Category Archives: sedums

cheap thrills

2017-02-07 23.13.14As the season goes on ( and boy is it ever a glorious one thanks to Mother Nature being generous with the water works)  each day I stroll around eagerly awaiting to see  what has come into bloom around the next corner. We are in prime summertime; coneflowers, black eyed susans, garden phlox, hydrangeas and many a treasured and sought after plant  ($$$$) are sure strutting their stuff,and while I love to see rare clematis and well grown roses,  if is the cheap thrills that get me the most.

There is such a sense of satisfaction knowing you can create a beautiful landscape on a shoestring budget if you just are a little prepared ahead of time in a few ways.

Fist and foremost buy seeds of things that are easy to both start from seed and save seed from when they are done blooming, things like morning glories, love in a puff vine, hyacinth bean vine, nasturtiums, zinnias, amaranth and cosmos. Dahlia tubers also fall under this heading even though it is a tuber instead of seed you save. It may be a teeny bit of work but worth every bit of  effort in the end when you can fill loads of containers and empty spaces in the garden for next to nothing. Almost all of my annual vines are now started from seed I have saved , initial cost was minimal, and now it is only my time that gets spent as I watch for w week or two and gather the seeds to store over winter.

Nasturtium seeds form quickly as the flowers fade and can be collected as soon as you see them big enough , and before the birds get to them.IMG_2187

Hyacinth bean forms cool electric purple pods and these get left on the vine until brown and then dry and then take the seeds out of the pod and store .DSC_0026

Love in a puff  halicacabum cardiospermum makes these cool puffs after flowering and the seeds are in them, but you can just store the puffs after they are brown

love in a puff

love in a puff

I use little glassine envelopes for all most but not all of my seeds. For things like amaranth and even zinnias you can just pop the whole flower head in a paper lunch bag to deal with later in the winter when you are bored and feel like separating the seeds from all the chaff. Just make sure they are dry before placing them in the bag. With the amaranth a quick vigorous shake of the bag in the spring will send the seeds to the bottom of the bag leaving the rest of the flower stalk intact and  you just take out and pitch  the stalk and pour out the seeds.
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I have several large containers that are filled using many of these saved seeds .the first key to success is a large pot + less watering+ greater germination and survival rates. Because i save way more seed than I could ever use, I sow heavily and then thin out the seedlings them later if necessary .

This pot has a mum and a sedum that live in it year round and then I pop in seeds after all chance of frost has passed. This year it was actually very late as I used hyacinth bean seeds which I never plant outside until June 1. I also add a single dahlia tuber in there and by early July the pot is full and fresh looking and will be flowering within  the month lasting through frost. Someone on my garden tour this June happened to be standing next to me and the pot when it was all just starting to grow , and commented  ”I see what you are doing here, how clever! ”

large pot with dahlia, mum, sedum, hyacinth bean vine

large pot with dahlia, mum, sedum, hyacinth bean vine

2017-02-07 23.15.37Another pot nearby gets morning glories every year and this year I added the hyacinth bean as well.Within a week with this heat (finally!) it will be outrageously full and blooming 2017-02-07 23.16.03

You can read more about my use of annual vines for late season interest here

The two large pots on the pool area are even easier. These are quite large and are made to hold the umbrellas. (you can see what I did here) . They are heavy and I actually never change the soil in them partially because of the cement , but mostly because the petunias that I planted in it  the first year they were made ( probably 6 years ago) seed readily  and come back for free. I will admit it takes time  for the seedlings to get to any reasonable size so the pots initially remained quite empty until the middle of July but then I started planting lettuce seed in them very early in the season, Now I grow lettuce in one of them , harvest lettuce all spring , and just as it is starting to get too warm for the  lettuce, the petunias are of a decent enough size to take over and the lettuce gets ripped out while they carry on until frost.IMG_2382

In the second one I actually get celosia to self seed as well, so i just pop in few seeds of nasturtiums and call it a day. this year the chipmunks planted sunflowers in there and although I do not like the look of it I will let them stay, cut the sunflowers for inside once they are flowering , and then move some of the other plants to fill in the gap. You may notice that the petunia growing in here is one of those “illegal ” orange ones. This is a very long but very interesting story you can read about here if you like in an article titled “How the transgenic petunia carnage of 2017 began”, but suffice it to say that petunias do not contain a gene for expressing the color orange so some wacky engineering was going on for them to exist. I actually bought one plant for  a dollar to tuck in this pot  very late in the season and I was very surprised to see it come back.

celosia

celosia

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variegated nasturtium

variegated nasturtiums

IMG_2379

Which brings me to my second way you need to be prepared, and that is learn what seedlings of your favorite annuals look like and be aware when weeding what you are pulling. Lots of annuals leave seeds that will happily overwinter in some years, sometimes they can get annoying  like Morning Glory sprouting all over the place  but many times it is delightful to find free plants to either leave growing  where they sprouted or lift and move elsewhere. This little nasturtium seeded itself here, IMG_2390and every petunia I grow was a self planted seedling.

Any way to save a few dollars helps and makes it so I can splurge on the cool new bulbs I have been eyeing!

