Tag Archives: container gardening

Autumn Containers II: Using Succulents

After the lazy days of August, September can seem like the busiest month of the year. So many neglected chores, both inside and out, await attention. For a lot of us, the summer containers gracing our entryways need a makeover. You can buy a pot of mums or……

You can plant succulents.

Followers of this blog must know by now that I am a big succulent fan, and even after a wet and extremely humid spell, I can still say the succulents planters we did up earlier not only still look sweet, they are going to get better as the night temperatures become chilly. Cool night temperature bring out deep and rosy tones in the blue, olive and bronze foliage colors of the many non hardy succulents.  Many tender forms such as Echeveria ‘Black Princeand Senecio ‘Blazing Glory’, begin to bloom as do many hardy species of Sedum such as S cauticola  ‘Lidakense’ , ‘Turkish Delight’ and‘Dazzleberry’.

Succulents are mix and match plants. Of course, they all like the same sandy, well drained soil mix, and the colors all work well together. I’d like to add that the most interesting combinations include plants which have light, medium and dark tones. In this pair of planters, I’ve used Euphorbia tirucalli var rosea, commonly called ‘Sticks on Fire’ (guess how it got its common name) for height, the blue gray rosettes of Senecio ‘Blazing Glory’,  a coppery orange tinted Sedum nussbaumeranum, the soft yellow Sedum makinoi ‘Ogon’ and an olive tinted Sedum tetractinum to spill over the sides. Tucked in for added dark tones is Sedeveria ‘Jetbeads’.

Tips

1.When you group succulents together you can pack them in quite close together. They do not need a lot of nourishment nor water, and they don’t grow very fast.

2.The selections that are not hardy in your area will need protection when temperatures dip below freezing, and here we sometimes get a really cold night in late October, followed by a spell of Indian summer.  Either move the pot inside if a frost is in the forecast, or cover with a large tarp or blanket.

3. Once it becomes apparent that temperatures will be below freezing at night on a regular basis, bring your container into a frost free area that gets bright sunlight. If your container is too big to bring indoors, dig out the specimen plants you would like to keep and pot them up in a sandy quick draining soil mix. I plan to do a blog post about what to do about wintering over succulents in a month or so.

Related Blog Posts

September Container Report 2012, Summer Containers 2012Summer Containers2013, Sedum tetractinum, Graptosedum ‘California Sunset’, Sedum sieboldii 

Autumn Containers I: Fresh Candidates

Come on…how about a little imagination? There’s more to fall container gardening than a pot of mums which are already on display at the supermarket entrance.  I can allow that some folks love their tidy appearance and that these almost perfect balls provide an immediate color fix, but really, do we all have to be that predictable? Of course not.

Here in Massachusetts, I like to pot up end of summer/fall containers in late August to give plants a chance to kick in with some growth before cooler temperatures and shorter days slow things down.  I had this lovely turquoise pot begging me to fill it, so I selected colors that would sing, still nodding to late summer, but with approaching autumn hues.

The winter hardy perennials used here include: Heuchera ‘Southern Comfort’ and Acorus gramineus ‘Ogon’. The Hedera ‘Amber Waves’ and the Coprosma repens ‘Tequila Sunrise’ can take temperatures in the 20’s without being fazed, and the Plectranthus ‘Velvet Elvis’ with its dark green/purple foliage will star as the flowers begin to show off in September and October. Yes it could get frosted on a really chilly night, but should one be forecasted while it is still showing off, cover the planter with a large tarp or move inside for the night.

Summer Containers…the before shots

Each year in recent history,  I have been documenting with images some of the containers I plant up here at Avant Gardens. I like to take images within a few weeks of planting, and then again in September. The September shots will show which containers still look incredible. Plant selections with minimal care requirements are used  in each of these groupings. Below, you will find combinations for shade, part shade and sun.

For shade/pt. shade:

Begonia ‘Concorde’ with Cissus discolor,  Stromanthe ‘Tricolor’ and Pilea

Begonia thurstonii, with Coleus ‘Odalisque’ and Begonia ‘MK Elegance’

Begonia ‘MK Elegance’ with Hedera ‘Little Diamond’

Coleus ‘Limon Blush’, Begonia ‘Chocolate Red’ and Oxalis ‘Copper Glow’

for part shade/sun:

For sun or part shade: Xanthosoma ‘Lime Zinger with Coprosma ‘Marbel Queen’Pelargonium tomentosum and a purple leaved Tradescantia 

for sun:

Eucomis ‘Sparking Rosy’ with Oxalis triangularis, Helichrysum ‘Limelight’ and Tradescantia ‘Blue Sue’

