Six on Saturday: Perennial Patience

This tough summer planting includes Coleus, Verbena, Lantana, Dichondra and Euphorbia ‘Diamond Frost.’ It can take heat and sun and continue looking good through until fall.  These are all tender perennials and can overwinter in the garage, or some may make it through winter outdoors in this large pot.

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You may know that many of the bright little plants sold at nurseries each spring as ‘annuals’ actually are perennials.  An annual grows from a seed, blooms, sets seed and dies all between last frost of winter and first frost of autumn.  Only the seeds will last from one season to the next.

Perennials will live from year to year given the right degree of protection from winter’s chill.  Hardy perennials can over winter in pot or in the ground out of doors, with minimal protection.  Tender perennials need to come inside to live, whether they overwinter in the living room, garage, basement or cold frame.  We are on the cusp of Zone 8, here in Williamsburg, and some winters prove a bit warmer or colder than the norm.  That means that some of those tender ‘annual’ perennials I’ve left outside in pots, baskets or borders may just delight me by returning the following spring.

It is a contest of patience.  Most don’t rush to show themselves.  And keeping faith that survivors will return is a good reason to procrastinate on re-working our pots and baskets until early June.

Here we are near the end of the first week of June and I am still in the midst of transplanting Caladiums and planting out the few new plants I bought in mid-May.  Our cooler than usual spring dictated that the Caladiums tough it out in the garage several weeks longer than usual.  They’ve grown lank and leggy, but still hold promise.

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Caladium ‘Pink Beauty’ shares a pot with a Japanese painted fern. The Caladium just made its way to its summer pot this week.

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I dig and dry our Caladium tubers each November and store them in bags over winter in a spare room, then start them again by late March.  By May, they are showing new leaves and are ready to move back outside once again.  Only this year, it was too cool until just a couple of weeks ago.

By waiting so late, I’ve allowed time for Pelargoniums and Verbena, Tradescantia, Dichondra, Lantana, ferns and mints to show themselves alive and growing.  In many cases last year’s arrangements are returning for another season of growth.

But not all return.  At some point, one must clear out the leggy Violas and cut back the fading Dianthus, and carefully remove any faded remains of last year’s plants to give this summer’s plants time to establish and fill in before the season heats up too much.

For me, it’s like working a grand and complicated puzzle.  It helps to not over-think it, too, or else end up frustrated and frozen into indecision.  After all, mixing things up year to year and trying new plants and new combinations keeps things fresh.

I have my favorites.  Caladiums and Begonias fall near the top of my list of all time favorite summer plants for long lasting color.  Give them what they require and they will live on season after season.  Begonias must overwinter in the house or garage, unless they are one of the hardy varieties.   They might look a little rough by late May, but by late June they are covering themselves with brilliant new leaves and by late July the Begonias will be full of blooms again.  It is very easy to root Begonia stems to create entirely new plants and spread them around.  Overwinter as potted plants or as cuttings.

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Tradescantia returns reliably in our hanging baskets. It roots easily from a stem cutting and may be started in a new spot mid-season from a cutting.

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Other favorites include Coleus, another tender perennial, which can overwinter in the garage and starts easily from cuttings.   One can also buy a single new plant and take as many cuttings as one wants for additional plants.  Root them in a glass of water, or simply stick them in a pot where you want them to grow and keep them well-watered while they root.

Both ‘annual’ Verbena and Lantana return for us.  These are both excellent choices to stand up to our hot, muggy summers, too.  They can tough it out in hanging baskets or pots when the soil gets dry, and will wait for me to remember to bring them some water, if it doesn’t rain.  They attract hummingbirds, butterflies and lots of other little pollinators for endless entertainment.

Tradescantia looks tropical, but once well established, it will return year after year.  It is related to our native spiderwort. You have to wait for it, however, as you might not see it until late May.  It has little pink flowers, but I grow it for its gorgeous purple leaves and strong constitution.  Full sun, dry soil and long summer days don’t bother it, and deer will leave it strictly alone.  I plant Tradescantia and Lantana in the large pot outside of the Botanical garden’s gate, knowing they are safe from hungry deer.

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This tough Verbena is starting its third year in its basket. Pineapple mint, Lantana and a scented geranium have also returned here this spring.

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Dichondra ‘Silver Falls’ is grown as a perennial ground cover further south.  I love it in pots and baskets because it grows into long, shimmering ‘curtains’ of foliage that get better as summer wears on.  Frost knocks back the foliage, but if one is patient and waits, it will often return from its roots by late May.  Dichondra roots easily from stems and is simple to divide from the nursery pot into smaller clumps, or simply layer to spread it around the outer edge of a hanging basket.  It is a wonderful bonus when it returns for another year.

Another plant I wait for each year is scented Pelargonium.  It is always a bonus when one survives and returns with fresh leaves in May.  I wonder sometimes whether I give up waiting too soon, and dig out plants that might eventually sprout.  When in doubt, it is easy enough to pot up the roots and wait to see.

Drenching pots of overwintered perennials with organic fertilizer, such as Neptune’s Harvest, when watering them helps them come into growth, especially if their survival is iffy during a difficult spring.

Tender Pelargoniums can be grown indoors over winter and cuttings root easily, if you have a special variety and don’t want to take a chance on leaving them out of doors all winter.

There are a few hardy perennials  I grow in pots year to year as well.  Heuchera, coral bells, will often keep color and leaves throughout our winter, but wakes up and produces new leaves and flower stalks by mid-spring.  These grow larger and better each year, and may live in a large pot indefinitely.

I prefer to grow Hostas in pots, too.  They will grow larger when planted out in a bed, but then their roots are vulnerable to voles.  Hostas can be knocked out of a pot and divided easily in spring, spread around, and will add color and texture wherever you need them in part to deep shade.

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Heuchera will easily fill a pot. It may be divided in early spring to spread a favorite variety around.  This is a fairly new variety called ‘Midnight Rose.’

