Thursday, March 27, 2008

Window Boxes and Hanging Baskets

Have you noticed that over at Gardening Gone Wild they're talking about container plantings this month? It all started on March 1st with Nan Ondra's post, "Garden Bloggers' Design Workshop - Container Plantings"
We're invited to do a post about containers (archives count) and submit it by leaving a comment on Nan's post before the end of this month.

I did 2 posts earlier this year about containers which you'll find here and here, if you'd like to have a look.

Last summer I went a little crazy over containers, which was a direct result of helping out at my favorite nursery during the spring. There were so many plants I couldn't resist bringing home to try! You know how that is.
But my window boxes are a standard of my summer planting. I've been using many of the same plants for years, because they work so well. I use different varieties and color combinations each year, and sometimes add a different plant, but I basically stick to the same old faithfuls.

I'm thinking I may try a few different things this year though, after seeing so many wonderful ideas in this series of container posts....and that's just so far. I haven't read them all yet, and there may be more to come before the end of the month!

I love to use a combination of ivy geraniums, petunias, alyssum and vinca major. There are some pretty variegated cultivars of vinca available, which add interest. This is my favorite ivy geranium, Marimba, mainly because it grows so prolifically, but I also love the color.

I buy regular potting soil from our local hardware store and add peat moss to it, mixing it up in a wheelbarrow.

In this box are 2 ivy geraniums, 3 petunias, one vinca, with 3 alyssum planted along the front edge. They bloom well all summer. The petunias and geraniums need deadheading, and it's good to cut the petunias back a little when they begin to get a bit leggy. That way they'll bush out and continue to bloom nicely. I don't always get this done, but I should!

This is a white calibrachoa (Million bells), just one plant, which trailed down later in the season and looked great. The petunias are Merlin Blue. Posted by Picasa

Two of these ivy geraniums were in the same box (they weren't blooming in the first picture) but I can't remember their name.

Here's the whole box

This is the same as the first box, but just around the corner from it. You can see how profusely the Marimba geranium blooms. There are 2 of them planted in here.

I tried a few different things in this box. It's on the north side of the house and gets shaded in the afternoons, so I used begonias and coleus which do well with less sun. There's vinca and alyssum in there as well, as you can see. The begonias overwinter well if you have room for a few in the house, and cuttings can be made for the new season. At the end of the season I plant my vincas in our veggie garden, or a flower garden if I can find room, and they overwinter in the ground just fine. When I'm ready to plant my window boxes later in the spring I'll dig them up, tidy them and use them in the boxes again. Posted by Picasa

This 'Amethyst' ivy geranium hangs in a basket outside our back door.

You may have guessed I'm partial to pink :)

Here's what it looks like in the early morning sunshine.

I overwintered this one from the year before and can't remember the name of it. There's just one plant in that basket. Posted by Picasa

I feed them with liquid fertilizer..the 'bloom booster' variety..... about once a week.

In this basket is a mixture of 'Rasberry blast' petunias, and I think the other might be 'Royal Magenta'. I bought this one already planted, and the blooms lasted amazingly well all summer. Sometimes we get lucky!

Fuchsias are another favorite of mine. This one is Southgate. I tried overwintering it, but unfortunately it didn't make it.

Marinka has overwintered 2 years in a row for me. I've had it in an upstairs bedroom and it's even bloomed a little. I'll bring it down and put it on the covered porch as soon as the days begin to warm up. I've begun giving it a little plant food and it's looking surprisingly healthy. Posted by Picasa

What are you planning to put in containers this year?

Soon it'll be time to start planting them, but meanwhile we'll enjoy the snowdrops, crocuses, daffodils and tulips.....if Old Man Winter ever loosens his grip!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Expanding Friendships Through Blotanical

Many of you have already discovered Blotanical, the relatively new website that is bringing garden bloggers' together all over the globe. If you love to see what's growing and blooming in other people's gardens then you'll find an endless supply of fascinating posts here.

