Happy Winter Solstice!

It’s the shortest day of the year, but I am happy in the knowledge that every day from here on out will bring more and more sunshine!

I hope you enjoy the winter solstice and celebrate it in a festive fashion!

I have a confession–

Lettuce, radicchio and basil starts under lights, Winter Solstice 2011

I have baby-sized basil, lettuce and radicchio growing under lights in the basement.  This gardening stuff is like an addiction, is it not?  Ever the gardening optimist am I.  I’ve already re-potted it up into four inch pots, and from there they’ll go into one-gallon-size pots.  We’ll see what comes of it–hopefully some useable comestables in the bleak winter months.

I’ve already got my eye on early spring as well . . .

Pelargonium hanging out under lights, Winter Solstice 2011

Pink and green will figure prominently after the Winter holidays around the house.  They will spend the winter and spring indoors under lights and in good natural light throughout the house, and then come May they will go back to their rightful spot in my hanging baskets and containers out in the garden.  These are the Energizer Bunny of flowers–they bloom all year long if you water and fertilize them.

If you like, leave a comment.

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Hummingbird Plants

I have had a great deal of amusement around here lately by watching the hummingbirds feeding on the summer flowers.

I’ve tried to make it a point to have something flowering each season that the hummingbirds like.  Right now, in warm (!) August, they are relishing the:

  • nasturtiums
  • petunias
  • pelargonium, also commonly known as geranium
  • liatris
  • Jupiter’s Beard
  • verbena bonariensis
  • butterfly bushes

At the moment, what we have are Anna’s hummingbirds in the area.  We’ve got two or three that always stop by and hang out in our garden.  I use a combination of plants that produce hummingbird nectar flowers, plus I have a hummingbird feeder, in order to entice them to come to the garden. 

Here are a few tips to get hummingbirds to stop by your garden for a visit:

  • Set up a feeder.  I’ve had the best luck with a wide-mouth feeder made of glass, because it’s durable and much easier to clean than some of the ones that have a tiny opening.  My feeder has red plastic on it where the hummingbirds can sit to feed.
  • Hummingbird food you can easily make yourself.  Put one cup of sugar and four cups of water in a pot, bring to a boil, cover and boil for 5 minutes.  Let it cool, and I then like to line a funnel with a paper coffee filter and I pour the solution through it to filter it, and store it in a glass container with a lid in your refrigerator.  You do not have to add red food coloring to it; in fact, it is better for the birds if you don’t.
  • Although hummers are attracted to the color red, it does not have to be in their liquid nectar.  Instead, the bird feeders often have red on them, and this will help.  You can grow red flowers that they like nearby, like pelargonium and Jupiter’s Beard, or you can simply tie some plastic red bows from outdoor Christmas decorations nearby the feeder to help attract them.  They will go after any tubular-shaped flower, which is their key criteria, no matter what color or size it is.  They are not attracted by fragrant plants, but you might see them dining on those with tubular-shaped flowers.
  • Change out your hummingbird food, and clean the feeder, at least a couple of times a week in cooler weather, and up to daily in really hot weather, or else you can make the birds sick if the sugar water ferments and goes bad in the high heat.
  • Place the feeder nearby something that the hummingbirds can perch on and find shelter.  Birds do not like eating out in the open, so if you provide a plant with some foliage where they can go and hide in between feeding, it helps to attract them to your feeder.   In my garden, I have an espaliered belgian fence of apple and pear trees, and we have it strung with an orchard wire frame.  They eat at the feeder or flowers, and then zoom over to the trees and perch on the wire–just the right size for their claws–or in a nearby large butterfly bush.
  • Provide the birds shelter plants.  Hummingbirds like to nest in arborvitae, and so I have several growing in the back and front yards.
  • If you can provide water, this also helps.  The hummingbirds like a mist of sprinkling water, so a small fountain can work well in this regard.  In a regular birdbath, don’t fill it more than one-half of an inch deep, or it will be too deep for these little guys.
  •  This year I grew two types of nasturtiums that worked very well.  If you want a spreading variety, which is a great choice for filling up a hanging basket inexpensively and fast, try the ‘Tall Climbing Single Mix’ and for a more compact version, the ‘Gleam Mix’ nasturtiums.  I got mine from Pinetree Garden Seeds for $1.35 per package, the cheapest I found them anywhere, and they had a very good germination rate–quality seeds.  Find them at www.superseeds.com