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Deciduous ferns will also live on in pots year after year.  Japanese painted ferns and lady ferns, Athyriums, are my favorites for this treatment.  Pair them with Violas over winter to fill the pot, and then drop in a Caladium or two in spring to add interest through the summer. Watching for the first fiddleheads to appear is a sure sign of spring.

All of these plants have proven good investments in this climate.  They give many months of beauty, and generally return year after year.  They thrive in our conditions and most stand up to the wildlife.  (A spritz of deer repellent on the Hostas and Heucheras is helpful to avoid unpleasant surprises, however.)

Our garden centers are filled with enough choices to make one dizzy.  It is tempting to load one’s cart with one or two of everything and hope for the best.  While it is always interesting to try new plants, I am contented to plant what works.  I have had one too many lush baskets bake by late July, pathetic little petunia stems desiccated and dying.  Now, I reach for these hardy companions that will go the distance through a Virginia summer.

And given a little patience, I can extend their lives year to year.

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Pelargonium, a rose scented geranium that made it through winter and returned in April, is now larger than the new ones I picked up at the nursery in May.

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Woodland Gnome 2020

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Visit Illuminations, for a daily photo of something beautiful.

Many thanks to the wonderful ‘Six on Saturday’ meme sponsored by The Propagator

 

Blossom XXXII: Apple Scented Pelargonium

Pelargonium odoratissimum

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On species Pelargoniums, commonly known as ‘scented geraniums,’ the flowers are almost an afterthought.  I grow them for their beautiful, fragrant leaves, and am always thrilled if flowers appear.  I found a nice selection of scented geraniums at The Great Big Greenhouse this summer.  Though I was mostly interested in the huge leaves of the chocolate scented variety, I scooped up several others as well.

I bought this apple scented Pelargonium odoratissimum, which is a species and not a cultivar or hybrid, on the late summer clearance.  It didn’t look very promising on the day that I bought it.  But I planted it in a large pot in full sun on our front patio beside an established tri-color sage, and hoped for the best.

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With regular water and a bit of feeding, it has tripled in size and bloomed.  I am just delighted to find it giving us spray after spray of these tiny white flowers.

People often confuse Pelargoniums with Geraniums.  Most of the fancy plants we buy for summer blooms and call ‘geraniums,’ are actually Pelargoniums, originally from South Africa.  All of the wonderfully scented ‘geraniums’ like  P. ‘Citronella,’ and this one are also Pelargoniums.   Although perennial in warmer regions, we treat them as annuals if we can’t bring them inside during the winter.  Most Pelargoniums are hardy only to Zone 8 or 9.

Species Geraniums are hardy to Zone 5 or 6, with smaller leaves and less showy flowers.  These plants are native to North America, Europe, and parts of Asia.  Perhaps you’ve grown ‘Rozanne’ hardy Geranium or G. ‘Birch’s Double.’  Their flowers have a somewhat different form than a true Pelargonium.

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The first of summer’s perennial Geraniums bloom alongside the last of winter’s Hellebores last May.

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Many Pelargoniums are considered herbs.  Leaves may be used in tea or cooking, and often they are grown for their essential oils.  Sometimes the leaves or oils may be used medicinally, as is the case with P. odoratissimum.   Branches work beautifully in  a vase.  The foliage is long-lasting and holds its fragrance.  Dried leaves and flowers may be kept  in a drawer to scent its contents.

These wonderful plants can take full sun, and like many herbs, don’t need a great deal of water.  In fact, their most common cause of failure is over-watering and soggy soil.

They are generally pest-free and grow enthusiastically, once established.  Stem cuttings will root in moist sand or soil in summer.

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rose scented Pelargonium

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If you’ve not yet grown Pelargoniums, I encourage you to give them a try.  Whether they give you blossoms, or not, they will fill their space with beauty and fragrance.

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Woodland Gnome 2017
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“Love is wild;
its whole beauty is in its wildness.
It comes like a breeze with great fragrance,
fills your heart,
and suddenly where there was a desert
there is a garden full of flowers.”
.
Osho
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Blossom XXV: Elegance
Blossom XXVI: Angel Wing Begonia
Blossom XXVII: Life 
Blossom XXVIII: Fennel 
Blossom XXIV:  Buddleia 
Blossom XXX:  Garlic Chives
Blossom XXXI: Lantana

Wednesday Vignettes: Resilience

november-27-2016-garden-015

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“Step into the center of the center of the center –

right into your Now – and see:

how elegant and honest this moment is.

Just being yourself, a world to hold your feet,

a universe to lift your gaze, a heart beating –

constant, in the center of it all.”

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Laurie Perez

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Mahonia, Oregon Grape Holly

Mahonia, Oregon Grape Holly

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“I did not tell you that it would be okay,

because I have never believed it would be okay.

What I told you is what your grandparents

tried to tell me: that this is your country,

that this is your world, that this is your body,

and you must find some way to live within the all of it.”

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Ta-Nehisi Coates

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Arum itallicum

Arum itallicum

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“In life you find pleasure.

In life you find pain.

Pain and pleasure is an example

of the duality in life. Enjoy them both,

they are part of the ride.

The key is to not turn the pain

into something else – regret.”

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J.R. Rim

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november-24-2016-thanksgiving-001

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“If your heart is broken, make art with the pieces.”

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Shane Koyczan

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Camellia

Camellia

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

* * *

 

“For many years a tree might wage a slow and silent

warfare against an encumbering wall,

without making any visible progress.

One day the wall would topple-

-not because the tree had suddenly

laid hold upon some supernormal energy,

but because its patient work of self-defense

and self release had reached fulfillment.

The long-imprisoned tree had freed itself.

Nature had had her way.”

.

Lloyd C. Douglas

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november-27-2016-garden-003

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A Forest Garden 2017 garden calendar is now available.

Leaf Studies

1,

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Cathy, of Rambling in the Garden, inspired me with her July post  for ‘Garden Blogger’s Foliage Day’, hosted by Christina of My Hesperides Garden on the 22nd of each month.

