Evolution Of A Container Garden

April 2, 2017

~

It is a rare gardener who doesn’t enjoy designing container gardens.  Whether filling a barrel or a basket, a simple clay pot or a beautiful glazed pot from Asia; we can try out ideas for plant combinations in a perfectly controlled environment.  Whether you are simply filling the pots by your front door, or creating an object of art for the season coming, container gardens give us months of enjoyment.

~

November 27, 2016 soon after planting H. ‘Snow Fever’ along with some Viola starts and Creeping Jenny Vine.

~

Container gardens made in autumn, for enjoyment during winter and early spring, present special challenges and special opportunities.  Finding plants which will grow and look good from December into March can be a challenge.  Ice, snow, and frigid, drying wind present challenges for most plants.

But the ability to spice up a potted arrangement with spring bulbs presents a challenging opportunity for the gardener to plan in four dimensions. We can look forward in time to how the bulbs will grow into their potential, interacting with the other plants in our arrangement, months into the future.

~

November 30, 2016

~

Autumn planted container gardens give me particular pleasure.  Planted in late October or November, once summer’s annuals have grown shabby, these arrangements will grow and enliven our comings and goings for the next six months.

~

Our beautiful geranium in June, which lasted well into fall and past the first few frosts.

~

It was already well into November of 2016 when I finally emptied this large white pot of its geranium.  We enjoyed this particular geranium all summer for its vivid, generous flowers.  After it survived the first frost or two, I moved it to a nursery pot in the garage to hold it over for spring, and re-did this pot which stands permanently on our driveway near the back door.

And I refilled the pot with a beautiful Helleborus cultivar that I spotted for the first time this fall, at a local garden center.  I was intrigued by its variegated leaves, and wanted to watch it grow and bloom close up, in this pot we pass daily.

~

Helleborus argutifolius ‘Snow Fever’ shows intriguing new growth by January 4, 2017.  The Muscari have grown leaves through the moss mulch.

~

It was quite small when we purchased it, but its few leaves promised a beautiful display coming.  This cultivar is a Corsican Hellebore, Helleborus argutifolius, which is a bit more tender than the Helleborus orientalis we more commonly grow.  Corsican Hellebores generally have white, or green tinged flowers.  These were advertised as creamy white, outlined in rosy pink.

~

By late January, we could  see the beginnings of flowers and tender new leaves.

~

When I re-worked this pot in November, I removed most of the Creeping Jenny vine, leaving only a little to grow on through the winter.  Creeping Jenny can take a pot with its extensive root system.  I planted some of the little Viola starts I had on hand to provide a little additional interest while waiting for the Hellebore to bloom.

~

February 15, 2017

~

I had not yet purchased any Grape Hyacinth bulbs, but knew I wanted them in this arrangement, too.  It took me several weeks to finally buy the white Muscari, plant them, and finish the soil surface with moss.

~

February 23, 2017, on a rainy day, the flowers have begun to bloom.  Holly berries fall into the pot and need picking out from time to time.

~

It was already mid-December by the time the potted arrangement was completed.  The Hellebore, ‘Snow Fever,’ was beginning to show some growth.  In a partially sunny spot, warmed by the drive and the nearby garage, this potted arrangement has shelter from the wind on three sides.  Even so, it has weathered inches of snow, night time temperatures into single digits, ice, and wind.

~

By late March, a month later, the Creeping Jenny has grown in and the Muscari have emerged. Grass, embedded in the moss, has grown in, too.

~

I am very happy with how the whole arrangement has come together.  I’ve not only come to love this cultivar of Hellebore, but I’ve also learned that this combination of plants looks great together. ( In retrospect, I almost wish I had planted a white Viola rather than the red.  But the red certainly ‘pops!’ against the other colors!)

~

April 2, 2017

~

I will plan to plant more white  Muscari this fall  around Hellebores out  in the garden.  Moss makes a beautiful ground cover around Hellebores.  And for all of its vigor, Creeping Jenny, Lysimachia nummularia, works well in winter container gardens.

