The signs of spring in my area are still few and far between. I do have a few crocus just coming into bloom now – in April, for pete’s sake. My garden cannot be cleaned up yet, as a layer of ice still covers most of it. I have winter pots still so frozen in place I cannot take them apart. But I have other options for spring. As in planting pots for spring. We are in the process of planting lots of them for the shop. Shortly we will be planting spring pots for clients. I do have a love for mossed containers. Nature represented in both the top and the bottom is a very good look. Lining moss baskets has always been about the art of patching. Florist’s moss comes packed in cases of pieces. Some moss pieces are big and thick. Rob calls these moss hides. Some pieces are thin and small. A wirework basket may need a number of pieces of moss, stitched together via a puzzle of overlapping pieces. Any natural material comes in all manner of natural shapes, sizes and thicknesses.
One of our suppliers had the brilliant idea of attaching moss to a biodegradable backing. Don’t ask me how they do this-I have no clue. But I do know that mossing a wire basket just got a whole lot easier. For a round wirework container, Rob rolls the container in a natural arc across the moss mat. He marks that radius with a nursery marking pen. The marks describing the top of the container, and the bottom. That pair of lines create an arc. He cuts that arc big and wide- oversized.
That arc derived from the top and bottom of the container means that the moss mat fits smoothly inside the basket. Of course there is a lot of fussing. Anything in the garden that means much to a gardener requires the work of a pair of hands. A pair of hands on a shovel, or a hose, or a rake. As for my gardening efforts today, I am putting my hands to planting containers for spring.
The bottom of this wirework container is filled with drainage material. By a third. Container plantings require more drainage material than soil. Waterlogged plants never prosper, unless you plan to pot up bog plants. A seasonal pot planting does well with bark as drainage material. Making sure that water can drain from a container is essential.
After the bark, the container is filled with soil. We use a soil mix that is custom blended for us. Lots of compost. A big dash of sand. And soil. We do not use peat based growers mix in our pots. Soilless mixes are perfect for professional growers who can manage the fertility levels and water to a tee. For gardeners, we recommend a soil based mix. We like dirt.
The upper side of the moss mat gets folded over. A rolled moss edge looks generously finished. That thickness contrasts beautifully with the thin wire that describes the shape of the container. That roll also helps to keep the soil right where it belongs-inside.
Planting a pot no doubt involves design. Color, texture, mass-and a vision about the mature shape of the planting. But planting a pot is also about that magical moment. An idea. The plants. The dirt. The act of planting.
Blue in a Michigan garden? That would be blue pansies and lobelia. OK, there are some true blue delphiniums, and cornflowers to come later on. But if you have a big love for blue, express yourself now.
Bright yellow and dark purple pansies, orange grass, and cream stick stacks-a spring wake up call.
Creme brulee heuchera-great in pots. The habit, the leaf size and shape-and that color-the stuff that spring memories are made of. I am not crazy about black and silver leaved coral bells, but these enchant me. The backs of the leaves-a faint version of red violet-echoing the punch of red violet from these dark pansies.
Fresh cut copper willow twigs, and a spring assortment. I like lots of spring voices looking for a little harmony. This-a simple pleasure.
Picoteed and whiskered violas-I love them all. They look especially at home in small low terra cotta pots-bulb pans, we call them.
On the right, a trailing viola I have never seen before. It may be my favorite bicolor viola-what a treat that it trails. Pale blue and dark purple-stunning. On the left, clear sky yellow pansies and angelina. Prairie and copper willow provide a little natural vertical interest.
Lemon cypress and dark red dracaena contrast dramatically with each other. The softening part? lavender and peach violas with that lime. Citrus mix pansies and Ogon sedum with that dark spike.
Ornamental kales and cabbages are great for spring pots-they will grow to a decent size before they bolt. Barely visible in the right pot, a one gallon pot of asparagus.
Green spikes are common in summer pots-but they handle the cold in the spring and fall very well. Any ordinary plant used in an unusual season warrants a fresh look.