Cathy constructed a tessellation of 16 square photos featuring the textures and varying shades of green, showcasing leaves from her summer garden.  Her post is stunning, and perhaps you will take a moment to pop over and have a look at her photos.

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Foliage can be so much better than flowers.  Leaves last for weeks or even months; not just days.  They are tough.  And the intricate details of their structure, often highlighted in vivid color, elevate these organs of photosynthesis to art in its purest form.

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3.

3.

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There was finally an opportunity to focus on foliage this morning while I watered the garden.  We have record heat here in Virginia this week, making it more critical to venture out early in the day, or just before dusk, to hydrate pots and new plantings.  Our afternoon heat indexes near 120F,  yet these beautiful leaves endure mid-summer temperatures gracefully.

Water droplets on the leaves make them even more interesting to photograph.

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4.

4.

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I have enjoyed taking and editing these photos because they showcase some of my favorite leaves in a unique way.  Following Cathy’s example, I’ve cropped each into a square.  Within that square, there is an effort to show you several different features of each plant’s particular foliage.

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6.

5.

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To make it even more interesting, I challenge you to guess the names of as many leaves as you might recognize.  Answers will appear below.

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Collecting and growing beautiful plants remains my passion. I’m attracted by the unique shapes, colors, patterns and textures of their foliage.  Any flowers are surely a bonus, but almost distract from the beauty of these special leaves.

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18.

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Grown more for their beauty than for any other purpose, they fill the garden with excitement.  Some are scented; others not.  Most of these are tropical, though a few hardy ones can survive our winters.  Each unfolds its unique geometry, a study in beauty and endurance.

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19.

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016
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20.

20.

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“Plants cannot stay safe.
Desire for light spools grass out of the ground;
desire for a visitor spools red ruffles out of twigs.
Desire makes plants very brave,
so they can find what they desire;
and very tender, so they can feel what they find.”
.
Amy Leach
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Caladium

Caladium

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  1. Caladium ‘White Christmas’
  2. Begonia ‘Gryphon’
  3. Coleus ‘Wizard Pineapple’
  4. Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Mariesii’
  5. Begonia Rex
  6. Colocasia ‘Mojito’
  7. Fig
  8. Sarracenia flava
  9. Alocasia
  10. Caladium ‘White Queen’
  11. Oxalis ‘Iron Cross’
  12. Pelargonium ‘Vancouver Centennial’
  13. Pineapple Mint
  14. Coleus
  15. Pelargonium – Rose scented geranium
  16. Angel wing Begonia
  17. Canna ‘Australia’
  18. hardy Begonia ‘grandis’
  19. Pelargonium ‘Grey Lady Plymouth’
  20. Dryopteris erythrosora ‘Brilliance’

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #2: Feed!

June 17, 2016 Hibiscus 011

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Most plants grow larger and fuller, have better color, and produce more flowers when they are well fed.  Well-fed plants always reflect well on the gardener, because they look healthy and robust. 

Many sources of gardening advice admonish that one must ‘feed the soil, not the plant.’  And this is generally true for trees, shrubs, and perennials.  Anything planted directly into the ground performs better in fertile, well prepared soil.  Compost is the most important thing to dig into a bed or planting hole to enrich the soil.  Adding an organic mulch, which attracts earthworms, further enriches and improves the soil.  The more worms, the better the soil.  Additional fertilizer rarely is needed once one ‘gets the soil right.’  That said, heavy bloomers benefit from an annual application of an organic fertilizer such as Espoma’s Rose Tone.

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June 17, 2016 Hibiscus 018

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However, most potting soils are basically sterile mixes of coir or peat, perlite and/or vermiculite.  There isn’t enough nutrition to support healthy plant growth.  Some potting soils come fortified with worm castings or pelletized fertilizer and advertise that they will feed a plant for several months.  Some gardeners recommend mixing a little compost into the pot; but this is generally not enough to encourage lush growth.

To support vibrant growth coming from a relatively small pot, there needs to be a lot of minerals available for those crowded roots to absorb.  When preparing a pot for a fresh planting, I thoroughly mix some balanced organic fertilizer, like Espoma’s Plant Tone, into the potting soil before adding any plants.  This feeds the plants long-term, but is released very slowly.  It also includes helpful strains of microorganisms to help plants use the minerals.  After adding the plants, I sprinkle the smoothed soil with a timed-release pelletized fertilizer like Osmocote, which also includes important trace minerals.  Some soil mixes already have the Osmocote mixed in.  This is a timed release fertilizer which is activated whenever the pot is watered.

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June 12, 2016 pots 007

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Finally,  I’ll mix some very quick release Neptune’s Harvest in a watering can to water the plants into the soil.  This is a foliar feed, easily absorbed, and offers some protection while the plants establish.  It truly does ‘feed the soil,’ and improves soil texture and its ability to retain water.  It is also a good ‘pick me up’ if a plant ever starts to look a little dull.  Now, you might think that feeding a potted plant so much fertilizer might burn or kill it.  I’ve never had any problem, probably because these are organic products and have relatively low nitrogen.  The plants begin growing quickly, have good leaf color and produce sturdy new growth.

Why it works:  Although plants make their own ‘food/fuel’ from water, oxygen and sunlight, they need nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous for healthy growth.  Lacking any of these, the plant will be stunted and sickly.  In addition, plants also benefit from a variety of trace minerals like copper, iron, magnesium and zinc.  These can be absorbed from many garden soils, but are lacking in potting soil.  Access to these important minerals is essential to productive plant growth.  Think of a plant as a living chemistry lab.  Many elements are needed to keep the bio-chemistry of life fueled.

Woodland Gnome’s Caveat:  My guilty secret for abundant flowers, especially on indoor plants during winter, is water soluble Miracle Grow Orchid Food.  This is not an organic product, but a tiny bit mixed into the usual water, every month or so, produces fabulous results!  Our ‘Christmas’ Cactus, Schlumbergera, bloomed non-stop from November through May with monthly feeding.

