Monday, January 19, 2009

Annual Review II: Containers 2008

I've been complaining so much about the weather lately, that I should tell you that we are on our way to a mini-heatwave here in central Illinois. The temperature today is supposed to get up to 23, and 40 degrees by Thursday. Whoohoo! I'd better get out those T-shirts and shorts I've packed away for the winter.

Today's post has nothing to do with the weather, however, and is one I meant to do long ago. For the last two months I have wanted to post about my container plantings this past summer, but one thing or another kept me from getting around to it. I finally sorted through all my photos to find a few of the containers and through all my plant tags to remember what was planted where. I admit this post is really for me: every spring I try to think back to the previous year to remember what plants I used in each container and how many of each I bought. No I didn't write them down, and the gardening journal I started last spring is incredibly spotty. Not that there is anything wrong with my memory, mind you, but it seemed that recording my plantings here with photos was a good replacement for the journal entry.

I am disappointed that the photos I found are not that good. I kept waiting for the optimal time to photograph each container and spent more time taking close-ups of individual flowers. As a result, some containers here were photographed early in the season before they filled out, and some near the end of the season--as an afterthought--after a few of the flowers had died. Underneath each photo I've listed the plants in each container as best as I can remember and depending on the tags I found. Those marked with an asterisk* were new this year, and those marked in bold were exceptional performers. Not that the others didn't do well--although a few didn't--some plants are ones I would highly recommend and will definitely use again next year.

Near the back door an old wicker fern stand I bought years ago at an estate sale is filled every year with 3 zonal geraniums and two or three asparagus ferns. Not too original a combination, but to me it fits the vintage look of the container. Every year I try to overwinter this stand, and every year I neglect to water it enough. Although the geraniums had to be tossed out last spring, I did manage to keep the ferns. I usually also plant trailing vinca vines in this planter, but because the ferns were already so big I skipped the vinca this year. This photo was taken in late spring; by September the ferns were a mass of feathery fronds, engulfing the geraniums.

Two pots flanking the garage doors were planted with identical combinations:

1 Bourbon Street Acalypha*
4 Profusion orange zinnias
2 yellow lantana "Tiddley Winks"
3-4 yellow celosia*

By the time I took the previous photo the celosia had died for some reason, but I really liked them in this arrangement, and they gave a more vertical element to the planter. The Acalypha was definitely a disappointment. They never grew to the 20-30" they were supposed to, and will be replaced next year with something else--maybe some purple fountain grass?

A random post is situated next to the driveway and patio. I'm not sure what its purpose originally was, but a few years ago I placed an old, small, decorative birdhouse atop it and have planted it with various small trailing plants from wave petunias to verbena. Every year the flowers die within a month, it seems, no doubt from lack of water. I was so happy that this year the calibrachoa "Million Bells Cherry Pink" survived well into fall. Perhaps I got lucky in picking a healthy plant, but I think the potting medium made a difference this year. The birdhouse is small and dries out quickly, so this year I added a piece of coco mat as a liner, used good potting soil, and added some moisture crystals to the mix. Watering it every day--twice a day quite often--certainly helped as well.

Two pots flank the old buggy seat in the main garden and are usually planted with the same combination, which varies only slightly each year:

2 Pink Zonal geraniums
4 Profusion Cherry Pink zinnias
1 Strobilanthes dyerianus "Persian Shield"
2 Helichrysum (smaller variety)
1-2 purple Heliotrope

This photo was obviously taken soon after planting; both pots were much fuller by mid-summer.

This urn was given to me as a birthday present a few years ago and is definitely my favorite. It sits in a prominent place near the front porch where everyone can see it.

1 Persian Shield
3 Supertunias "Raspberry Blast"
2 Helichrysum "White Licorice"
4 Dianthus "Super Parfait Strawberry" (in the center--not really necessary)
Note: only 1 helichrysum was needed--it overshadowed the petunias this year.

I've used the same combination for the past two years with a great deal of success and have no intention of changing it next year. The dianthus were added for instant color, but if you can be patient the petunias soon fill in. I can't say enough about "Raspberry Blast"--it's a great performer!