Stuart Robinson is the young man responsible for putting it all together. He actually hatched the basic idea well over a year ago, and has been working to build and expand the site since then, until it has developed into a grand plan that seems to be working beautifully.

I'm so pleased to have recently 'met' lots of new gardening friends - some close by in my home state of New York, some half-way around the world in my native country, Australia, and others from Canada, the UK and Europe. There are also plenty of other gardeners in countries I've yet to explore - New Zealand, Africa, South America and Asia.
It's exciting to see the amount of people participating, and fun to read about the quirks and obsessions we have in common. I sit here smiling and nodding my head, and feeling "normal", knowing there are so many others out there who share the idiosyncrasies of a gardener's character.....but above all else, that irresistable urge to grow as much as we possibly can!
Stuart has written several helpful articles, posted under the "News" tab, which explain a few things about Blotanical and how to maneuver around the site. Under each of the tabs on the home page there are sub headings which give you lots of choices.
For instance under the "Search Blogs" tab you have a choice of doing a Google search for information under "Search Blogging Content", or skimming through a list of blogs under "Search Blogger's Location". And if you want to add a Blotanical button or widget to your blog, you can find that here as well under "Banners and Gadgets".
Under the "Picks" tab you'll find a list of the current 200 posts of all the members. I use it, in addition to my feed reader, to find the newest posts of my favorite blogging friends, and to meet new gardeners from all over.
You get your own little "plot" and can choose a list of your favorite bloggers. To encourage you to use the site, there's a point system which rewards you for logging in, picking posts, and a few other activities. You can also chat with other members via messages. Your blog doesn't have to be exclusively about gardening. Most of us post about our everyday lives, as well as our gardens.
The best way to learn to use the site is to just keep clicking your way around! And if you have a question there's a "Help" tab where Stuart is quick to provide you with answers. Or you can send a message to a fellow member to find plenty of helpful advise.
If you're 'just a little obsessed with gardening' then you're really going to enjoy yourself at Blotanical :)
Stuart once remarked to me in an e-mail, after starting a third blog (he has one about lawn care as well as his Gardening tips and ideas, and used to have a financial advisory blog) that he started the lawn care blog because he found he was getting far too much sleep! :)
I often wonder how he fits sleep into his busy schedule, especially these days. Yes, he does have a day job, a young family, and a garden of his own!
You're doing a great job Stuart, and we all very much appreciate it, but don't overdo, and do take a little time for yourself now and then. OK?

Easter lilies in church on Easter Sunday Posted by Picasa Jesus never fails

Friday, March 21, 2008

Springing into Easter!

Doesn't it seem strange to have Good Friday fall on the day after Spring begins?
Last year the first day of Spring was March 21st, and 16 days later we had Good Friday. Easter is an early bird this year!

These delightful daffodils have now brightened the house for the third week! I put them out on our unheated, covered side porch, where we can see them through the kitchen windows, and at least half of them are still looking good. It's like keeping them in the refrigerator.

We've had wintery weather for most of the week, with a frigid wind blowing snow horizonally across the landscape these past couple of days, and rain on Wednesday. There've been short periods of sunshine, but it's hard to remember them....they seem so few and far between. However, as we hear the news of people drowning in floods, and others suffering damage to their homes in the southern part of the country our hearts go out to these families, and we count our blessings.

On Saint Patrick's Day I found a few more signs of Spring outside. The lilacs are budding in the above photo.....

......and the Maple has pretty red buds too.

This is what the Forsythia looks like. My husband planted 3 of these shrubs about 4 years ago and we've barely seen a bloom yet. We're hoping this will be the year that the bright yellow blooms will announce the arrival of spring. The calendar says it's here, but Mother Nature has other plans apparently, unpredictable prankster that she is. Posted by Picasa

The red-winged black birds are frequent visitors to the feeders now, and if you enlarge this photo you'll see a female cowbird has joined this group. The males showed up the next day.