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June 17, 2016 Hibiscus 007

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“Green Thumb” Tips:  Many of you who visit Forest Garden are amazing gardeners with years of experience to share.  Others are just getting started, and are looking for a few ‘tips and tricks’ to help you grow the garden of your dreams. 

I believe the only difference between a “Green Thumb” and a “Brown Thumb” is a little bit of know-how and a lot of passion for our plants.  If you feel inclined to share a little bit of what YOU KNOW from your years of gardening experience, please create a new post titled: “Green Thumb” Tip: (topic) and include a link back to this page.  I will update this page with a clear link back to your post in a listing by topic, so others can find your post, and will include the link in all future “Green Thumb” Tip posts.

Let’s work together to build an online resource of helpful tips for all of those who are passionate about plants, and who would like to learn more about how to grow them well.

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June 20, 2016 garden 019

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Woodland Gnome 2016

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‘Green Thumb’ Tip:  Release Those Pot Bound Roots!  by J. Peggy Taylor

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #1:  Pinch!

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #3:  Deadhead!

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #4 Get the Light Right!

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #5: Keep Planting!

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #6: Size Matters!

‘Green Thumb’ Tip # 7:  Experiment!

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #8  Observe

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #9 Plan Ahead

‘Green Thumb’ Tip #10: Understand the Rhythm

June 20, 2016 garden 022

 

 

“Pay It Forward” With Cuttings

September 4, 2014 Coleus 002

 

As the growing season draws to a close, I’m beginning to look around with an eye to which plants I’d like to save for next year, and which will be left to the frost.

Other years I’ve sometimes assumed that a favorite variety will be available the following spring and let a beautiful annual expire at the end of the season.  Sometimes that variety is available, and other times not.

Last year I grew several gorgeous varieties of Coleus ‘Under the Sea,’ a fairly recent introduction with intensely colored, deeply cut leaves.

Coleus, Under the Sea

Coleus, ‘Under the Sea, Gold Anemone’ in my garden last summer.  I couldn’t find this line of Coleus locally this year and have missed them.

 

This spring they never turned up at my local garden centers.

Some annuals are reasonably simple to keep indoors from one season to the next.

And if you have a favorite variety, that you want to enjoy again next summer, it may be worth the effort.

Another of last summer's Coleus varieties I never found this spring.

Another of last summer’s Coleus varieties I never found this spring.

 

While perennials are engineered to survive over many seasons, almost indefinitely; annuals are engineered to grow, flower, set seed, and then decline.

One reason for “pinching back” or “deadheading” is to keep a plant productive by preventing it from ever setting its crop of seeds.

It keeps producing flowers until it fulfills its life’s purpose with seed production.

Coleus in this year's garden.  A neighboring plant was targedted for distruction by a wayward deer.

Coleus in this year’s garden. A neighboring plant was targeted for destruction by a wayward deer.

 

That said, the annual you’ve had growing on your patio all summer might not be a good candidate for overwintering in the garage.

Even if it survives, it may not look like much the following season.

A better approach is to overwinter cuttings of a favorite plant.  The cuttings can then be grown on into beautiful plants when the weather warms in spring.

These cuttings have been rooting in water for not quite two weeks.

These cuttings have been rooting in water for not quite two weeks.

 

And this is the time to begin the process of evaluating which plants you intend to save.

I got a head start this season thanks to some deer.  The deer chose one Coleus plant out of several to disassemble over a period of about two weeks.

We would go out in the morning and find another branch or two torn away each day.  They ignored an identical Coleus a pot or two away, and kept working on one poor plant until nothing was left.

They may have actually eaten a little here and there; but mostly they just tore off branches and left them near by.

I gathered the branches as I found them, gave the ends a fresh cut, and stuck them into a jar of water in the windowsill.

These cuttings left from "pinching back" other plants were simply pressed into a pot of moist soil.  They root quickly and grow into new plants with simple care.

These cuttings left from “pinching back” other plants were simply pressed into a pot of moist soil. They root quickly and grow into new plants with simple care.

 

Coleus is ridiculously easy to root.  It roots easily in moist soil or in water.  And Coleus will grow in a simple jar of water for months.

All you need is a windowsill wide enough to hold a jar or a vase, or an area near a window where you can tend houseplants from October until early May.  Depending on your growing season, you may need to start a little earlier than we do here, or hold your annuals inside a little later.

Take cuttings that are 10″ or longer if you plan to keep them in water.

Take cuttings 10" or longer if you plan to keep them in a vase.  Remove the lower leaves which will be under water, leaving several pair to continue making food for the plant.  Keep the water clean to prevent the stems from rotting before you can plant them in soil.

Take cuttings 10″ or longer if you plan to keep them in a vase. Remove the lower leaves which will be under water, leaving several pair to continue making food for the plant. Keep the water clean to prevent the stems from rotting before you can plant them in soil.

 

If you are planting them in moist soil you can use any cutting with at least two sets of leaves.  Strip off the lower leaves, and push the cutting into the moist soil.

Keep the pot outside in the shade for a few weeks until there is resistance (roots) when you gently give it a tug.  Bring the plant inside when nights begin to dip down towards 40F, and keep it in bright light .

Pinch the growing tips from time to time to keep the plant bushy, and water when the top of the soil begins to feel a little dry.

This is one of my favorite Begonias from cuttings.  I bought one plant a decade ago, and continue to start new ones from it.  I've given cuttings from this special Begonia to many friends.

This is one of my favorite Begonias from cuttings. I bought one plant a decade ago, and continue to start new ones from it. I’ve given cuttings from this special Begonia to many friends.

 

I treat my Begonias the same way.  Many varieties of Begonia root easily in a jar of water, and will live in just water for many months.  I keep jars of cuttings in the windows over winter.  Many Begonias will root, just like Coleus, when the lowest set of leaves is removed and the cutting pushed into the soil so that lowest leaf node is buried in the soil.

