Posts Tagged ‘containers’

I know I said I’d corral all my gardening into a weekly crop report. And once the weather gets hot and sultry, I’ll be doing well to eke out one new post a week.  But right now, spring is lunging straight into midsummer, and everything is still new and fresh, and full of potential.  AND I have some big news regarding my business site, gardencoach.com  (FYI, that link may or may not work when this goes live, but more on that later.)

After showing off my new baskets last week, I thought it was only fair to give some equal air time to my container plant choices.  Last year, my hanging baskets and containers were pretty much the sum total of my gardening for the year, other than heeling in a few plants I brought with me. Here’s what they looked like last year at this time.  And here’s a glimpse back into 2010, same containers in our old home.
Even though I’ve got almost 150 linear feet of new landscaping to maintain, I still love containers.  They greet everyone who arrives at one of our doors, and they perk up the porch and deck in an intimate way; the landscaping that lays beyond is somehow a little detatched and removed from these areas.

And with landscaping, especially with shrubs and perennials, most of us play it pretty safe with tasteful, muted shrubs and flowers.  It’s like picking wall paint – you’re going to stare at it a while so choose wisely.

But if shrub and herbaceous borders are like wall paint, then containers are like pillows.  You can add a pop of color to liven things up, and if you tire of it, you can change it next year, or even at the end of the season.  Might as well liven things up a bit.

Here are my containers that flank our dining room’s French doors, which many visitors see first as they approach the house:
container of flowers

container of flowers

Last year, I had similar arrangements with the ‘Mona Lavender’ and Streptocarpella paired with gold plectranthus. But this year I added some trailing coleus in ‘Glassworks Stained Glass’ in purple.  Here’s hoping it can hold up to the heat better than the fiber optic grass did last year.  If not, the plectranthus and strep will fill in soon enough.

Around the corner are two slightly larger containers.

containers flanking front door

Each holding a mix of ‘Charmed Wine’ oxalis, purple passion plant (Gynura),
‘Miss Muffet’ diminutive caladiums and fiber-optic grass.

closeup of containers

Last year, I had two fuchsia-colored ivy geraniums in these containers and they did well, but they took a really long time to get up to speed (too much shade, I think.)  The gynura is potentially an aphid magnet, and if it succumbs, it’ll get tossed on the  compost heap before I think twice about it.

Around back, the colors pick up with two matching containers of ‘Cinderella’ portulaca, rainbow-leaved spikes
a small-leaved purple Alternanthera.
back porch containers

My trio of matching containers has a ‘Diamond Frost’ euphorbia in the smallest pot; in the biggest pot is a ‘‘Blackie’ ornamental sweet potato, ‘Diamond Frost’ euphorbia, orange Acalypha and orange-flowering Mimulus plus a charteuse-leaved sun coleus, all surrounding a rescued elephant ear (it was a little orphan plant that came with the house. It survived the winter but was getting stepped on since it had the misfortune of being near the hose holder.)

trio of deck containers

It’s hard to to see from the first picture, but here’s a top-down shot of the middle pot.  It contains a black-and-yellow petunia
(cv. ‘Phantom’) and gold creeping Jenny in the medium-sized pot along
with a striped grassy phormium (often sold as “spikes” in nurseries.)
medium pot on deck
Like the baskets, the containers haven’t yet filled out, but they will soon enough, especially with the sudden onslaught of summer we’re experiencing.  I could have shoved several more plants in each container, and I see “professionals” do just that in order to create an instant lush, full look. but I know that these plants all need a little elbow room and I’d rather give them what they need than cram them in and then have to take half of them out by mid-summer.

Your turn. What are your favorite plants for your containers? Do you have a sure-fire planting scheme you use every year?  Or do you mix it up a bit each time you replant them?

Happy gardening,


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A bad time of year to be a bad dog.

I love our grandpuppy. But the key word here is “puppy” – she’s got a full grown dog’s body and a puppy’s lack of impulse control.

Which explains some carpet stains.

And this.

As bad as this looks, it looked much worse when we first discovered the carnage.

So what do you do when a container goes kaput in late summer?  It’s too late to buy duplicate replacements, especially if they were part of a set, like this one was.

This late in the year, the pickins are slim indeed.  If we lived farther north, I’d just call the planter done for the season and put some pansies in it to enjoy through the weeks of fall.  But we live in an area that won’t see 30-degree temperatures for another 6-8 weeks.  Pansies won’t even be available for another month around here, and my motto is “leave no container unplanted,” especially since we don’t have much in the way of borders or vegetable garden this year.

