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Archive for the ‘Container gardening’ Category

Last week the Garden Committee here at Horizon House had a “field trip” to IMG_6235Swanson’s Nursery to fulfill our GEM Grant.  The gardeners were awarded a bit of “flower candy” as I call it, for the inconvenience they suffered during the renovations to our West Wing.  IMG_6230Not everyone was able to go, but those who did had a good time browsing, buying, eating and

learning.

The Horizon House bus was packed to the gills with plant material.

Not all of it was able to be in the back, so was to be found all over the bus, along with some happy gardeners!

Once we got home, the staff helped us by putting plant materials on the proper decks IMG_6246for the gardeners to plant.

What followed was the planting itself.  Talk about busy bees…  The gardens are now getting full and attractive.  IMG_6249Here’s one I planted.  Now I’ll stand back and watch the magic!

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This year I went to the show for TWO days!  My son in-law gave me two tickets.  At first I didn’t know what to do with TWO tickets, and he suggested I either invite a friend or go on  two days!  DUH!!!

I chose the two days because I tend to be a “loner” at things like this.  I hate to wait around for someone else to finish looking when I’m ready to move on.  Not only  that, I’m a “Seminar” kind of gal.  I’d prefer to just look around at the displays quickly; img_6075check img_6071out all the things for sale; and then head for the Seminar rooms to learn something new and see some pretty spectacular gardening photography!  So, that sounded like a great idea.  I did it, and I’m so very glad!  I had two days of seminars, as well as checking out the displays.  I attended 7 in all, and learned a LOT!img_6070

Walking into the venue has the usual effect.  Scents of Spring and color enough to blow your socks off.  The exhibits were lovely, as usual.  Even little children find them attractive!

I went to a number of seminars about Succulents.  I have chosen to make my little garden here at Horizon House an “easy care” garden, and I chose to do that with various pots filled with  SUCCULENTS! *img_5597.jpg In these classes however, I learned that I wasn’t exactly doing it correctly.  Right now everything is growing properly, but according to the “gurus” it probably won’t last that way.  So, it’s back to the drawing board for me.img_6076

I need more sand and some gravel.  That might be a bit tricky, but I’m up to the challenge.  I have to remember that someday, someone else may garden my little plot, and they may prefer not to have gravel!  (Gravel is a nightmare to remove.)  img_6077Of course, the reason I’ve chosen pots is that the soil is root-bound from a neighboring tree.  There will be no cutting back of those roots, because the tree is going to STAY!  SO, the pots will have to have some sand and gravel added.  I’m  not in any huge rush.  It will wait until the weather is cooperative, to say nothing of my body!

Which brings up another seminar I attended about “Adaptive Gardening”.  This is a topic I am pretty conversant with.  I edited a book on this topic awhile back.  It ended up never going to print because the publisher ran into rough waters…but I learned a lot.  Perhaps this is a topic I should give a little talk about here at Horizon House.  Maybe in June, which the Garden Committee has dubbed “Garden Month at Horizon House”.

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Someone was concerned because many plants appear to be dead or dying out in our garden terraces.  So, I put on my “woolies” and ventured out to check all three levels.

 

What I found there were three levels of gardens suffering from winter!  I found nothing unusual. I found that most gardeners had done with their gardens, what they needed to do.  They had cut back perennials that needed cutting back.  The hardy perennials that had been left, were in differing states of life.   Some of them looked fabulous!  Some looked a bit haggard (like me on a cold, windy day).  And some looked a little surprised that their moderate Seattle had dealt them a surprising hand with freezing temperatures over a few weeks.

Seattle doesn’t often suffer from such cold for so long.  BUT, right now that is what’s happening.  If our tender plants were not bundled up (like we have done with ourselves when we’ve ventured out) before this hard frost hit, they are suffering a bit.  But, worry not.  Nature has planned for this.  Notice, even the plants caught in their own little pond, are doing quite well!

The plants that are perennials are doing just fine.  It could be that their tops have died back…but that’s OK.  That’s what they do!  They will come back robustly in the spring.

The shrubs and trees (be they large or little) that are deciduous (losing their leaves in the winter) have lost their leaves, making them look a bit naked.  The other trees and shrubs look wonderful.  Their leaves and budding tips are just waiting to burst forth on the first warm day.

The annuals, or non-hardy plants, large and small, have succumbed to Father Winters cold blasts…as they are expected to do.  They do NOT look good.  They are the ones that should find their way into the compost!