 

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the best fall garden ever…container plantings

Before I start with this weeks installation, can I just telll you ARGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!

We have a few baby bunnies in the garden and they are destroying everything, So far an enitrie 4 ft.  mallow, two mint family plants ( a salvia and luecospermum) which is a bad sign, several epimediums, an entire astrantia , it is enough to make  a gal  want to give up and cry.

To add to the mayhem a mouse family wanted to move into a whiskey barrel planter so it chewed through the stem of a very large mexican sunflower. I killed one of the buggers , but know the rest are still there. Yet another family of chipmunks is out back jettisoning plant after  plant out of the places they want to burrow, and the weather has been hot with an ever present dessicating wind. Not one drop of rain has fallen, every storm passes us by. Watering is my life.

There, I vented and now I feel a little bit better knowing you may be feeling some of my pain.

Onward  to container plantings!

There are many ways to go about using containers in the garden. Here, I plant many pots  with things that need rabbit protection( not usually mints!), I plant a few with long blooming annuals, and a few are left to plant for fall interest.

Many magazines and books will direct you to pot up something for early season ( late spring and early summer) and then instruct you to take out the “tired looking” plants and re-pot up with mums etc for late season . Well, you know that is not where I am gonna go, it is very unlike me to follow the rules.

The pots are I am going to tell you about are cheap, easy and very natural looking…..and they are started in the earliest part of summer.

First off,  get  large pots, I am talking knee to thigh high and very wide. They will cost you a bit, but the time you will save watering is worth the investment. I use both self watering and regular pots depending on the location. these from Mayne are perfect.Mayne Fairfield 20-Inch x 20-Inch Patio Planter in Black

The pots you are planting are destined to hold only late season plants so don’t even think about putting early bloomers in them, there won’t be time or space.

I think a spring garden is pretty darn easy. So many shrubs and trees in these parts naturally bloom then, daffodils are beyond simple to grow, and many of our native spring ephemeral plants are in flower as well. With loads already going on in the garden, having a large pot or two that is basically empty  will hardly be noticed when glancing into the garden.

Now, get several packets of seeds ( I order mine online in the winter when I have time to really think about it) maybe a few late blooming plants like mums  bought in plugs ( which are small and cheap) peacock orchid bulbs and dahlia tubers and then scout the garden for late blooming or foliar interest plants you can steal a bit of.

Plant the dahlia tubers and any small plants and divisions first. This year I used a perennial  called Red Birds in a treee, and cardoon, both of which I started from seed under lights inside but you could buy small plants of both on ebay for a few dollars apiece and mums, asters and sedums.   You will  need to cater your selection for where the container is sited. Mine will be baking in the hot sun all day,  these plants can all tolerate heat drought very well ( with the exception of the mums).

Sedums of all types are great plants for containers , and many of them will tolerate a little shade too. If you grow any, the late spring is the perfect  time to go around to your plants and divide off little chunks of them and stick them in your  fall container. They will be huge before you know it.

Asters and mums  , are another perennial you can steal a piece off exisiting plants and stick in there, as well as ornamental grasses ( just use a soil knife to carve away a small segment near the edge of the clump) , hosta if you get it early enough so you won’t ruin the shape of the plant in the garden, lirope, japanese forest grass, really just look at what you have and try to use it. After you have the tubers and little plant sections in there, now add any seeds. I use nasturtiums which will fill out much earlier and help the container look good longer, tiger paw asters, tons of cosmos,species petunias, annual salvias, amaranth varieities, and usually an annual vine or two depending on the container.Now, tuck it in the garden and just remember to water it .

If you cover the bare soil with rice hulls AFTER the seeds have sprouted you will need to water much less.DSC_0001

By late July your container should be pretty full, and any annuals you planted will probably have started to flower. Viloia! Perfect fall containers for almost nothing money wise, and very little effort time wise.

Now, we move on to  one of the most important things I have gleaned from my stalking of all things Great Dixter: Back-up plants. As the season goes on , try to at least twice start some more seeds. I keep a tray of pots near the hose and in late June and the again in mid to late July  throw in some more seeds.  The garden tries it’s best to throw every curve ball it can to me to see how I handle it…..rabbits take down entire plants, things bloom and then die or never bloom at all, voles and chipmunks dig plants  up, a testy irrigation system refuses to water an entire area when no rain has fallen in weeks. Be prepared.