Fortunately one of our garden centers still had a decent selection of annuals, including some coleus and begonias, making it easy to make do.  Since the begonias were in a four-pack, I inserted the others in a few other blank spots in the deck containers to try to tie the whole thing together, gave some remaining plants a haircut and fertilized and watered everything.

Now I’m just hoping the dog will leave this one alone and let it grow until the first frost does it in, sometime late in October.  Be good, sweet Sadie.

Happy planting,

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The pasta lineup

Many of my formative years were spent immersed in a melting pot of Italian and Mexican culture and cuisine.  And I’ve always been a macaroni girl (it’s as patriotic as Yankee Doodle, right?  I mean he stuck a feather in his cap and called it macaroni…)


Apparently the pasta thing really stuck.   It’s why low-carb diets and I are star-crossed and doomed to fail.

In my pantry at any given time, you will find – without fail – several basic dry pastas, including elbow macaroni (big and/or small), spaghetti, fettuccine, lasagna and penne pasta. These days, the last three are whole wheat or tri-colored as we try to eat a little healthier. With those staples (plus a few cans and jars of tomato products) at hand, I know I can throw SOMETHING for dinner no matter what.

Then there are the seasonal pastas: ditalini in the colder months (for pasta e fagioli) and rotini or fusili in the summer, for pasta salad. The other day I found squiggly radiatori for BLT pasta salad since true fusili (spiral not corkscrew) is rare in these parts.

Occasional guest stars include bowtie, shells (big and small), linguini, mezze penne, mostaccioli which means “little moustache” and is a little hard to get these days); gnocchi, large egg noodles and Amish noodles (small and big), orzo and manicotti.

For whatever reason, wagon wheel pasta has never been on my list of go-to pastas.  Maybe because most of my encounters with it have been mushy.  But I hear Barilla has a miniature version of rotelle or ruot, so maybe I’ll have to give it a try one of these days.

In case you’re wondering if I skipped it, no – ravioli is not  found on my pantry shelves, ever.  Not since my kids outgrew canned pasta, and they sometimes ate it despite my groans.  I’m a snob when it comes to ravioli – it must be fresh (or frozen) and preferably homemade.  Occasionally I’ll pick up a package of fresh tortellini.  Most of the fillings aren’t quite what I’d put in my own, but I’m too lazy to make it myself.

I guess you can tell, we love our pasta, in pretty much all shapes and sizes.

While typing this post, I took a peek in my pantry.  And this is what my pasta shelf (yes, I have a shelf of pasta – doesn’t everyone?) looked like.

The “just-moved-in” look

Oh dear.

I confess, I can get a little gung-ho about pantry organization. Surely it didn’t look like that when we moved in a few months ago, did it?

But daily use does tend to wear off that just-moved-in, everything-in-its-place look.  A box or container comes out, then goes back in; new boxes come home and get tucked in wherever they’ll fit.

Before you know it, it’s a jumble.

After I got a look at it through the objective eye of the camera lens, I did a quick assessment of what I had already, determined the number of various sizes I would need, and made a dash to the store to pick up 6 or 7 canisters to put everything in its own matching stackable storage container.

Now it looks like this.

Having everything matchy-matchy isn’t particularly frugal or necessary.  But before you dismiss it as frivolous (and a little OCD), consider these reasons for using a set of mix-and-match modular storage containers:

  • This is front-and-center when you open my pantry.  It needs to stay tidy, regardless of how I do it.  Otherwise, I can’t find what I’m looking for and wind up buying a second or third box of this-or-that.  Been there, done it.
  • These stacking modules by Rubbermaid are designed to create tidy and accessible pantry storage.  Everything is the width of the shelf and can be stacked.  No more peeking and peering around the front row to see what lurks back behind.
  • Aesthetics and accessibility aside, with everything out of boxes and sealed up, if critters should appear in one tub of pasta, they can’t easily migrate to the others.  (Unless you cook your pasta almost as soon as you bring it home, you are bound to encounter some hibernating stowaways at some point.  Gross, but true.)
  • I can even argue for cost-effectiveness.  A box of pasta can run anywhere from $1 to $6, depending on brand, type and size.  The containers were a one-time investment of about $4 each.  Cutting down on accidental over-buying and eliminating the risk of having to clear out all the pasta if it gets buggy can pay for the containers over time.  (That’s my rationale, and I’m sticking to it.)

So now that you’ve seen mine, do tell:  what are your must-have pasta shapes? And what do you store them in?

Happy cooking!