The final word on all of this is not to worry.  It’s too late to do anything anyway.  Some of the gardeners have either put, or left, fallen leaves on their garden beds.  That is a wonderful technique of mulching (snugging up the plants).  Nature takes care of it’s own.  When a cover is needed…there are the fallen leaves!

img_5956Many gardeners also cover their plants with burlap when a hard frost is expected, but nature hasn’t planned anything like that, so it’s nice, but not necessary.  That is a more prevalent technique in areas with snow and wind, to protect a plant against losing too much moisture, and even protecting branches from heavy snow loads.

All in all, I think the gardens look great.  Don’t worry!  All will be well in the spring.  And if you’ve lost something, consider it an opportunity to plant something new and different!

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daffodils-1399483I have gotten so many questions lately from our gardeners about their bulbs.  They are coming up and it’s only the beginning of November!

I am a little unfamiliar with  this problem.  In New England (my recent, and longtime home) this isn’t a problem.  If the bulbs begin to show green, they are soon nipped by frost and go back to bed like good little bulbs.  But, here in the Pacific Northwest, it appears this is a real issue!

I have checked everywhere for more information on this problem and have not been able to find specific suggestions on how to handle it.  But, let me “soldier on”.

Bulbs will begin to sprout when they have had enough time, darkness and moisture to produce good root growth.  When it gets warm the bulb thinks it’s spring.  How does figure that out?  It’s under the surface of the ground, and can only react to what nature is telling it…and right now, it’s being told it’s warm enough to send up some shoots.  The bulb thinks it must be spring!  But it’s NOT spring, and we gardeners are puzzled.  We have every right to be puzzled.  Just remember the bulb is not puzzled, it’s just doing what it’s supposed to be doing.  Or so it thinks!

In all my research, I think I’ve come up with enough information to suggest why this may be happening.

screen-shot-2016-09-24-at-8-26-56-amLike so many problems, we often have to back-track to the beginning.  Bulbs need to be planted at least 3 times their depth.  That means a dry bulb that measures 2 (two) inches from root to tip, should be planted 6 (six) inches in the ground!  That’s pretty deep.  Take it seriously!

Here at Horizon House, we garden in large beds.  Those beds are actually large containers.  I wonder if our bulbs think we are forcing them?  In that scenario, bulbs are planted in a much more shallow manner, and come up pretty quickly once they sense it’s warm!  If that is the case, it would say to me that we need to be ever vigilant to plant our bulbs deeply, so they don’t get an early wake-up call.

Right now, we’ve got early shoots appearing…what do we do?  There is not much you can do, unfortunately.  If you cover them, they will just continue to reach for the sun.  They will become leggy and vulnerable.  I would just leave them.  In nature this would happen as well.  The bulbs won’t die.  They might not flower particularly well come spring, but the following year they should be fine.

Remember to let the foliage die down naturally come “post-blooming” time.  The bulbs themselves need the nutrition that comes from the leaves.  You might also give them a “shot” of fertilizer at that time.

37350208-old-garden-scoop-on-root-and-soil-of-flowers-top-viewA further suggestion might be that in the spring when you’re so happy to be out in the garden and are digging, if you run across any shallow bulbs, get them down deeper.  If you buy new bulbs, plant them DEEP!  In our beds, it’s easy to not go deep enough.

I don’t know if this has helped your quandary at all, but at least it has given us all something to think about.  As we garden, we learn.  Sometimes we just have to stand back and let nature “do it’s thing”.  I also feel it’s telling us that global warming is even affecting our bulbs!

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The other day I ran into Don and Lynnea in the hallway here at Horizon House.  They want to plant a few new plants, in pots, on their balcony and requested a bit of advice.  I told them I would do a blog about that.  I have found that if someone asks a question, there are others thinking of it as well.

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Southern Living Photo

When planting in pots, try to remember “Thriller, Filler and Spiller”.  It will help you set up an attractive planter.

The Thriller is something tall and flashy.  Usually they are placed in the back , if viewed from one side; or in the center of the planting, if you will see it from all sides.  They can be flowering plants, have attractive foliage or maybe be tall grasses.

The Filler is something that is neither tall, nor a ground cover, but rather something that will fill in the center area with color or nice leaves.  They often grow in a rounded manner so they literally fill the center space.  If your thriller is in the back, place your filler between that and where you will put your spiller.  If the thriller is in the middle, surround it with the filler.  Remember to leave room to plant your spillers!

The Spiller is just what it says.  It is something that will spill over the edge of the container, drawing your eye from top to bottom in a graceful way.  Remember again if your thriller is in the back, the spiller should be between the filler and the edge of the pot, so it “spills” over the edge.  If your thriller is in the middle, have a number of spillers all the way around.

Also remember, depending on the size of your pot or container, you can have either 3 plants, or many.  Although generally the Thriller will just be one dramatic plant!  They tend to be larger, so one is often enough. Let your taste prevail!!!!!