I have not been able to get a good picture, because they are so fast, but I will describe to you what I see nearly every morning out of our bedroom glass door that overlooks the back yard:  I look at the large nasturtium bed that grows on either side of a blue and white old gate that I use as a trellis-support structure for the nasturiums.   So, while I’m looking at the nasturtiums, I see the large green leaves start to shake.  I look up at the trees, and they are not moving, so there is no wind.  I look back again, and see a tiny hummingbird zooming in and out of the nasturtium vines, going in for nectar and insects on the bright flowers.  The leaves are much larger than the bird, so he has to get right in there to reach the flowers.  He next goes around to all the hanging baskets and feeders that contain yet more nasturtiums and petunias.  Both flowers are hummingbird favorites.  He finally finishes by lapping up (hummingbirds have tongues), nectar from the many pelargoniums that also grow in the baskets and containers.  They drink for around thirty or so seconds, and then they go away to rest for a minute or so, and repeat the process. 

If you have more than one Anna’s hummingbird around, they may battle each other for domination over the food.  It helps to spread your hummingbird food plants and feeders out around your property, rather than clustering them all in one spot, to avoid squabbles and so everyone has a chance to feed unhampered. 

You don’t need a lot of room to have a great hummingbird feeding/gardening area–I have a friend with a tiny balcony on his apartment that attracts the little birds with his feeder and some of the annuals that he grows in containers.  The birds really appreciate finding these feeding havens in city areas where it’s more difficult for them to find food and shelter.  You can easily grow hanging baskets with nothing more than nasturtiums, and you would get a good result, or add petunias and pelargoniums to make for a fuller display.  Nasturtiums will grow in even tiny containers if you keep them watered and fertilized.  Case in point”

This is a little wire container with a flat back that I picked up last year at Goodwill for one dollar.  It is approximately 12 inches long and about 4 inches wide and deep.  I lined it with a little piece of leftover burlap from the hanging baskets, and then lined the burlap with a little piece of clear plastic with no holes in it, filled it with potting soil and hung it from two little nails that I nailed into the top rail of the fence.  Planted smaller ‘Gleam’ nasturium, and this is the result.  It adds inexpensive and bright flowers at around eye level as you walk through this narrow area on the side of the house, but it also provide a little extra food for the hummingbirds.  A little chicken garden art hangs next to it, and there is a large flowering jasmine vine with white flowers on the other side, which provides a resting spot for the hummers in between feeding.

That’s all from me–do you have hummingbirds in your garden?  What plants are they eating from now?  Any gardening tips to attract hummingbirds to the garden that you have used?  Do share in the comments–I love hearing from you.  And visit the Garden Party.


Mid-Summer Flowers At Minerva’s Garden

I thought you might enjoy an update on some of the flowers that are blooming right now in my garden.  This is just a tiny sampling, but a few of the ones that are very noticeable and showy.

First, the calla lilies . . .

Yellow calla lily

This yellow calla is really tall–close to three feet.  There is a fragrant white star jasmine in bloom behind it, and golden creeping jenny in the foreground as the groundcover.  A pelargonium I started from seed back in February is in bud but not yet in bloom and sharing the container.

A closeup of the leaf . . .

One calla lily leaf

What a glorious leaf–can you imaging a single huge leaf in a modern-looking geometric glass vase for a formal dinner party?

Here is a pink calla lily.

Pink calla lily

This one is in a huge pond liner that I turned into a gigantic container, and it is engulfed by shares space with blue borage, which the bees adore, as well as nasturtiums.

