Early June

June (10)As much as I treasure the spring season, early June is a garden moment like no other.  Every tree and shrub is in full leaf, and growing apace. Just about every perennial is not only growing, they are making plans to bloom. Even my hardy hibiscus show signs of stirring. The garden is action packed. The Princeton Gold maples against a a stormy sky last night-spectacular. Those trees dominate my landscape in June, as you can see. One would never know there are houses just past those trees.  Just this year, the last of the electrical pole in the corner that services 3 other houses besides mine and its overhead wires have disappeared from view.

June (5)My landscape is not one bit fancy, although it is grown up. It is an urban American garden to my liking on a very small parcel of land. It is simple in design, so if it gets neglected when I am busy, order can be restored in a day or two. I like the orderly part of my landscape, as I find that order relaxing. The best part of coming home at the end of a busy day is having nothing to do in the garden.

June (8)What I will plant around the fountain this year is the subject of much internal debate. I can only ask Buck to talk to me about it so many times, and I have already gone over the limit. What is that plant that will like the sun at one end, and tolerate the shade at the other?  It has to suffer the indignity of the dogs wading through it. And the over spray from the fountain jets on a windy day. I solved one chronic problem this spring. I had the irrigation system enlarged to include this area. No more dragging the hose down there from the deck on a 90 degree August day. I tried isotoma fluvialitis, but it was not hardy for me.  I did get 3 years from both herniaria, and scotch moss.

the beginning of June (8)I have yet to do one thing in this garden, and it doesn’t show – but for the dirt around the fountain. The month of June is the busiest of my year. This year is exceptionally busy. Several landscape projects are in process, in addition to the summer plantings. The fact that all I have to do when I get home is look around is a relief.

the beginning of June (10)I have not planted my pots yet, but I have plenty enough going on to keep my eyes occupied. I will try to have them planted by June 15.  Annual and tropical plants going into soil that is thoroughly warmed up will take hold and grow with little in the way of transplant shock. To follow are more pictures of my early June garden, without much commentary. I need to go attend to someone else’s garden right now.

the beginning of June (1)

the beginning of June (2)The Palibin lilacs are beautiful this year.  I have a pair on standard that have to be close to 30 years old.

the spring garden (13)Picea abies

the beginning of June (3)maple leaves and boxwood

June (6)landscape in early June

June (4)The driveway pots are ready to plant. Do I know what I will plant?  No. But deciding what to plant is more than half the fun of it.

June (3)the stairs to the kitchen door

June (2)Sum and Substance hosta under a parrotia.June (7)The pots in front are ready to plant. I will get to the weeds in the gravel sometime soon.

the beginning of June (5)I have a June landscape, not so much a garden garden. I like a vase of cut flowers in my garden in June as often as possible. I don’t want to miss out on anything.

 

 

 

Some Like It Hot And Dry

 

Screen Shot 2016-03-01 at 6.11.57 PM_zpsv6bhufehChoosing plants for summer containers can be complicated, especially if you are as serious about them as I am. I have to be serious, as I plant them professionally for a wide range of clients. But lacking any clients, I would still be serious about them.  They are seasonal expressions of the landscape confined by a finite world known as a container. The idea of this enchants me. A great container planting is a condensed expression of color, mass, line, texture, mass, shape and mood. Like the best chocolate mousse you ever ate. The thoughtful landscape and garden builds and endures and reinvents itself from year to year. Like a great stew. Seasonal containers provide an opportunity to express an idea or point of view that needs no more commitment than one season. If this year’s annual containers do not satisfy, the next summer season is not so far away. Landscape design and installation can be a lengthy affair.  The road to maturity is long, and not always easy.  The death of a tree is momentous; a petunia lost is no cause for alarm.  That container plantings last for one season is such a blessing. As much as I embrace the tough and long road designing and implementing a landscape, I value those gestures that are quick and true. I design containers by instinct. Every season, a plant that interests me, or a group of plants that seem like they will create a neighborhood gets my attention.  But long before I shop, I scout the long range weather forecast for my zone.

