Food. Water. Shelter.

I will make no bones about it.  Sourcing great annual planting was excellent May 10th of this year-it has become tougher every day that has gone by.  I like planting a fresh crop, the rooting and top growth perfect for transplant-I like all those conditions than almost never come to be.  We had an inordinately warm spring.  Plants under glass-multiply that warm by 10. This means annual plants growing in excess of 100mph; seizing that brief moment was the big idea of the annual planting season. Unfortunately I cannot plant 77 projects in a week.  So much for carpe diem.  There is more time involved in planting my clients up than either of us like.  You no doubt are getting tired of reading about it-but this blog is about what I do, and when I do it-so bear with me. A too hot early season has meant a lot of shopping on my part. I plant good material-nothing less, nothing questionable.  My June plantings-not so much great plant material is available. A client suggested I visit Deneweths.  As I had never been there, I was intrigued. I showed up at their door last Sunday at 9 am.  

Wow does not begin to describe what I saw.  As their greenhouses are located across the street from a residential neighborhood, my guess is that this huge growing range and giant retail greenhouse has been here a good many years.  I would guess a family owed and operated business.  Though I was a first time visitor, I had no problem getting oriented.  They make much of written signage and suggestion.  I was just about the first person there-having this giant place virtually to myself-I felt like I was on holiday.  My first glimpse-breathtaking. 

For better or for worse, I scrutinize what I see. That is much about what my clients pay me for; if I cannot tell the difference between a well grown plant, and a poor one, if I cannot tell the difference between a good move and a poor one-why would they have me?  This football field and more under glass had beautiful, fresh, compact and healthy plants and baskets-from sea to shining sea. Note the date-not May 10-this was June 13.  I was impressed, and excited.  

I have never seen hanging baskets of million bells of this caliber.  I am somewhat envious-I have a tough time getting them to grow.  They abhor alkaline soil-even limey water can make them sicken, yellow, and die.  Everywhere to be seen, perfectly grown million bells baskets in mouth watering color combinations-I was enchanted. 

Growing plants under glass for a specific market and specific time frame-I do not have the nerve for it. It would surely kill me-the worry.  Annual plants are a highly perishable crop.  The work to produce them-enormous.  The price of each 4″ pot, flat, or basket-not so much.  The sure hand here-astonishing.  Annual plants need germinating, transplanting from cutting plugs, the right food-the right water.  And that shelter from that storm that might accurately be described as a Michigan spring.  Every flat and 4 inch pot-perfect for transplant.  I was incredibly impressed. 

Every place I looked, every plant was healthy, happy-and asking for a home.  Had I brought a semi truck, I would have stuffed it full. Having had my fill of overgrown, anemic and questionable plants, I was enchanted to visit a place that understood clearly what it takes to grow beautiful plants, and steadfastly brought their weight to bear- keeping beautiful plants available every day, routinely, to anyone who had occasion to visit.  Five weeks in aun unseasonably warm spring-a lifetime, if you are an annual grower. 

Spacing is an important issue with annual growing.  Every grower wants any given bench to host as many plants as possible, but plants placed placed too close together suffer.  No air.  No room to grow.  Next up-those slimy rotting leaves, and fungus.  The spacing here-excellent for the plants. There is no doubt in my mind that the person who owns and runs this greenhouse has a big love for plants-first and foremost.  

This petunia-I have never seen it before.  I could not take my eyes off of it. Seeing this petunia in prduction and for sale tells me that Deneweth’s makes it their business to attend plant trials, look at new varieties-and grow what they think looks fresh and beautiful and will do well. Attending and assessing trial gardens-a considerable amount of work no plant shopper ever sees.  Independent greenhouses do lots of work over and above what you might see.  Please-support them!   

Gardening is a dirty business. But when I shop, I give high marks to a clean place.  My shop-I insist that it be clean.  Sunday morning at Deneweth’s-there was a cleaning crew.  Every aisle was water swept clean of debris. This level of clean-there is a person in charge who takes great pride in their business.  Great pride-I would suggest that you patronize businesses that work this hard to be this great.        

The million bells baskets-miraculous.  The color combinations-striking.  Should Deneweth’s not be dreaming up these combinations on their own, they care enough about making a quality product available to get help designing.  I really like this point of view.  They clearly know how to grow. That they would seek help designing, pairing, combining-their work is no doubt to your advantage.