Calla lilies are easy to grow, and you can save them over from year to year.  Because our weather has been cold in winter lately, I bring the tubers indoors for the winter, and start them in one-gallon pots indoors under lights in March to prepare them for planting outside in mid-May.  Water daily as needed, and Miracle Gro once a week throughout the summer, and they do great.

Now for some snapdragons.

Cherry snapdragon

I just think the color of this one is so amazing–such a bright, happy cherry color that screams “Summer is here!”  I started these from seed back in February, and then planted them outdoors in mid-May.  I have upright blue-grey Russian sage growing in the background, and Jupiter’s Beard in the same shade growing around it.

Here are snaps in white . . .

White snapdragon

I love the clean, crisp look of this flower, and especially like it with a background of grey-toned weathered wood behind it.  My hope is that both of these beauties will reseed in the garden and come back next year, as snapdragons sometimes will for me.

Here is a pretty combination:

'Double Lavender(?)' pelargonium, white yarrow and nasturtiums

I grew the pelargonium, commonly and confusingly known as geranium, from seed back in February.  The seeds are teeny tiny, and they came 10 seeds for three dollars–needless to say, you don’t want to try planting these in a wind storm or sneeze at the wrong moment!  However, they had a super germination rate, and I ended up with many new pelargoniums for my containers.  Although listed as ‘Double lavender,’ these look a decidedly baby pink to me, but I am still happy with them.  I like pelargoniums–you can bring them inside at the end of the growing season, pot them up in one-gallon containers, grow them under lights and have flowers all winter long!  One trick is to water them, in the winter months when they live indoors, only once every two weeks, and Miracle Grow them at the same rate.  I have some that are going on eight years old doing this!

Other summer flowers include zinnias and dahlia.

2 'State Fair Mixed' zinnias and an 'Arabian Nights' dahlia

I love this color combination of  shades of pinks with deeper burgundy–one of my mom’s favorites as well.  The zinnias I started from seed indoors in February,and the dahlia is a new one to me.  I potted it up indoors in mid-March, grew it under lights, and planted it outside in mid-May.  These are all growing in full sun in containers in my rooftop garage garden.  I adore these hues with the grey cedar fence background–so pretty.

Another look at different colored zinnias . . .

Bright 'State Fair Mixed' zinnias with blue tea cart

I love bright colors in the garden as well!  And it’s a good thing, because at this time of year the pastels are usually fading, and the flowers are turning brighter shades, mostly in order to attract bees so that the flowers can reproduce and then die.  Those bright colors help to attract the bees, so that the life cycle continues.  All I know is, the flowers are gorgeous–look at all that orange-red with the blue(!) and the bees are happy!

More zinnias . . .

'State Fair Mixed' zinnias

Wouldn’t you like to use these bright colors on your table for an outdoor party or dinner?  Imagine a green tablecloth with bright pink and orange blooms, and blue dishes?  Or blue and white print tablecloth, with white dishes and the bright flowers?  Stunning–get thee to a second-hand store and pick up fun dishes!  Many possibilities . . .

What flowers are blooming for you now in the middle of summer–leave me a comment below, because I love to hear from you and what is going on in your garden!

You can also join the Garden Party.

 

Consider The Bush Morning Glory

I enjoy using a mix of annuals and perennials, as well as annuals that tend to reseed and come back each year, in my containers and hanging baskets.  There is one plant that my mother grows in her garden, and I have also grown it in mine that I’d like to recommend to you, and that is the Bush Morning Glory.  You usually won’t find these plants available for sale at a gardening center, and thus you will likely need to start the seed inside yourself, but it is not hard to do.  I buy my seeds from Renee’s Garden, a seed line that is usually available from Portland Nursery locally, or else you can purchase them online.  The particular variety of bush morning glory is called ‘Royal Blue Ensign’.

This year, I started my bush morning glory seeds indoors in Sunshine organic seed starting mix, under lights, on February 15th, and the seed germinated on February 22nd.  I grew the seedlings on under lights, giving them a half-strength feeding of Miracle Grow every couple of weeks or so.  I hardened them off in a protected spot starting on May 7th.  They were ready to plant outside in my containers at a small transplant stage by May 15th.  I saw my first beautiful blooms on them by June 24th. 