Floret FarmsA forecast for much above average temperatures, and dry conditions means I started paying special attention to those seasonal plants that will thrive in those conditions months ago. I have always been a fan of those old fashioned cutting flowers-the zinnias.  If we have a rainy or very humid summer, they are a magnet for mildew and all manner of fungal disease. Reading the forecast in March, I started researching zinnias. A dry hot summer would be the perfect moment to plant lots of them in front of the shop. I was especially interested in unusual forms, vigor, resistance to disease, and and that old fashioned charm they are known for. In reading about zinnias, I came across a blog post from Floret Farms.  They grow armload after armload of the most beautiful cut flowers I have ever seen-just like the cut zinnias you see in their picture above.  I did take some of their recommendations to heart. Interested in the article? http://www.floretflowers.com/2014/03/flower-focus-growing-great-zinnias/

 

DSC_6426Zinnia Queen red lime has very unusual and muted coloration-unlike many of the varieties that feature intense color.

DSC_6433It’s sister cultivar, Queen Lime, is a much improved version of the old lime green zinnia “Envy”.

Zinnia elegans 'Queen Lime' (2013)Benary Lime tends towards the greener side of lime. From the Johnny’s Selected seeds website:  A classic and superior strain of zinnia originating from a historic German seed company, the Benary’s Giant Series features large, double blossoms of approximately 4–5″ in diameter, in multiple magnificent colors. Recommended by the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers for their vigor, uniformity, productivity, and carefree cultivation across a range of growing zones and conditions.  From Swallowtail Garden Seeds: The 3-4 inch, double chartreuse flowers are superb for cutting, blend with almost any color. Outstanding massed in the landscape; the flowers are jaw-dropping in mixed bouquets. Plants are rain, heat, and mildew resistant. Somewhat shorter than others in this series, growing 24-26 inches tall.

DSC_6423I first read about this zinnia at Floret Farms.  Uproar Rose is a hot pink zinnia that is reputed to produce flower heads at 5″-6″ across all summer.  It makes an excellent cut flower, and is resistant to fungal diseases. Floret favors this zinnia, as it has lots of side branching – meaning it will bear lots of flowers.  I added this zinnia to my collection.

DSC_6435The Zinderella series, in both peach and lilac represent a very unusual anemone type form. I see not every flower on the stalk is quite as double as the ones in my pictures, but that is not enough to discourage me from growing them. They grow about 24 inches tall.  I mixed all of the sizes and colors of zinnias for a loose look, and I have twice as many lime zinnias as all of the other colors. That lime will make it so much easier to appreciate the color and shape of the other varieties.

DSC_6434Zinderella Lilac

zinnia Polar BearA little splash of white is the perfect accent for a garden with lots of bright color. This is the tallest of my zinnias, topping out at 40″. Polar Bear white is an appropriate name.  It cools off the collection.

Canary Bird Zinnia Zinnia Canary Bird rounded out the tall zinnia group.

51985-pk-p1I did not want to neglect the shorter and more compact zinnias.  I did opt to grow the Zahara series.  From Park Seed:  The Zahara series introduced in 2009 immediately became famous for its resistance to mildew and leaf spot, its nonstop blooms, and its larger flower size.These blooms are fully 2½ inches wide. Renowned for its ability to withstand heat, humidity, drought, and just about anything else, Zahara is the first bedding Zinnia that can truly claim to be disease-resistant. Mildew is a traditional enemy of the Zinnia, but Zahara’s got it licked!

F_Zinnia_ZaharaStarlightRose Zahara Starlight White is especially beautiful.

DSC_6431The wicker pots out front are planted with elegant feather, tall yellow marigolds, marguerite daisies, pink petunias and lime licorice.  We dug around the stone plinth, and planted Zahara zinnias.

zinnias at the shop (1) a fist full of zinnias

zinnias at the shop (2)Yes, I planted them on the roof too.  We’ll see how we do with them.