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Containing the chaos

When I get in a garden center, my sensibilities tend to take flight and leave me wandering around dazed and confused.  I love plants, and all those rows of beautiful blooming bedding plants are as tempting to me as a candy store is to a kid.

I buy plants on a whim – some of these, a few of those.  I have no plan, no list, no vision for how I’m going to use them.  So when I get home, my purchases typically look like this:

But several years of frenetic plant shopping have taught me a few things, like:

1. Buy plants in pairs.   I can at least create symmetrical containers.  (Or in threesomes or foursomes if I’m doing baskets or a trio of planters.)
2.  Consider shapes.  Like people, plants come in all shapes and sizes.  A good mix of tall spiky and trailing stuff will offset all the bushy plants.
3.  Double-check sun/shade requirements.  Neither parched, scorched plants nor lanky, anemic-looking plants are attractive for the long haul of summer.  Fortunately I have lots of both sun and shade.

I tend to gravitate toward purples and oranges (often at the same time), with lots of chartreuse foliage thrown in for good measure, but I know eventually these colors can and will be separated into groupings that won’t assault a visitor’s senses when they approach our doors.

After a little arranging and rearranging, the chaos starts to shape up into this:

Caladiums, orange Diascia and burgundy spikes

More caladiums, purple shamrocks, lilac ivy geraniums

Plectranthus, Streptocarpellas, fiber optic grass & another Plectranthus

And here they are, all lined up and waiting to be slipped into their containers.

The plants in front are for a trio of deck containers…

And…a few days later, here they are in their new homes:

Trio on the back deck
Two more on the back deck, catching some morning sun
Two new containers flanking the dining room doors

Closeup of one of the two pots next to the front door

Over the next few weeks, with plenty of water and warm temps, they should plump up and fill out their containers.  Chaos is under control once again.

Happy planting,

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Every year for four years, a group of men and women from Mississippi, Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee mark their calendars for one Saturday in April, and agree to meet up at Rita Randolph’s greenhouses in Jackson, Tennessee.  We do our best to clean out her inventory (don’t worry – she’s got plenty more where that came from…we think!), and we giggle and gossip and snatch plants left and right.  After we all tally up our bills (we usually don’t compare notes on spending.  What happens at Rita’s stays at Rita’s), we head over to Casey Jones restaurant to continue the fellowship over a leisurely lunch before reluctantly parting ways.

You may be wondering, WHY?  We all have nurseries and garden centers much closer to our homes – we probably all drove past one or more on our way.  So why drive for hours to this one nursery?  Is it that special?  It’s true that Rita has some of the most fabulous container ideas around.  But more than that, it’s an excuse to visit and catch up with each other.  Some of the travelers make plans to stay overnight and visit several more nurseries before heading home.  (I’ve been known to haul unsuspecting passengers through extremely rural parts of Dickson on our way back from Jackson, in search of Marianna’s tomato plants.)

You may also be wondering how we know each other.  High school or college? Nope.  Work? Nope.  Sports? Still nope. Church? And no again..  Give up?

What brought us together was a website called Dave’s Garden.  Over the years, we’ve shared gardening tips and tricks, recipes, ideas, and recommendations.  We’ve also shared stories about our lives, weathered many storms, from Katrina to last year’s Tennessee floods, and more tornadoes than we can count.  Always, there’s someone in this group making sure everyone in an affected area is okay.  What started out as online acquaintances has deepened into abiding real-life friendships.  I rarely mention my day job here because I try to keep work and blog separate, but I’ve been privileged to be able to work for this website for several years, as well as be part of this vast but tight-knit community.  What a treat it is to work with and for such a great group.  And get to see some of them at least once a year, and ooh and ahh over gorgeous plants all ready to be tucked into containers to  welcome visitors to our homes and greet us on our decks and back porches.

This year’s trip is tomorrow.  And it has an added benefit:  it gives me an opportunity to get away for a day before we start moving next week.  I have already vowed to not buy as many plants as usual, since we’re going to be betwixt and between over the week. But those plants have a siren’s call that is difficult to ignore.  So I will probably come home with plants a-plenty, as always.  The containers are ready and waiting at the new house.  An advanced thank-you to Rita for her graciousness in letting us use her site for our annual soiree.

Happy planting!

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No coffee outside this a.m.

