Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Plant Stew

Last year, Kara just happened to be at Lowe's at just the right time. One of the managers was marking things down in the garden department and the prices were negotiable. She picked up several great things, one of which was a large styrofoam container. She got several of them for five dollars each, and I bought one from her.

This thing is bigger than any other pot I've tried to fill and for me, putting together an attractive container full of plants is akin to landscaping. It's just not something I do well. I was pleased, however, with how it turned out last year and this year I tried to duplicate my combination somewhat, but I like last year's better.

First of all, I didn't want or need to fill that big pot entirely with potting soil. I placed a drainage tray down in it and its diameter was of a size that allowed it to stop about two-thirds of the way down into the pot. Then I added some stones for drainage and started potting things up.

I wanted something tall in it as a focus feature, so I got a small smoke tree (
Cotinus coggygria), then surrounded it with coleus. For vining down around the edges, I chose sweet potato vine (Ipomoea batatas), one in purple and one in green variegated. I added asparagus fern (Asparagus densiflorus 'Sprengeri') as fluff to tie in the height of the coleus with the trailing of the sweet potato vine, and it provided a different texture as well, although it now isn't even visible much, due to the proliferation of the coleus. There's a helichrysum (Helichrysum thianschanicum 'Icicle') for a different color, towards the back.

Last year, I did much the same thing, except I also had some fiber optic grass (Isolepis cernua) toward the front. Halfway through the summer, that wasn't doing so well, which is the same experience I'd had with it in the ground the summer before, so it eventually got torn out and I didn't use it this year. I love it, but I haven't figured out how to keep it looking good all summer long.

In the fall, when it's time to dismantle the container, I'll plant the smoke tree in the garden for overwintering and use it again next year. It doesn't grow all that much while in the container, nor while it's wintering in the ground, so I'll probably get a few more years' use out of it this way.

The base plants in this year's pot have grown quite large, while the smoke tree hasn't, and it doesn't look proportioned right to me. Also, this year's is missing that pop of the lime green coleus.

There are many things I can do if I have a recipe or a picture I can copy, but I lack the creativity to come up with something on my own. Maybe that will come in time, with experience, or I can just call my Mom whose pores are oozing with talent in that department and let her design my planter.


Muum said...

I have the same angst about large containers, and not a lot of design experience. We have a lot of pine trees in our yard, so I fill my large pots with pinecones so they are not so heavy, and I don't have to use so much potting soil. This year's big success in pots is the lime green sw potato vine, it is going nuts!

Robin's Nesting Place said...

Your sweet potato vines look so much better than mine. The Japanese beetles are eating mine up and they look awful.

Kylee Baumle said...

Muum, I've always had good luck with sweet potato vines and mine just finished blooming. They have such pretty flowers!

Robin, for some reason, I've not had a lot of Japanese Beetles. I never had any until last year, and I only collected 13 of them all summer. So far this summer, I've gotten 17 of them, but I've been in yards where they were EVERYWHERE!

Unknown said...

You did a spectacular job on both of these planters, Kylee, and I think I like this year's design better than last year's. Nice mix of colours and textures; give yourself some credit because you have lots of talent in gardening (and in photography--you're an inspiration!)

Kylee Baumle said...

Ah, Jodi, when I'm feeling down, I'll just give you a whistle and let you build my ego a bit, okay? ;-)

I don't have a picture of last year's pot once things started growing. That picture was taken right after I planted it and everything is small. I guess I like it better because of that lime-colored coleus!

Unknown said...

Kylee, this is gorgeous! I especially like the little 'Icicle' helichrysum in the back, and the way it makes you look up toward the smoke bush foliage. Lovely.

By the way, I have overwintered helichrysum by taking cuttings of it much the way you do with coleus. (In fact, I admit that sometimes neither one makes it out of the water jar all winter... oops! lol.) I don't remember if you overwinter cuttings in the house, but I found out that this works by accident with the helichrysum so I thought I'd share just in case.

Kylee Baumle said...

Kim, I actually overwintered four of these last year and then put them out too soon in the spring and they got frozen. Waaaaaaaaah!!! After the entire winter... down the drain. :-(

I have lights in the basement and I'll take this in (plus another one that I have in a hypertufa arrangement back on the patio). I've got another helichrysum (forget what it's called, but it's a frosty lime trailing thing with roundish soft fuzzy leaves - I love it, too) that I've used in my flower boxes and I'm going to try to overwinter that as well.

So you think it's okay how I've arranged these things in the pot, eh? Have I told you lately that I love you guys? :-)

kate said...

I agree with Jodi - your potted plants look wonderful together. I like the idea of putting in the smoke tree. That is just cool!

Anonymous said...

I feel your angst, but really who's to say if we got it right or wrong? Do you enjoy looking at your container? I do! Gardening is very interesting in that way, are we doing it for ourselves, for others, or a mix of both?

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