You can also use different pots to provide a different spot for one or two of those categories.  One has the thriller, with spillers; another pot with fillers and spillers; etc.  Be creative!

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What are some plants that might be appropriate for your container?  When you go to the nursery, just tell them you are looking for “Thrillers, Fillers and Spillers” for your container.  They will know EXACTLY what you mean.  (A big box store may not…)  They can help you by showing you what will work in your particular planter, in your particular climate, with exactly the colors you’re looking for.  That is what they are there for.  Most of them are very knowledgeable.  Don’t be afraid to ask!  They will enjoy showing you what they have to offer.

I could give you lists of some plants, but I think that’s limiting.  Go to the nursery and enjoy a few hours there.  Talk with the staff.  Look at the plants that are available and get a real sense for what they will do for you and YOUR pot.  Then ENJOY!

 

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I did it!  I jumped for a “garden” here at Horizon House! Actually, it’s a plot that cannot be gardened in the usual sense.  It has roots from a Japanese Maple that we like a lot.  We don’t want to cut out the roots, as we’d lose the tree!  Drucilla, who had that plot, was moved to a place where she could actually dig.  Now, what to do with that useless plot???

Just cover it with mulch?  Why not place some pots there?

We had just cleaned up the three (3) decks so they could be resurfaced, which meant that all the pots sitting on those decks had to be removed.  There was ample time for folks to claim their pots.  I didn’t really want to buy new pots, when all those unclaimed pots were just sitting in the storage room.  So I picked out a few, and pressed them into service!img_5586

Betty had a pot that she was not going to be able to use.  It had some geraniums in it.  I asked if I could use it in my “new garden”.  She consented.  At first I was going to remove the geraniums, but then decided to keep them.  I would lay that container on it’s side, and put the two other pots around it.

Charlie and August helped me bimg_5590y moving heavy pots, and filling them with wonderful new soil.  I trimmed back the geraniums and am hoping they will reach for the sun and begin to grow in that direction.  They will hopefully provide some color.  I planted drought resistant plants (mostly succulents) in all three pots.  I’m hoping they will require very little care, and after they settle in, should look pretty nice!img_5593

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What requirements does a plant have to have in order to be considered “drought tolerant”?

It’s interesting because sometimes you can tell a drought tolerant plant by just looking at it.  Maybe the leaves are almost nonexistent, as in an evergreen with it’s oh, so narrow leaves (needles).  Some evergreens also have a pine-359845__180waxy substance that helps keep the moisture from being lost.

You’ll notice that there are plants, like silver sage, whose leaves are covered with tiny little hairs.  Those hairs grasp moisture and hold onto it.  sageOr how about plants with very deep root systems?  They dig deep to  find moisture well below the surface of the soil.  Or on the opposite side of the spectrum, those plants with roots very close to the surface to grab all the barest of rain drops.

Generally, plants that are native to dryer climates like the Mediterranean, the American West, central Asia, and southern Africa will do quite well.  A number of our herbs, used in Italian cooking are from that area and hence do well in drought condition gardens.  Think about Rosemary, Thyme, Oregano and Sage.

But, there are other things to remember about drought tolerance. 37350208-old-garden-scoop-on-root-and-soil-of-flowers-top-view Even a drought tolerant plant needs to have plenty of water as it is planted and trying to establish itself.  Do not ignore any newly placed plant.  Those little rootlets will dry out very quickly, and stunt, or kill your plant.  Keep any new plant well hydrated until it’s well established.  Also, we have to remember that although the plants are drought TOLERANT, that doesn’t say they are able to live through extended periods of severe drought.  If that happens, even the most drought tolerant of plants will need a little drink.  Here is a site that will help you deal with an extended period of drought.

These plants should have well drained, and organic rich soil.  img_5553This is a wonderful advantage we have here at Horizon House.  We have raised beds, with wonderful, rich soil and good drainage (especially after our new drainage systems have been installed).

One of the most important things you can do to support your plants is to provide as much mulch as possible.  It will keep the ground cool and hold that moisture in.  It will also reduce the number of weeds that will compete for water.  In our garden beds, weeds are not a huge problem, but it is worth thinking about.

Our drip irrigation system is wonderful.  It provides water to the roots, rather than to the air where it dries out too quickly.  It also is activated in the early morning, which is the very best time, as the heat of the day(which might dry it out) has not been reached as yet.

Here’s a connection to my old blog (North Country Maturing Gardener) from New Hampshire that talks about Xeriscaping or the use of drought tolerant landscaping.  It talks about many of the ideas we are dealing with here today.

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