week, and I’m ready to work with them over the next few days.  There are lots of geraniums this year, a fair lot of Salvias, a good assortment of fragrant Basils, a few more Dusty Miller plants, now a half-dozen large white Marigold plants I’ve been waiting for the Patton family to offer for sale at their Homestead Garden Center near Toano.  They grow the marigolds, and many other annuals, organically in their own greenhouse each spring. If one has patience to wait for them; healthier, more affordable plants simply cannot be found in this area.

Planting pots for the coming season, or switching up established pots, requires the vision, energy and creativity needed for all of the other art forms.  Like painting a canvas, all of the elements have to come together harmoniously.  But as in music, time is the essential element.  Only as plants grow and weave themselves together does the gardener’s vision materialize.

Whether it takes weeks or years, our gardens remain works in progress.


May 6, 2014

May 6, 2014


Woodland Gnome 2015


About woodlandgnome

Lifelong teacher and gardener.

13 responses to “Switching It Up

  1. I love your plantings. I especially like the concrete bowls.❀

  2. Mixed plantings in pots can be tricky, but it’s a wonderful way to experiment.

    • A good way to experiment, and an easy way to ‘fix’ combos which don’t work as we plan 😉 I like pots since you can control the soil/moisture/nutrients and protect the plants’ roots. Thank you for visiting 😉

  3. It is always a juggling act finding something that stands the heat, looks good all summer, doesn’t need watering twice a day, and can put up with the occasional downpour too! Your selection of plants looks very nice and I hope your container fills out the way you want it to. I do like that planter on your tree stump!

  4. Our gardens really are a work in progress, aren’t they? I’ve been trying to divide perennials before they leaf out, particularly hosta. I’m putting a lot of divisions into the ‘new’ bed where the trees were cut. The roots are frustrating to deal with!
    Your new containers sound like they will be gorgeous. Do you have to water them every day? I think a drought tolerant selection makes sense. I gave up on the window box on the shed and planted sedum and hens and chicks, nothing can take the heat like they can. 😉

    • You’re doing some heavy work there Eliza . At least some root pruning won’t hurt them at this stage . I assume you’re going to cast seeds in the new bed too? I don’t get to water every day , and we are blessed with frequent rain . We use more succulents each year and enjoy them . Can’the wait to see your new garden areas! 🙂

  5. It’s a lot of work but worth it, changing out the soil, adding compost, your plants will thrive 🙂 They will look great! I noticed a few bearded iris blooming in your pictures!

    • Thanks Michael ! New soil makes a huge difference. More Iris photos yesterday . Love your roses today . I grew that variety in our last garden and the fragrance is wonderful . Yours are stunning 🙂

  6. I appreciate all your hard work and creativity in switching up your containers this year, WG. I have to resist doing the same. We are leaving for a good chunk of June and things wouldn’t get watered. One disadvantage to living in the country. When I get home, I plan to do some pots of succulents. I’m not sure they could go 2 1/2 weeks without water, what do you think?

    • Succulents may go several weeks without water . But water them just before you go. You know it will rain while you’re gone , too . The succulents will look great all summer too 🙂

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