Begonia "Flamingo' is another favorite "pass along plant."  I lost my original plant, but took cuttings from one shared with family.  This variety will grow very tall, bearing hundreds of tiny pink flowers.  Stems will root in moist soil.

Begonia “Flamingo’ is another favorite “pass along plant.” I lost my original plant, but  later took cuttings from one shared with family. This variety will grow very tall, bearing hundreds of tiny pink flowers. Stems will root in moist soil.

 

It’s that easy.  Dip the cutting into a little rooting hormone powder to speed the process if you want to; but many people have success without the hormone powder.

You can easily root many other annuals and herbs in water, and then pot them up once the roots are an inch or so long.

Believe it or not, Begonia "Gryphon' will root from a stem cutting.  Remove 4" or more of a stem, press into moist soil, and wait for new growth to appear after the roots establsih.

Believe it or not, Begonia “Gryphon’ will root from a stem cutting. Remove 4” or more of a stem, press into moist soil, and wait for new growth to appear after the roots establish.

 

Try Basil and mint, impatiens, scented geraniums, New Guinea impatiens, Oregano, and Petunias. 

Some of our “annuals” are actually tender perennials.  They grow year round in warmer climes, but are killed by freezing temperatures.

Scented Geraniums, Pelargonium, are tender perennials.  They sometimes survive the winter here in Zone 7, reappearing in mid-May or later.  Cuttings will root in water or moist soil.

Scented Geraniums, Pelargonium, are tender perennials. They sometimes survive the winter here in Zone 7, reappearing in mid-May or later. Cuttings will root in water or moist soil.

 

Plants like Geraniums and Caladiums can be kept from one season to the next indoors.

They will survive with  low light and minimal moisture, so long as you keep them well above freezing.

Caladium, "Gingerland" will send up new leaves in January when kept inside over the winter.

Caladium, “Gingerland” will send up new leaves in January when kept inside over the winter.  Keep the tubers in pots indoors in a heated room, and water as the soil dries.  You will be rewarded with a beautiful winter house plant.

 

Caladiums don’t even like to go below 50F.    If you have space in a basement or garage, you might be able to save these plants over the winter, bringing them back as the weather warms with more water, light, and warmth.

Our unheated garage gets enough sunlight through the windows, and enough heat from the house to serve as a shelter for many pots through the winter.

Some plants are worth keeping, others, maybe not.  

 

Begonia, "Richmondensis" isn't easy to find.  Homestead Garden Center carried it this spring, and I purchased several.  This Begonia blooms prolifically all summer and can take more sun than most.  I will definitely keep this plant over winter and root cuttings in early spring.

Begonia, “Richmondensis” isn’t easy to find. Homestead Garden Center carried it this spring, and I purchased several. This Begonia blooms prolifically all summer and can take more sun than most.  I will definitely keep this plant over winter and root cuttings in early spring.

 

But even if you don’t have space to keep a large pot of a favorite plant, you can still keep cuttings of many going in  minimal space.  Once you know how to handle cuttings you can continue to create new plants form your existing stock indefinitely.

Some of my “annuals” are now into a fourth or fifth season, started anew each year from cuttings kept in windowsills over the winter.

Basil roots easily in water and grows quickly in warm weather.  A single plant can be used to produce an "endless supply" of Basil over a summer.

Basil roots easily in water and grows quickly in warm weather. A single plant can be used to produce an “endless supply” of Basil over a summer.

And cuttings are easy to share.  Friends share with me, and I with them.

That poor Coleus, torn to pieces by the deer, has resulted in more than a dozen “cuttings,” most now gone to new homes.

I’m always happy to give cuttings to friends who will take them.

 

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And growing on gifts of cuttings fills one’s garden with love and happy memories.

 

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2013-2014

 

Herb Garden

Garlic chives come into bloom beside Thyme and a Muscadine grape vine.

Garlic chives come into bloom beside Thyme and a Muscadine grape vine.

“My love affair with nature is so deep

that I am not satisfied with being a mere onlooker, or nature tourist.

I crave a more real and meaningful relationship.

The spicy teas and tasty delicacies I prepare from wild ingredients

are the bread and wine

in which I have communion and fellowship with nature,

and with the Author of that nature.”

Euell Gibbons

 

 

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Garlic chives remain one of the easiest of herbs to grow.  Plant in full sun, keep them moist, and they will grow indefinitely.  A perennial herb, the stand of chives grows a bit larger each season.  All parts of the plant are edible, and leaves can be snipped year round to season in cooking.  Chives are especially nice mixed with cream cheese or sour cream.  Their flowers may be cut for arrangements, cut and used as a garnish, or left to delight the bees.

Thyme grows as another spreading, perennial herb which enjoys full sun.  It blooms sometimes in summer, and it is a favorite for cooking.  A good cheese spread may bee made with chives, thyme leaves, and perhaps a little garlic, minced Rosemary, and freshly ground pepper.  Mix these into any combination of soft cream or goat cheeses.

Grape leaves make tasty wraps for various fillings.  Our favorite are Greek dolmades, which are stuffed with a mixture of rice and herbs, then steamed.  Grape leaves may be eaten raw in salad or added to sandwiches.

 

Basil grows here beside scented Pelargonium.

Basil grows here beside scented Pelargonium.

Basil leaves remain our favorite summer herb.  Eaten raw on a sandwich, pureed into pesto, or cooked with tomatoes, their distinctive flavor sings “summer,” even when enjoyed in February.  Their flowers are edible and may be enjoyed as cut flowers or as a garnish.  Stems of  Basil, mixed in with other flowers in a vase, perfumes the entire room.