I love the brilliant royal blue, with the bright yellow and crisp white in the throat area–it sets a very nautical tone, and thus the name.  Here it grows alongside a little daisy-like feverfew, which echos its colors and diminutive size of bloom.

Here it is in a grouping of containers:

It snuggles in nicely with a red-with-green-edged coleus and nasturtium foliage in the back container, more feverfew, fern, a black mondo grass, and a ‘Midnight Reiter’ hardy geranium with my beloved chocolate foliage and lavender flower.

This is an annual that could work in a number of different color arrangements–imaging it flowing out of a pristine white urn, for example, or giving  patriotic flair to a bright red squatty container.  It could be used in containers set around a patio or balcony with a beachy theme–imaging it in a bright container near a water setting, like a lakeside cabin or even placed around a water feature.  All beautiful, and so is this favorite of annuals! 

Do you grow this annual in your garden, or remember seeing it in another garden?  How is your garden and containers growing this year–I’d love to hear in the comments.  And visit the garen party.

 

Down The Garden Path

Sorry I haven’t been posting as much as I usually do–I took a spill down some cement stairs and did a number on my foot, so I’ve been out of commission for a while.  However, I got out to the garden today, and snapped a few photos for your enjoyment.  Come with me, if you will, down the garden path . . .

The roses have made a grand appearance (just in time for Portland’s Rose Festival):

‘Phylis Bide’ repeat-blooming rambling rose dresses up the entrance to our home.

“I’m ready for my closeup, Mr. DeMille . . .”

Graham joins the party . . .

‘Graham Thomas’, a David Austin rose, on a blue arbor.  And in for the closeup . . .

As you can see, I have a thing for cabbage roses.

And now . . .

The thornless climber, ‘Zephrin Drouhin’.

I love that this rose does not scratch my arms to smithereens when I prune it.

This is a lovely single-blooming climbing rose that my mom gave to me.  I have no idea of its name or origins, but I can tell you that it is a very tough customer–it survives my parent’s zone 4b climate and thrives there.

And now hail to the chief . . .

‘Mr. Lincoln’, to be precise. 

Farther down the garden path . . .

A vibrant, summer blue delphinium with allium heads about to bloom nearby.

Persian Jewels in a pathway consisting of gravel and bear-paw metal stepping stones left by previous owners.

Three sisters, probably a singing trio like the Garland Sisters, the Boswell Sisters, or the Andrews Sisters, holding court in the golden creeping  jenny.

‘Romantika’ clematis gets in the mood with Golden Hops.

Getting tired?  We can sit for a bit . . .

Just the place to be for flower and bird watching.

Is it time already?  As the lyricist said, ” Ah well, we’ll catch up some other time.”

The garden fairy says goodbye.

 


Hardening Off Flower Starts

You may recall that I started flower and vegetable seeds indoors under lights back in February and March, and now the flowers are about ready to go outside and find their way into my hanging baskets and containers for this growing season.  There is a step that has to be done prior to planting those baby plants out, however, and that is hardening them off. 

Here are some of the flower starts inside:

This is a tray full of:  Zinnia ‘State Fair Mix’ and ‘Giant Lime’, along with Coleus ‘Black Dragon’ and ‘Rainbow Mix’, as well as a ‘Sunset Wizard’.  I started these seeds indoors from February 16th to March 1st in 4″ pots, and they are now filling the pots and are ready to go through the hardening off process.  (Where we live, I like to plant my baskets and containers by May 15th, so this is the right time to start the flower seeds so that the plants are ready to go into the outdoor containers on time.)  So far, these plants have been living the lush life indoors, with consistently warm temperatures and even moisture provided by me.  If I was to just go and plant them outside now, they would likely go through a great deal of transplant shock, which would stunt their growth and either kill them outright or weaken them considerably.