You may remember this pink planter I purchased last spring. I loved the container, but the planting was a disappointment. This was probably the best it looked all summer, and that was before the salvia even grew up in the back. The verbena didn't last long for some reason; in fact, none of the verbena I had in containers did well this year, which was a mystery because I usually have good luck with them. The container is fiberglass, and I had trouble deciding if I was overwatering it or underwatering it. I think I may move it to a different, sunnier location next year.

1-2 Helichrysum
1 (or 2?) Supertunia "Royal Velvet"*
2 Superbena (Verbena) "Large Lilac Blue"
2 Euphorbia "Diamond Frost"*
4 Salvia "Victoria Blue"

Definitely not a good photo! Two green planters are placed in front of the porch planter, facing the front yard. This photo must have been taken early in the summer before the plants filled it in and definitely before either the zinnias or lantana bloomed. All the planters in the front of the house are in the shade most of the day; while the sweet potato vine and coleus did very well, the zinnias and lantana could have used more sun. As much as I like this combination, I might have to look for more shade-loving flowers to use next year.

1 "Kong" Coleus (other pot had a "regular" coleus "Glennis")
4 Profusion "Cherry" zinnias
2 Lantanas "Patriot Petite Rainbow" (needed sun!)*
1 Ipomoea "Tricolor"*

Two old crocks I've had for years also are placed in front of the house. I usually fill at least one of them with the typical impatiens, but I got a little more adventurous this year and was so pleased with the results. (Of course, using much better potting soil this year also helped!)

1 Ipomoea "Marguerite"
1 Heuchera "Dolce Creme Brulee" * (later planted in the shade garden)
1 "Fusion Glow" Impatiens*
1 Calibrachoa "Superbells Yellow Chiffon"*
1 Kong Coleus
The second crock--ignore that hose wrapped around it; it must have been mowing day:) The begonia was my favorite annual this year--what a beauty! I'm sad to say it hasn't survived the winter in my garage; I do hope I can find this same plant next year.

1 Spike (I don't remember botanical name)
1 Ipomoea "Marguerite"? or ""SweetHeart Light Green"?
1 Begonia "Illumination Apricot *

This Adirondack chair sits in front of the old oak tree near the road and holds a planter of bright blooms all summer and then a big basket of mums in the fall. There are two problems with its placement: 1.) It is in constant shade, which doesn't help the sun-loving annuals. 2.) It's a long walk from the house, so too often I neglect to water it. I don't remember exactly what I planted here last spring, because several plants died and were later replaced with others . . . which eventually died. The geraniums, helichrysum, and of course the spike were the hardiest of the bunch and did last all summer.

2-3 Red seed geraniums
1 Helichrysum
1 Calibrachoa "Superbells Saffron"
1 Torenia "Summer Wave Blue"* (shade-lover)
1 Spike

I usually also include a coleus or asparagus fern, but somehow forgot this year; one or both of these might be a good addition for this shady planter next spring. My goal this year is to keep this watered. I need to remind myself that carrying two half-filled watering cans down my 1/8 mile lane ought to count as a good weight-bearing exercise!

Every spring I get a little carried away with buying annuals, especially when Beckie and I go on one of our plant-shopping sprees. I seem to wind up with leftover plants that I can't resist but have no place planned to put them. I usually have one or two pots reserved for the "leftovers"where they are planted with no regard to design. This year was no exception--several beauties just insisted they had to come home with me--but the end results included two welcome surprises.

One pot, which I neglected to photograph, was placed in the shade garden, containing 1 helichyrsum, 1 caladium,* 1 lavendar-white verbena,* and 1 ipomoea "Bewitched." *A strange combination, but it worked; the "Bewitched" was a gorgeous, glossy dark sweet potato vine--I definitely want to find one of these again next year.

