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.
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”.
Plant One on Me
May is time for a good swift kick in the “plants” because it’s a month where we can plant just about anything. In most years our last frost occurs in early to mid-May giving us an opportunity to plant both tender and hardy plants. Adding flowering annuals, foliage, herbs and vegetables to our hardy landscapes makes the yard come alive. From vegetables and herbs backyard to table to stunning flowering annuals in colorful containers, the selection of plant material today is fabulous with new varieties added to the mix every year…. so plant one on me!
The current trend in the gardening world is for high impact low care plants. Flowering annual varieties today provide opportunity to plant vigorous blooming heat tolerant plants with little or no deadheading needed. One of my favorites is Gomphrena globosa. Heat and drought tolerant, deer resistant, this flowering annual performs all summer long even when neglected. I enjoy the purple Gomphrena with cute little “globes” as flowers that look great in combination with a yellow blooming plant like Melampodium. The red Gomphrena known as ‘Strawberry Fields’ performed great for me last summer in the heat with its blooms that look like strawberries on a stem. Tough continual bloomers like Diamond Frost Euphorbia, or Supertunias and Calibrachoa also known as “Million Bells” will bloom reliably until a hard frost in October. Flowering Vinca is a great substitute for impatiens in sunny areas especially where downy mildew is a concern. With glossy foliage and continuous “impatien-like” blooms it is a slow starter in spring but when the heat gets turned on in summer it blooms prolifically tolerating hot weather. For those of you keeping score this is not the invasive groundcover Vinca but rather a flowering annual with a botanical name of Catharanthus roseus.
Don’t forget the role that interesting or colored foliage can play in the landscape. Coleus today is available in a multitude of colors and not just for the shade anymore. The sun and shade tolerant kaleidoscope of foliage will be a show stopper all season long. Annual ornamental grasses like Pennisetum ‘Rubrum’ even thought they last just a season are well worth the money and known as a goof proof plant. It will reward you with fountains of plumes in summer and fall. Pennisetum ‘Fireworks’ will do the same with variegated foliage. Other suggested foliage plants sure to please are the new varieties of Ipomoea, commonly known as sweet potato vine, available in black/purple, chartreuse, bronze or lime green to gold colors. The foliage can be heart shaped or palmate which means it looks like a hand with fingers. Finally in the area of foliage I suggest trying the unique look of Cyperus ‘King Tut’ for something interesting. It looked both prehistoric and modern at the same time in my landscape. If you’re one of those people who tend to overwater, this might be the plant for you. I’ve experienced it working well in both damp and normal soils.
The trend of high impact and low care plants extends well beyond flowering annuals. Own root landscape or shrub roses or dwarf buddleia like the Proven Winners Lo and Behold will provide lots of color. Succulents are trendy right now and are definitely high impact low care plants to add interest in your garden. New introductions of perennials have also continued to enhance our landscape experience. I have been amazed by new introductions of Echinacea, commonly known as coneflower, with shades of pink, white or vanilla, orange, purple, or gold, in single or “mophead” double flowers with great names like ‘Sunrise’, ‘Harvest Moon’ or ‘Sundown’ as examples.
Regardless of what you plant, you need to be well grounded. Proper soil preparation of beds or use of good quality “soil-less” container planting mixes will help ensure success. Use of mycorrhizae and soil supplements or “soil replenishment” makes plants better “rooted and suited” to weather trends. A smart investment to zip up your “plants” considering heat, drought and weather extremes. Mycorrhizae can be added to the soil as beneficial root fungi that develop a mutual symbiotic loving relationship with your plants sending adventitious roots deep into the soil. The result is stress tolerant plants. For container plantings I love to use Osmocote. This smart release plant food can slowly release nutrients into the soil for 3 to 4 months. With the popularity of container gardening the key is a good choice of container with a drainage hole and room to grow and using a quality soil container mix and fertilizer. After that the sky is the limit with plant material! Everything from foliage plants to grasses to flowering annuals, herbs, vegetables, perennials and woody plants like roses are fair game in containers. So many great plants, so little time. I’m so ready to plant I can’t “contain” myself……plant one on me!
Recently I planted up a bicycle basket with flowers for a “Petal Power” display at Flowerland and hung the bike in the rafters. Today I noticed a Robin that had a real interest in the bike and the basket of flowers.
She made frequent trips to the bike and the flower basket seemed to “fill the bill” for her. Knowing she didn’t have a debit card to make a purchase I went up into the rafters to take a closer look. I soon realized that this bike display was a real “Schwinner” for a nest of baby robins.
She made frequent trips feeding worms to the babies in the basket who were oblivious to the humans below them who were making their flowering basket purchases. I really like a good “bird tale” with a happy ending.
Early May in West Michigan………you don’t have to be Dutch to enjoy these beauties…….take a moment today to do two things………1) Stop and smell the flowers………and 2) Walk over to your calendar and pencil in sometime in September or October that this year you’re going to plant some spring flowering beauties on your side of the fence…………