I woke up to the pitter-patter of raindrops, so no moseying around on the deck with a mug of liquid sunshine this morning. As I pulled out of the drive this morning, I was informed we were under (another) tornado warning.   Fortunately, no tornadic activity came to pass.  After the rain, I thought I’d slip out and get a few pictures, just to remind myself what these things looked like when I first planted them.  Then I can see what they look like after I tend or neglect them for a while!  Here are the three pots that survived another winter, decked out with some purple pennisetum grass, fuchsia-colored geraniums, coleus in various shades of pink and red, some twinspur, gold creeping jenny and purple oxalis (the small pot has a clump of diamond frost euphorbia that will hopefully turn into a billowy mass of white flowers.  Now to find four additional planters to arrange around the deck’s entrances, find plants to complement but not duplicate and of course, take care of all summer.

The sidewalk between the garage and deck is flanked with coral bells (technically Heuchera and some Tiarella, and maybe even a few X Heucherella tossed in for good measure), along with hostas, from tiny ‘Kabitan’ to tall blue ‘Elegans’ and a couple ‘Guacamole’ types that are large and getting larger, now in their third year in their new homes.  But once the coral bells are done blooming, the foliage gets a little boring (serenely so) and so I added some window boxes along the deck to introduce a little color on the way from the backyard to the deck.  This year’s lineup includes a yellow/purple torenia, a purple-y calibrachoa (theoretically both should trail over the edges), some purple heliotrope in the middle for good smells, lobelia to fill in all the rest.  Looks like my cocoa fiber cutting needs a little fine tuning.

As I was snapping pictures, I realized a Clematis I planted (and forgot about) finally scrambled up the arbor on its own and is swathed in flowers right now.  I fed it this spring when I was weeding and mulching the bed so hopefully it will continue to grow and develop a nice sturdy root system – maybe next year’s blooms will cover the entire arbor!  For now it does add a nice punch of color if you approach the yard from the side.  The oakleaf hydrangea is almost ready to let loose with her annual display of blooms. (Then it will be time to tame the beast once again…she quickly gets 8-10 feet tall and wide if I don’t take the pruning saw and loppers to her annually.)

Last week’s menu was in an uproar…again.  One of these days life will settle back down (no need for a laugh track there…I know that’s worth a chuckle from those who know me.)  But I am eager to use the revamped grill this week, so I’ll see what I can find for some innovative new meat or veggie flavor pairings and update the chalkboard with something more than a wish list.

In the meantime, I have a big dog/little dog picture I snapped last week when Scadie came to spend the day with us.  When it was her feeding time, I figured I better give Spice a little food as well, just to prevent an outbreak of WWIII in my kitchen.    I figure I should probably take pictures regularly…otherwise she’ll soon be out of the puppy stage and growing into those massive paws of hers. A better shot would have been when I took them both for a walk, although I would have needed a third hand to hold the camera, since they don’t walk at exactly the same pace.  I hope this Sunday afternoon finds all our family and friends enjoying a  peaceful day that God has made, whether the sun is shining or the rain is replenishing the land where you live.  And if you have any inspired ideas for container pairings, please drop me a note.  With four to fill, my biggest fear is that they all start to look identical, or they clash hideously.

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I’m a transformation junkie

That explains a lot about me.  I get a big thrill out of a reorganized sock drawer or a totally clean refrigerator.  I probably waste a lot of energy opening that fridge when I have cleaned it out, just to admire the neatly arranged contents.

Today it was the deck’s turn.  I took the shop vac to the outside rug, which got rid of most of the ground-in winter detritus (still have some pesky moss problems that an oxygen-based cleaner should remove when I get the 9×13, 50-pound thing hauled out to the driveway for more indepth cleaning.)

I ditched the 3-year-old seat cushions in favor of new ones…it seems wasteful but the old ones had the double-fate of being mildewed and dry-rotted so it was time for new ones.

Three planters got the top foot of soil removed and replaced with fresh container mix and plants.  The 3-foot long troughs on the side of the deck got new coir liners (I discovered you have to make them yourself – no one in the ‘boro carries this size…argh) and new plants were introduced as soon as the liners and soil were in place.

The grill got new innards:  new burner and flame diffuser, plus a new cover (the old one was suffering from dry rot, too.  The grates are sheathed in a foamy cloud of de-greaser for now.

That leaves just two final tasks to complete the deck:  replace four containers that have failed due to winter damage; I guess they will only hold up for so long if I don’t make room for them in the garage.  I’m not sure what I want to replace them with, so the search is on.  And power-washing and sealing the deck.  That may have to wait a few more weeks.  But I can stroll out on my deck tomorrow morning with that first steaming mug of coffee, and enjoy the freshly planted flowers and sit in a chair whose cushion doesn’t crunch when I touch it.  Hooray for transformations!  Pics coming soon!

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