Fan favorite: Classic Bowl with Mixed Succulents

Senecio cylindricus dominates this large basalt bowl (22″)

30″ ceramic trough with Senecio ‘Blazing Glory’, Echeveria, various SedumSenecio talinodes  & Sedeveria

My favorite pot with Aeonium, Euphorbia and Echeveria

 Closeup:  Aeonium ‘Schwartkop’ with Kalanchoe, Echeveria & Sedum morganianum

The vertical garden was planted in late March, and now little  Delosperma ‘Firespinner’ is beginning to flower

Echeveria ‘Afterglow’ with Phormium ‘Pink Stripe’ and Dichondra

You can mix succulents with other plants which don’t mind dry conditions (like the combination above). Even though we have had an unusually large amount of rainfall lately in the northeast , all of our succulents and begonias are still thriving because we use a sandy well drained soil mix.  If you use a regular or rich potting soil, you chance disappointment from plants rotting away.

Check back in September, when I post the “after” shots!

Tower Hill Botanic Garden, an escape…

Limonaia

Succulent display in The Limonaia

….from winter

That silly groundhog doesn’t know anything. February may be short but it is still winter, and March is usually a big tease. If you’re like me, you must be tired from being cooped up and could use a green escape, perhaps to see and smell something verdant.

Fortunately for me, I didn’t have to travel very far. I  grabbed my camera, hopped in the car and within an hour and 15 minutes, I was at Tower Hill Botanic Gardens in Boylston, which is located in central Massachusetts just northeast of Worcester.  What a tonic for the senses.

As you enter the Stoddard Visitor Center, you are greeted with many options: a book/gift shop to browse, a cafe where you can refuel, a series of glass windows and doors which offer views and access to the newly installed winter garden, and immediately to your right, the beautiful Limonaia, a cathedral like conservatory featuring succulents, camellias, bromeliads, palms and you bet, citrus in bud and fruit.

It just so happened that on the day of my visit, The Worcester Horticultural Society’s annual event Flora in Winter was taking place at both Tower Hill and the Worcester Art Museum (so I made a date with an old friend and caught that show too, but I won’t digress further!) On display throughout the visitor center were exotic floral arrangements by both professional and amateur designers.

But enough talk for a moment, let me show you what I saw.

Billbergia nutans, an epiphytic bromeliad

Camellia ‘Mabel Bayard Thayer’

Acacia….love!

Another species of Acacia

Abutilon megapotamicum, aka Chinese Lanterns

Asparagus densiflorus, Foxtail Asparagus Fern… Love, again

Flora in Winter Arrangement Detail

Winter Flame Dogwood, and a chilly statue overlooking the Winter Garden

A corner view of the Winter Garden

It is amazing to see the evolution that has transpired at Tower Hill since its inception some 26 years ago. The first planted area was the Harrington Apple Orchard, a collection of heirloom varieties that would someday be lost if it were not for the stewardship here. Numerous new garden areas have been created over the years, and the latest, the Winter Garden, was opened to the public in November of 2010. The bones are in place and already the plantings are taking shape. Come visit for ideas on which hardy plants will add winter color and form to your landscape.

Tower Hill is open year round, Tuesday through Sunday, 9-5 (Closed Mondays). Admission is free with membership, otherwise, $12 per adult (seniors $9).

For much more information, including upcoming events visit: http://www.towerhillbg.org

or call:  508.869.6111

September Report: Successful Containers

I have always thought that what makes great visual art is when an object or painting compels you to look at it again and again. I feel the same way about plants and gardens, and containers. Of course, plants are constantly changing, so plantings are ephemeral compositions. Perhaps that’s why we want to take in their beauty all the more. Here are some planted containers that have looked good all summer, and still do in mid September.

Large Succulent Bowl on a pedestal, perhaps more beautiful than ever.

Composed of odds and ends succulents left over from last season, this ensemble has married well.

Aeonium ‘Schwartkop’ was the highlight of this tall river pot.

Syngonium ‘Neon’, an easy and lovely shade foliage plant.

Begonia ‘Chocolate Pink’ with Pilea and Cissus discolor

Peachy Abutilon ‘Harvest Moon’, with the adorable curly Spider Plant and a white Syngonium…great, easy pot for partial shade.

The Chocolate Mimosa Tree, Albizzia ‘Summer Chocolate’, makes a fast growing subject for container, adding height, texture, and dark coloring.

We did a posting of some planted containers in early July. A number of these containers sold, and we hear they still look smashing. As you can see, it’s mostly about foliage. What are your favorite container combinations from this season?

