May Day 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 running shoes that day so you can catch the ringer and “plant” one on them!
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. 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.
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. 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.
Complimentary colors Purple and Yellow
Finally you might want to try your hand at a three way combination color scheme. 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. 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”.
Pink and Orange combination
In this fast paced world of busy lives, Herbs pamper us with gifts from the garden. We all know that the garden is good for the mind, body and spirit when we need to unplug. It is “sage” advice to take some “thyme” for yourself and benefit from growing some Herbs. Herbs are easy to grow with some good soil and sunshine. Perfectly suited for containers they can be grown anywhere, even if your space is small.
Herbs are perfect for use in containers with other plant material
That said I recommend also incorporating Herbs into the landscape with your other plants and flowers. A dash of Lavender, Nepeta, Thyme or Oregano can spice up any landscape with color, interest and aroma.
“Basil” instinct tells us that Herbs in our life provide a lot of benefit. Your garden should give back to you. Herbs do that in a big way. Aside from their obvious “scent”-uous nature, herbs give back to us in countless ways. As soaks and teas, aromatherapy and steams, oils and perfumes, elixirs and medicine, rubs and skin care, treats and colorful garnish, herbs like the garden truly benefit the mind, body and spirit.
Sweet Woodruff is an herbal groundcover used to float or “steep” in white wine (thank our German friends) to make a great tasting white wine for a sunny May day!
Start with a good lightweight growing mix and a good sized container. Pick a sunny spot and you will be in your ele-“mint”. No need for lots of fertilizer, over-watering and over-fertilizing weakens the plants and diminishes the oils in their aromatic foliage. Remember that herbs are a collaborative sort, often making great companions with vegetable plants. I don’t have scientific proof but I can tell you I am convinced that tomatoes off the vine taste better when basil is planted nearby.
Affordable and fun to grow
Here are some herb suggestions for you from my garden and the benefits they provide me.
Basil….uplifting and energizing. Make me think of summer and fresh tomatoes.
Borage….easy to grow, a good companion with a cucumber like aroma
Chamomile….soothing with a sweet apple fragrance
Hops….amazing visual impact in the landscape
Lavender….beautiful flowers, healing and rest
Lemon Balm….aroma, rest, cleansing
Mint….stimulating and cleansing. And invasive…grow only in containers
Parsley….Healthy refreshing edger or border
Rosemary….Aroma, strong pine like fragrance. Perfect late season herb.
Sage….Rich, earthy, appealing foliage
Thyme….decorative, stimulating and collaborative
Oregano….spice of life, great groundcover or container edge or trailer
Nepeta and Catmint….pungent aroma and long lasting bloom.
It’s planting time and we’re excited about the flowering annuals we selected on our shopping trip. They’re going to look great and visions of blooming colors are dancing in our head.
More “Flower” to you!
But what if they don’t meet up to our expectations? Plants like people have basic nutritional needs. And plants just like people can’t live on just energy drinks or water, you need a meal now and then. Water alone is not enough. Well more “flower” to you. If your annuals need to go “potty” and are in a hanging basket or pot every time you water nutrients are carried out the drainage holes with it. The nutrients need to be replaced.
I recommend a combination of water soluble and time release or granular fertilizer.
One is the energy drink and the other is meat and potatoes. The great thing about water soluble fertilizer is that is quickly available to the plants and can be taken in through the foliage or roots.
Slow release “dry” on the left and water soluble fertilizer on the right
Most water soluble fertilizers recommend use every 7 to 14 days. It depends on how often you’re watering the plant. You may want to consider using it more frequently than 14 days and going to half strength. Remember that even though many of today’s annuals are sold as “self cleaning” a good pinching or pruning now and then with a dose of water soluble fertilizer will rejuvenate blooming. A dry granular feed in combination with the water soluble in tandem will get you best results. The “dry” or slow release feed is the meat and potatoes. My favorites are Osmocote and Flower Tone. Osmocote because it’s easy to scoop into a pot and provides feeding for 3 months or more. Flower Tone because in addition to the Macro Nutrients it has essential Micro Nutrients and is affordable. More “Flower” to you!
It’s planting season. You know it was only a matter of thyme. Herbs are a fun way to get your hands in the dirt and play. Herbs are com-“plant”-able with containers liking warm soil and plenty of sunlight. Containers can be moved inside if needed on frosty April evenings. Containers will also hold rambling herbs like the various Mints in bounds as opposed to running rampant in your garden beds. Herbs have been used through “thyme” and memorial by the Greeks, Egyptians and ancient Romans as well as the Chinese. Nothing new here. Herbaceous plants have been used for flavorings, scent, food and medicinal purposes for centuries. Herbs and there aroma can trigger some of the strongest and enduring memories for a gardener….we never forget a good whiff. For me it’s Cilantro, a favorite, along with Basil, Lavender and Oregano and Nepeta. How about you? Parsley? Chocolate or Lemon Mint? Regardless it’s “grow” time when you use a good quality container soil and containers that are sizeable enough for root mass but not too large to move into the sun or under cover in the event of a frost event. Some people will tell you not to feed the herbs in your container or they will lose their scent and oils. My position is to feed them, but do it with a slow release fertilizer designed for container growing like Osmecote. You may want to also add a few crystal polymers to the soil to help you with watering even though herbs are more tolerant of some water neglect than other herbaceous plants. The idea is to avoid high nitrogen and quick release fertilizers when growing herbs.
Finally make sure to add a few flowers with your herb container. I like a few edible Pansies or Violas like this one called “Blueberry Thrill.” Another great edible flowering plant to add would be Nasturtiums. If you have some “Thyme” on your hands and a container Herbs may be the answer to get you growing!