Instead, what I am doing is that every day, I put my trays of seedings outdoors in a protected spot:

  This way, they will have a chance to get used to cooler temperatures, and deal with coping under a little rain and gentle breezes.  This particular spot gives them partial shade and cover from strong winds, which helps to protect them and helps them make the transition to outdoor living a little easier without stressing the plants too much.   The weather has been cool and overcast, which is good weather for hardening off plants because it reduces stress on them as well.  They tend to dry out faster outdoors, so they do require a watchful eye to give them water as needed, so they don’t wilt.  Over the course of a week or two, I take them outside in the morning and bring them inside in the evening, and eventually I leave them outside for longer periods of time and expose them to sunshine (that is, if we ever get any here), culminating in their having a sleep-over outside, all night long for the last day or two of the hardening-off process.  When I leave them outside overnight, I usually put them on this cement area, which will conduct a little solar heat and make it a bit warmer for them than if I put the tray directly on the ground.  (Also the slugs have a harder time getting to them on cement because they first have to go up the stairs, another benefit.)  Once they can get through that, they are ready to plant in my awaiting containers and baskets. 

Those with good eyesight may have seen that I have a couple of tomato starts in with this bunch that I am hardening off.  You are right–I have a couple of early producing  ‘Gardeners’ Delight’ cherry tomatoes that I am going to plant outdoors in a couple of weeks, but because it’s still really too cold for these sun-lovers, they will be swaddled in Wall O’Waters and plastic around them as well.  (Can you tell that I am really hungry for the first tomatoes of the year?)  If the weather is not too uncooperative, it will give us some tomatoes a couple of weeks earlier than normal, a good reward for getting through this wet and cold spring!

That’s it from me–what is new in your garden?  Drop me a line in the comments if you wish!  And visit the Garden Party.


Early Gardening Activities For February

I got my vegetable and flower seeds ordered and bought last week.  I normally do this in person, but circumstances this year did not allow for that, so I ordered almost all online.  I ordered from Territorial Seed, Johnny’s, and I am trying Pinetree based on their great prices as well as Jami’s word of recommendation at An Oregon Cottage.  They have a glorious selection of coleus seed, and I went a little crazy with that, but I should have some really gorgeous hanging baskets and containers this year, because I could get seeds that had been sorted into individual colors rather than mixes–I cannot wait!  I will be starting flower seeds around Valentine’s Day, so they’ll be ready to transplant in the middle of May.  I was actually a little late apparently getting my order in at Johnny’s, because they had already run out or had backorders for a couple of the seeds I wanted, but I was able to get my second choices, so it all worked out.  They are really expensive for their shipping costs, but they are also the only place I know to get ‘Nadia’ eggplant seed (a must-have for me because it grows well here, or rather, as well as any eggplant grows here), and they were cheaper in certain instances than Territorial.  I had to figure out the seed cost on a per seed basis (I was seeing double by the end of that mathematical experience), and sometimes Johnny’s was cheaper and sometimes Territorial.  (If you buy a lot of seed, the cost adds up very quickly.  All those packets look so innocent, and you think,”Well, it’s only a couple of dollars.” but it ends up being a lot of money if you are not careful.)  It’s best to get all your seed in the spring, because seed is not always available later in the season, so it always seems expensive to me, but when you consider how much food and flowers it will produce, it’s actually much cheaper than other options, like buying transplants from a nursery.

I got a few little jobs accomplished yesterday out in the garden.  First, I started a little bit of onion, lettuce and spinach seed inside under grow lights to get a few transplants to go outside under plastic in March.  Today I started sprouting my early ‘Dark Red Norland’ seed potatoes inside under lights, as those will be planted out later around the first weekend in April, depending on the weather.  You can read how to do it here.

Next, I moved on to the flower beds.  Slugs are always around, and so I took Sluggo and put it around all my emerging bulb foliage, the hostas, tradscantia and hellebores.  (That’ll fix ’em .)  I then picked the dead leaves off of my ‘Asao’ and ‘Louise Rowe’ clematis vines.  The weather has been fairly warm here, and many of the clematis and roses are starting to break dormancy, so there was a lot of new growth on both.  (The fruit trees and hydrangeas are also beginning to break dormancy as well.)  Now they look a lot neater.  I tied them back into position, so they are all ready to go.

