Autumn Color At Minerva’s Garden

I walked around the garden yesterday and took a few pictures.  It is getting later and colder in the year, and yet we still have a lot of flowers in bloom.  I’ll show you what I mean, starting with light colors and working toward deeper hues:

Viburnum in October

Fuschia in October

I love these white flowers with just a flush of light pink–so pretty.  Now here are some in slighter deeper shades:

Glossy Abelia with pink blooms and 'Lochinch' butterfly bush in October

Pink hollyhock in October

I like the pink and grey colors together.  Now a little more color saturation and moving into the yellows, golds and oranges:

Nasturtiums and dahlias in October

Yellow hollyhock in October

And a little comic relief:

Forsythia in October--what?

The forsythia decided it must be March, and shot out a few blossoms!  I’ll take ’em whenever I can get ’em!

Okay, back to business.  Some yellow to gold tones in evergreen foliage:

'Rheingold' dwarf evergreen conifer in October

 

Another gold dwarf evergreen conifer in October

 

And some yellow to gold deciduous leaf color:

Chinese Witch Hazel 'Arnold Promise' starting to turn yellow in October

 

Pergola covered with golden 'Einset' grape leaves in October

 

Now moving into some cooler shades–sometimes there are plants that combine warm and cool colors in fruit and foliage, such as:

Beauty berry in October

The beautyberry is surrounded by winter jasmine foliage.

This next vine has finally matured enough to really come into its own.  I speak of:

Ampelopsis vine with turquoise and purple berries in October

 

Ampelopsis in a different light

I am so in love with this vine–I adore turquoise and purple in a plant!  The only other one that I know of that combines these two colors as well, but not in bloom at the moment, is:

Cerinthe major 'Purpurescense'

I love this plant so much, and so do the hummingbirds!  This was taken in May, if I remember correctly.

Anyway, back to October color.  As long as we’ve introduced cooler colors, here is:

Ceratostigma plumbago in October

I am sorry this picture does not do this plant justice, because it is so beautiful now.  I love the deep burgundy stems, dark green leaves with a touch of burgundy around the edges, and then these wonderful deep blue flowers.  Here is another shot:

Dward plumbago in October

This was a hard plant to get situated properly in my garden–I ended up moving it three or four times until I finally put it here on the walkway toward the kitchen door.  It now seems to be happy.

More purple:

Morning glory and verbena bonariensis in October

 

Clematis 'Haku Oakan' reblooming in October

 

And onto the sprightly shades of orange-red and red:

Hybrid tea rose 'Camelot' buds in October

 
 

Hibiscus 'Sweet Caroline' blooming away in October

 
 

Jupiter's Beard in October--a hummingbird favorite! The golden marjoram and daylily foliage in the background help to set off these red flower clusters.

 
 

Zinnias 'State Fair Mix' with raspberries in the background in October

 
 
And even deeper red:
 

Blueberry 'Herbert' with striking red foliage in October

 

 I love how blueberry plants look this time of year–such gorgeous color.  Now on to some of the deepest shades in the garden:

 

Red raspberries and dark purple/black Aronia berries in October

 

A few red raspberries and those amazing Aronia berries.  I also love the foliage of this shrub–every day causes it to turn more red and orange–beautiful!

I could see color combinations from the flower garden and fruit garden being used indoors at this time of year–imagine deep purples and scarlets for a dramatic Thanksgiving table, for example.  Possibilities are endless–just get creative and find the inspiration that is all around you!

What is blooming for you now, and are you still eating from your garden?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

 

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September Garden Harvest

Just a quick post to show you what I picked out of the vegetable garden today:

We’ve had glorious hot weather for a bit now, and everything is ripening rather nicely.  I’ve got pictured a bunch of bush and runner beans.  This year I grew ‘Royal Burgundy’ bush beans, which are lovely and prolific, as well as ‘Scarlet Emperor’ and ‘Violet Podded Stringless’ runner beans (excellent hummingbird flowers, and then you get the beans, too!).  I planted them as seed outdoors on June 21st, and I finally picked them today and froze several bags.  Very easy to do–after you clean and cut the tips off, you boil them for 3 minutes at a rolling boil, and then drain and rinse with cold water to stop the beans from cooking any further.  Put in zip lock bags, being careful to remove as much air from the bag as possible (I take a straw and suck the extra air out of the bag–be careful when you do this so you don’t get lightheaded), and then label and pop them in the freezer.  If you want to learn more about preserving foods, I highly recommend the Ball Blue Book Guide To Preserving–a slim volume that gives clear instructions for safely canning and freezing just about anything you can imagine.  Also pictured are some ‘Harmonie’ pickling cukes, and a few ‘Green Slam’ slicing cukes.  Tomatoes are ‘Costoluto Genovese’, a ‘Gardeners’ Delight’ cherry tomato and the very first of the ‘Super San Marzano,’ which look like a larger Roma tomato.  Also the last handful of the ‘Oregon Sugar Pod II’ snow peas.  In the background of this picture is a yellow-cupped ‘Bill MacKenzie’ clematis, as well as some bright orange nasturtiums and a white fuschia.

I kept a small batch of the green beans out for dinner tonight.  Made a simple recipe that I got out of an old Bon Appetit magazine:  steam the beans, then rinse with cold water, drain and put in a large bowl.  Add a couple of chopped fresh tomatoes, some fresh basil, some feta to your taste, and then season with salt, pepper, olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  Mix and enjoy as a salad–so easy and wonderful with homegrown produce.

Hope you are enjoying a great harvest this year from your own garden, or are taking advantage of all the wonderful produce at your farmers’ markets now.  What are you cooking with your fresh veggis–I’d love to hear about it in the comments.  And visit the Garden 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.

 


Columbine, Clematis and Friends

I got my first columbine plants as pass-along plants from my mother’s garden when we first moved into our home.  I’ve never purchased a columbine plant; I have several now, and many have undergone changes over the years, so that there are variations on the original plants that I started with.  I don’t know the specific variety names of the columbine that I grow, but I do know that they are spectacular now in the garden.  They require no special care, make excellent cut flowers for flower arranging, and the hummingbirds adore them as a nectar plant.

Here are a few that I grow:

This one shares its spot in the garden with another pass-along plant that I got from a friend, a hardy geranium in bright pink.  I love this really deep, dark purple color, with the little spot of yellow in the center setting it off nicely.

Here’s a variation on purple:

This purple columbine has a white edge that is quite striking.  I don’t recall that the first ones I planted here had that white edge, and I think these have developed in this way over time, but I could be wrong about that.

Another type of purple:

I like this purple ruffled double columbine–it reminds me of antebellum dresses that were worn in Gone With The Wind!

And now for some pink:

I love this delicate shade of pink.

Some variations on a theme:

A pink columbine with the white edge, nestled among other columbine.

A grouping now:

I like them grouped together, to play up all of their subtle differences–they are interesting to look at.

Some other plants in bloom at the same time as the columbine in my garden:

This is clematis ‘Asao.’  It grows in a large container, along with a few annuals that I pop in with it during the spring.  This container receives morning sun and afternoon shade, and it gets watered as needed and fertilized twice a month, except right before it blooms and of course when it’s dormant in wintertime.  It has been growing happily here for several years. 

Other flower friends nearby:

The stately foxglove.  These were growing here when we moved into the house, and over the years I have transplanted them all throughout the gardens.  If you like a really tidy, formal garden, these may not be the plant for you, because they reseed freely, but they are not what I would call invasive–they are easy to pull up and plant them where you like, or just give away or compost the excess that you have.  But what a gorgeous flower–the bees and hummingbirds also really love this flower.  Sometimes in the summertime, I will find bumblebees asleep inside these large tubular flowers early in the morning, before they have warmed up enough to fly away!

A closer look at the amazing color variations inside these lovely foxgloves.  I have some that bloom in white, as well as a deeper rose color.

Purple bearded iris that were given to me by a neighbor, dark Anthriscus sylvestris ‘Raven’s Wing’ with the white Queen Anne’s Lace-type flowers, and gobs of sky blue forget-me-nots surrounding.

And finally, blooming away inside is . . .

Amarylis ‘White Christmas.”  (Kind of misnamed–this one always blooms for me in May, lately.) 

What is new and in bloom in your garden?  Do let me know in the comments, and visit An Oregon Cottage for 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.

