Mix It Up

Gladiolus

Gladiolus

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Yesterday evening I eavesdropped on a conversation in another garden blogger’s comments about the use of annuals and hanging baskets.

I was interested to hear the reasons why some gardeners don’t want to grow flowery annuals.  Most cited the time consuming commitment to water, deadhead, fertilize and prune the plants.

The term ‘color bombs’ was used by one observant gardener.

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Petunias

Petunias

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Another cited the resources wasted to cultivate annuals, and the expense of replacing them each season.

Everything they observed is true. 

And yes, many commercially available annual hanging baskets are sometimes constructed with little attention to color scheme.  They are mass produced for a particular market.

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June 24, 2015 garden 022

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But I still like many annuals.  Several springs ago, I was given one of these ‘color bomb’ annual combinations as a birthday gift.

Keeping my nose in check, I accepted it with the love with which it was given, and transferred the plants out of their plastic nursery pot and into a 12″ hanging basket.  I hung it out on our  deck among our other baskets and waited to see what would happen.

Well, from a meager beginning, those plants took off and bloomed their hearts out all summer.  They got lots of traffic from our bees, too.  I was actually a little sad when frost crushed most of the flowers.  A Verbena like vining plant, with lovely lavender flowers, actually survived nearly until winter.

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Ajuga and Sedum, perennials, with tender perennial scented Pelargonium.

Ajuga and Sedum, perennials, with tender perennial scented Pelargonium.

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I never begrudge a little sprinkle of Osmocote or sip of fish emulsion during the growing season.  A small price to pay for lovely flowers.  We’re blessed to live in an area without water shortages and abundant summer rains.  Summer flowers remain an affordable luxury.

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Rose scented Pelargonium.

Rose scented Pelargonium.

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Beyond the economics and the aesthetics, though, I sense a more subtle issue.

At some point many of us gardeners want something different.  We want to branch out beyond the commonplace/easy to find and grow plants, to something a bit more unusual and, maybe, a bit more esoteric.

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June 25, 2015 orbs 025

Native pitcher plants

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I find myself walking past rows of flats, nose somewhat elevated maybe, searching for that one particular genus or cultivar.

A quick, dismissive glance at the orange and brown Marigolds or the red Vinca and I’m moving on, in search of something else.  I ignore perfectly pretty pots of yellow daylily plants in pursuit of that special Coleus or particular fern.

But it’s not that Marigolds themselves are a problem.  When creamy white ones finally showed up at the garden center, I bought half a dozen.   I’ve added a few soft lavender Vinca plants amongst some herbs.

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Coleus

Coleus

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I’ll buy purple Basil or Thai Basil, but rarely the standard green cultivars.  I search out unusual leaves, odd flowers, and glorious texture, when collecting plants for our garden.  I enjoy variegated foliage and sumptuously scented flowers.

We can weave beautiful living tapestries of color and form in our gardens.  But this often means seeking out a broader palette of plants than the common summer annuals offered each spring.

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June 20, 2015 garden 081

Purple Opal Basil

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The individual plants may not even be that spectacular.  It is the effect they create as they grow together with their companions in the pot or bed.

It is the wonderful effect perennials create as they establish and spread; eating up garden space in their exuberance.  One mass against another, with subtle contrasts of color and shape create the garden magic.  I believe this was the point of this “Wednesday Vignettes” post, and I heartily agree.

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June 24, 2015 garden 008~

Beauty is where we choose to notice it.  Each of us has a unique aesthetic.  Our ideal of what is beautiful may contrast sharply with another’s, and that is just fine.  We plant our gardens for our own purposes and for our own pleasure.

While some of my friends enjoy their lawn and shrubs in shades of green, I plant outrageously bright Cannas and Hibiscus.  Some may walk past my garden and shudder to themselves at the exuberance.

Clouds of cat mint billow from my beds this week, punctuated with bright Gladiolius blossoms, a living gift from a dear friend.

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July 1, 2015 garden at dusk 023

Colocasia with Cannas

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And, on the back deck, visible only to those friends invited inside; grow my hanging baskets of annual Petunia and Geraniums.  There are Fuschias, too; and a vivid red flowered Begonia I was given at Mother’s Day.

Color bombs all, we stand and admire them every single day. 

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My Mother's Day Begonia

My Mother’s Day Begonia

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Our little hummers dart from one to the next sipping their warm nectar.  Butterflies stop by the potted Basil, we listen for the tell-tale hum of visiting bees.

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July 2, 2015 garden 002

Catmint in the stump garden attracts these beautiful bees.

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I still mix it up, when planting for the season.  I’m in pursuit of that magical combination of beauty and form, fragrance, utility and magnetic attraction to every butterfly and hummingbird in the county.

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July 2, 2015 garden 007~

Woodland Gnome 2015

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Autumn 'Brilliance' fern with Hellebores

Autumn ‘Brilliance’ fern with Hellebores

 

 

 

 

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