Recent Work

We have been planting container projects daily, one after another, since May 15. With time outs for cold, and torrential rain. I do not ever remember a season quite like this one.  Very cold night temperatures, cloudy skies and relentless rains have been the order of the day.  A client remarked that we have had rain for 65 days of our last 90. That is an astonishing statistic. It has meant constant interruptions to our work schedule. Cold nights have meant we are hesitant to put temperature sensitive tropical outdoors. The gray skies mean plants have been slow to come on in the greenhouse.

I explained the situation to one client as a discussion about what constitutes providing a good home for a plant. A home is a warm, friendly and inviting place. Home for tropical plants far away from their native home means we wait for weather and soil temperature that approximates the conditions under which they thrive. Many of my clients for whom I plant begonias, coleus and New Guinea impatiens have had to wait. Who doesn’t hate to wait?   My suggestion is that their plants are thriving and growing in storage in a greenhouse.  Planted out in their pots in cold weather, they would languish. The temperature this morning June 11 at 5am, 48 degrees.

The cold has not been the only issue. Rain is essential to plant life. I doubt I need discuss that with any of you. Rainy weather working its foggy magic on a landscape is beautiful. A rainy day encourages introspection. Or at the very least a nap. I love the rain in all of its spirited and benign forms. But we have had rain day after day without much respite. This is rain of a different sort. Too much rain foments rot both above and below ground. Too much rain spoils blooms. Too much rain dampens the spirit. We have had all of the aforementioned. The most dramatic signs of distress have come from the mandevilleas. These vining plants like hot weather and dry conditions. They look beautiful in the greenhouse, and poor to middling outdoors. It is tough for plants to settle in and thrive when their medium is watery. And more watery.

All of our rainy days have been attended by clouds. Naturally. Growth in annual plants is directly related to sunny circumstances. This means we have been planting smaller plants than usual, in those moments between the rains, in the cold. Am I worried?  Not so much. Warmer and drier weather will come our way sooner or later. All of those container plantings will need some time to grow before the design and intent is clear. I have time for that, in my more rational moments. The day a container is planted is its first day –  not its best day. The best days are months ahead.

Postponing a planting can be the best strategy when conditions are hostile. This year’s conditions are obviously hostile. But in general, I do most of this planting in late May and June. May is a spring month in my zone. What looks good are the spring flowering bulbs, the wildflowers, and those shrubs and trees that thrive and bloom in cooler weather. The Venus dogwoods are glorious right now.  The geraniums, not so much.

One way to deal with lost time is to plant larger plants.  6″ pots instead of 4″. Hanging baskets in lieu of 6″ or 8″ pots. Growing summer blooming annuals from seed or cuttings is a lengthy process.  That is why growers have greenhouses, and grow under glass.  Many of the most cutting edge of those houses have very sophisticated lighting and watering devices. If warm weather, reasonable water and sun were not necessary to grow on tropical plants, growers would grow outdoors. That said, every greenhouse where I shop has run out of or are low on plant materials that I customarily use all the way through June.

We have a solid 2 weeks of planting still to go. Just like the weather, we are just getting warmed up.

I would not want to do without container plantings, whatever the weather.



  1. Beautiful, as always, despite the rain. Can you please tell me what the grass is in the photo with the long zinc troughs? Love the use of repetition.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Margaret, if you are referring to a red spiky plant, it is a Hawaiian Ti plant-which is a cordyline, not a grass. all the best, Deborah

      • Margaret says

        Hi – no they are a grass at the base of the sticks in the photo w/ the long zinc troughs (in an L shape) and the rust umbrella! I like their size and that they don’t feel too heavy. Thank you!

        • Deborah Silver says

          Dear Margaret, those are faux grasses. My client wanted those centerpieces from the spring left in the boxes for the summer. best, Deborah

  2. Planters seem to have a visual impact disproportionate to their relatively small size.

    At least the rain and cool weather have the lawns looking good. Probably small solace for landscapers needing to get things planted.

    Always enjoy the photos!

  3. Exquisite color and design!
    In the 4th photo there is a fiery red plant I cannot identify.
    I’m hoping it will grow in my desert environment.

  4. Deb, all your plantings are beautiful, as I would expect. We’re a couple of hours north of you in Michigan, and yes, the weather has been problematic, especially for the farmers. We can only be hopeful that better days are ahead.

    Can you tell me what the gray foliage underplanting is in the fifth picture from the top? It’s very striking and would accentuate a variety al choices for the center planting. Love it!!

    Thanks for all your inspiration.

  5. New York City has been the same! I’ve lost nearly all of my Zahara zinnias and a bunch of my Serena angelonias due to root rot–and I painstakingly grew them all from seed! Fingers crossed for no more rain!

  6. Wendy Stahl says

    As always I love reading your posts and seeing your fabulous plantings. Thank you so much for sharing!

  7. Leonard Tymoszek says

    I planted six containers Memorial Day weekend and five the following weekend, all growing extremely well. Large hydrangeas, Boston & painted ferns fill several more containers. I will finish several more this weekend, enjoying a colorful season!

  8. Deborah, what are those gorgeous flower mixture 3 rd pic from bottom in clay pots? Absolutely stunning! Will look beautiful in one of my pots. Love them! Thank You.

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