Garden Update and Troubleshooting Guide

I am in Southwest Washington State, gardening zone 8, and until recently the weather has been extremely cold for this time of year and damp.  Last week, it shot up to 99 degrees.  The plants actually loved all that warm weather, as did I, although I was out watering vegetable beds twice a day to keep them going in the heat.  Here is a little guided tour of the vegetable beds:

The Cukes:

Now, I know you’re being polite, but you’re probably thinking to yourself, “That bed looks mighty empty.”  And I would concur.  This is due to my having to replant this bed three times before anything would grow.  I did chitted cuke seeds, which worked very well last year, twice, and twice they all died but the one bigger one at the bottom of the photo.  I then decided that I should plant plain old seeds in the 90 degree weather we had last week.  I kept the bed watered, which you typically are not supposed to do with cuke chitted seeds, and four days later all these babies appeared!  So now I have all salad slicing cukes, because I ran out of pickling cuke seed in all the replants, and they are about 2-3 weeks later than they should be.  Such is life in my vegetable beds this year.  And did I mention that I am a Master Gardener and have been through all the training, and have about ten+ years of vegetable growing experience under my belt?  So don’t feel bad if you have problems sometimes in your garden–we all do at one time or another!  The trick is to think like a detective and try to figure out how to fix it or do it better or differently next time to get a different result, hopefully a better one.  Also, notice I still have hoops and plastic in place–I cover this bed every night it is below 60 degrees or until the plants outgrow the hoop area.  Cukes, eggplant and peppers require it to be 60 degrees at night before they will set fruit and the fruit will mature, so if Mother Nature does not provide that for the plants, you need to do it for them.  This is one big reason why people can’t get eggplant and peppers to mature around here–it’s too cold and we have a short growing season because it takes forever for the temperatures to warm up at night in the spring (and this year in the summer until about last week).  The only way I’ve been successful with eggplant and peppers is to cover them at night, and then they produce well.  Usually.

The Eggplant, Peppers and Green Onions: (Voted Most Likely To Succeed)

 

So this bed looks a bit better than the last one.  To my eye, the plants are on the small side for this time of year, and that is purely due to cold temperatures for the entire month of June.  Also, I cannot for the life of me get green onions to germinate from seed outside.  I followed all of Steve Solomon’s tips, to no avail.  So I tried some thing different to get a different result–I started some seed inside under light, and transplanted the little guys out when they were big enough–about 4-5 inches tall.  They are doing alright, but they too would prefer some warmer weather.  No flowers yet on the eggplant (and they are a gorgeous lavender color!), but the peppers have a few flowers and baby peppers on them.  Now you may notice some leaf damage to the pepper plant in the corner.  Here is more of a close up of the damage to the leaves on some of the bigger peppers:

You see those holes and part of the leaves chewed off?  That is slug damage.  How do I know?  Experience gardening here–slugs are notorious for this, and I saw a huge slug on the inside of the plastic when I uncovered this bed today.  Remedy:  Pick the slugs off when you see them and smash them to bits with a rock.  Not the violent type like I am when I see a slug?  You can also put out beer traps and Sluggo.  A good and cheap slug trap is to get a clean and empty cottage cheese carton or a yogurt carton with a lid.  Use an exacto knife to carefully cut slug-sized holes in the upper side of the container(go slow and be careful–easy to cut yourself doing this–don’t ask how I know), then fill it with beer (don’t use non-alcoholic beer–it won’t attract the little devils–alcoholics all–don’t ask how I know), and then put the lid on it.  Dig a little hole in the dirt so the holes in your container are level with the soil line, and put the container in the hole.  Come back in a couple of days, and there should be drowned slugs in the container, which you can empty in the trash and refill with beer and replace.  Hey, at least they die happy.

The Beans:

They look pretty good–about where they ought to be for this time of year and when I planted them.  I have both bush beans and runner beans. 

The runner beans produce red and lavender flowers that the hummingbirds love, so I planted these right next to our pergola so we could see some hummers up close, and then from the flowers come the beans.  It doesn’t look like much at the moment, but it will soon be covered with bean vines and flowers, and eventually, beans for dinner and freezing.  I put garden twine on the outer edges of the trellis to provide more room for the outer bean plants to grow up.  Here’s a close up or two:

I use what I have to hold those strings taut in the dirt–a heavy wire u-shaped garden staple, or even tent stakes.  Tie your string on, and then use a mallet to drive them into the dirt.  Easy.  The beans will climb up those strings–you might have to point them in the right direction to give them a little help at first.