Basil

Basil

Scented Pelargoniums are not only edible, they dry beautifully.  Lemon, orange, or rose scented geraniums, as they are called, may be added to home made mixes for tea, used as flavor in baked goods, or may be dried and preserved for their fragrance. Their flowers are edible and may be used to garnish cupcakes.  Some Pelargoniums survive the winter for us in Zone 7B.  They die back to the ground, but will sometimes come back from their roots in late spring.  They are happiest in full sun with moist soil.

Chocolate mint in bloom

Chocolate mint in bloom

Plant all of the mints in full sun.  They prefer moist soil, and will spread madly over a summer.  Every part of the plant may be eaten fresh or dried.  Used mainly to flavor beverages, mints are wonderful fresh or dried in tea.  A stand of mint in bloom remains busy with every sort of bee and wasp enjoying the feast of nectar.  This chocolate mint has beautiful, distinctive foliage and smells like minty chocolate candy.

Pineapple Sage, Pineapple Mint, and Rosemary enjoy this end of the butterfly garden where they get sun.  All appreciate moist soil, and will return each spring.

Pineapple Sage, Pineapple Mint, and Rosemary enjoy this end of the butterfly garden where they get sun.   All appreciate moist soil, and will return each spring.

A garden may be appreciated by all of our senses, including taste and smell.  These wonderfully fragrant herbs contain healing oils and compounds, in addition to their delicious flavors.

Although not a traditional vegetable garden, an herb garden allows us to consume a bit of what we grow and use the plants in many different ways.

Salvia officinalis, 'Tricolor' is delicious.  This perennial culinary herb is added to many savory dishes.  Individual leaves may also be fried in butter or olive oil  and used as a tasty garnish.

Salvia officinalis, ‘Tricolor’ is delicious. This perennial culinary herb is added to many savory dishes. Individual leaves may also be fried in butter or olive oil and used as a tasty garnish.

Whether bringing cut herbs and flowers indoors to enjoy, making sachet packets to keep moths out of our drawers,   blending our own tea, or cutting herbs to add to our food; we come to know these beautiful plants better through frequent use.

Salvia officinalis, 'Berggarten'

Salvia officinalis, ‘Berggarten’

Perennial herbs generously offer themselves up season after season, and once planted, remain with us so long as we tend the garden.

Rose scented Pelargonium with Pineapple Sage and Rose

Rose scented Pelargonium with Pineapple Sage and Rose

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

 

 

Rain-Glow

Forest Garden in this afternoon's rain.  All of our Crepe Myrtle trees, save one, have come into bloom.

Forest Garden in this afternoon’s rain.   All of our Crepe Myrtle trees, save one, have come into bloom.

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“The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.”

Confucius

 

You would never know it was August, here in Williamsburg, without consulting a calender.

We have embarked upon another stretch of cool, moist, overcast days.   It is wonderfully fresh outside.

Good sleeping weather, actually, and we count ourselves fortunate that our garden  remains  well watered without our assistance.

Geranium and ornamental pepper near the door.

Geranium and ornamental pepper  grow near the door.

 

We have enjoyed the garden today, in short bursts, between showers.

How satisfying to see it is growing just as winter’s imagination promised.

 

Begonia

Begonia,  from the Homestead Garden Center

 

Cooler, moister days give us vibrantly deep color in petal and leaf.

Leaves grow into gigantic versions of their springtime selves.

 

Colocasia, "Blue Hawaii" just keeps growing to gigantic proportions.  There are also a few "offsets" at the base, nearly ready to dig to share with friends.

Colocasia, “Blue Hawaii” just keeps growing to gigantic proportions. There are also a few “offsets” at the base, nearly ready to dig to share with friends.

 

Layer upon layer of life  shimmers with rain-glow today; almost as if we were suddenly transported to the beautiful Northwest, or the magical gardens of the  British Isles, from the view out of the window !

 

Cannas fill in this border nicely, Colocasia, Sages, and Lantana at their feet and Hibiscus behind.

Cannas fill in this border nicely; Colocasia, Sages, and Lantana at their feet and Hibiscus behind.

 

Our hummingbirds have grown plump and sassy.

Every view punctuated with nectar rich flowers, they drink their fill, then pause on a handy branch to survey it all.

And we watch them, and talk to them like pets.

 

Ajuga, Coleus, and Petunias.

Ajuga, Coleus, Ivy, and Petunias.

 

Who knew August could be so lovely in Virginia?

We have been blessed with the sort of comfortable day which finds one reaching for those favorite jeans, a cup of coffee, and a good book.

 

“A wise man will make more opportunities than he finds.”

Sir Francis Bacon

 

Autumn "Brilliance" Fern with Creeping Jenny

Autumn “Brilliance” Fern with Creeping Jenny

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

The Herd

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Our neighbor took these photos of “The Herd,” which hangs around our bit of the neighborhood.

Many of our neighbors enjoy sighting the deer.  Some even feed them.

Our wooded neighborhood hosts several family groups who wander the ravines and gather around the ponds.

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Although the deer are beautiful creatures, they are extremely destructive to our gardens.

And worse, deer roaming through the area bring deer ticks, which harbor Lyme’s disease.

Our neighbor took these photos near our homes, in mid-morning.  Not a bit shy, this group was happy to rest in full view in the middle of the day.

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Other neighborhood friends describe deer who regularly rest in their yards during the day, like a pet dog might.

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We began the conversation, which resulted in the gift of these photos, when my neighbor called to ask what is growing in our new pot on the driveway.

It seems this group was grazing their way down the street, but completely by-passed our new planting.

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Watching the deer leave our  pot  untouched,  our neighbor wanted to know what flowers are so  immune to grazing.  And the answer is, zonal geraniums.

The odor of geraniums is distasteful to deer.  I suspect they don’t care for the thickness and texture of geranium leaves, either.

Zonal geraniums are distasteful to deer both for their odor and the texture of their leaves.  They protect the Coleus, Begonia, and ivy in this pot.  The Caladiums are poisonous.

Zonal geraniums are distasteful to deer both for their odor and the texture of their leaves. They protect the Coleus, Begonia, and ivy in this pot. The Caladiums are poisonous. The Lamium vine  is also distasteful to deer and has not been grazed in other locations in our garden.  It has a purple or blue flower earlier in the spring.

