Archive for Container gardening

The Queen of Autumn – Beautiful Mums – Long May They Reign!

Happy Fall !

Happy Fall!

It seems autumn has finally arrived! In celebration, I always am drawn to the nursery to bring home a few of my favorite harbingers of autumn, the beautiful chrysanthemum. I am going to give you some tips today to give you at least DOUBLE the blooming time on these beauties. Sometimes I have kept them going for almost three months of flowers using this strategy.

Here goes–

 

 

 

 

When purchasing mums, look for plants that are just showing color, but in a bud stage. This will give you the longest amount of time to enjoy-

When purchasing mums, look for plants that are just showing color, but in a bud stage. This will give you the longest amount of time to enjoy.

First, when choosing your mum, buy one that is still in the “color showing bud” stage. This way, you will have the opportunity to get every minute of flowering time.

 

 

Instead of planting the mums in the garden, plant them in pots at least four inches larger than the nursery pot that they come in. This allows you to pull them under cover of a porch, garage or even into your house during fall rainstorms — their biggest enemy!

 

 

 

 

Mums in all their glory are one of the most beautiful sights of Fall. I love to have some by the front door to great visitors.

Mums in all their glory are one of the most beautiful sights of fall. I love to have some by the front door to great visitors.

 

When watering the potted mums, just water the the root zone from under the foliage. This is very important. Water on the flowers after they open will kill the flower. It breaks my heart when I see a well-intentioned gardener plant their mums and then water from above with a hose, only to see that the mums are dead the next week. Watering only the soil keeps the foliage and flowers dry and protects them. Using this method should give you at least a month and half of bloom time.

 

 

 

Deadheading your mum after the first set of blooms have bit the dust will expose a second set of blooms. You can have double your bloom time!

Deadheading your mum after the first set of blooms have bit the dust will expose a second set of blooms. You can have double your bloom time!

 

Now to extend that month and a half of blooms for a month or possibly even more, here’s my final tip: deadheading. If you remove the first set of blooms when they have finished, you will see a second set of buds hidden underneath. These are smaller, but will provide you with a second bloom cycle of flowers. Double the fun!

 

 

 

 

 

Second set of blooms opening! Gardener's gold-

Second set of blooms opening! Gardener’s gold…

 

 

I hope you will give this method a try if you love mums as much as I do. Happy autumn gardening everyone!

The Weather Outside is Frightful — Time for Some Indoor Gardening!

2018 has been foggy, windy and mostly frigid- time to stay inside!

2018 has been foggy, windy and mostly frigid. Time to stay inside!

 

I’m ready for some nicer days — aren’t you? 2018 has been unusually frigid and foggy, wildly windy, and with sudden, crazy temperature swings.  It makes me crave some tropical — or at least milder — springtime weather. Not to be had just yet, so until then, I’m doing some gardening indoors.

Crazy back and forth temperature swings have confused even the pansies as to what season we are in.

Crazy back and forth temperature swings have confused the pansies as to what season we are in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Time for a fun new plant or two- this one is a weeping pussy willow.

Time for a fun new plant or two — this one is a weeping pussy willow.

 

 

 

I’m always on the lookout for interesting new houseplants and couldn’t resist this one. It’s a weeping pussy willow, grafted onto a standard willow trunk. There is a legend that goes along with it: If you tie a loose knot in a trailing willow branch and then make a wish, the wish will come true. You then untie the knot and thank the tree, and it will grant you more wishes in the future. Well, I could use some of that! I’ll tell you if it works!

 

My shamrock is also starting to bloom again. I guess it knows that St. Patrick's Day is almost here.

Another great low-light plant is the shamrock. This shamrock is starting to bloom again. I guess it knows that St. Patrick’s Day is almost here!

 

 

 

 

The peace lily and the shamrock also are starting to bloom. I’ve had both of these for a number of years and highly recommend them for low-light areas. Mine are both in need of re-potting in larger containers, but I’ll wait until the blooms fade. A good rule of thumb is to use the next size up in pots, and March is a perfect time to re-pot a houseplant.

This peace lily is a great plant for low-light conditions, and rebloos several times a year.