I managed to snap a picture just as this male redwing was fluffing his wings, and caught the colors, but unfortunately, not his head.

The grackles arrive shortly after the redwings and want more than their share...or so it seems. They're known as the "bully birds", and are not quite as welcome as the smaller birds. In fact we'd rather they stayed away, but their colors are lovely nonetheless.

Mr. and Mrs. Cardinal come early in the morning for their breakfast. They're always polite, and don't overstay their welcome :)

The spring flowers in the house are fading, and it's high time for those outdoor blooms to receive some warmer temperatures and sunshine. They need the help to stir themselves and spring into action as they try to catch up with their precocious southern and western cousins. Posted by Picasa

My dear husband noticed a shaft of sunlight falling across the daffodils on St. Patty's Day (yes, we had a bit of sunshine on Monday!) and thought I should take a photo of them. So I did. I'm glad he pointed that out so I didn't miss the moment :)

I hope each and every one of you has a very happy and blessed Easter! Posted by Picasa

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - March '08

Here we are in the middle of the month again,
with still precious little to show for outside blooms.

These snowdrop buds were the closest I could come. They're not quite open, but it won't be long!

In the house some of our forced bulbs are blooming.

This was our first experience with forcing bulbs and the results were mixed.
We stored the potted bulbs (covered) in our unheated garage in early December, and brought 2 pots of tulips and one of hyacinths into the house in early February, placing them upstairs in a cool storeroom for several days. I checked them daily, wondering if mice would find them there and have them for dinner.

All was well for a while, but then I found the tops of the tulip bulbs had been eaten. Fortunately, I found that mice aren't fond of hyacinths, so they were still intact. I moved the pots then to a bedroom unpstairs, and left them for a few more days before bringing them downstairs where the temperature is warmer.

We had intended the bring the rest of the pots in gradually so as to stagger the blooms over several weeks and use them to decorate the church for Sunday Services, since I'm the flower lady, but after a few days the mice discovered those bulbs too and ate most of the tulips. Hungry little beasts! So we ended up bringing all the rest in at once and putting them in a bedroom upstairs, leaving them covered for another week.

These 'Carnegie' hyacinths did quite well, and that first pot I brought in were lovely too, but I forgot to take a photo of them (can you believe that?). They were a pretty pink.

These 'Splendid Cornelia' are stunted. The blue one was in the same bag but it's obviously a misfit.
My friend Marie told me the growth needs to be a couple of inches tall before they're brought in, and these weren't that tall. Next year I'll remember that, and I'll have to find somewhere to keep them inside and out where the mice can't get them. If you have any advise to add I'd certainly be glad if you'd share it.
Posted by Picasa

So far we've had a total of 4 tulip blooms out of 30 (10 pots), and 6 presentable hyacinths blooms out of 8 pots. Not a lot to show for our efforts!

But we're very glad to see the few tulips that survived the mice, and the hyacinths scent is heavenly.
This tulip was supposed to be pink but it looks more like red to me!
Never mind, we'll take it! Posted by Picasa

A few weeks ago we bought a pot of Primulas and a Cyclamen to brighten up the house. The Primulas have just a few blooms left now, but they sure were a pretty sight to see for several weeks.

I love that deep pink!

I used to buy Cylamens for Mom on Mother's Day, so they carry the added pleasure of reminding me of her.

The Cyclamen is still looking good, even though the blooms are fewer. These cheery daffodils were given to us by a dear friend last week after brightening our church service. I put them out on the covered side porch during this week, where we could still see them, but where they would be able stay cool. They're still looking beautiful, and will go back to church tomorrow to be enjoyed for a second Sunday :) Posted by Picasa

We do have the promise of spring in our garden, with these and many more daffodils poking through the ground. It won't be too long before we can gaze upon a sea of yellow once again. I can't wait! Posted by Picasa
You can find other GBBD posts over at