I then noticed the curb strip was looking a little worse for wear, so I went down and cut down dead foliage, and raked up leaves that had caught around the plant crowns.  I used those leaves to mulch nearby flower beds, so that worked out well.

After that, I picked a little mustard greens, arugula and swiss chard that had wintered over under plastic in the garden!  Made greens and feta with penne pasta for dinner with some of it. 

I have yellow crocus and winter aconite blooming–so pretty.  My snowdrops have been blooming for a couple of weeks now, and the winter jasmine is in gorgeous display.  ‘Arnold Promise’ Chinese witch hazel is blooming, but it had a lot of the flower buds blasted by freezing temperatures early this winter, so not so many flowers this time around.  The ‘Texas Scarlet’ flowering quince is about to bloom.  There are even one or two blooms on the forsythia, very early.  And the viburnum continue to bloom off and on–they got their buds frozen late last year, so fewer blooms there, but more appear as the weather warms.  The ‘ Tuscan Blue’ rosemary has also been blooming for a couple of weeks, but much more now as the weather warms.  The rosemary is situated right in front of our dining room windows, and the hummingbirds are often out there eating from the rosemary flowers!

Hope your garden is doing well–leave me a comment and let me know what you are doing in yours.

Please visit An Oregon Cottage for The Garden Party.

Reblooming Amarylis and Autumn Decorations

In Southwest Washington, for the most part, we are settling in to a rainy and fairly warm weather pattern.  With the exception of lettuce and a few other salad and cooking greens that are growing under plastic and hoops, the vegetable garden is done for the winter, at least outdoors anyway.  I have tomatoes that I picked earlier in the season that are still ripening inside nicely, so we do get to still have some wonderful fresh tomatoes on salads and sandwiches on occasion.  I am still working on cleaning up garden beds, weeding and getting them covered with plastic, but no real rush, so that can happen the next time we have a break in the rain.

I continue to feed the birds.  They are enjoying the black oil sunflower seed and hummingbird nectar, along with nectar from a few surprisingly hardy plants that are still blooming, such as the viburnum, borage, verbena bonariensis, glossy abelia and the start of the ‘Tuscan Blue’ rosemary.  The coleus are also still blooming (!), and the hummers feed away on their columns of tiny flowers, as they do from nasturtium flowers that are growing in containers and hanging baskets.  Some of the verbena bonariensis has also gone to seed, and the little birds attach themselves to the flowers to eat seeds.

I grew Rouge Vif d’Entemps pumpkins, also known as Cinderella pumpkins again this year.  The results are adorning the front steps to the house.  I’ve paired them with containers in blue with yellow grasses and sedums.  Because they are living under a covered stoop area that is warmer than just being out in the garden, this tends to keep the containers alive all year, so there is a little something fresh outdoors that is fun to look at.

Here is a little indoor flower arrangement I did for Halloween.

I also potted up paperwhites on November 7th in a large clay pot, watered the soil, and then put the pot in the dark garage.  It will stay there until December, when green shoots will appear, and then I will bring it into the house and eventually it will bloom.  If they are started by Nov. 7th, they will usually be in bloom by Christmas and Solstice.  If you plant them now, they will still bloom after the holidays, giving you something wonderful to look forward to after the holidays are done.

 

                                                                                                        Paperwhites in bloom from last year.

I started, at the beginning of November, to start watering and feeding my amarylis bulbs, which are inside in bright sun-facing windows in the house.  Here is a little recap for you from last year on how to get the amarylis bulbs you buy now and have bloom this winter, rebloom next year:

Growing amaryllis indoors is a great way to have luxurious, large flowers indoors during the drab winter months.  It’s actually fairly easy to get them to rebloom year after year.  Here are the steps if you are starting out now with a new bulb, which typically go on sale at hardware and department stores as well as gardening centers sometime in the month of November.