This peace lily is a great plant for low-light conditions, and re blooms several times a year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These are orchids that are not blooming at the moment. I have any idea to try-

These are orchids that are not blooming at the moment. I have any idea to try -

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m waiting on some orchid plants to come back into bloom and decided to do something fun with them — I made an orchid garden to use as a centerpiece in the dining room.

If you want to try to make one of your own, here’s how: I took a huge punch bowl and lined it with floral foam (mine took four bricks of floral foam). I then added the real orchids (still in their pots) into the punch bowl around the outside rim. (So they can be popped out easily to water and put back in.) With the space that was left, I added faux orchids (I used 9 stems/sprays), and filled in with pine cones to cover any remaining visible floral foam or open spots. (You could also use moss, or shells, or anything you like for this step.) Bunching them all together garden style like this creates a statement piece with lots of impact. It’s so tropical-looking — just what I was going for! It makes me feel like I’m in a Victorian greenhouse when I look at it — a real plus for these chilly days. This could be done with any flowers or greenery that makes you happy, so I hope you’ll give it a try. Good cure for the winter blahs!

Here's my finished orchid garden- hope you'll give this a try!

Here’s my finished orchid garden. Hope you’ll give this a try!

The Best Summer Plants of 2016

Number 1 on the list are the daylilies- this variety is a double flowering beauty.

Number 1 on the list are the daylilies- this variety is a double flowering beauty. I can always count on them for at least a month’s worth of show.

The outside chores are done, and now it’s time for a nice cold iced tea. I’m going through photos from this summer’s garden and want to share some of the plants and flowers that are thriving in my garden in this heat wave. These are my picks for this season’s best here — please let me know what your favorites have been in your corner of the world!

I took this photo while I was up on a ladder brooming down spiderwebs (which are way too plentiful this summer!). I love looking at the garden from a bird's eye view.

I took this front porch photo while I was up on a ladder brooming down spiderwebs (which are way too plentiful this summer!). I love looking at the garden from a bird’s eye view. The ivy in the flower pots has gotten huge and looks great year round. I just change the center flowers each season.

These are the caladium plants that I rescued from the rains. They have come back nicely, and are very happy in the window box under the deck.

These are the caladium plants that I rescued from the rains. They have come back nicely, and are very happy in the protected window box under the deck.

I think these "King Kong" coleus in the window box above the door are my favorites of the summer-

These “King Kong” coleus in the window box above the door are my favorites of the summer — very tropical!

The knock out roses are in their third bloom already, and always are a classic fav!

The knock out roses are in their third bloom already and always are a classic fav!

The liriope have become great border plants along the front walk. Every three years I can divide them into 4 to 6 new plants.

The liriope have become great border plants along the front walk. Every three years I can divide each one into 4 to 6 new plants. In the late summer, they will have purple blooms.

My little friend loves these boxwood- I think he's happy anywhere in the shade!

My little friend loves these boxwood — He’s happy anywhere in the shade! Boxwood have always been a wonderful walkway plant here in Mount Vernon dating back to the days of George Washington.

Up on the deck I am loving all the color from these vinca in pots. I also have these by the driveway.

Up on the deck, I am loving all the color from these vinca in pots. I also have these planted by the driveway. They love the sun and heat much more than I do!

And last but not least, I always have to include the curly willow trees. I always am happy watching their branches dance in the breeze.

And last but not least, the curly willow trees that are planted in three corners of the property. I always feel cooler watching their branches dance in the breeze.

 

 

Some 911 for the Rain Soaked Garden

Too much rain!!!!

Enough already — Too much rain!!!!

Soaking as a sponge doesn’t even come close to how damp the garden has been here in the mid-Atlantic region. With more than a month of rainy days and only a few sunny ones mixed in, some extreme measures are needed here. Almost half of the flowers that I planted ended up rotting from it all. On the other hand, it caused a lot of the established plants to grow a ton of wimpy new growth because they were growing so fast. So here’s my 911 to help manage this crazy season’s issues.

 

 

 

Remove the drain saucers from your flower pots when heavy rain is expected so that the pots do not become waterlogged.

Remove the drain saucers from your flower pots when heavy rain is expected so that the pots do not become waterlogged.