It began growing quite early and has filled out nicely this spring, in time to compliment the flowers.  Its chartreuse leaves work well with the pale Helleborus’s colors and with the Muscari.  Creeping Jenny remains evergreen when planted out in the garden, and forms an attractive ground cover around perennials and shrubs.

When planning your own container gardens, especially ones to enjoy through the winter, remember that foliage is as important, or maybe even more important, than flowers.

~

This H. ‘Snow Fever’ grows elsewhere in the garden, sheltered under tall shrubs. Its new leaves begin almost white, and green up as they grow.

~

The foliage in your arrangement will fill your pot for many weeks longer than the more transient flowers.  So try to include a  plant or two with showy, interesting leaves.  Besides Hellebores; Arum italicum, Ajuga, Lysimachia, Heuchera and evergreen ferns do well in our climate.

It is only early April.  This container garden will continue to grow and change until I reclaim the pot for another geranium.  When I do, everything growing here now will be planted out into the garden.  All are perennials, save the Viola, and will grow for years to come.

~

~

When constructing your own container gardens, follow a few simple tips to get the most from the plants you choose:

  1.  Choose a large enough container for all of the roots to grow.  Bulbs produce large root systems.  If you plant a lot of bulbs, the pot will get very congested unless you begin with a large pot.
  2. Choose plants with similar needs for light, moisture and soil PH. Plan for your plants to grow to different heights for an efficient use of space.  Soften the pot’s edges with a vine or other plant which will spill over the side.  Plan for a succession of interest falling on different plants as the season progresses.
  3. Don’t overstuff the pot.  Magazines and books on container gardens often feature mature plants packed in tightly.  If the pot looks ‘finished’ from day one, your plants aren’t left with much room to grow.  The strong will crowd out the weak, and none will grow to their full potential.  Leave room for growth in your designs.
  4. Begin with a good quality potting mix, and stir in additional fertilizer at planting time.  I often re-use at least some of the potting mix from the previous season.  But I stir in Espoma Plant Tone before adding new plants, finish with fresh potting soil, and generally top dress the finished container with a slow release product like Osmocote.
  5. Mulch the top of your finished planting with gravel, moss, or some other mulch.  It keeps the foliage cleaner in heavy rains and helps conserve moisture.
  6. Boost the plants from time to time with an organic liquid feed from a product like Neptune’s Harvest.  Fish and seaweed based products add important trace minerals and help the soil remain biologically active.
  7. Groom plants regularly to remove spent flowers, brown leaves, and any trash which has blown or fallen into the pot from other nearby plants.  Pull small weeds or grass as they sprout from a moss mulch.  If a plant is struggling or dying, don’t hesitate to pull it out.
  8. Place your pots where you will see them daily.  Enjoy their ever changing beauty as they brighten your days.

    ~

    Woodland Gnome 2017

    ~

Advertisements

Looking Good on Friday

June 3, 2016 Jamestown 027

~

This pot has been going continuously for three years now.  We make minor changes season to season, adding plants, moving things around, and removing spent annuals.  Last summer it held a seedling Japanese Maple, which has since been moved out into the garden to grow in its permanent spot!

~

June 3, 2016 Jamestown 028~

The fern is in its second season now.  Daffodil leaves are ready to die back for summer, and a newly planted Colocasia ‘Coffee Cups’ stands poised to take off in the coming summer heat.

A few Zantedeschia tubers will send up leaves any time now.  The first batch I planted in late March fizzled, we think.  Perhaps our long spring was too cool.  But new ones should show growth soon, and will fill this planter with elegant flowers by July.

~

Zantedeschia offer deliciously elegant flowers and foliage.

Zantedeschia offer deliciously elegant flowers and foliage.

~

Warm days make all the difference with tropical heat loving plants.  Our Cannas and Colocasias have all begun to really grow, filling our garden with vibrant color and movement.

~

June 3, 2016 Jamestown 030~

Finally, the garden is looking good again!

~

Rhubarb commands attention in this large pot on our 'pedestal.'

Rhubarb commands attention in this large pot on our ‘pedestal’ in the ‘stump garden.’

~

Woodland Gnome 2016

~

Autumn fern harmonizes with Creeping Jenny and Ajuga. We planted this combo last fall while re-doing a bed beneath our Camellia.