Other plants in this group, like the Coleus, have been grazed other years.  I suspect the geraniums deter interest in the entire pot.

Deer nibble our coleus from time to time, depending on where they find it.  Petunias, in the rear, are distasteful and rarely bothered.

Deer nibble our Coleus from time to time, depending on where they find it. Petunias, in the rear, are distasteful and rarely bothered.

We are growing five different varieties of zonal geraniums this year, in addition to ivy geraniums, and several varieties of scented geraniums (Pelargoniums).

Not only are they left untouched, the deer pass the other plants in pots where they grow.

Ivy geraniums (white flowers) and a rose scented Pelargonium share this pot with Eucalyptus.  Artemisia grows behind the pot.  All are scented and distasteful to deer.

Ivy geraniums (white flowers) and a rose scented Pelargonium share this pot with Eucalyptus. Artemesia grows behind the pot. All are scented and distasteful to deer.

If you live where deer graze frequently, you can still grow beautiful flowers. 

The trick is to know what the deer will leave alone, and only invest in plants which will have a chance to grow.

This Lantana is blooming for its third season here.  It survived our winter.  Here, Lantana, "Miss Huff" which is hardy to Zone 7.

This Lantana is blooming for its third season here on the street. It survived our winter. This is  Lantana, “Miss Huff” which is hardy to Zone 7.

“Deer Resistant” has lost its meaning for me.  I’ve purchased too many “deer resistant” plants which were grazed within the first week.

This same sage, sold in 4 packs this spring, also comes with white flowers.

Our Catnip, with white flowers.

I prefer “poisonous” plants, like Daffodils, Caladiums, and Hellebores; but will settle for “totally distasteful” plants like Geraniums and most herbs.

A perennial sage grows here with Dusty Miller.  Both have gone untouched for several years in our garden.

A perennial sage grows here with Dusty Miller. Both have lived untouched for several years in our garden.

For more information on “deer proofing” your garden, please look back at some of my previous posts:

Deer Resistant Plants for Our Area- Revised Annotated list

Living With A Herd of Deer

Pick Your Poison

Tick Season Is Here

Scented Geraniums

 

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If you just want to bring home something pretty which will survive on your deck or porch through the season, make sure to include some geraniums and herbs in your pot.

I hope your herd of deer will walk right past it, on the way to someone else’s garden.

Deer photos by Denis Orton 2014

Plant photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

Situated in full sun at the street, this newest, unprotected pot must tolerate heat, drought, and stand up to our herd of deer.

Situated in full sun at the street, this newest, unprotected pot must tolerate heat, drought, and stand up to our herd of deer.

 

Time To Come In

Caladiums beginning to look faded at the end of their season outside.

Caladiums beginning to look faded at the end of their season outside.

The Caladiums have about reached the limit of how much cold they will tolerate.  We love their huge colorful leaves, and wait as late into the season as we can before disturbing them.  But, it is time to come indoors for the winter.

The first few Caladiums already lifted, it is easier to see what is growing in the pot.

With the first few Caladiums already lifted, it is easier to see what is growing in the pot.

Some gardeners bring them in and successfully dry the tubers.  I’ve not had a high success rate with packing the tubers away in peat moss or sawdust for the winter, and so I prefer to leave the plants growing in pots, and bring the pots inside.  When brought into the living room, they will normally die back for a few weeks to rest, and then sprout new leaves early in the new year.  This makes it easy to keep up with them, and then transplant them back outside the following May when the weather has warmed up for good.  It is just a little too cold in Virginia to leave Caladiums outside all winter.  They will freeze and die.

This pot was spectacular all summer with its red Begonia Rex and a red leaved cane Begonia.  Both need to come inside now that night time temperatures dip into the 40s.

This pot was spectacular all summer with its red Begonia Rex and a red leaved cane Begonia. Both need to come inside now that night time temperatures dip into the 40s.

Our large pots tend to be temporary homes for a variety of plants.  The pots stay in place and the plants come and go with the seasons.  So this afternoon I tackled the Caladiums and some of the Rex Begonias.   When the Caladium leaves begin to fade, and several nights in a row dip below 50, its best to lift the tubers and find them a winter home.

Begonia Rex, purchased in a 1" pot in April has grown beautifully in this protected pot on the patio.

Begonia Rex, purchased in a 1″ pot in April has grown beautifully in this protected pot on the patio.

Anything we can do for tender plants is better than doing nothing.  Lifting them, and losing some roots and leaves, to bring them inside at least gives them a chance to survive.  Some will thrive, some will languish.  It is a chance we take.  We can only be as gentle as we can be, minimizing the time roots are exposed to the air.   This is different than standard re-potting since plants are dug out individually.  Its good to do this on a fairly warm, overcast day.  Assemble pots, fresh soil, trowel, clippers, fertilizer, bulbs, transplants, gloves, and water before beginning to dig.  Once started, try to move each plant as quickly and gently as possible, watering it into its new pot so the roots settle firmly into place.October 26 potting 012

I recycled some pots which held Coleus this summer.  The Coleus has grown leggy and is fading in the cooler temperatures.  Coleus cuttings will survive the winter in vases of water.  It is best to start with fresh plants each summer anyway, so this year’s plants are discarded when they fade.

Transplanted Caladiums and Begonias now share this 14" shallow pot.  They will live in our living room this winter.  The Caladiums will die back, but will send out fresh leaves in early spring.  They can remain together or get divided up and replanted outside when spring 2014 is settled and warm.

Transplanted Caladiums and Begonias now share this 14″ shallow pot. They will live in our living room this winter. The Caladiums will die back, but will send out fresh leaves in early spring. They can remain together or get divided up and replanted outside when spring 2014 is settled and warm.