This tuft of a lime cypress will grow up to a shrub of considerable size, should you baby it over a few winters. That lime green says spring like no other color. Other choices? Bibb and leaf lettuce. Green oakleaf lettuce. Lime green hostas. Lime green hops. Lime green leaved columbines and bleeding hearts. Green flowered hellebores. Lime green leaved tradescantia. You get the idea.
Any spring pot makes a better show right off the bat with a plant climber in place. Some seasons ask for a little backup from some structure. In this case, steel structure. Given a few weeks of warm weather, these blue pansies and white variegated ivy will grow, and make a better statement. All of these plantings need to grow on and up. But today, these freshly planted pots still say welcome to my spring.
May weather in Michigan is likely to be too cold, or too hot. As in, one extreme or the other, irregularly and unpredictably. Yesterday saw the temperature reach 80 degrees, for Pete’s sake. This untoward weather was attended by lots of phone calls from clients worrying that the summer was about to pass them by-could I plant their flowers right away? We do try to get everyone planted as quickly as possible-most people understand this, and are good natured about it. I tell clients the best thing I do for them is to isolate all the world noise, and concentrate on their place. I schedule plantings in an order suggested by the cold tolerance of the plants that need to be planted. I have some clients for whom I have been planting for 25 years-these clients are first up. Those clients aside, I change up plantings dates. If you were so kind as to be planted the second week of June last year, you get an earlier date this year. I grew up in and love a democracy-enough said. My crews are great. They unload the trucks, fill the pots, prep, plant topiaries and centerpieces-they do this rather than talk to me. They wait until we are done, to talk to me. I am crazy about them for this; they know how to set up and get ready-and leave me be to sort everything out. I myself like to plant late, in thoroughly warm soil. I am loathe to let go of the spring. My tulips at the shop have been so beautiful-for at least a month. But they are fading fast in the heat.
The spring pots are just beginning to hit their stride. Improvements in pansy and viola breeding has produced plants with great heat tolerance, and vigorous blooming. I am personally still stuck on the violas, and not yet focused on the summer season. I like the seasons-each one, in turn. The rhododendrons outside my office at home are breathtaking right now-pale pink blooms with a flush of yellow at the throat. Those impossibly long stamens-what an elegant flower graces the rhododendron. They speak to spring. I am listening.
We planted up a number of galvanized troughs such as this one. Spring plants have distinctive color and shapes that are all their own. The kale will eventually bolt and go to seed when the hot weather arrives and stays. Peach melba heuchera and Citron alyssum make a fine spring pair. Lavender violas blushing peach-I know of no other flower that has coloration like this. For the moment, the spring season maturing has my attention.
Spring white, lavender and purple-I am not ready to trade this in for a more summery look. I tour the pots and plantings at the shop every day, first thing. I tour my own garden, last thing, every day. It is not enough to see something briefly in a garden. I like every bit of it to settle around my bones, and take hold. Repeat trips in conjunction with my stubborn point of view; an unexpected change -this best describes my gardening life.
The lettuce pots are beautiful right now. I know this will sound hopelessly archaic, but I eat iceberg lettuce and tuna every day at lunch. Any lettuce, any mesclun roadside weed lettuce mix-a treat. The water that endows all the lettuces-I especially enjoy that which is crunchy and juicy. Spring-eminently juicy. Spring flowering plants are a treat to all of us who are winter weary. Thus lettuce figures prominently in my spring container design work. Juicy and fresh-lettuce is just about the best thing spring has to offer.
I like telling time by what is in bloom. I have no need for an armillary, or a watch. I have grown and tended many perennials-what I like about them the best is how they represent the season. In spring- the hellebores, phlox divaricata, epimediums, European ginger, Solomon’s Seal-the simple violets. Harbingers of the spring season.
I apologize-the light at 7am is dim, and I thought I could skip hauling the tripod outside. Though this photograph is not the sharpest, the idea is clear. These tall thin long tom clay pots are home to burgeoning spring violas-delightful. Spring like.
Spring in Michigan is short and sweet. Very sweet. The tulips-what could be better? This tulip mix-so celebratory of spring. Though I am racing miles ahead of the late spring season to design for summer, I so treasure our spring season.