Just a few days ago I seeded  purple basil which is a stunning foliage plant, more amaranth, more cosmos, tucked in more nasturtiums seeds to those containers in which they are growing, and a few yellow hyacinth beans. The heat will get these babies huge in no time at all and they will await the latest disaster  that will dictate their new home.DSC_0002 DSC_0004

DSC_0003Now. let’s talk further benefits of starting late container gardens like this.

a.) if you put in more seeds than you need to ensure germination, any extras that sprout can be taken out of the container once they are big enough and planted in the garden or given away to friends. I have loads of coral amaranth in the gardens because I overseeded the pots .

b.) when frost threatens in October , your pots can be moved into a garage or shed if they are light  ( i use a small hand truck to move some bigger ones) or easily covered with frost cloth or even a sheet . Then you pop them back out where they will continue to thrive in the glorious autumn sun after other gardeners have given up.

c.) critters are easier to control. Chipmunks may try to dig in some pots but gravel on top can deter this, or I sometimes use a cloche for stuff I really would hate to lose to them. Rabbits can’t reach tasty treats ie your valuable plants, and slugs appear at a level that requires no bending to pick them off.

d.) if you have crappy soil  like I do , potting soil is much easier to grow many things in. For example, dahlias in pots here are flourishing, those planted in the ground get off to a much slower start.

e.) with pots you can grow things you may usually not be able to . For example, if you have a shady garden and a sunny driveway, pots are perfect for growing the summer flowers you dream of  ( just make sure no cars will hit them) Here it is really sunny and much of the shade involves competing with tree roots, so again, pots solve the problem, allowing me to grow things I normally can’t

f.) if I am going away, I can put all the pots stacked right next to the hose for whoever is watering for me. A little secret…..I often do this anyway so I can keep them watered easily during dry spells and only place them in the garden when I need to.

Since it is only July, this year pots are in their teenage years so to speak. The annual seedlings are awkward but filling out, the dahilas are just starting to flower, the mums are still quite small, but the sedums always look good.

In the big pot with the cardoon and Red Birds in a tree ( scrophularia macranta) everything is getting quite large and I went out to snap a few photos and caught this juvenille hummingbird hanging out and snacking. He was on happy camper.DSC_0006 DSC_0010 DSC_0011 DSC_0007 DSC_0009This container from last year is divisions of aster and sedum, self seeded verbena bonariensis and petunias
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This one was planted in June and the coral amaranth has gotten huge , I will be cutting it for vases as time goes on, and the  daucus carrota and dahlia are still pretty small. By  September it will be overfull.DSC_0016This tall red tom pot has a single dahlia and both love in a puff and ipomea lobata or firecracker vine climbing the tripod in it. Once it gets going only frost will stop it.DSC_0018this is sedum with yet another vine, purple bell flowerDSC_0017

and yet another sedum, this time Purple Emporer , agastache and a just starting to bloom perennial mum. ( photo from 2015)DSC_0014This crazy container has two dahlias, tri-color amaranth, petunias,more daucus carrota, creeping jenny and a vine that has just started to grow up the birch branch I stuck in there. (excuse the craptastic photos , the light was bad when  I was trying to get them) the vine is a late blooming clematis, the dahlias are both reddish varities and by late August the creeping jenny will be draped down the front …it lives there permanently and I trim it back to stubs in the springtime.

DSC_0003 (2) DSC_0004 (2) There are so very many easy options to fill containers for late season interest that don’t involve pincushion mums from the store. Put your thinking cap on and get to it!

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plant profile: sedum ‘october daphne’ (hylotelephium sieboldii)

sometimes I   have a hard time coming up with the right words to make a plant come to life in a profile the way  it does in the garden.
sedum ‘october daphne’ is like that , really it should just leap off he screen and grab you by the shoulders , look you square in the eye and say “PLANT ME”

It is a beauty season long with nicely scalloped leaves that emerge  toward the bluish side of green with a graceful arching habit.  It tolerated the dry conditions here both in the ground and in the two un-watered containers I had it in like a champ. DSC_0002 DSC_0006

When it started to bloom I found the bright two-toned  pink flowers just divine and a delightful change from the more salmony -pink of some of its family members.

but boy oh boy as the temperatures cooled around here was I ever smitten with this plant.

The edges of the leaves took on a distinct reddish hue, the flower color intensified x 1000DSC_0012

then, as night time temps dropped even lower, the leaves  seemed to glow, an electric orange pink at  a time when the garden can look quite dull and muted.

the glow on this plant in october is eye catching to say the least!

the glow on this plant in october is eye catching to say the least!

I have this  planted in the pink border at the very edge , as well as in two previously mentioned containers, ( a  cement basket. and   an old wheelbarrow) .

I grow over 40 different sedum ( or in their new genera;hylotelephium,petrosedum and phedimus) and I love them all. Most thrive in the dry hot sun here, though there are many that will tolerate shadier and much wetter conditions making them all super easy to grow. I have been experimenting with different combinations of them  in containers so I can ease up on the watering during the height of summer.  A number of my favorites  have  smaller leaved and are very  interesting close up, and I place those together in flat hypertufa or metal troughs , some are quite large and serve as filler or color contrast with other plants. But ‘october daphne’ is so stunning it can stand on its own ,  a true plant of merit for any New Egland garden.

as an aside I just felt the need to point out this curiosity .There is a series of monographs (books written on a single plant genus) put out by Timber Press  called The Plant Lover’s Guides. I have most of them, so when writing this of course went to the one called “The Plant Lover’s Guide to Sedums” to see what it had to say. The description is ok, although not as enthusiastic as I would expect,  but the accompanying photo ( just one) is this.DSC_0001

hmmmmm, would you buy this plant based on that ? I certainly would have skimmed right over that entry . I wish they had included one like thisDSC_0014

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