 

 

The First Container Planting

annual planting (3)
Every year, the prospect of having a full roster of container gardens to plant makes me want to black out. I spend the first three weeks of May utterly certain that I cannot plant one more pot.  That I am out of ideas. Luckily, time passes by, and and I start shopping. A client I have worked for as long as this one is easy to shop for. I had a pair of giant banana plants to pick up at our farmer’s market at 5:45 am. I was ready at 7am to let Dan know that we would need two pallets-130 bags –  of our custom container soil blend, and 30 bags of bark. We would need moss fabric for a pair of wire urns, and a ladder to tie the mandevillea to the steel plant climbers.

annual planting (12)I had shopped with David and Riley on Friday.  They put all of our plants on racks, and loaded them onto our trucks.  At the end of the day Friday, I was ready in the plant regard.  I had an inkling of an idea about what I would plant. Of course I was going over that inkling, critically. I had from 6-8am Saturday morning to print the photographs from last year, and write on them what materials we would use in them this year. Two hours gives me enough time to change my mind. Once my crew is ready to load, I am too.  I take extras and alternates, just in case.

annual planting (5) Once every pot had gotten filled with bark for drainage, and our container soil mix, all of the centerpieces get planted.  Then I lay out the scheme for the rest of the pot.  I was entirely absorbed and focused on how each plant would grow out, and interact with its neighbor. I favor containers that have a beautiful overall shape by the time they mature.  My favorite part of this planting for a group of Italian terra cotta pots? Orange geraniums. Geraniums, as they provide an incredible amount of color when properly grown.  They are heavy feeders. But more so than the bloom habit, that orange would contribute an interesting variation to a warm color palette.  The red mandevilleas and red geraniums are a bluish red. The orange geraniums have just enough yellow to make the combination interesting. My client is keen about the drama that can be created by intense color.
annual planting (6)This pair of Italian pots can handle the size and textural drama of a pair of large scale bananas. Not yet visible are a collar of strobilantes, or Persian shield plants that will ring the trunks of the bananas.  The chartreuse leaved Persian Queen geraniums and misty lilac waves petunias will highlight the iridescent red-violet of the Persian Shields.

annual planting (9)Lime green is a key color in this planting scheme. All of the warm colors are all the more intense, by their proximity to lime green. The red represented in this container is red sunpatiens. They will grow quite large.  The lime licorice will lighten that load of red.

annual planting (7)This big scented geranium will have pale pink flowers intermittently over the summer.  But they are primarily grown for their bright apple green foliage that can be clipped into shapes.  We gave this geranium the most rudimentary clip.  My client has a lot of formally trimmed shrubs maintained by the company that prunes our boxwood at the shop.  Her crew will put a skilled set of hands to the spherical shape of this geranium.  It is under planted with an orange geranium of a different sort than the big growing zonal geraniums.  Caliente geraniums come in a wide range of colors, and are extremely easy to grow. The pink and white bicolor trailing verbena “Lanai Twister Pink” is a beautiful addition to this series.

annual planting (11)There are two containers in fairly dense shade.  The color of the lime dracaena “Janet Craig” brightens any shady area.  The dracaena is under planted with bird’s nest ferns.  The leaf form is simialr to the dracaena, but is a darker green.

annual planting (8)A boxwood topiary on standard is under planted with Persian Queen geraniums, red geraniums, and vista fuchsia petunias. The low terra cotta bowl features hot pink XL dahlias, black cherry supertunias, and a bicolor trailing verbena.

annual planting (10)3 terracotta boxes get identical treatment.  Hot pink zonal geranium towers, and lime creeping jenny.

annual planting (14)This old cast iron rectangular cauldron sits in a garden bed which is so shady that very little grows there. It is planted with a a pair of lime green fleck leafed dieffenbachia “Camouflage”, Janet Craig dracaenas, and Black Gold Xtreme sansevieria. The sansevieria in the box is repeated in ground at each end. This planting will thrive all summer long with next to no water.

annual planting (1)By 2pm, you would never know we had been there. It was a splashy beginning to our container planting season.