Prepare the pots by mixing some Plant Tone into the recycled soil, or begin with all new potting soil.  Scoop out a bowl shaped depression to receive the transplants.  Probe around each Caladium tuber with the trowel.  It’s hard to know how large the tubers have grown, but expect them to be larger than what was planted in spring.  Begin a few inches away from the living stems, and scoop under the tuber from 3 or 4 different angles to loosen the roots.

Settle the roots of each caladium into the pot, spacing them a few inches apart.

Settle the roots of each Caladium into the pot, spacing them a few inches apart.

Reach under the entire tuber and lift the plant in the palm of your hand, gently shaking some of the soil back into the summer pot.  Place the tuber into the new pot, settling the roots, and push the first few tubers towards the edges.  Make sure there is soil between the side of the pot and the tuber.  Continue lifting tubers one at a time.  October 26 potting 018They should be spaced several inches apart.  Expect that the leaves will die back, and unless you add another plant or two, the pot will appear to be empty for much of the winter.  Since the pot is coming into the living room I pot up Caladiums with something else that will live all winter indoors.   I mixed these Caladiums with three of the Begonia Rex who have been outside in this same area.  Gently probe around each Begonia plant, and gently lift it in the same way, shaking away excess soil.  You want a fairly compact bit of soil and roots to transplant.

One Beonia is leggy and should be pruned back, the other already pruned by hungry deer.  Both will spend the winter in the warm living room.

One Begonia is leggy and should be pruned back, the other was already pruned by hungry deer. Both will spend the winter in the warm living room.

Settle these in between the Caladium tubers, and fill in around each plant with fresh potting soil, as needed.  Finally top off the soil with a layer of gravel mulch, and spray gently with a fine mist of water to rinse the leaves and pot and settle the roots into place.    This pot is now ready to come inside for the winter and will do well in bright but indirect light.

A Heuchera anchors the newly planted Panola and several Violas.  Grape Hyacinth and miniature Daffodils will fill the pot out in spring.

A Heuchera anchors the newly planted Panola and several Violas. Grape Hyacinths and miniature Daffodils will fill the pot out in spring.  Last year’s Grape Hyacinth bulbs have already grown leaves.

The pots which will over winter should be stripped of all tender plants, leaving only those hardy enough to survive the cold.  I’ve left a fern and a Clematis in one pot, and a Heuchera, sprouting Grape Hyacinth bulbs, and a cutting of Begonia Gryphon in the other.  Both of these pots will receive Violas and bulbs for winter and early spring blooms.  Since both are heavy feeders, and will be expected to bloom all winter, it is smart to begin by digging in some Plant Tone.  Next plant any bulbs.  I’ve added some additional Grape Hyacinths and miniature Daffodils.  I used the same bulbs in both pots I replanted today, so they will bloom together and look similiar next spring.  Finally, I transplanted the Violas, topped off the pots with some fresh gravel mulch, and watered with a fine mist to wash away stray potting soil and settle the roots into their new pot.

Beautiful Panolas with their ruffled petals fill this pot, underplanted with Grape Hyacinths and miniature Daffodils.  A fern, planted last autumn, is beginning to spread.  A Clematis vine, new this spring, will spend the winter in the pot ready to grow again in the spring.

Beautiful Panolas with their ruffled petals fill this pot, underplanted with Grape Hyacinths and miniature Daffodils. A fern, planted last autumn, is beginning to spread. A Clematis vine, new this spring, will spend the winter in the pot ready to grow again in a few months.

Both pots look much better now that they are cleaned up and replanted for the winter.  The large, leggy Begonia has more room to grow in its new pot, and is partnered with what is left of a Begonia Boliviensis which was badly grazed by deer.  Safely inside, I expect it to leaf out again and possibly bloom over the winter.  The large Begonia will drop a few leaves as it adjusts.  I can cut back each of the branches to stimulate fresh growth lower on the stem.  Sometimes I share these cuttings with friends, and sometimes give them the mother plant.  These Begonias root so easily I always have more plants than I can reasonably bring in for the winter.  This one was a rooted cutting when it went outside in late April, and has grown quite huge over the season.

A Begonia Rex remains in the pot with the new Camellia, now protected with cuttings  of scented geranium.

A Begonia Rex remains in the pot with the new Camellia, now protected from grazing deer with cuttings of scented geranium.

Finally, the Coleus protecting the new C. “Jingle Bells” had to go today, too. It was hit by cold last week, was dropping leaves, and looked pretty ratty.  I lifted one of the Rex Begonias in this pot, but left the other in place a while longer.  Sometime soon I’ll lift it and plant the entire pot in Violas.  I’m concerned about deer attracted to the Violas also eating the Camellia buds, so the change over for this pot is gradual.  Today I took large cuttings of some leggy scented geraniums.  I’ve read some accounts lately of other gardeners successfully protecting plants with the highly fragrant scented Pelargonium.  Although I hope these cuttings root, if they don’t, they will remain fragrant and continue to protect the Camellia for many months.  These particular Pelargonium normally aren’t hardy in Zone 7, but several survived last winter.  Although the leaves eventually died back in an extended bit of frigid weather, the roots lived and the plants grew back this spring.

It is a luxury to have space indoors to keep plants through the winter.  It also takes consistent attention to keep each pot properly watered, the leaves picked up, and the plants rotated so they get sufficient light.  It is an investment of time and love, but the reward of much loved plants surviving from one summer to the next makes it worth the effort to bring in as many plants as one can when autumn nights grow cold.

Panolas are a fairly new hybrid,.  They combine the hardiness of the smaller Violas with the larger face and brighter colors of true Pansies.  These are some favorites with ruffled petals.

Panolas are a fairly new hybrid,. They combine the hardiness of the smaller Violas with the larger face and brighter colors of true Pansies. These “Violet Picotee” are some of my  favorites with their ruffled petals.

All photos by Woodland Gnome 2013

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All of these Panolas and Violas were raised by the Patton family and sold at their Homestead Garden Center in James City Co., Virginia.

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