But my most successful "leftovers" were in this pot below:

2 Petunias "Double Wave Pink" *
2-3 Lantanas "Tropical Temptation Mimosa"*
3-4 Salvia "Victoria Blue"

The tag for the pink petunias didn't give a more specific name, but I do hope I can find these again next year. Next to the "Raspberry Blast," these petunias outperformed all the others with constant blooms until frost. The salvia--my favorite "Victoria Blue"--eventually did pretty well here, although I've discovered it doesn't like overcrowding and prefers being planted directly in the ground.

There were a few other pots I didn't include here--a basket of double pink impatiens, a small pot with volunteer dianthus, and another urn that contained flowers that changed through the season from pansies to verbena and "Diamond Frost" Euphorbia.

I enjoy planting containers and creating and coming up with new combinations of plants. The annuals provide instant gratification while waiting for the perennials to bloom and provide a constant supply of color throughout the season. And, of course, it gives me an excuse to visit all the garden centers in the spring and indulge in my favorite type of shopping. This summer there will probably be a few familiar displays in my garden; after all, if something works and I like it, I'm not going to change it. But I'm open to new ideas, and if a gorgeous annual calls out to me from the nursery displays, I'll find a place for it and some new companions in one of my containers.


  1. Rose, I just love this post. Sitting here while snow covers the ground and it is too cold to go out and do anything in the garden your post gives me lots to think about. The eye candy is marvelous.

    Isn't it funny how that last planter with your leftovers is really beautiful.

    Having leftovers is how I discovered that Diamond Frost does so well in the poor soil that surrounds the Ash tree by the patio here.

  2. What a great post. You've given me some information that I was looking for just yesterday. I was thinking about getting the Illumination Begonias and Double Wave Petunias seeds but had never planted them before so was a little leery. Now that I saw yours I'm definitely going to. Thanks!!!

  3. You are so creative with so many combination. I am going to remember the lantana/zinnia/alcopa combination. I love the bright cheery colors. Especially on a day with a teensy tiny bit of snow on the ground. The pink geraniums and asparagus ferns are so wonderful in the wicker too. Lots to think about for this season.

  4. Rose,

    Just what this perennial happy gardener needs to see...beautiful containers filled with annuals that light up a garden spot! I have several favorites but the Persian shield with white licorice and dianthus is hands down at the top of the list. On the list: Must do more containers.

    Enjoy the warming trend. It will probably feel delightful outside.


  5. Rose those are all great containers. I'm partial to pink so I really love the pastel ones with pink flowers. Those double wave petunias in the last pot are so gracefully shaped and beautifully colored.

  6. OOOH , eye candy is right, forget the fireman calendars! Finally at the end of the east coast deep deep freeze, I expect you are as worried as I am about our more tender perennials. We are zone 4b but the last week was akin to the north pole. Love your cheery bright photos.

  7. I am a mediocre gardener at best-my job is to weed and I don't do that well!! ..I will plant containers but am not very good at figuring out what looks nice together. I certainly hope you do not mind that I am saving this post and when spring comes.....I know what to go and get!
    AND, YEAH.....get out those shorts....heat wave!!!!

  8. You've given me a couple of good ideas, Rose. Somehow I haven't really used asperagus fern in the past, but I liked yours that you had in with the geraniums. I think I'll try that with mine this year.
    This was fun, on such a cold winter day.

  9. I love those containers and the plants. The pelargoniums in the white wicker like container and the blue pelargoniums in the container on the shingle and the display on the white chair really caught my eye, but of course they are all really lovely! Roll on summer.

  10. Lisa, I really did this post for me so I wouldn't forget what I had planted; glad you enjoyed it! The leftover pot really surprised me when it turned out so well. This was the first year I tried "Diamond Frost"--what a great plant!

    Flydragon, the Illumination Begonia was beautiful all year long--where did you find the seeds? The double waves are sometimes harder to find, but I like them so much better than the single waves; the pink one was especially a good performer.

  11. Tina, I don't think of myself as creative:) Creating combinations of plants is my only "artistic" ability.

    Gail, I have several bare places, especially in front of the house where it's hard to plant a real garden, so I try to use a lot of containers. You can't go wrong with the urn combination!