88 Degrees

DSC_2414Though our summer has been mostly moderate and regularly rainy, we are in the throes of a hot spell. It is hot enough to make working in the garden a sweat fest. Oh yes, the hot days have gone on for a while.  If I can’t be outside at 6am, I would rather wait until 6pm. Do the tropical/seasonal plants in my pots mind an 88 degree day?  Not at all. Many of them originate in very hot climates.  They have been waiting for this heat since late May. It is important to differentiate between what you would like on a hot day, and what your container plants would like. I do not water my containers when it is hot. I might like a cool shower after a hot day outdoors, but tropical plants thrive in the hot heat. I only water them when they are dry, or in imminent danger of becoming dry. I water dry plants, not hot plants.

watering pots August 2015 (3)I have no scientific evidence to support the following-just my experience and instinct.  On an 88 degree sunny day, I do not water my pots from the top.  I would rather keep the foliage dry.  Wet and heat put together is a reliably good recipe for disease. Mildew in a container – what gardener needs that? I use one hand to raise up the trailing plants on the edge, and the other to direct water to the surface of the dirt. No matter the size of the pot, I move the wand to different locations on the edge of the pot, so I am sure all the soil gets watered evenly. All around. Watering in one spot will invariably leave some other spot dry. I water the soil, all around, in hot weather.

watering pots August 2015 (17)When plants get large, it is not always so easy to see where the interior of the pot actually is.  There’s no sense to watering outside the pot.

watering pots August 2015 (8)This chocolate soldier plectranthus has gotten so large that it takes my whole arm to to flip up the trailing portion, and direct water to the soil. As this pot is located in the corner of my deck, it isn’t feasible to go all the way around it with my wand. The best part for this plant – no water goes on the foliage.  The water need to go to the roots.

watering pots August 2015 (10)Watering a seasonal container properly takes a little finesse. This container needs water at the center.  A rim watering is not enough.  My left hand has located the surface of the soil in the middle, while my right hand delivers the water. How do I know how this pot needs water?  I touch the soil.  If it is hard and crusty,  (as soil tends to get towards the end of the growing season, when the plants are heavily rooted) I water until that soil softens, and feels spongy to the touch.  This pot I may need to water twice, to get it sufficiently soaked.  I will not water again until the soil has dried out.

watering pots August 2015 (14)Flipping the leaves up in a container gives me a look at the soil below, and helps me to direct the water horizontally across the surface of the soil.  Plants are more forgiving of their leaves being handled as a group. Handling a single leaf can result in breakage. Water directed to the roots of plants in need is life giving.

watering pots August 2015 (11)The German ivy at the lower left in this picture is trailing just about to the ground now. As the vines are very juicy, heavy, and brittle, I move the leaves just above the rootball as gently as possible, and water from the top. I wouldn’t want to risk breaking an entire branch.  I would not flip up German ivy trailers in search of the soil surface.  I shine that water down on its root ball, as best I can. Every plant in a container needs to be watered differently.

watering pots August 2015 (15)Dichondra, on the other hand, is a light weight and pliable vine.  The round leaves do a decent job of repelling water, should I water from the top. The best way to get the water to the roots of a dichondra is to get the leaves out of the way. Once I have watered those roots,  I set the vines back down.  Gently.

watering pots August 2015 (6)This pot full of belamcanda lilies is thoroughly rooted.  All of the growth is upright, so watering at the bottom is easy.  On an 88 degree day, I flood the soil until the water comes up to the rim. After the water drains,  I will refill the pot until I see evidence of water draining all of the way out the bottom.

watering pots August 2015 (1)The rush in this pot is very fond of water. The Cuban oregano-it is happy to be dryer.  Some pots need selective watering.  I make the time to do this. I pour the water to the rush, and water the oregano every so often.

watering pots August 2015 (4)This pot planted with a rose scented geranium and a number of phormiums-I water it from the top. I cannot really explain why. The rose scented geranium does not bend much.  The phormium is vulnerable to breakage at the crown.  Why all this talk about watering?  Container plantings need regular and thoughtful watering.  People regularly ask me why my pots look good so late in the season, and during really hot weather. It’s the watering.