Autumn fern harmonizes with Creeping Jenny and Ajuga. We planted this combo last fall while re-doing a bed beneath our Camellia.

Sunday Dinner: Imagine

February 26, 2016 sun and sky 023

~

“Imagination is the beginning of creation.

You imagine what you desire,

you will what you imagine

and at last create what you will.”


.

George Bernard Shaw

~

February 28, 2016 Camellia 004

~

“Imagination is everything.

It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.”

.

Albert Einstein

~

February 26, 2016 sun and sky 022

~

 

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

~

February 28, 2016 Camellia 003

Summer Spreaders

These Black Eyed Susans were growing in the garden when we came here, but we spread the plants around when they emerge each spring. The clumps spread and also self-seed.

These Black Eyed Susans were growing in another part of the garden when we came here, but we spread the plants around when they emerge each spring. The clumps spread and also self-seed.

~

Is there a large area in your garden which you would like to fill with plants with a minimum investment of cost and effort?

Many of us have large areas to tend, and welcome plants which make themselves at home, colonizing the surrounding real estate.  If we like a single specimen, we might also enjoy a larger area filled with the same plant.

~

Colocasia growing with Canna lily

Colocasia ‘China Pink’  growing with Canna lily and hardy Hibiscus.

~

One way to accomplish this is by buying multiples of a single plant to begin with; say seven or nine or thirteen pots of the same cultivar, planted together in a large bed.  If your budget doesn’t allow such a splurge very often, consider buying plants which spread themselves around in a fairly short time.

Most of these spreading plants grow radiating stems which creep along just under or just above the ground.

~

A new plant begins to grow from a Colocasia runner.

A new plant begins to grow from a Colocasia runner.

~

As the stems grow away from the original plant, they send up new sets of leaves some distance away, and root at that spot to form an entirely new plant.

Over time, each of these new plants will send out its own runners.

~

August 5, 2015 butterflies 017~

The new plants can be cut away and replanted elsewhere or allowed to grow in place, thus expanding the original planting.

Many plants spread themselves in this way, eventually forming dense colonies.  Some begin to crowd themselves out after a year or two and appreciate thinning.  Others may be left alone indefinitely.

~

Clumping Hazel trees form the backdrop to this bed filled with hardy Colocasia and Canna lilies.

Clumping Hazel trees form the backdrop to this bed filled with hardy Colocasia and Canna lilies.  The  bed was planted this spring from divisions of established plants.

~

In fact, many of the plants we consider ‘invasive weeds,’ like wild strawberry and crabgrass, spread themselves in this way.  Leaving any part of the plant in the ground when weeding may result in a new plant cropping up in a matter of days.

One of my current favorite plants for covering large areas with interesting foliage is  Colocasia, or Elephant Ear.  These are marginally hardy here in Zone 7.  Some cultivars have returned for us while others have died out over the winter.

~

August 2, 2015 garden 018

~

Winter hardiness is an important consideration when choosing a plant to spread.  While a tender plant allows one to easily change one’s mind after the growing season; a hardy plant will most likely become a permanent fixture in the garden.  It pays to do plenty of research into the plant’s needs and habits before making that initial investment to bring it home to the garden.

~

C. Black Magic growing in 2014

C. Black Magic, growing in 2014, did not survive our winter.

~

Of the several Colocasia cultivars I planted last summer, only two proved hardy in our garden.  The species, C. Esculenta and C. “Pink China” survived our winter.  While the species hasn’t spread beyond its immediate area, C. “Pink China” has spread prolifically this year.  I moved several plants to a new area this spring and they have all sent out runners as well.

One of the cultivars which didn’t survive our winter was C. “Black Runner,” prized for its ability to spread.  Although Plant Delights nursery indicated it is hardy to our Zone 7B, only those plants I kept in pots in the basement survived the winter.

~

Butterfly Ginger Lily comes into bloom in late August in our garden.

Butterfly Ginger Lily comes into bloom in late August in our garden.  It is very fragrant, perfuming this whole area of the garden for more than a month.

~

Three large, spreading plants we enjoy in the summer garden are the Colocasia, Canna lily, and our hardy Butterfly Ginger Lily.