The bush beans are next to the peppers, so guess what I noticed is going on up there?

In the bottom-left corner of the photo you will see the telltale holes and unevenly chewed edges on a few of the leaves indicating slug damage.  And now you know what to do about that.  However, you will also notice that most of the plants are clean and look great, so this is a relatively small issue.  C’est la vie.  I may just sprinkle a little Sluggo around the chomped plant and call it good.

The Corn and Pumpkins: (Voted Best Body)

Just had room for one little bed, but they are doing as well as can be expected due to the colder weather we’ve had.  I would like these plants to be bigger (kind of a recurring theme with me, you’ve probably noticed), but the good news is that they are pest and disease free, which is great–a success story!

They would be happier with more sun and warmer weather.  (So would I. )  I probably should cover these with plastic, but I took it off because we had company over, and the plastic was pretty ugly.  Perhaps an excuse to get some better looking plastic.  Is there such a thing?  I could also cover them with row covers, but they are quite expensive to buy so plastic it probably will be.

The Tomatoes: 

They loved the warm weather last week, and shot up!  Still, very few have flowers yet, no green tomatoes yet.  I have one tomatillo at the end that has some flowers–yay!

This is about half of our tomato crop this year.  I hope we have a “crop”–come on warm weather!

Okay, I have kept the worst for last.  That honor goes to . . . (drum roll, please):

The Salad Greens and The Potatoes: (Mustard Greens voted Miss Congeniality)

I have had so much trouble with the salad beds this year, beds that ordinarily are really super easy to grow.  First off, could not get any lettuce seeds whatsoever to germinate outside.  I finally am starting some seed inside under lights so that I can transplant it out.  Next, I have planted the mustard greens that will not die.  Seriously.  We had a warm winter, and I started a bed very early, on Feb. 2nd, of course covered with plastic.  We had salad greens to eat for dinner in four weeks!  Only thing was, all the the cold-tolerant seeds that I had planted, like spinach, beets, arugula, swiss chard, etc., all had been overtaken by the mustard greens.  So I think to myself, not a problem, quit your whining, at least you have salad from the garden in March!  So then I started another bed in March with a variety of seed types, and guess what?  All mustard greens again.  The problem continues, but to a lesser extent now that the weather has warmed up a bit, and I have clued in.  I think what was going on is that I used my own homemade compost on the beds, and my guess is that I had composed mustard greens that had gone to seed, and the seed did not die but remained viable over the winter, and then when I added fertilizer to the bed, they said “Yippie!” and shot up, smothering the other plants.  I have been trying to be more scrupulous about keeping the beds weeded, but as you can see, I have a lot of beds, and I am the only gardener in the family, so I do my best to keep up, but in all honesty I hate weeding (don’t tell the Master Gardeners–they’ll excommunicate me), and it sometimes finds its way to the bottom of my gardening to-do list.  But I do love salad, and so I have been trying to mend my wicked ways.

(Notice the gigantic mustard green leering at them from the other bed.)  The rows need to be thinned, and I can take the thinned out ones and either replant them in all the empty rows that had lettuce seed in them, or I can put them in tonight’s salad.  A win-win situation.  And if I am going to be really on top of things, the old mustard greens that have now gone to seed?  I will cut off the flower and seed heads and those will go into the trash rather than the compost heap.