1.  Plant the bulb.  The bulbs like snug containers, and the pointy top 1/3 of the bulb needs to be above the soil level in the pot.  The little plastic pots that come with the bulb that you purchase have no drain holes, so you will not need a saucer beneath them, but you also have to water carefully so you do not waterlog the bulbs.  Water so it’s moist but not soggy, and place the pot in a sunny window.

2.  Continue to water and fertilize with a complete organic fertilizer every two weeks after planting.  Eventually leaves will sprout from the bulb, and a thick stem will emerge, from which the flower head will grow.  With a smaller bulb, this may or may not happen the first year, but should as the bulb matures.  I have read that for every five leaves on the bulb, you will get one flower stalk.  My younger bulbs have bloomed with as few as three leaves.  My bulbs are not mature enough to have more than five leaves at this point, but we will see if this is true as time goes on.

3.  After the bulbs have bloomed, hopefully around or just after the winter holidays,  continue to water and fertilize every other week all winter, and through the spring and summer.  In the summer, if you wish, you may move the pots outdoors in a protected spot like a porch  in July when it warms up, but they also do well hanging out indoors in front of a sunny window.

4.  In the beginning of September, stop fertilizing the pots, and cut way back on watering.  You want them to dry out a bit, but not die from lack of water.  Very little is needed.  Foliage may wither and die at this point, and that is fine–simply use a scissors and cut off any unsightly browned foliage as it occurs.  If the pots were outside for the summer, in the beginning of  September bring them back inside to their sunny window.    Keep the pots barely moist and no fertilizer for the months of September and October.

5.  Starting in the beginning of November, resume watering and fertilizing every other week, and keep them in a sunny window.  This will help to wake up the bulbs, and they should start eventually to send out new foliage and flower stems.

Another note:  The flower stems can get very tall, and so I like to keep very slender stakes, even a thin skewer or chopstick can work, and slide them into the pot and use twine or even ribbon to tie the stem to the stake, so that it doesn’t break.  I had a cat knock one over, and the stem was hanging over.  I  used scotch tape to wrap around the stem and stake to get the damaged stem back up into an upright position, and it actually bloomed, but your mileage may vary.

That’s all there is to it–as you can see, a very easy process.  You can place plain pots together in decorative baskets found very inexpensively at thrift stores, and cover the top with Spanish moss to hide the pots, making a lovely holiday decoration for your home.

‘Appleblossom’ amarylis about to bloom last year.

‘Appleblossom’ in bloom.

Stop by the Oregon Cottage Garden Party for more fun gardening posts!


Make A Hanging Basket From Scratch

With annuals on sale, and with seeds and those you have grown yourself or wintered over, now is the perfect time to make your own hanging basket from scratch.  It is much cheaper to make your own–I ended up with four baskets for the price I would have paid for purchasing a single basket, so that worked for me.

I learned how to make baskets from a garden talk given by April Yarder, who has created the gorgeous hanging baskets that decorate downtown Camas.

You will need a few supplies.  I try to reuse from year to year as much as possible, to save money on this project:

  • hanging basket
  • burlap (You can buy this at a hardware store)
  • scissors for cutting burlap and plastic
  • clear plastic for baskets that will hang in the sun; black plastic for shade baskets
  • annuals (some I bought, some wintered over in my garden, and some I started from seed inside earlier this year)
  • seeds (trailing nasturtiums, whatever else you like)
  • potting soil
  • gardening gloves to protect your hands

1.  Cut burlap and plastic to fit your basket, making sure that the burlap and plastic will really go down into all the corners of the basket.  Then line the basket with the burlap first, and tie the corners of the burlap to the top metal ring of the basket.  My burlap is pretty old and I should replace it, but I didn’t have time to do so this time around, and frankly when the plants fill in it doesn’t show at all, so I was not too worried about it.

2.  Then line the basket with clear plastic.  You will want to fold the corners under, so that they do not show when the basket is filled with soil.  The plastic is used to help the basket retain water–do not poke any holes in the plastic.  You will not waterlog or rot the roots in this type of growing situation.  Most baskets dry out too quickly, so this is the reason for the plastic.

