Thursday, January 24, 2008

Contemplating Containers

After our January thaw two weeks ago, when we enjoyed temperatures above 60ºF (15ºC), and even warm breezes, we're back to the more normal frigid mid-winter temperatures, and arctic winds. Ross and I have been getting plenty of wear out of our mad bomber hats!

In the spirit of the 'embarrassing happy hats' theme, a couple of my dear, supportive blog friends have posted pictures of themselves wearing their winter head attire. You can see Giddy's knitted version of the MB hat here, and Apple's fashion statement, complete with earmuffs here. Thanks girls for joining in the embarrassment fun :)

As pretty as the snowy landscape can be, I'm feeling rather color-deprived, but I've found that poring over last summer's garden photos is a good antidote for this. During the gardening season I didn't find much time to work on posts, and many of the thoughts and photos I wanted to share were "piled on the shelf". Now, with the cold temperatures confining me to indoor activities, I'm finally sifting through them.

I got a little carried away with containers last summer, but I had fun trying out some different combinations. Helping out last spring at my favorite nursery had its advantages, and I was able to try several plants that I hadn't grown before. I do try planning a few containers ahead of time to a certain extent, but I tend to buy the plants that catch my eye and then I have to experiment to come up with a combination that works. Some do, some don''s all part of the learning process, and part of the fun.

The Abutilon combined nicely with the white wax begonia.....

......and the pretty variegated Vinca, but the Coleus is a bit too red I think,

.......even though it's a really lovely one.

Overall though, I was pleased with this container.

I loved the yellow Marguerite daisy (Argyranthemum) with this Coleus, the Dusty Miller, purple Verbena (not showing much here) and purple Calibrachoa ("Superbells Blue"), AKA Million Bells. Posted by Picasa

A closer look at the pretty Coleus with the yellow daisy.

The brown glazed pot behind Jasmine (what's a post without a kitty picture?) was one of my favorites with that pretty yellow Calibrachoa, a Vancouver Centennial geranium (variegated leaves and red flowers) that I over-wintered from the previous year, the lovely dark-leaved Purple Knight (Alternathera), and Nemesia 'Sunsatia Mango'.

Unfortunately the calibrochoa died in July, probably due to wet feet. They don't like that! Happily, the other calibrochoas I grew all did very well.

I fell in love with this Nemesia 'Sunsatia Mango' when I spied it at the nursery last spring. Just look at those pretty little 'faces'! :) And it blooms all summer! Posted by Picasa

I tried Monkey Flower (Mimulus) for the first time this past year....

......combined with a smaller cultivar of licorice plant (Helichrysum Silver Mist)....hoping the small licorice wouldn't take over like the big one,..........

.....Iresine, another pretty dark-leaved filler, and a lovely pink Nemesia ('Sunsatia Rasberry').

As you can see, the licorice did take over, hogging the container, and crowding the other plants. I really like the silvery foliage, but I wish I could keep it in check better. I was disappointed that the Iresine didn't do as well as I hoped it would.....probably because it was too crowded. Posted by Picasa

Here's a different cultivar of Iresine (AKA Chicken Gizzard...isn't that a delightful name? I'm being facetious, of course) that I grew in 2006. I liked it much better, but sadly, I couldn't find this one last year. It grew very fast and I had to cut it back a few times. Posted by Picasa

The pretty pinkish red, dainty flowered plant in this container is Diascia 'Flying Colors Red'. This is another plant that blooms all summer. I also tried it in the garden and it did wonderfully well, continuing to bloom after several light frosts. I liked it with the white wax begonias and red coleus.

These double impatiens look like tiny roses. I love them, but I've had the worst luck with impatiens...both double and single, for the past 2 summers. The year before (and as long as I've been gardening here...that's 24 years) they grew beautifully in containers, window boxes and garden, but recently something has caused their leaves to yellow and fall off, and some of the plants to die. The rest just languish and look sick, while producing very few flowers. My Master Gardener friend, Marie, thinks it could be spider mites, and suggested I try dusting them with Sevin, which I did, but it was too late to save them at that point. So I'm still unsure of the cause. Has anyone else had similar problems with Impatiens?

Here are the singles shortly after planting. They never grew any bigger than this. You can see just a few leaves beginning to turn yellow. I like to combine them with English Ivy (or Vinca) and Dusty Miller. When they grow well this makes a pretty container.

This is the same container after the impatiens had died. I replaced them with some cuttings I'd started in the late winter from the 'Marimba' Ivy geranium that I over-wintered. Posted by Picasa

I always grow a few tuberous begonias in hanging baskets. Their blooms are so perfectly formed.....

........and remind me of the camelias my mother used to grow in Australia, which I can't plant in the garden here in our zone 5 NY climate.

Here's the 'Marimba' Ivy geranium and 'Marinka' Fuchsia...both over-wintered plants from the summer of 2006. I've also successfully rooted cuttings from the fuchsia and planted them in the garden.....taking them up in fall, and potting them to over-winter in the house.

'Marimba' up close.