Now for the potatoes.  As readers of my blog know, I have been battling flea beetles out here all season.  Several factors led to this situation, the biggest one being a long cold and wet spring and summer until a couple of weeks ago.  Normally in the past, I have applied diatomaceous earth early when I first notice leaf pin hole damage on early growth, and that tends to get rid of them.  Then normally the weather warms up and the flea beetles are no longer a problem, because they tend to go after new growth on potatoes and tomatoes for me, but they get killed or are less interested in the older growth on plants.  Well, along came the Spring and Early Summer of Our Weather Discontent.  Because it stayed cold for so long, the flea beetles really dug in and caused a lot more damage than they normally do.  Thus the following pictures:

I did everything right in starting these potatoes.  I spaced them correctly(rows should be 36″ apart on the centers).  I started with certified clean seed potatoes from a reputable nursery(if you use potatoes that come from the grocery store, you run the risk of introducing the disease called scab into the soil, which is very hard to eradicate once there).  I used the appropriate fertilizer on the hills (which is complete organic fertilizer minus the dolomite lime, or four parts seed or alfalfa meal, one part bone meal and a half-part kelp meal.)  I planted them at the right time (when the minimun air temperature is at least 43-45 degrees and the minimum soil temperature is at least 39-41 degrees–I planted on April 20th, but could have done it even a couple of weeks earlier but was too busy).  As they grew I hilled them up properly, ending with hills that are about 10 inches tall and about 18 inches wide.  What more could a potato ask for?  Well, it could ask to not be devoured by flea beetles, apparently. 

The good news is that it was really hot last week, and I am hoping that put a damper on the flea beetles.  I also found out that diatomaceous earth will harm beneficial insects, so then I ran to the gardening center to find something that would work on organically grown vegetables that actually works.  I ended up with Captain Jack’s Dead Bug Brew.  This I sprayed on the tops and bottoms of the potato leaves and vines twice.  I think that, plus the warming weather, helped to stop the infestation.  I am seeing dark green leaves with almost no leaf damage now.  This stuff is not perfect, however, because it can kill bees for up to three hours after application.  The good news is that there are no bees around these plants because they have no flowers yet, so the bees were kept safe.  I am a little worried that there are no flowers yet–it seems pretty late in the growing season to not have flowers.  I guess time will tell with this bed.

I will be writing other posts soon about how to troubleshoot problems in your garden, so tune in frequently!

I don’t want this to be a complete gardening buzz-kill post, so here are some pictures I took this morning of pretty flowers and other plants.

Summer jasmine, dark purple ‘Jackmanii’ clematis and lighter lavender ‘General Sikorski’ clematis

This is ‘Niobe’ clematis reblooming.  If you keep this one deadheaded, and fertilize once a month, it will usually bloom through September.

This is the Garage Rooftop Garden.

Flowers and grasses and sedums.  Okay, I gotta confess–that green tall plant has a story.  Went to a plant sale, saw a plant, liked the plant, bought the plant.  Got plant home, realized it had no name tag, and I had forgotten the name of the plant on the drive home.  Solution:  Pot the plant up and get it to flower so that I can identify the plant.  (Sheesh, I hope no other Master Gardeners are reading this . . . excommunication here I come . . .)

A plant rack I got for $5 for a pair of them at a salvage yard (!), attached to the fence and filled with strawberry plants.  And do you know that slugs still occasionally find the fortitude to climb all the way up there?  (Dirty bastids . . .)

 My basil plant flotilla.  ‘Genovese’ basil.  The flower container is filled with coleus that I started from seed, a burgundy petunia, ‘Cambridge Blue’ lobelia that I started from seed, and Golden Creeping Jenny, Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’.

That’s all I got.  Please visit the Tuesday Garden Party for more gardening fun!

 


Clematis In Containers–Take Two

Update:  Many technical difficulties in the original post, so I am trying to post this again.  Thanks for your patience!

I wanted to share with you an article I wrote for a local small newspaper (no longer in business) when I was their garden writer.  My focus for this column was “Container Gardening,” and I came up with this topic one week.  All of the pictures were taken by me of clematis that I grow in my garden.  Enjoy!

Clematis ‘Louise Rowe’

Clematis is a diverse genus of flowering vines. While there are some monsters that will grow twenty to thirty feet of stems in one season, others will remain at a petite eight to ten feet tall and are suited for container gardening.

My favorite clematis expert is Portlander Linda Beutler, whose book Gardening with Clematis: Design and Cultivation is filled with terrific tips and tricks especially suited to Northwest gardeners for getting clematis to perform at their best. After reading her book and hearing her speak at gardening workshops at the Camas Public Library and Joy Creek Nursery, I decided to give container-grown clematis a try for myself.