    Marnie, Pink and purple combinations are my favorite, too. I liked the way the pink wave curved around the pot, but that was pure luck!

    Kathi, I always have a gardening calendar; forget the cheesecake photos:) I'm hoping the snow cover and all the leaves I put around my perennials will protect them. This winter has certainly tested their hardiness.

  12. Neva, I'm no expert gardener, either! I get many of my best ideas from others, which is why I'm always checking out other gardens. By all means, copy anything you like--I'm flattered!

    Joyce, the asparagus fern does really well with geraniums and works as well in shade as in sun. And it is one plant I can overwinter!

  13. Maggie May, the first time I read about pelargoniums I didn't know what they were:) I've grown up calling them geraniums, but you're right in calling them by their proper name. Writing about these has gotten me really wishing for spring to come!

  14. All my balcony garden is containers -- you've given me some really, really great ideas! Your containers are all beautiful!

  15. Rose,
    I found the seeds in Parks Seeds catalogue. They don't have the apricot like yours, but do have the Illumination Pink. Stokes Seeds also has them in 5 different colors if you're willing to pay a little bit more.

  16. Rose, it was so great to see your lovely planters again. I'd forgotten just how pretty they were and how much I admired them. With the fresh snow today and the cold this morning, they were a warming sight.

    I was so intent last year on getting photos of individual plants that I neglected getting the whole containers. Will have to remember to do that this year.

    Can't wait til we do a little plant shopping this week! I will be asking

  17. Where shall I start? So many pots! I find celosia and coleus fascinating plants. Celosia flowers have such an unusual texture and the coleus plant has unbelievably beautiful leaves.

    Zonal geraniums are a must for me in the summer. I love red, in particular. The urn photo is my particular favourite.

  18. You had some lovely combination planters here Rose. I enjoyed all of them. That little birdhouse with the calibrachoa was really cute. I can just imagine how pretty it was as it grew.

    I see you also had one of my favorite plants, Persian Shield planted in a couple of pots. I've always loved that plant.

    I enjoyed this post much Rose, thanks for sharing all your ideas.

  19. Ooooh, such beautiful containers! I'm glad you are doing a post just for you, that's the best sort :)

  20. You put together some wonderful containers last season Rose. The urn is my favorite one of all! :) I don't do to many containers since they dry out so quickly but opt instead for fewer but larger containers.

  21. Rose girl ! they are all gorgeous containers but I have to say the same as Gail .. the Persian Shield ? one is my favorite too !!
    I have to cut down on my containers .. I get so tired from just watering the garden that hubby ends up with the pots (when I have complained about being too tired .. poor man !!) haha

  22. Oh Rose, it is so nice to see pretty summer flowers in January! Our snow and cold is here for a bit, so your post is really cheering and warming - right down to my toes!
    I love them all - what can I say? The birdhouse is my absolute favourite. But your urn is exquisite! And everything else too.
    Glad there is a bit of warmth in the air. Here too things are a bit better.

  23. Nancy, Thank you. I've been planting containers much longer than any other type of gardening.

    Flydragon, Thanks for the info! I will check them out.

    Beckie, I realized too late that I didn't have many good pictures of the entire pots either. Oh, am I ready for a day out!

    Mean Mom, There will always be geraniums in my garden:) In the last few years, growers have created such beautiful varieties of coleus; I've started using them much more.

    Susie, I can't say enough about Persian Shield, either. I first found it by accident a couple years ago, and it's now a mainstay in my planters.

    Suburbia, Thanks! I thought this might be rather boring, but it will come in handy for me this spring...I seem to be forgetting too many things lately:)

    Racquel, I spend a lot of time watering containers in the summer, but it's one chore I really don't mind. The urn is my favorite, too.

    Joy, If I left watering up to my Mr. Procrastinor, the flowers would all die for sure:)

    Wendy, I seem to be turning more and more to my summer photo files; we don't even have pretty snow to photograph. At least it's not so bitterly cold right now.