First, if you have heavy rain in the forecast and have flower pots or planters go ahead and remove the drain dishes so that the rain will drain through and not become soggy. This is also a good idea in general, with so many mosquito-borne diseases this year. If the flower pots are not too heavy and you have some overhead coverage, like a porch or under a deck, carry the pots underneath before the rain so that the blooms do not get damaged or rot. I did this with my roses, and was very glad I did. Open blooms will be destroyed by the heavy rains. If this happens, deadhead the plants as soon as possible.

 

If possible protect the open blooms from the rain, by putting them undercover. If they do become damaged by the rain, deadhead them ASAP.

If possible protect the open blooms from the rain, by putting them undercover. If they do become damaged by the rain, deadhead them ASAP.

 

 

 

 

 

If your grass is thoroughly soaked, try to stay off of it until it dries. When it’s walked on with standing water, it crushes the soil, compacting it which can then lead to other problems and weeds down the road. Clover is really difficult to get rid of and seems to love compacted soil, as do dandelions, and many of the weeds that we try so hard to keep away.

 

 

If you have standing water in your lawn try not to walk on it, or mow it until it has had time to dry out.

If you have standing water in your lawn, like mine, try to not walk on it or mow it until it has had time to dry out.

It’s also not a good idea to mow when the lawn is wet. That rips the blades of grass, instead of cutting them, so you will get brown tips to your lawn- not a good look! Beware of using the mulching option on your mower when there has been this much rain, it is better to collect and compost the clippings until the soil has had some time to dry out. Mulching the lawn clippings right now can cause fungus and mold issues.

 

 

 

 

I like to keep an extra package of garden stakes on hand. The new growth has grown way too fast, and much of it can use some extra support.

I like to keep an extra package of garden stakes on hand. The new growth has grown way too fast, and much of it can use some extra support.

Where extremely fast growth has occurred on plants you may need to either stake the plants to give them some extra time to strengthen, or trim them up some. This is the time of year when azalea and rhododendron bushes should be trimmed anyway, now that they are done blooming. And with all this rain that we’ve had, a granular slow release fertilizer can be helpful. Keep an eye out for wilting, and trim it out, ASAP. That will hopefully halt any further disease.

One last thing: if you do see wilting and fungus that need to be trimmed out, please have a small container of rubbing alcohol that you can dip the blades of your trimmer into between cuts, so you won’t spread infection from plant to plant.

I hope that you won’t have much damage in your garden, like I did, but it can’t help to know some plant CPR just in case! Happy gardening!

It might even be too damp for my favorite duck family around here- bring on some sun!

It might even be too damp for my favorite duck family around here — bring on some sun!

January 3rd – Is It Winter or Spring?

There is still a lot of new growth on many plants that would normally have gone dormant by now.

There is still a lot of new growth on many plants that would normally have gone dormant by now.

Well, it’s January 3rd and I’m already gardening! You know I can’t stay away from it for more than a few days.

We have had such a warm start to winter. Even when it has gotten cold overnight, the days are pleasant — so pleasant that here in the mid-Atlantic region, we have daffodils sprouting and cherry blossom trees flowering. Although it’s warm now, we will pay for it in February and March, according to the weather people. A classic El Niño with ice storms to come, so until then, I am getting as much done as I can and enjoying every minute in the garden!

I was a lucky gardener and received some fun gardening-oriented gifts for Christmas, too. A really nice gardening seat and tool tote, a pointsettia, a rosemary topiary and some beautiful allium bulbs. These were such thoughtful gifts! I spent this weekend planting the allium bulbs. Normally one would not do that this time of year, but because our temperatures have remained in the range you would expect an October day to be (between 50-70 degrees), I went ahead and got them planted. I just know they will be gorgeous this spring!

The pointsettia doubled in size this last month, and is loving the east exposure.

The pointsettia doubled in size this last month and is loving the east exposure.

I also finished getting the roses ready for winter. They were still blooming until just this week! The last of the leaves dropped, so I scooped them all up. Its a good practice to always do that, as the leaves can harbor diseases which can cause black spot on the next year’s growth if left on the soil below the plant. Better safe than sorry, so I collect them. I had a little bit of it on my older roses this last summer and tried something new: a spray of half water/ half spoiled milk, and much to my surprise, it worked! I removed the affected leaves, sprayed, and within a couple of weeks new growth had sprouted showing no signs of the black spot. Remember this for next year in case you see any. I love it when there are simple home remedies that work! And have no harsh chemicals, either.