3.  Add potting soil to the basket.  I reuse my potting soil from year to year.  I do not waste money on fancy potting soils, because it simply makes no difference in how well the plants grow.  After the first 5 to 10 times that you water the basket or it gets rained on, any nutrients from that soil will have been washed out.  After that, the plants in the basket are completely dependent on you to provide them with fertilizer for their food.  This is one reason why baskets are high maintenance.  But it’s worth it, because they are beautiful!

The soil should be formed so that it creates a well in the center, and a very firm rim around the upper lip.  The rim helps to keep the water inside the basket from running out when you water it.  I use my hands and grab handfuls of soil from the center of the basket and then squash it up at the rim with both hands, moving the basket to the side to form more of the rim, until I have worked my way all around the basket.  Keep adding soil as needed.  The rim needs to be really firm, or you will have problems watering the basket for the whole rest of the growing season, so do not skimp on this part.

4.  Add the plants.

There are three types of plants that you will use, and this terminology comes from Fine Gardening magazine–thrillers, fillers and spillers.  Thrillers are the tallest plants that will be featured in the center of the basket.  Fillers fill in the spaces in the middle of the basket around the thriller, and spillers are trailing plants that will fill in the lower parts of the hanging basket.  You basically alternate fillers and spillers around the rim of the basket, and they are planted horizontally, with the rootballs touching each other in the well that is in the center of the basket.  Don’t be afraid to plant them tight–remember, you are feeding the plants fertilizer, so this is a whole different thing than proper spacing if you are growing them in a garden bed.  Leave a little room in the center for the thriller’s root ball, and the thriller will be planted last in a normal vertical position.  After the plants are in place, fill in with more potting soil any little holes that remain in the basket.  Make sure all the rootballs are thoroughly covered with potting soil.

The plants that I used for this basket include fillers of  purple petunias, orange and red marigolds (purple and orange are opposite each other on the color wheel, so they help to make each other’s colors really pop in the basket) and feverfew that was growing out in the garden, plus a pelargonium, common name geranium, that features yellow and red leaves and the flower, when it blooms, is violet as the thriller.   Spillers are Golden Creeping Jenny, which winters over in my garden and is a ground cover that also trails out of containers nicely, and ‘Cambridge Blue’ lobelia that I started myself from seed–a gorgeous light sky blue flower.  All of these work fine for a basket that will live in a full-sun spot.  This is the fun in growing hanging baskets–you can play around with the flower choices endlessly to get different looks, so pick your favorite plants!

5.  Finally, add some seeds to the basket.  April recommends that you place two nasturtium seeds at the base of each rootball of the fillers and spillers that you plant in the basket.  I play around with the depth of the seed placement, because I find that they need to be planted a little more shallowly so they germinate.  Anyway, add some nasturtium seeds, which will also help to fill out the basket nicely when they germinate and finally flower.

6.  Hang your basket up where it will live, and then carefully water it until water starts to drip out.  Each time you water, make sure to give it enough water so that it starts to drip out of the basket.

That’s all there is to it.  To maintain the basket, water every day that it does not significantly rain, and once the plants reach the stage where they are overhanging the rim of the basket, fertilize with Miracle Grow once a week throughout the growing season.  Deadhead the flowers to keep them flowering.  The petunias will need deadheading mostly in this arrangement.

I have pictures to add to this, but Comcast and WordPress are conspiring against me this morning, so I will come back later and see if I can get them to upload.  (Update:  Actually, it was Firefox conspiring against me this time.  I am discovering that you don’t have to be smart to troubleshoot computer issues, just have to think like a computer.)

Leave a comment if you like–what plants are in your hanging baskets this year?  Do you make your own baskets or purchase them?  I’d love to hear from you!

Morning Glory in Bloom!

My late-planted ‘Heavenly Blue’ morning glory are in bloom now, and look gorgeous climbing up a metal tuteur and a blue and white gate that I use in one of my vegetable beds. Every year, I have darker purple morning glory that reseed, and they are lovely now as well. Really nice if you have something yellow and purple nearby, because the blue of the morning glory is such a striking sky blue color!