To begin this gardening adventure, I started discovering plants that will thrive within the constraints of a container. I’ve had good luck so far with three large-flowered hybrids. The first is “Asao,” which has darkish pink blooms accented with lighter pink centers and which blooms early in the season, from the end of April until the end of May. Linda advises that if you sparingly prune off the dead ends and fertilize it at half strength right after it finishes its first bloom, it will often rebloom for the month of September. This clematis doesn’t need any hard pruning to keep it in full fig, just a light trim to keep it neat. ‘Asao ‘ is quite happy in my garden growning in an eighteen-inch tall and wide turquoise-blue plastic pot along with the October through February-blooming double soft pink Camellia sasanqua ‘Jean May.’ ‘Jean’ stays much smaller than her later blooming, sometimes tree-sized, Camellia japonica cousins. Because this evergreen camellia is more shallow-rooted than the clematis, it is happy to spread its roots near the upper portion of the pot while the clematis burrows its roots deeper down in the pot, thereby cooperating in limited quarters. I also like to add some shallow-rooted annuals, including summer-blooming pastel sweet peas and baby-blue ‘Cambridge Blue’ lobelia with a dark purple, fragrant heliotrope to the mix to create a container that has something of interest going on four seasons of the year. This pot thrives in a covered entryway to the house so that harsh winter rains don’t crush and dissolve the somewhat tender camillia blossoms.

Clematis ‘Asao’

Two other of my favorite clematis for containers include the double purple ‘Daniel Deronda,’ and the double pale lavender ‘Louise Rowe.’ Both ‘Daniel’ and ‘Louise’ flourish under the same regime of pruning and fertilizing that I use with ‘Asao,’ and both bloom at about the same time as ‘Asao.,’ ‘Daniel’ is wonderful growing up through something yellow or chartreuse. I placed the container so it grew near a large yellow David Austin English rose ‘Graham Thomas,’ with some airy, five-foot tall Verbena bonariensis rising up on pencil-thick stems as a purple haze. In a container setting, you might select a diminutive chartreuse-foliaged shrub in a neighboring pot, such as the small, two-foot tall and wide evergreen Hebe ‘Co-ed,’ with chartreuse foliage maturing to green, and purple summer flowers. (Update July 2010:  I would no longer recommend Hebe shrubs in general, because our recent cold winters have killed every one of mine.  A better option for a small evergreen would be a heather or heath, which also blooms in the winter and has lovely and often colored evergreen foliage in other seasons.)  Another colorful choice would be the two-to-three feet tall Berberis thunbergii “Aurea Nana,’ with golden foliage, mid-spring yellow blooms and red berries in the fall.

‘Louise’ is a fascinating clematis to watch over the growing season, because it can simultaneously have single, semi-double, and double flowers in bloom. Her flower color is set off by close proximity to the color blue, perhaps used as the color of the container in which she grows, which is what I did, or accomplished by growing other blue-flowered or -foliaged plants close at hand. One that I like is Cerinthe major ‘Purpurascens.’ An annual that reseeds rather freely in my garden, it has blue-green leaves on arcing stems, and at the tips of each stem flowers a small tubular dark purple blossom. It looks great combined with that stalwart and infinitely blendable annual, lacy Dusty Miller. Both annuals keep their good looks from spring through fall, helping not only to intensify the clematis flower color but also to carry the container over while the clematis is in-between first bloom and rebloom.

Clematis ‘Daniel Deronda’

True to their vine nature, pot-grown clematis need some kind of structure upon which to grow. I met this need by placing my containers near structures upon which the plant could grow, such as a large rose and a handrail and spindles. If you wanted a freestanding container, you could use a narrow piece of trellis at least twice the heigth of the pot and eight to ten inches below the soil surface to anchor the structure. Trellis can be purchased, or homemade out of wood, copper tubing, even painted one-half inch PVC pipe connected with appropriate fittings. Clematis will need to be tied to any supporting surface diameter greater than one-half inch. You can wrap larger supporting posts with chicken wire and the clematis should be able to climb up the structure on its own, with just a little help from you in the form of attaching it with twine while the plant is young.