Rosemary is a fantastic plant to have inside over winter, the scent is wonderful, it cleans the air and you can cook with it . How great is that!

Rosemary is a fantastic plant to have inside over winter, the scent is wonderful, it cleans the air, and you can cook with it. How great is that!

Inside the house, I re-potted my rosemary topiary and lightly watered the pointsettia. They both really don’t need much water this time of year, and both like bright light. I have the perfect east facing window that I keep the pointsettia next to, and in previous years this has proven to be just the right exposure. It even kept color long into March. I love to have the rosemary in my kitchen, and can’t resist brushing by it to release the wonderful scent. I often use it in cooking, and it is just so pretty, too! These are also natural air fresheners.

Looking forward to seeing what kind of weather tomorrow brings, but I’m hoping to get back out there in the garden. Hope to see you!

Happy Thanksgiving to All

This was the view of autumn leaves from my deck this year. They were so beautiful, but now a mountain of fallen leaves are in need of raking.

This was the view of autumn leaves from my deck this year. They were so beautiful! Now I have a lot of raking in my future.

Now that the mums have finished blooming, I have filled in the pots with boxwood trimmings from my yard. They make beautiful "plants" all winter long.

Now that the mums have finished blooming, I have filled in the pots with boxwood trimmings from my yard. They make beautiful “plants” all winter long.

I’m finishing the last of the winterizing and want to share a few tips that will add polish to the holiday curb appeal, and make the perfect backdrop for seasonal decorations. These will make a big difference for just a weekend’s worth of effort. And as an added bonus, it’s also a great way to work off some of that turkey with all the trimmings that we love so much!

First up is finishing the leaf raking and weed removal. Reach in and pick out all the leaves that have gotten stuck in the bushes and then do a final pass in the mulched areas of the garden and your lawn. This alone will make a huge difference in the appearance, but we aren’t going to stop there! Next, give the mulch a rake to loosen it up, and add extra if needed. Winter mulch tip: As you are stirring up the mulch, make sure to leave a space of a few inches between the mulch and the wall of your home. This will discourage the unwanted “guests” (mice!) from burrowing there.

Fill in gaps in the garden by creating "instant plants," just push small branches into the soil- simple as that.

Fill in gaps in the garden by creating “instant plants,” just push small branches into the soil. Simple as that!

Here is a row of "instant juniper" plants, where I removed the summer annuals. You'd never know they aren't actually growing!

Here is a row of “instant juniper” plants, where I removed the summer annuals. You’d never know they aren’t actually growing!

Perfect time of the year to give the clay pots a good cleaning before storing them away for the winter months.

Perfect time of the year to give the clay pots a good cleaning before storing them away for the winter months.

Not all of the "instant" plants are used outside- the extra ivy is in a bucket of water and will root over the winter. Ivy is a really good air filter indoors, so I love to have some inside!

Not all of the “instant” plants are used outside. This extra ivy is in a bucket of water and will root over the winter. Ivy is also a good air filter, so I love to have some inside!

Now that you have pulled out the spent summer flowers and have areas that might be looking a bit too spare, here’s one of my favorite tricks of the trade: I trim the bushes in the yard and use those trimmings to create “instant plants.” Just take the branches and push them into the soil about 6 to 8 inches. I use about a dozen small branches to create each “plant.” On either side of the driveway where I grow vinca in the summer, there are now juniper. They look great, you’d never know they weren’t actually growing. I also do this in the pots and window boxes to create small boxwood “plants.” This trick lasts for months, usually into February, and since I trimmed the branches from my own yard, its free!

Speaking of planters and pots, this is the perfect time to give the clay pots a scrub and dry them in the sun before putting them away for the winter months. I like to use a scrub brush or a kitchen scrubbie with regular dish soap for this job. They easily get rid of the grime on the pots and make quick work of the job. Find a good place for winter storage where they won’t freeze. The clay can be very susceptible to cracking apart when it freezes. The same scrub is perfect for all the yard tools as well. A tip for the shovels and rakes: Once they have been cleaned, a light coating of cooking oil or spray will help guard against rust over the winter.