And 'Marinka'.

It's funny that the names and colors of these two favorites are so similar. Both have been wonderful plants, and the hummingbirds love them!

Here's another calibrachoa, also a great plant for attracting the hummers.

This is one of the plants that's over-wintering in an upstairs bedroom. I showed a picture of it with a single bloom in the previous post.

And just a couple more shots to finish up.
Ross attached that tray to the railing to bring the birds a little closer for me to photograph. It works well. Posted by Picasa

Here's what I'm dreaming of......a warm, summer rain on a morning in July. Birds singing, flowers blooming.....
Sweet dreams! Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - January

Yesterday was the official Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, but it was a busy day for me, so I'm a day late!
Carol of May Dreams Gardens began GBBD almost a year ago and you can see what's blooming in other gardens if you click her link.
This is my first BD post because during the warmer months I'm usually too busy in the gardens to commit to a scheduled day, although I do love to see what's blooming in other gardens. So I'll give it a try and endeavor not to be tardy next month....if anything at all is blooming then.

Here's what it looks like outside - absolutely nothing is blooming! The snowy caps give the Sedum Neon Stonecrop a bit of pizazz though. Posted by Picasa

However, inside we have a little colorful activity going on. This "Kristen's Pink" Abutilon (AKA Flowering Maple, and several other names) which I'm wintering over is blooming like crazy!

Even though the lower leaves have fallen off, the plant is looking healthy and has 6 beautiful blooms open at the moment, and more to come. It's the first time I've tried this plant and I'm very pleased with it. Seeing it bloom in winter is a very pleasant surprise! I had it in a container last summer, but I'm thinking of trying it in the ground this year.

This palm is not blooming yet, but it has three flower heads loaded with tiny buds.

The plant has flowered several times in previous years, and while the blooms aren't particularly showy, they're a welcome sight when blooms are scarce. Posted by Picasa

I'm overwintering my wonderful Marimba Ivy Geranium for the second year. I took several cuttings last spring and will do so again this year.

This calibrachoa (Million Bells) is an experiment in overwintering. So far it's doing well, and has had a few blooms, although none were expected, so this has been another happy bonus. There's only one at the moment, but it's a bright little beauty.

My friend Marie, who is a Master Gardener, and freely shares her vast store of knowledge (thank you Marie!), mentioned overwintering her wax begonia so I decided to try that too, and so far it's looking good. Posted by Picasa

The Columnia still has a few blooms.

This Marinka Fuchsia is another treasured plant and, like the ivy geranium, this is the second year I've overwintered it. I took cuttings from this also last spring and have a second plant coming along nicely. I keep most of these hold-over plants in a couple of unused bedrooms upstairs (now that the kids have flown the nest), where the temperatures are much cooler.
If any of the family comes home and wants to use the bedrooms we might have a problem, but we'll worry about that when we have to.

Last, but not least, this lovely Poinsettia is still a nice splash of color, brightening the house with it's pretty red bracts. Posted by Picasa

Did you notice the Garden Bloggers' Spring Fling button on my sidebar? If you visit Pam at Digging you'll find out what those enthusiastic Austin garden bloggers have in store for you, coming up in April. I wish Austin wasn't so far away from NY. It sounds like it'll be a blast!

I can't wait for spring to arrive!

Meanwhile, I'll just have to be content dreaming over the piles of seed catalogs and garden magazines, and making plans for next year's gardens, like the rest of you. It's a little easier on the back anyway :)

Saturday, January 12, 2008

A Bit of Fun

I must say I deeply regret mentioning that one of my presents this Christmas was a "Mad Bomber" hat from our youngest daughter.
Ross received his MB hat last Christmas from KE's beau and we shared it all winter (Ross got a turn occasionally), after finding it to be the warmest hat imaginable. So dearest daughter thought I should have one of my own. She even assures me that they're extremely fashionable at the moment. (Apple, do I hear you snickering?)
Wouldn't you know that some of my smart alecky blog friends would think it fun to see a picture?
Now, I'm always ready for a laugh, but these hats are not this laugh is at my expense! However, with a bit of prodding from Ross (always the jester), I took the hats with us when we visited our son and his family last weekend to have our Christmas with them, and we had him take a photo of us.

So what do you think?
Fashionable to say the very least, yes? That front flap forms a brim if you fold it down, and you can wear the ear flaps up if you want to hear better. Picture that!

Of course, our son and the boys had to get in on the act too.

The little guys look a lot cuter in all that fur than I do.
You might be a redneck if you wear one of these :) Posted by Picasa

We also had some fun opening presents.

These Magstiks were a big hit with all three boys :)
They're magnets that you can make neat shapes with. Posted by Picasa

On Saturday morning while C went with his mom and dad to indoor soccer practice, Ross and I had a wonderful time frosting sugar cookies with K. He kept us smiling all morning with his excited chatter, and watching him frost those cookies, while dribbling frosting along the counter top was priceless. Now that's fun! :) Posted by Picasa
I hope you're all having a lovely weekend!