Because these vines will be living in pots for several years, it’s a good idea to choose high-quality potting soil. I succeeded with my three clematis by following many of Linda’s tips on the best type of potting soil and planting method. She recommends looking on the label of the soil to see if it contains something to lighten the soil like sand or pumice, composted manure and worm castings, kelp meal, dolomite lime, bat guano and bone meal. If you make your own homemade compost, add some of that to the mix as well. Before filling your pot with soil, put some fine metal mesh in the very bottom of the pot to cover the drainage holes so the soil doesn’t run out, next a couple of inches of gravel for good drainage, then add soil mixed with a sprinkle of slow-release fertilizer about halfway to the top, after which you can place your new plant into the pot. You want to cover the root ball plus about three inches of the stems. Adjust the soil level so the plant is at the appropriate depth, insert whatever supporting device you chose to use, then fill in the container with more of the potting soil until you’re within a couple of inches of the top of the pot. Water at this point, allow the soil to settle, and add soil as necessary so the soil level remains at a couple of inches below the top of the pot. Tie the clematis to the structure, then finish with a thin top layer of gravel for a mulch. For maintence, it’s best to water every one to three days depending on how dry it is. Linda also recommends that six weeks after you pot up the clematis you should start using flower-boosting fertilizer about once a week until the plant has set bud, then stop fertilizing until after it has finished blooming and you’re preparing it for fall rebloom.

If you’re like me, you will quickly become enamored of these amazing vines, and you will be well on your way to enjoying dapper spring and fall-blooming clematis that may well be the abundant showpiece of your container garden.

Photos and content copyright 2007-2010 Minerva’s Garden

It’s Tuesday, so please head on over to the Tuesday Garden Party, where you will see lots of beautiful gardens!  And enjoy this hot weather!

 


Clematis ‘Princess Diana’ Starting To Bloom

I have a clematis ‘Princess Diana’ that is just starting to bloom in amongst the Roses ‘Zephrin Drouhin’ (flowers about the same color as the clematis) and ‘Golden Showers’ (yellow flowers).  It has very healthy foliage low on the plant, and it also blooms rather low on the plant at about four to five feet, and these qualities make it a good companion for the bare bottom stems so common on climbing roses.  The flowers on Diana are approximately one and a half inches long and bell-shaped.  They are a rose color, with white to soft pink around the edges of the sepals.  A very pretty clematis that does well here in gardening zone 8 in Southwest Washington state.  This is a member of the C. texensis grouping of clematis, meaning that they all tend to have flowers in the red color, and Diana likes a sunny spot with ample water and good drainage–put a good shovelful of gravel into the planting hole to help with this.  It blooms on new growth, which means that you will want to prune this clematis back to eighteen inches tall or so when it is dormant, usually in February or March in this area.  Fertilize it once a month starting in April and continue through the growing season.

And more of a close-up of the flowers:

Please feel free to leave a comment–have you grown clematis ‘Princess Diana’ in your garden, and with what other plants do you combine it?

Peas Flowering, Hardening Off Eggplant and Peppers, And Other Random Gardening Notes

In yesterday’s one blessed day of sunshine, I got several little projects accomplished.