  24. I think all your planters look great, even the ones you don't think do. I was trying to figure out if I had a favorite, and it may be the last one. Lantanas and petunias do better in containers some years than others for me. I love that yellow lantana.

    I am in the process of writing a new post, and was just looking through my old posts to see if I've already put some of the pics up before. I saw that you were one of the first people to leave a comment on my blog. That was before I joined blotanical. Cool!

  25. Delicious container recipes, Rose! A feast for the winter eye :)

  26. Hi Rose, I have to laugh at your resistance to trying new things! I am exactly the opposite, wanting to plant ONLY new things, but I am disappointed in my containers too. I have plenty of sun, it is keeping things watered that is the problem. I want those low maintenance guys, and so far the coleus and diamond frost were the only ones to fit that bill. Your containers were quite lovely though! :-)

  27. Sue, The yellow lantana always has done well for me, especially in full sun. How cool that I was one of the first to comment on your blog! It hasn't been that long ago that I was a newbie myself, so I like to encourage new bloggers.

    Joey, Yes, right now everything is white or gray:)

    Frances, I'm afraid I get in a rut sometimes, though there's always room for something new. I do spend a lot of time watering in the summer, but anything that is too thirsty doesn't get invited back next year.

  28. Dear Rose,
    Your containers are gorgeous!
    Now is a great time to plan for this coming growing season. Thank you for all the inspiration.

  29. Your containers are beautiful! I restrain from containers due to watering in the heat of summer. These are so beautiful and you inspire me to rethink my watering. When everything else is drying up in the garden, the containers could be adding much more to my life! I need to add more containers to my gardens! You did a great job of creating such beautiful assortments in your containers! One could really have fun selecting the perfect accompanying goodies for the containers! The wicker stand reminds me of an old Southern Garden. I think one would look great on my Southern Rocking Chair front porch!

  30. Great post, as always, Rose! I love seeing what others plant in their containers, and what colours they use. Yours are glorious and inspiring, and they make me long for spring. I only use annuals in containers (except for the freerange annuals, the poppies, nigella and sunflowers, that grow everywhere around here.)

  31. Well bless you for posting these photos. I feel refreshed and revived like I've taken a vacation somewhere warm and sunny. And more to the point, I teach a container gardening class, and I'm assuming you won't mind if I steal a photo to update my presentation? (I believe you sent me the one of the pink planter at the time I asked last May, but I'd like to add the petunia in the birdhouse--so clever and the contrast of colors and textures of the flowers and the wood really speaks to me.)

  32. Hi Rose.....lovely to go back in time and look at summer containers 2008. You have some beautiful combinations there, I am really impressed.
    Lantana is such a favourite of mine and it never does well here, even in a container. I think it is possibly because of our wet summers.....

    Like Lisa I love the last planter, it is really pretty.......

  33. Sherry, Thank you; I am already thinking ahead to spring.

    Skeeter, That's absolutely right--it's not as hard to keep up with watering the containers as it is to try to water a whole garden.I guess that's why I don't mind it.

    Jodi, I always use annuals, but I've often heard at workshops that perennials work well in containers, too. The heuchera was the first--and only--one I've used.

    Monica, I had forgotten about sending you a couple of these pictures. By all means, use whatever you want--I'm flattered!

    Cheryl, I'm sure that not all annuals work everywhere either. The lantana likes it hot and dry. The alcaypha may do beautifully in Louisiana, but it was a big disappointment here:)

  34. Your container plantings are wonderful! I especially love the urn grouping, with the pink & purple. This is definitely a case of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." I must commend you for branching out to try using a perennial in a container.
    I'm sorry this is too late to help you this year, but I recently learned of a very easy way to overwinter those Pelargoniums. (Caveat: I haven't tried it yet, but will be doing this next fall.) At the end of the growing seasons, you're supposed to shake all the soil off the plants & hang them upside down in a cool dark place for the winter, then pot them up again next spring. I figure that I may as well give this method a try, I've been composting them instead, so what's to lose?


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