Every plant had signage with the particulars.  Any serious gardener could read, and make a decision, based on a wealth of information, succintly written.  I learned a few things I did not know,  from these cards.  Independent garden centers-How I respect how they deliver food, water, and shelter!  I would urge you to buy from them, and others in your neighborhood.   Deneweths-out M-59 from Pontiac to Hayes, north up Hayes to 22 Mile-go right. They are eminently worth the visit.  

Heavenly-the flowers.

Which Will You Choose?

dgw c (75)Gardeners make choices based on lots of issues, but most can figure out what appeals to them straight off.  Some love old crusty, rusty and well worn antiques; others find that state of gentle disrepair lacks visual punch. Many antique urns have been painted at one time or another; white having been a very popular color.  Worn white will either be just the thing, or seem jarring.  For others, the prospect of a classical urn leaves them cold-old or new.  But if the idea of an urn resonates with you, which you will choose depends on several things.    

2008 DGW Inventory - CONTAINERS 5-7-08 (6)Dry cast limestone urns are usually based on classical handcarved limestone designs dating back hundreds of years.  Many of those designs are European in origin. Dry cast limestone is a process by which limestone dust is mixed with a binder, and poured into molds. These reproductions are much more affordable than their antique counterparts.  Some old designs would not be available at all, but for a reproduction.  On occasion I find a piece I feel I must have, with no placement in mind.  But a classical European urn may be very much out of place in front of a Cape Cod home.  Now would these elaborately footed urns  ring right against the backdrop of my own arts and crafts style home.  However, they might be elegant and unexpectedly beautiful in a contemporary setting.  The location you have in mind should influence your decision.

dgw c (69)The scale of an urn is an important consideration.  Very small urns may need pedestals to set them off properly. If the shape and decoration of an urn is a good bit of what you find appealing, then they need be placed where those things can be easily seen. Small urns have another significant disadvantage.  From a small size follows a small planting area; you will need to edit your plant choices. Perhaps of more importance-how easily will you be able to water, and water again, when the weather gets hot?  Small pots dry out faster than is easy to keep up with.

dgw c (77)I like urns of a generous size.  I have plenty of room to plant-either lots of one thing, or a collection.  An urn planted such that in late summer it is a garden bouquet of good size is a pleasure.  Watered properly, they retain moisture evenly, over a longer period of time.  A container that can wait for me to get there with the hose- this I appreciate.  Any urn I plant becomes part of the working garden.  A gorgeous urn with a poor planting is a frustration no gardener needs.   

August 13 pictures 131

 This English wirework urn is of English manufacture.  It has a matching pedestal, which provides plenty of height for a good show of trailing plants off the rim.  The bowl of the urn has all but disappeared by late summer.  In this case, the lush planting is of more important visual importance than the urn itself.  The plainest most homely galvanized bucket can be glorious- given an inspired planting.  The only advantage of a decorative urn is a beautiful appearance during those times when they are not planted.  In some situations, a container which is also a sculpture is a good idea.

dgw c (68)These French art deco style urns have such style and presence one might be inclined not to plant them.  The Waterloo Urn I discussed in yesterday’s post is placed out in the open landscape. Unplanted, it could be placed anywhere calling for a sculpture-no need to have water conveniently nearby. 

2008 Fisher, Margie 8-11-08 (5)This lead urn is watered via a tube connected to the irrigation system in this yard.  In much the same way as greenhouses tube their hanging baskets, or geraniums, these tubes buy a gardener a little time.  They are not really a substitue for hand watering, as the coverage can be uneven, too long, or too short.  If the tube runs on a nearby irrigation zone, that pot is at the water mercy of whatever else is being primarily watered.  I am more than willing to look after my plantings; some automatic irrigation helps me to hedge this pledge. Those days that I come home really late will not need be a crisis.  The level of your ability to maintain pot plantings is an important part of the selection process. 

dgw c (84)These concrete pots are English made reproductions, but they have that aged look. The surface is such that I would plant the tall, and vase shaped-nothing trailing.  Ala some voluminously opulent Flemish flower painting.  There is no choosing these pots if the decorative story being told does not greatly appeal-why cover up what so appealed to you in the first place?  In this case, the urns and there plantings need to strike a balance, so they look great in relationship to one another.    

2008 DGW Inventory - CONTAINERS 5-7-08 (26)
These cast iron urns with zinc liners are French from the Victorian period.  That French green color is a dead giveaway. Their unusual and striking design would make them sensational in the right place.  My year 1 choice would be to plant these with big blue agaves, and call it a day. After one season, something even more fabulous may come to mind.  I will admit I did buy my house 15 years ago for the four urns outdoors that were original to the house-I had to have them.