  • The sugar snap peas are finally starting to flower.  They’ve gotten quite tall–maybe 5 feet.  Peas should be on the way soon.
  • I brought out my ‘Nadia’ eggplant and ‘Marconi’ Sweet Italian Frying pepper plant starts outside to begin hardening them off.  I hope to plant them outside next weekend, so I’m hardening them off to get them used to outdoor weather conditions before I do so.  I brought a few more tomato starts that were ready out to harden off as well.  Plus a couple of Bush morning glories, a variety called ‘Royal Blue Ensign’ that I had started from seed.  I love to use these for fillers in containers–they have small morning glory-shaped flowers in bright blue, with yellow and white in the center of the flowers.   For insurance, I put everything up on a table outside and sprinkled them with Sluggo, which is considered an organic-growing option for killing slugs.
  • Noticed that the slugs were destroying my baby salad greens that are about 4 inches tall in one of the upper beds, so I Sluggo’d that as well. 
  • Petunias are also a favorite of slugs, so Sluggo’d them in my containers, and deadheaded those that needed it.
  • I fertilized all the roses and clematis vines.  I used Miracle Grow, but you could also use a rose fertilizer.  They can be fertilized once a month throughout the summer and into early fall.
  • I planted sunflower seeds outside.  I am trying an ornamental sunflower called ‘Van Gogh’ that is supposed to reach 5-6 feet tall.
  • I deadheaded the ‘Niobe’ clematis vine.  This will help to keep it in flower off and on all summer long.  This one is pretty easy to grow and has beautiful burgundy flowers.  It flowers low on the vine, at about 5 feet up, and thus it makes a good partner for climbing roses.  I also deadheaded my ‘Asao’ clematis vine to tidy it up, and it may rebloom a little bit in the fall.
  • My ‘General Sikorski’ clematis is blooming.  Gorgeous lavender flowers–this is the vine that is depicted on the home page of Minerva’s Garden, and it is such a beauty.
  • I fertilized the hanging baskets and flower containers.  They are starting to grow nicely.  The nasturtium seeds in them and in others of my containers have germinated and they’re about 1-2 inches tall.
  • Since it was dry today, I reapplied diatomaceous earth to the potato leaves.  They are growing very well, but the rain keeps washing off the diatomaceous earth, so it’s been a battle to keep the flea beetles in check.  I have to keep reapplying it.  More information about flea beetles and how to kill them here.
  • I picked the first ripe strawberries from my plants.  Slugs tend to wreak havoc on these fruit as well, and so I grow my plants up in hayrack planters that are attached to a fence at about 3 1/2 feet up off the ground.  I fertilize them with complete organic fertilizer.
  • We actually put out one garden hose yesterday, but not because I have to water plants (except those under cover of our front stoop–they can dry out, so they get extra water).  Had to wash off a barbecue.
  • Finally, I sat out in the pergola and enjoyed the garden.

Hope you were able to get out and enjoy the sun yesterday as well!  I hope we get more in the very near future.  Leave a comment and let me know how your garden is growing.

A Current Pretty Flowering Combination

I wanted to share a photo I took yesterday with you:

I like how the colors play off each other in this vignette.  There is a shrimp-colored Oriental Poppy in the middle left of the photo, a light lavender-colored clematis named ‘Blue Ravine,’ and a dark purple clematis called ‘Haku Oakan’ beneath it.  The bright chartreuse ground cover on the left middle and bottom of the picture is Golden Creeping Jenny.  The thin-leafed, round perennial at the bottom of the photo not yet in bloom is a tradescantia, commonly known as spiderwort,  of unknown variety, but it has lovely lavender flowers when it does bloom soon.  The taller shrub behind the clematis vines is a hybrid tea rose ‘Camelot,’ which has lovely apricot-colored flowers when it blooms.  I would like to replace it with an old garden rose called ‘Mutabilis,’ which offers more disease-resistant foliage and interesting subtleties in coloration not found with the hybrid tea rose.  The silvery-leaves is the foliage of Lamb’s Ears, and there is a metal garden chair that I painted turquoise blue in the back.

I have noticed that it can be hard to blend flowers in orange colors in with other plants, but light orange, or apricot or shrimp-colored flowers look gorgeous when offset by lavender and purple.  Remember your middle school art classes and learning about complementary and contrasting colors on the color wheel–orange is nearly opposite violet on the color wheel, and the contrast in warm and cool tones is what helps to set off all of these flowers well.  The turquoise in the chair also helps, because blue is the true color tone exactly opposite orange on the color wheel.  It is difficult to find turquoise flowers, so I use turquoise on garden items that can be painted, such as chairs and containers.

Here is a close-up of ‘Blue Ravine’:

. . . and a close-up of ‘Haku Oakan’:

Another way to add more dimension, depth and interest in your plant color combinations is to use flowers in the same color, but in light and dark tones.  So the light lavender and dark purple in the above pairing work for this reason as well.

Yellow and yellow-green are opposite purple on the color wheel, which is why the chartreuse leaves of the ground cover help to set off the purple and lavender shades of the clematis flowers.  I use silver rather than a lot of white in the garden, because I have found that it is a little easier to blend color-wise.  The cool silver tones help to tone down what for some might be too much contrast in the warm and cool tones.  Plus the Lamb’s Ears has pretty pink flowers later on in the season that attract bees and hummingbirds, and I need polinators in my garden, so it’s a great plant for this purpose as well.

Please leave a comment and share some of your pretty plant color combinations from your garden!

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