Wednesday, August 17, 2011

It's Put Up or Shut Up Season

This is the time of year when the summer containers typically are looking their best.  In the heat of the South, some things are stressed, but in the northern states, the containers should really be at their best.  It's the time of year when it's time for containers to either produce or get stuck behind the garage until it's time for autumn planting.

Here are a few containers that have done well this summer, with some "notes from the gardener".

In the breezeway, we used the darkest-leafed cannas we could find for structure.  "Missus" isn't a big fan of red flowers, so we have cut most of the blooms off as they come up.  Kimberly Queen Fern is also a favorite plant for shade containers.  It goes forever in the summer heat and humidity, overwinters beautifully if you are so inclined, and is very inexpensive in most cases.  (I buy the giant hanging ones that are a "loss leader" at one of the big box stores every spring, and cut each hanging plant in four pieces to use in containers---this container here is using one quarter of one hanging basket that we bought for $9.99)
The front entrance pots are doing really well this season, with a "Fox Tail Palm" in the middle, with the elephant ear "Elena" that was mentioned in the previous post.   
The containers in the gazebo are virtually all shade, and a great place to utilize house plants during the summer.   
Ginger is a container standby for us, and this one has a great peach bloom that will start soon.  Ruellia also performs really well for us in containers, as do hibiscus.  We have a really difficult time overwintering tropical hibiscus in the greenhouse (scale magnets!).  This one is cold hardy, so we'll see what happens. Oleander really pops in late summer, and this year we've used a good amount of "bat face" cuphea, which has just exploded with color all summer!
This container grouping repeats lots of the same plants that are on the other side of the pool (above), and tends to get only morning sun.  For many of the filler plants (coleus, etc.), we pointedly buy full flats of 4 inch pots, and then split them up between the different containers for consistency throughout the property. 
This semi-shaded pot also is using canna for structure this season, which I'm really happy with.
Hot, hot hot!  These terra cotta pots bake in the sun for at least 8 hours every day, and are still blooming like mad!  Angelonia, convulvulus, and callibrachoa all seem to be loving life! 

A tip that I learned from Rita Randolph (the container queen) involves topdressing.  Once the container is completely pot-bound (not before), topdress the container with a couple of inches of play sand.  That very fine sand from Home Depot or Lowe's that one uses in kids' sandboxes, or to underlay pavers.  When watering, that sand will hold water like nobody's business, and will bring you another few weeks of great looking containers.  A bit messy to disassemble at the end of the season, but it's worth the extra step!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

August Garden Photos

The Chinese Snowball Viburnum (Viburnum macrocephalem) doesn't seem to know that it is a spring bloomer, and seems to produce a new giant flower head every day.
Confederate Rose (Hibiscus mutabilis) dies back to the ground every year, and then grows at a maniacal rate to reach at least 8 feet, and will soon be covered with frilly pink and white blooms.  It's one of those old-fashioned plants that you'll see driving through the countryside near old home sites. 
Aren't figs just the most seductive of fruits?  I really believe it was a fig that Adam and Eve couldn't resist..... look at that nectar just dripping out of the fruit!
One can barely see the front entrance of the Big House through the Limelight Hydrangeas and Begonias!  (For those who are interested, this is "Babywing," which puts up with crazy hot Western sun, and the foliage doesn't go red.)  The Elephant Ear in the containers took off this year (after two years of being really whimpy).  It is Colocasia esculenta "Elena," and Tony Avent says it's winter hardy as far north as Zone 7B.  I'm going to plant one in the ground at the end of the season, and will let you know in the spring. 
Begonia grandis "Heron's Pirouette" is a real winner in the shade garden.  In it's first year, six plants are now covering an area 4 feet by 6 feet.

The koi ponds look especially good once the tropical foliage plants start to fill in around them.