Best Containers of 2011

As we approach the end of October, and yet no frost, we decided to take a few photos of container plantings which we are still pretty impressed with. We have set the standards high. The plants needed to be interesting and complimentary to each other, plus the planting had to be easy to care for and look as good, or better, at the end of the season as it did in June.  As you can see, it’s all about the foliage. Which container do you like the best?

Planted in February, Heuchera, Phormium and Pelargonium

Silver planter in June

Silver Planter in October

Trough with Assorted Tender and Hardy Succulents

Classic Cast Stone Bowl with Succulents

Cuphea ‘David Verity’

Cuphea David VerityWant a colorful plant that blooms nonstop, attracts hummingbirds and never needs deadheading?  Cuphea ‘David Verity’ , a selection of Cigar Plant, is a strong candidate. His charm can?t be captured in photographs, but that hasn?t stopped us from offering this cutting grown Cuphea for over a decade. Customers who have grown him once now can’t be without him.

Cuphea ‘David Verity’ grows to 18-24″ tall in a season, and likes an average to moist soil. He produces an endless supply of tubular orange flowers which keep the hummers busy. When temperatures get cool in late summer the foliage takes on a burgundy cast. The show carries on into the fall until a frost signals the season is over. We’ve combined ‘David’ in planters with Colocasia , Heuchera ‘Carameland dark leaved Ipomoea ‘Carolina Purple’ but many more combinations are possible. ‘David Verity’ provides constant color in the mixed border?…try him with dark leaved Heuchera villosa ‘Mocha’ and a hot colored cone flower such as ‘Tomato Soup’.

Buy online

Caliente Container Combo

Here’s an easy ensemble that gets its color from foliage and fruit. These five plant selections will fill a 12″ tall tom pot easily. The ingredients are Pennisetum s. ‘Rubrum’ for height and movement, Heuchera villosa ‘Caramel’for body, and Hedera ‘Amber Waves’, a golden leaved ivy that trails beautifully and will take temperatures into the low 20’s. What makes this collection “caliente”are the adorable ornamental peppers. We tried two new varieties this season, ‘Sangria’ and ‘Prairie Fire’, which have been producing an endless supply of round and pointy peppers in shades of creamy yellow, orange, red and purple. Oh yes, they are edible, but very very hot.

Container Combo for Dry Shade

Begonia, Pilea and Tahitian Bridal Veil

Again, it is so much about the foliage. The angel wing leaves of Begonia ‘Sinbad’ are really a soft celadon green veined in rose, but have a silvery cast. On close inspection, the silvery effect is due to the pebbly texture formed by the tiny raised white leaf segments. Simple, sweet pink flowers dangle from the leaf axils.  For filler, the tiny white variegated foliage of little Pilea, commonly called artillery fern, creates a frothy effect beneath the bolder leaves of ‘Sinbad’ and the casual abandon of Gibasis geniculata , also known as Tahitian Bridal Veil, with its two tone green/purple foliage and white baby?s breath blossoms finish off the combination.

Culturally, use a well drained potting soil, amended with Osmocote. Begonias do not want to live in soggy soil, so monitor watering by allowing the soil to dry out a bit. This ensemble would enjoy morning or filtered light, and would be a suitable arrangement for a covered porch, where the minimal watering needs can be monitored.

Container Combinations III: New Ideas

Remember when Coleus was disdained by “serious gardeners” just 20 years ago? Until recently Succulents also seemed to get a bum rap. Perhaps it was because of the silly little dish gardens offered in discount stores, featuring a ubiquitous strawflower glued onto a poor little cactus. We decided quite some time ago to treat succulents with dignity. Their foliage offers an array of subtle and strong desert colors and textures which inspire us with ideas for endless combinations. And, they couldn’t be easier to take care of– perfect container plans for the summer weekend home, since so little water is required.

Begin your ensemble by selecting a handsome container. Break the rules…why not use a fancy bowl or urn that you would use for traditional annuals? Shallow pots are always fine and suitable, but deeper pots can certainly be used if you fill them with a very sandy, fast draining soil. Do not use a moisture retentive peaty potting mix, for it will easily become water logged if we have extended wet weather. You can use a light dose of fertilizer in your soil mix, but don’t over do it.

Select a variety of foliage shapes and plant forms, such as the rosettes of Echeveria, the trailing stems of Delosperma and the fine texture of tiny Sedum. We always find that packing the container with plants gives immediate gratification, and the plants will not suffer as they require little nutrition. Early autumn will bring changes to your composition, as the fall foliage colors intensify and many succulents begin to flower. Before a freeze, bring your succulents indoors. They winter over easily on a sunny window sill.