Our first ginger lily, Hedychium coronarium, came as a gift from a neighbor as she prepared to move.  She allowed me to dig roots from her garden and I happily replanted them  in a new bed near our driveway.  These plants die back to the ground each winter, and then grow to around 6′ tall each summer before blooming at the end of the season.  Their fragrant blooms keep coming until a heavy frost.

~

Our first Lycoris of the season blooms beside stems of ginger lily. These create a thick, creeping mat and must be dug each season to keep them in bounds.

Our first Lycoris of the season blooms beside stems of Ginger Lily. The Ginger Lily create a thick, creeping mat and must be thinned each season to keep them in bounds.

~

I’ve since dug up roots to share and to spread to a wider area of the garden.  The stems grow very densely together and make a good screen for about half of the year.

Most of our Canna lily were also a gift from a gardening friend.  She brought me a grocery sack of roots dug from her garden late in the summer we lost several tall oaks, transforming our very shady garden to nearly full sun.   Although I planted the roots with several feet between each, they have grown to form dense clumps in just two summers.  The named cultivars with more ornamental leaves planted last year have not proven nearly as prolific in their growth.

~

A new bamboo 'shoot' emerged far from the bamboo forest, right in front of a fig tree. We cut this down after taking a photo.

A new bamboo ‘shoot’ emerged far from the bamboo forest, right in front of a fig tree. We cut this down after taking a photo.

~

Bamboo, another spreading giant, already grew at the bottom of our garden when we arrived.  Technically a grass, its rhizomes now cover much of our lower garden.  We are surprised each spring to see where the new stems emerge.  We promptly break these off when they emerge out of boundaries for the bamboo.

~

Bearded Iris spread easily when planted in full sun with moist, reasonable soil. They may be allowed to grow into large clumps, or divided and spread around.

Bearded Iris spread easily when planted in full sun with moist, reasonable soil. They may be allowed to grow into large clumps, or divided and spread around.  This is I. ‘Rosalie Figge’ which blooms reliable again each fall.  I’ll shortly be digging these to share with our next door neighbor.

~

We enjoy several other hardy perennials which spread over time, although on a much smaller scale than these lovely giants.

German Bearded Iris quickly grow to form large clumps when they are happy with the light and soil.  They prefer full sun and reasonable soil.

~

Iris rhizomes may be divided into small pieces, as long as each piece has at least one root.

Iris rhizomes may be divided into small pieces, as long as each piece has at least one root.  They are planted shallowly so the rhizome remains visible above the soil.

~

Iris must be divided every few years as their rhizomes age and play out after a while.  We grow mostly re-blooming Iris, which offer two seasons of blooms each year.

Daylilies will clump and spread as well, as will many species of Rudbeckia.

~

The large fern in the blue pot is my favorite tender lady fern, which spreads its self around generously. Most ferns spread by rhizomes, gradually growing larger and larger each year.

The large fern in the blue pot is my favorite tender lady fern, which spreads its self around generously. Most ferns spread by rhizomes, gradually growing larger and larger each year.

~

Many ferns spread by rhizomes growing at or just below the soil’s surface.  The Japanese ferns and various “walking ferns” are especially good at covering real estate.

~

July 21, 2015 garden midday 010

~

One of my tender lady ferns is especially prolific at spreading it self around a hanging basket or pot and may be divided again and again without harming the original plant.

Many plants sold as ‘ground cover,’ like Ajuga, quickly spread out to carpet large areas of the garden.

~

Ajuga, which forms a dense ground cover in one of our beds.

Ajuga, which forms a dense ground cover in one of our beds.

~

Vines, like Creeping Jenny and Periwinkle, or Vinca minor can root at each leaf node, spreading themselves out indefinitely.  Although only a few inches high, these plants spread quickly to offer large areas of uniform coverage in beds and under shrubs.

~

Creeping Jenny, easy to divide and transplant, grows quickly into a densly matted ground cover.

Creeping Jenny, easy to divide and transplant, grows quickly into a densly matted ground cover.  Here it is interplanted with a hardy Sedum.

