Thursday, August 8, 2013

Container Annuals in Our Garden

Well, we have survived a "week from Hell": my husband was in the hospital three days with severe bronchitis, released a bit too early (to free up a bed). Then I, the sole caregiver, came down with the bronchitis just when he came home and needed extra care! I'm much better today and he is slowly getting stronger.

But now I am finally ready to continue the gardening blogs, this time with some photos and comments about the annuals I grew in containers this spring/summer.

I love having bright annuals all summer and into the fall to complement the shrubs, vines, ferns, and perennials. I have a mix of containers, maybe 50 or so, ranging from large styrofoam/fiberglass planters to rectangular terra cottas, and various small pots as well.

This year I planted the containers in the first week of May, about two weeks later than usual. The timing depends on several factors:  the weather on the day (and week ahead) of the planting, my energy, health, and time available to do it, and the availability of the plants from local nurseries. I usually do the sunny plants first because the shady coleus and impatiens are less tolerant of unexpected last frosts.

In the beginning, the pots aren't all that full, by design, to leave room for spreading later. Five plants are fine for a big pot (maybe 24-inch diameter), four for smaller, and even just one plant for a terra cotta pot of coleus, for example.

On the east side, I have pots on both sides of the front walk. So I mix different heights, colors, and types of annuals in each pot but match up the same ones on both sides for a nice symmetric look but tons of color.

There's not a lot of space between some of these pots because I'm greedy for lots of annuals, but once the annuals get growing there is no space at all ... they overlap each other, especially the trailing ones like petunias and calibrachoas.

In the north yard where it is shady, I usually use wax begonias, impatiens, or coleus.

I used to plant hanging baskets with annuals, but they never have time to fill out as nicely as the ones you buy that have been planted early in greenhouses. This double bicolor impatiens is great and I can see it from the kitchen window over the sink.

This was my first year to find and try so-called Rieger or Rhine begonias. This one has bloomed constantly and brilliantly since the first of May and is still gorgeous. I hear that the trick is not too much water.

The smaller wax begonias are good in shade in these old terra cotta pots. Because the pots are small and dry out fast, I keep them under the bird bath for easy watering.

We had quite a few of these whiskey half barrels of wood when we set up this garden 17 years ago, but only one is left. They last pretty well, but eventually they rot out. I know the pansies always give out once the Midwestern heat begins, but I can't resist their sweetness. I replaced later with wax begonias in this shady spot on the west side.

The only tuberous begonia I've had luck with in the past is the so-called non-stop begonia. It did stop this year when we had a very hot week at the end of July, but was quite pretty before that and is still going so it may bloom again in the fall when it gets its second wind, so to speak.

Here's a shot showing the front walk earlier this summer. It's more full now but starting to look a little "fatigued."
This isn't an annual but rather a houseplant from South Africa called Clivia. I put out the houseplants on a table in the shady north in late May until late October each year so they can enjoy some fresh air and rain and I have a break from watering. This plant loves to be pot bound and blooms every summer without fail.

In the shady north I used a nice combination of orange wax begonias and white and orange bicolor impatiens.

Here impatiens and coleus team up for some brightness in the shade.
I love the color of this coleus and had to have a pot with it by itself too!
The Martha Washington geraniums are a different sort than the common annual geraniums (actually pelargoniums from South Africa) or the perennial cranesbill geraniums. I have tried them before and lost them to heat. This year being wet and with cool nights, I was lucky. They have the lovely foliage and the most beautiful colors in the blossoms.
I found three different Marthas this year and all have done well.
This bicolor petunia was great ... bright and spreading like crazy.
I also love the petunias with deep colored centers like this one.
The calibrachoas are like small petunias. Very nice and bright. This one is called Lemon Slice.
These three different colored petunias were actually planted in different pots, but all have spread and overlapped the boundaries.

This Cherry Bells calibrachoa is a nice new one for me.
Here's the common annual geranium with white lobelia for good contrast.
The annual vincas are lovely and can take the heat and drought quite well. This year I discovered the salmon colored ones as well as white, pink, and rose red.

The best know annual salvia is the red one, St. John's Fire, but the blue Victoria is also very good. It grows more slowly and blooms later, but it is hard to find good blues in annuals and this one fills the bill.

Of course, I have to have the red salvia too and it sometimes reseeds itself in the pot.
They keep filling out more and more throughout June and July.

Here's another new coleus that has grown fast and been delightful.
The white flowers here are angelonias. They give a bit of height to contrast with the spreading petunias and calibrachoas. They come in purple and lavender too, but the white is nice to bring out the bright colors of the other annuals in the same pot.

Behind this mix of reds and whites in pots is the Penny Mac, a very reliable pink hydrangea.

Next time: more perennials!

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