Had I But Four Square Feet…

Alice Harding, whose book “The Peony” is a classic on the subject of growing peonies once remarked, “Had I but four square feet of ground at my disposal, I would plant a peony in the centre, and proceed to worship.”  My sentiments exactly.  But there are other plants that might make muster in my four square feet.  Most certainly nicotiana would be high on my list.  My three foot square Tuscan box is full of them at this moment, and they are looking good.   Henry Mitchell describes peonies as “that rare combination of fluff and majesty”-nicotiana could not be further from that description.  

The flowers are utterly simple.  A long slender tube fans out at the end into 5 distinctly scalloped lobes.  They look back at me with that guiless and frank signature look.  The nod in the breeze.  Can you tell I really like them?  There are lots of species, hybrids and cultivars; I like them all.  Nicotiana sylvestris grows better than 6 feet tall, always needs staking, and attracts every aphid in the neighborhood-so I rarely grow that. The diminuitive nicotiana langsdorfii is a charmer.  

Perfume purple and Perfume white are lovely.  They seem to maintain that same graceful spacing along the flowering stems as the species nocotiana alata.  Shorter nicotiana, such as the Avalon series, have densely bunched flower heads that lack grace to my eye.   

By far and away, my favorites are nicotiana alata lime, and nicotiana mutabilis.  I like them even better, grown in a mix.  Nicotiana mutabilis grows tall, and also needs staking, but it is worth the trouble.  Hundred of white, pink, and rose pink flowers grow on the same plant.  It is never better for me than it is in September; it will put on incredible growth in the fall.  The tiny flowers are always fluttering over something. 

They are not fond of really hot weather, so I have no idea what will become of this planting. Those that talk weather are saying it will be really hot here for another month.  You wouldn’t think this giant pot would dry out very often, but it is a rare hot day that I do not have to soak the corners.  Do I water parts of container plantings-absolutely.  I did soak it thoroughly this morning, knowing there was a possibility our temperature would hit 100 degrees today.  So I had time to take a long look.    

What else am I growing here?  Pink mandevillea, white angelonia, Persian Queen geranium, white mini petunias, and white variegated trailing plectranthus. I have an event going on here-a nicotiana fest.

Coming Along

How I enjoyed my fourth of July holiday.  The weather was perfect-partly cloudy, and not too hot.  With only one annual planting left to go, I had time to catch my breath, and tinker in my own yard.  My container plantings are coming on just fine.  As usual, I planted caladiums in my planters on the north wall-they thrive in that bright shade.  This small leaved variety whose name I do not know looks a little like fireworks-does it not?   

I suppose the fireworks designation really belongs to the Janet Craig dracaenas.  The large strappy lime colored leaved make a big statement in shade.  It will grow readily in very low light; direct sun will burn the leaves.  I trimmed off the lower leaves, to make room for the caladiums.     

I have planted one color or another of solenia begonias in the terra cotta boxes for years.  Non-stop begonias are not that easy for me to keep-but here they are, in the most intense shade of orange.  They succumb to rot so easily.  My plantes are staked up for better air circulation, and I remove any deteriorating foliage at the first sign of trouble. The green and white caladium with terra cotta blotches face down some lime irisine that needs more time and heat to get tall.  I like the change of texture provided by the liriope in front; lots of perennials are great looking in containers. 

My potunia verbena pot has finally stabilized; the heavy and just about daily rains have abated.  I keep this pot on the dry side.  The container is placed between two chairs, so I plant for a top view, rather than a side view.

This pot always gets planted green in some form or another.  The nicotiana alata lime is in its usual spot.  Nicotiana is probably my most favorite annual flower.  The cooly lime green, simple star shaped single flowers are my idea of a really great looking flower.  Two varieties of coleus some lime licorice and selaginella complete the planting.  I have had a tough time with licorice this year-I suspect the early cold rain is to blame.  

Though I planted an embarrassment of riches in Orange Punch cannas at the shop, I had to bring one home; my olive jar is the perfect place for a tall growing plant.  A shrubby growing orange lantana, and a couple of purple wave petunias complete the ensemble.  The companion planter is planted with the same scheme orange and carmine color scheme.  The heat of July will bring on the flowering of the dahlia. 

The University series of dahlias is new to me; this purple variety is a great color.  My coleus needs a little pinching, and my tricolor geranium needs to grow up, for all of the volumes to balance out. Annuals in my zone shine in July and August.   

The lime irisine in this box has yet to make much of an appearance, but the solenia begonias are thriving.  Like the non-stop begonias, I stake them with bamboo.  The solenias will fall over with the weight of the flowers-this habit makes them great for hanging baskets. The vinca maculatum has grown so long, I swept it up on the ledge.  I will be interested to see if it continues to grow, in this horizontal position. 

 There are 5 containers on the drive, and 2 in ground plantings at different levels.  I have tried a lot of color schemes here; warm colors seem to look the best with the yellow and orange stone. 

I have never planted any yellow flowers here before, but I am liking how it looks.  Yellow butterfly marguerites are a nuisance in the deadheading department, but when they are good, they are very good.  It seems like they are happy; they should double in size before the end of the season.  As much as I love yellow petunias, they are not particularly vigorous.  We’ll see if I can manage to keep them happy. 

In the rose garden, a different color scheme all together. In deference to my pink and white roses, I have pink mandevillea, nicotiana mutabilis and alata lime, white angelonia pink and white petunias, and Persian Queen geraniums.  Faintly visible is my steel plant tower; the vine and nicotiana get a lot of help staying upright from it.  By summer’s end, it will vanish from view.  This Tuscan style square is a very large pot; it asks for a planting that will grow large.  Watching plants grow is my favorite channel.