~

Many succulent varieties offer the same rapid spread through their rooting stems.  These make good ground cover for pots as well as in rock gardens or sunny beds.

~

August 13, 2015 spreaders 001

~

Members of the mint family, including Monarda and Lemon Balm,  remain notorious for quickly spreading to cover as much territory as possible.  Because their runners travel both above and below ground, one must be ruthless to yank out rooted stems growing beyond their boundaries.

~

Pineapple mint

Pineapple mint

~

Shrubs, and even some trees, will increase through spreading rhizomes, as well.  Hazel, Forsythia, Sumac, Lilac, Crepe Myrtle, some Figs and many sorts of berry bushes will quickly form large clumps.

~

Crepe Myrtle tend to sucker and slowly spread. Lovely and prolific, many gardeners allow them to grow into a large area each year. This one has returned from its roots after being broken down in a 2013 storm.

Crepe Myrtle tends to sucker and slowly spread. Lovely and prolific, many gardeners allow them to grow into a large area each year. This one has returned from its roots after being broken down in a 2013 storm.

~

This ability to generate new plants, clones of the original, from spreading stems may be desirable to you or not; depending on your situation.  If you have space to allow the expansion these new plants can be a blessing.  If you are gardening in cramped quarters, the spreading tendencies of many plants may become a nuisance.

~

Strawberry Begonia spreads prolifically with long runners, tipped with baby plants which will root wherever they touch the soil.

Strawberry Begonia spreads prolifically with long runners, tipped with baby plants which will root wherever they touch the soil.  An attractive foliage plant, they bloom in the spring.

~

It helps to have gardening buddies who are willing to receive extra plants, as well as those who will share free plants with us.  Some of our favorite plants came as gifts from generous and loving friends.

And we appreciate the prolific growth of our favorite plants each summer when they fill our garden with beautiful leaves and fragrant flowers.

~

Red Canna flowers and Hibiscus attract both hummingbirds and pollinating insects, including butterflies.

Red Canna flowers and Hibiscus attract both hummingbirds and pollinating insects, including butterflies.

~

Woodland Gnome 2015

~

July 4, 2015 Jamestown 090

 

 

In Celebration of Spring

March 21, 2015 moss garden 005

~

In celebration of spring, here is a tiny garden constructed as a gift for a much loved friend.

Our friends celebrate the ancient festival of Nowruz, which is the first day of spring.  This special festival, in celebration of the new year, which begins at the spring equinox; traces its history to ancient times and the Zoroastrian faith of the ancient Persians.

This special festival brings friends and family together to share wishes for health, wealth, and the fulfillment of wishes in the new year.  There is wonderful food, music, flowers, and abundant laughter.  We were so honored to be invited to join their celebrations this evening!

~

March 21, 2015 moss garden 003

~

This little gift of green life and abundance carries our good wishes for the new year to our friends and their family.  There are ferns just poking up through the soil, a sprouting vine of Creeping Jenny, many different mosses, and lichens.

I hope you have celebrated this first day of spring, and that you have found joy in it. 

What a perfect day to count as the beginning of a new year of growth and abundance!

~

March 21, 2015 moss garden 008

Woodland Gnome 2015

One Word Photo Challenge: More Persimmon

January 13, 2013 bleak 041

~

Persimmon serves as a wonderful foil to our winter world of greys, browns, white, and the occasional green.

~

January 13, 2013 bleak 042~

It is as if Jenny knew our eyes and brains are starved for a splash of color when she selected “Persimmon” for the middle of January.

~

Creeping Jenny wearing its cold weather finery.

Creeping Jenny wears its cold weather finery near our “stump garden.”

~

These are a few of “The remains of the season” we found in our wanderings today.  Some are a little more persimmon-like than others. 

~

January 13, 2013 bleak 033

~

But I offer them up anyway, with wishes that you are safe and warm this evening.

~

The exposed "knuckle" of some very old roots

The exposed “knuckle” of some very old roots

~

With Appreciation to Jennifer for her

One Word Photo Challenge:  Persimmon.

Woodland Gnome 2015

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 677 other followers

Follow Forest Garden on WordPress.com
Order Classic Caladiums

This Month’s Posts

Topics of Interest