The final crowning jewel to get your home ready is clean windows. Now that your yard looks so nice you will want to have fresh, sparkling windows to view all your hard work!

Enjoy!

Time for a nice hot cider…

A Walk Through the Garden on a Beautiful Summer Day

It’s a beautiful summer day here in the Washington Metro area. The humidity is low, and the temperature is mild — time for a stroll through the garden! Enjoy the tour….

The caladiums are just spectacular. Maybe my favorite new flower!

The caladiums are just spectacular; they may be my favorite new flower!

A favorite spot in the shade on the east side.

A favorite spot in the shade on the east side. The crepe myrtles have been flowering for a month and a half already!

The back yard is filling out nicely, and the "green fence" is almost solid now.

The back yard is filling out nicely, and the “green fence” is almost solid now.

This is the path up to the deck. Everything here is very full this year from all the rain we've had this month. I think we are on track to set a new record-

This is the path up to the deck. Everything is very full from all the rain we’ve had this month. I think we are on track to set a new rainfall record…

Up on the deck this year all the planters are spilling out with coleus, vinca and sweet potato vine.

All of the planters up on the deck are spilling out with sun-loving coleus, vinca and sweet potato vine.

Here's a close up of one of the planters. I am amazed at how many varieties of coleus there are. I don't know which one I like best-

I am amazed at how many varieties of coleus there are. I don’t know which one I like best…

This sweet potato vine might take over the deck if I let it!

This sweet potato vine might take over the deck if I let it!

I think my friend Stomper has the right idea- time for a nap!

I think my friend Stomper has the right idea — time for a nap!

 

 

It’s a Jungle Out There!

Coriopsis at it's most beautiful-

Coreopsis at its most beautiful, and lamb’s ears in bloom right next to it.

We are having the most beautiful light rain and mild temperature this week. It makes me feel like I’m in the British Isles. It seems the plants are just as happy about it as I am. They are literally growing like a jungle, and I almost can’t keep up. I love this time of the year, with so many plants at their most beautiful with fresh growth. As Thomas Jefferson once said: “The garden is like a ballet, with each flower having their moment to shine.”

The side garden is filling in nicely, and you almost  can't notice the meters and A/C units.

The side garden is filling in nicely, and you almost can’t notice the meters and A/C units.

Long view of the "Utility garden".  Looking like the tropics!

Long view of the “Utility garden”. Looking like the tropics!

This year I am so happy to report that the work I did on the garden which surrounds, or should I say “disguises” the meters and A/C units, is really filling in. It’s always my intent to make these ugly necessities as invisible as I can without blocking access to them for repairs and maintenance. The nandinas are soft and easy to pass by. I try to always leave a couple of feet clearance for good air flow, too!

This years choice for the window box above the front door- coladium, vinca vine and new guinea impatiens.

This year’s choice for the window box above the front door: caladium, vinca vine and new guinea impatiens.

Matching planters for each side of the front door. This is the north side.

Matching planters for each side of the front door. This is the north side.

Planters on the deck are in full sun all day, so this year I chose coleus and vinca flower.

Planters on the deck are in full sun all day, so this year I chose coleus and vinca flower.

This year, I am trying something new on the shady, north side of the house. In my planters I am using caladium, vinca vine and new guinea impatiens, staying true to the old adage: “thriller, spiller and filler” — and so far, I love it. Everything is growing well, and the caladium seems to be receiving enough shade. I have tried to replicate the same feeling of these shade plants with flowers and foliage that do well in the sun for the planters on the deck, which faces due south. I used coleus, and flowering vinca, and will add in some potato vine when that comes in at the nursery. They are all doing amazingly well. The chipmunks have been leaving them alone so far, too!

I  feel so inspired with this lovely, gentle rain and mist — I guess it’s time to get back out there! Enjoy your day!

The pyracantha was filled with flowers, and is growing so quickly I need to add more brick anchors in the wall.

The pyracantha was filled with flowers, and is growing so quickly I need to add more brick anchors in the wall. Ditto for some extra support on the wisterias in the yard!