The ” altitudinous” Alliums

Photographed Allium christophii today. I love how Alliums confidently stand up in the landscape in June. Certainly not shy they stand out. Deer resistant and showy they take an “altitudinous” position in the garden.

Tight shot on Allium christophii
Standing head and shoulders….well….head above the rest.
Also known as Star of Persia

The Phantasmagoric Peony

Photographed these phantasmagorical peonies today thinking wow….. they “have a fantastic appearance, as something in a dream created by the imagination.” 

A phantasmagoric peony on a June afternoon
“Bee-leaf” it…..I’m not the only one to find them phantasmagoric!
Simply “Plantasmagoric” I say…..

Rosey and Riveting

Women went to work during World War II with the aviation industry seeing the greatest increase in female workers. Fueled by the U.S. government’s “Rosie the Riveter” propaganda campaign 310,000 women worked in the U.S. aircraft industry in 1943, making up 65 percent of the workforce! The bandanna-clad Rosie became an iconic image of working women in the World War II era. Flexing her muscles Rosie said “We can do it!”

Things can look “rosie” and “riveting” in your garden today and you can do it! Plant breeding in the past 10 to 20 years has developed landscape roses that are hardy, prolific bloomers with little maintenance. Known as “shrub” roses they are grown on their own root instead of grafted making them versatile and durable.

Miracle on the Hudson Rose named to honor heroic crew and passengers of Flight 1549

Roses are still divas in the landscape requiring a lot of sunlight to bloom at their peak performance. Try to plant in an area that gets at least 8 hours of sunlight during the growing season. They are also heavy feeders so make sure to fertilize with a complete rose fertilizer in spring and summer. The great thing about shrub or own root landscape roses is they tend to keep blooming well into October, sometimes even November.

With the interest in groundcover alternatives to turf remember that these new generation roses also are available as “groundcover” or spreading roses. Varieties like ‘Drift’ roses cover a lot of space with color. Sometimes plants we consider to be vines can instead be allowed without support to spread on the ground in difficult to maintain areas like a sunny slope and effectively fill the space. Air circulation is always important with roses so don’t over crowd them with other plants. I have found some that ornamental grasses are good companions with roses providing a great backdrop for their continuous summer into fall color. Blue is a desirable color in the landscape making the sun loving Nepeta and Lavender a great choice to partner with your roses. Also consider Heliotrope as the sun loving perennial that will show off with the roses at peak bloom time in mid-summer.

When planting those “riveting” landscape roses I recommend against mixing colors. Plant at least three of the same together for impact. Visually it is far more impactful and as with most landscapes odd numbered plantings usually look the most natural.

Today’s landscape roses and ground cover roses don’t require tricky pruning, but regular pruning will keep plants compact. No need to prune these “self cleaning” roses like we pruned the large hybrid tea roses in the past to get them to rebloom. Simply prune as needed to keep size in check a couple times a year. You can prune plants back annually by one-third to one-half to encourage fresh growth.

May Day

It is ironic that May Day is an emergency word used internationally as a distress signal in radio communications that we have seen used in the movies. It is ironic, because the arrival of the first day of May is a celebration of flowers and spring. May Day was celebrated on May 1 by some early European settlers to North America with May baskets. These are baskets that were filled with flowers or treats and left at someone’s doorstep. The giver rings the bell and runs away. The person receiving the basket tries to catch the fleeing giver; if caught, a kiss is exchanged. Good idea to wear your track shoes that day.
Today the arrival of May usually means the last frost days are passing and tender flowering plants can be enjoyed in our gardens and landscapes.

My Mom told me there would be “daisies” like this

Mother’s day is a weekend to give and receive flowers to celebrate both Mom and the promise of a new gardening season. Later in May as we celebrate the Memorial Day holiday, plants and flowers play a big role in remembrance as well as our home gardening enjoyment.

Tropical plants like Hibiscus make a great Mother’s Day gift idea.

I read recently that “a weed is a flower with an advertising budget”. Today plant breeders have developed flowering plants for our landscapes that bloom longer, brighter and more reliably than the blooms enjoyed years ago. Dahlias, Pansies, Gerbera Daisies, Calibrachoa, Coleus and Petunias are great examples of how we have come a long way baby. Container gardening popularity has driven the development of reliable, continuous blooming and colorful plants that you can enjoy all summer long in your little corner of the world.
An easy container to design is a mono-culture container. Choose a single variety for your container along with an attractive container. Next mono-color combinations use two different shades of a color, but because you are using the same color you don’t have to worry about the colors clashing…they blend in shades.

The versatile colorful Gerbera Daisy

Analogous colors are next to each other on the color wheel and mix together easily. These can be effective and very colorful combinations of pink and red, pink and orange (a favorite of mine) yellow and orange, orange and red, violet and red, blue and green, and blue-violet. My favorite approach is using complimentary colors. On a color wheel, complimentary colors are directly opposite of each other…like red and green, orange and blue, or yellow and violet. Finally you might want to try your hand at a three way combination color scheme.

Color Wheel

I call it a triple play, some people call it a triad. This combination uses 3 colors that are spaced equally on the color wheel – the points of a triangle. Examples would be a red-yellow-blue or violet-orange-green combination. Try a red-yellow-blue or pink-yellow-blue triangle combination.
Here are two quick pointers for your May Day combinations.

Colorful Crotons and other foliage plants add season long interest to plantings.

Remember that pink is a great color to include because it plays well with almost any color including orange and red. Also remember for best success plant your container working from the inside to the outside of the pot thinking “Focal, Filler, Edger, Trailer”.

The trend of Set-Abouts

The trend of “set-abouts”
By the time April rolls around we are ready for some spring, soil and nature. It’s time to enjoy gardening again. It’s only natural our patience has “gone to pot.” April is the perfect month to practice your container gardening skills. Pots give us the chance to get our hands dirty and plant something. If a frosty night tries to spoil our garden party we can move the pots under cover. This gives us a chance to get a jump on the season. What plants do I use to get that kick in the plants? I would recommend considering the following in containers for the early spring season:
• Frost tolerant Pansies
• Herbs (mixed planters)
• Succulents
• Vegetable plants, understanding if the nights get frosty they will have to be rolled inside or covered. Generally our last frost date is not until May. Some vegetables like broccoli can handle a light frost. (Plants in the Brassica family known as Cole Crops)

Pansies are great for cool season containers!

When it comes to containers succulents are the perfect adaptable plant for indoors or out. With great variety and interesting texture it is no wonder succulents are a very popular trendy plant right now. Recently I went to the dollar store to buy some soup ladles. I planted Succulents and Tillandsia in the ladles and posted this picture in social media.

Succulent and Tillandsia Soup Ladles

I was amazed at the response and shares the post received! I call it the trend of “set-abouts”. Plants in a variety of containers used to brighten our corner of the world both inside and out. Recently attending a show in Florida I snapped these pictures of succulent “set-abouts” that took the idea to the extreme. It points out however that container plantings come in all forms limited only by your creativity.
Another means of “set-about” is to purchase early season plants at the garden center and “baby sit” them for a few weeks indoors. This can also be done with seed starting in containers. On nice days when the air is calm they can be set out to begin “hardening off” to the great outdoors. Come May after you’ve had your early spring gardening fix, they will be ready to make it on their own outdoors.
As with all container planting remember to allow for growth, use a good quality potting soil, and provide for drainage out the bottom.