And a bit of history:
One of my goals in 2011 is to up the amount of garden related content on this garden blog gone astray. I know I’ll never have a one topic blog. My life, my way of thinking just isn’t like that. Which for me is good. Hopefully, for the folks who check in from time to time, it’s good for them too.
Last year I noticed several of the garden blogs I follow doing a monthly Garden Bloggers Bloom Day post. On the 15th of the month, bloggers share pictures of blooms around their garden. Seems like it would make a great chronicle of the year. This year I plan on adding my name to the list and participating. Of course, it’s January in Wisconsin. Not much actively growing outside, let alone blooming. Will have to stick with the indoors for now.
And unfortunately, I’m not much of an indoor gardener. So slim pickings.
Thankfully, kiddo had given me an orchid for Christmas. Intended for my new office with its wonderful bank of east facing windows. I hadn’t brought it into the office yet. An obvious place to start when hunting for blooms.
Originally I was going to do a post titled “Reduce, reuse, recycle” featuring this planter created from more or less “found” elements…. coupled with details on how I re-use last year’s potting soil with a bit of a mad scientist approach involving fresh potting soil, compost, organic fertilizer, alfalfa pellets and some really grubby, dirty hands. Or how I use the styrofoam packing peanuts to fill the bottom of planters.
Sure, I used an old golf cart found in my parent’s garage, and a very old golf bag. And I do mix up my own potting soil. And, I did save and use the packing peanuts – usually checking to make sure they are styrofoam, rather than corn starch which melts with water, to fill the bottom of large containers
But then, when I posted a picture on facebook of my finished product, my brother commented, “what will the neighbors think”. You see, I live in an established, somewhat conservative, upper middle class suburb of Milwaukee. We did what I think was a brilliant thing – buying the least expensive house in the best neighborhood possible. What we didn’t do was the expected tear down/rebuild or massive remodel/new addition. Instead we are tackling tiny project after tiny project ourselves. The result of which has been comments from our neighbor that our purchase price is “bringing the neighborhood property values down”, or in seeing we were doing landscaping ourselves comments about hiring a professional.
So maybe my neighbor won’t like my golf bag planter. But I sure do! We got the original idea back in 2004 when we attended the PGA Championship at Kohler. There on the streets of Manitowoc, WI was this planter….
I think it’ll get better as it fills out and grows. Oh the plants – in the top: Phormium ‘Jester’, Cuphea cyanea ‘Caribbean Sunset’, Cascade Centradenia, and ‘Aloha Red’ calibrachoa. Lower front pocket (with ball) Sanvitalia ‘Sunbini’, back pocket, sorry, lost the tag, maybe a santolina?
A question I often received from my neighbors was how did my hanging baskets, container plantings, pots, etc. always look so good. While I’m sure the use of good potting soil, supplemented with additional organic material such as fine compost, along with ample doses of a semi-organic fertilizer like Epsoma’s Flower-Tone helped, the real secret was water….and plenty of it. I learned quickly that in the heat of summer, particularly as the pots filled out and the plants became lush that the pots needed water at least once a day. Maybe twice.
And in our two-career busy family that presented a problem…..which was easily resolved by the use of a battery operated watering timer and plenty of drip irrigation and tubing. In fact if you look at my last post, that Louisville deck was during the time my son was an infant…to two careers plus an infant = must have automatic watering system. Some of the supplies I’d find locally, but a great on-line source is DripWorks. I was even able to find some white supply tubing to use around the inside of the front porch. Here’s early spring with the lines still mostly in their winter rolled up spot, and then snaked down with the chains to the hanging baskets..
I used the 1/2 supply lines in most places with the lines to the pots using 1/4 tubes and emitters. I also discovered 1/4 soaker hose that worked very well…almost better (and cheaper) than the emitters. When we put in the patio, I ran a supply line with the 1/2 tubing along the edge, just under the mulch. New sidewalks always had a 3″ or so piece of PVC pipe laid under to allow supply line/hoses under the sidewalk. In this set of photos you can see first an early spring shot of an empty pot with a 1/4″ soaker hose circle, then a late summer shot where it is hard to even notice the supply line.
At the last house, I had two systems set up, one on each side of the house, each with a two outlet timer – this allowed four unique plant groupings (some with 15-20 pots) each on their own schedule. My only real worry was that the battery would go dead, or an emitter would clog or blow off. However, I took enough walks through to enjoy the garden that problems were easily nipped in the bud so to speak.
Look closely at the picture to the left. Looks like a nice shot of a border bed, doesn’t it. Wrong! It’s actually on my deck. You can see the wood slats, and if you look real carefully at about the middle along the left edge, there’s the hint of a clay pot. One of the lessons I learned from that first fire escape “garden” was the value of masses of pots to create gardens. Wish I had pictures of that fire escape. From memory the flowers were fairly pedestrian, petunias, violas, my beloved moss roses, whatever I could get at the convenience store in our neighborhood which sold plants each spring. I hadn’t learned to mix plants in a pot, that i could grow herbs, veggies, the tropicals/tender perennials, and even actual perennials in these container gardens.
More shots from the same deck. This was my Louisville home, the transition garden between life on the farm and my new life. A home with a nice deck, but little yard. While I wasn’t yet digging in the dirt to start a new garden, I couldn’t resist the masses of plants…..some I’d moved with me when I left my former life….others purchased anew. A mix of annuals, tropicals – the dramatic cannas to the gawky but yummy smelling night blooming jasmine (Cestrum nocturnum). Coleus played a large role, as did herbs, esp lavender, rosemary, grown more for their scent than any other use.
When we did move on, and build our house outside St Louis, I continued this practice of massing pots. On the driveway to hide the air conditioning unit…
One each corner of the patio………..
At this new Milwaukee house, I’m just starting to feel my way around the garden. Unsure where to take this one. Did plant the couple of wooden barrels the old owners had left behind. One to herbs, the other to a more decorative mix. The first thing I’ve noticed from my earlier gardens is how the cooler temps, esp. nights, have slowed the plant growth. The plants are settling in, but not growing to the abundance I expected. I know, with time it will come…really hoping posting these pics below the ones above, will shame these plants to grow…esp. you ‘Black Magic’ Colocasia…you are supposed to be the tall focal point here..please take note of the one above by the air conditioner. I’ve got my eye on you, and that is more what I am expecting!