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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Savoring the Sweetness

September 24 2013 garden 034Sometimes I think the bright colors of autumn, we all look so forward to, serve to distract us from what is actually happening.  September 24 2013 garden 003

I sat in the bright, cool morning, under the intensely blue September sky, admiring the Beautyberries and reddening Dogwood leaves, hardly noticing the leaves falling from trees all around me.

A slow walk through the garden is full of tell-tale signs of the approaching winter. September 24 2013 garden 004The butterfly tree is almost bare of flowers now, its bright blue berries disappearing, too, into the mouths of hungry birds. Brown husks where Echinacea bloomed only weeks ago, grasses gone to seed, shriveled leaves on the lawn, and Coreopsis shutting down for the season all hint at the approaching winter chill.

September 24 2013 garden 010Suddenly the Pyracantha berries are turning bright orange, and the inky purple Pokeweed berries with their bright red stems shine along roadside.  We hear the “alarm geese” flying over the house each morning around 7.  The flocks keep sounding larger with each passing week.

A lonely bee is still hanging around the Pentas, Sage, and Coleus.

A lonely bee is still hanging around the Pentas, Sage, and Coleus.

We noticed quite suddenly that the butterflies have disappeared.  It seems only yesterday that they were constant companions on our walks through the garden.  We watched them flying together in wild spirals near the Lantana, covering the butterfly bushes and competing with the hummers for the tastiest blossoms.  Where did they go so suddenly?  And when did it happen?

I was thrilled to find a bee today buzzing from sage blossom to sage blossom, and another on some Pentas.  Where are the rest?  It is as if they all suddenly had their fill of nectar and disappeared, although the buffet of flowers is still generously spread out across the garden for their enjoyment.

Butterfly bush offers its seeds to the hungry birds, its flowers nearly fallen away in the advancing chill of September.

Butterfly Tree offers its seeds to the hungry birds, its flowers nearly fallen away in the advancing chill of September.

Now the garden is quiet, with only the occasional bird call.  Even the grass is growing more slowly.  We hear fewer lawn crews mowing the neighbors’ lawns, and find that our mornings are no longer scheduled around watering, buzzing and mowing.September 12 Parkway 006

It is as if the whole area is breathing a huge sigh of relief.  The humidity has evaporated, and the air is crisp.  Autumn is a restful time as nature begins to shut down and prepare for the silence of winter.  The lush green of summer is dying back to branch and soil, withering to gold and orange, and finally brown, before crumpling to the Earth.  The birds have fewer places to hide.

For so many years of my life I was too busy to notice the slow involution of September.  I was completely engrossed with my classes, whether as student or teacher.  New books to read, fresh syllabi to accomplish, students to learn, classrooms to decorate, stacks of papers and journals to go through, parents to greet, and PTA fundraisers to promote.  By the time I came up for breath summer had already slipped into full orange and brown October.  I missed the quiet beauty of September mornings and this glorious “in between” time as summer makes a graceful exit.

Sept 24 2013 pumpkins 003We bought pumpkins for the front porch today, and a huge Chrysanthemum.  The year progresses in its steady march and continuous change.  I want to savor the sweetness of September a while longer, though.  I’m not quite ready to let go of warm afternoons and the busyness of insects buzzing in the garden, crickets and frogs filling the nights with music, and morning glories in the sharp morning air.  September should be savored, like a delicious Muscadine grape: chewed slowly, tasted thoroughly and appreciated for the delicious and fleeting sweetness it offers.

September 24 2013 garden 020

All Photos by Woodland Gnome

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