Gardener's Grapevine 2011.05.18

Written by David Green.

By JO ERBSKORN

I think gardeners are born with a love for dirt and plants. Some people can’t stand dirt on their hands or clothing. I am like “Pig Pen” in the Peanuts cartoon strip. When I’m in the garden it is with a plan and dirt be damned, I’m going to get that plan accomplished. Apparently one other member of our family has my philosophy.

Saturday we had our annual spring planting and spruce up day at the Congregational church. Because of the rain we were in short supply of help, so my aunt brought her granddaughter Chloe along, who is a freshman in high school. Most everyone knows that teenagers and work are not always a good combination, but wow, what a work horse she was and she never had one discouraging word. She said she liked to get dirty and I knew she had the heart of a gardener. The next generation of dirt lovers has arrived.

I would like to discuss container flowers for the “wow” factor. The first thing is to look at what you have, meaning where the planters will sit and what are they emphasizing. Next, look at what colors will be around them. Color is very important and to get that desired “pop,” you need to step back and think about the surroundings. Finally, think about the amount of sunlight available to the area the plants will sit in. “Sun” means full-on sun all day, “part sun” means part of the day they are in sun and part they are not, and “shade” is little to no sun.

I will use my own house porches as an example. My home is shades of grey and white with cranberry accents. Our porches are deep, making them more partial sun to shade depending on how far back the containers are on the porch. Whites, blues and pale colored flowers will not be a good choice in my containers as these are the colors that make up grey, and they will wash right into the house and not be noticed. If a certain plant in these shades is used, it should be as an accent to a bright flower such as a red or bright pink.

You need to think of the height of the plant, how wide it will be at full growth and whether it will drape down. Most containers of flowers have a tall plant in the center, medium height plants around the tall one, and small draping or non-draping plants on the outer ring. If the container is against a wall you can put the tall plant at the back, the medium plant in front, and smaller ones in front of that.

Use one type of plant with vivid, almost “jump at you” color, and use the rest of the plants to back up this plant. On my porch, red or bright pink is best for the “jump at you” plant, and white and yellow with a splash of deep purple here and there is a great combination. If my home were yellow and white, purples and reds could be the emphasis color.

Use a soil that retains moisture and contains fertilizer in your pot and save some time and work. Have fun with color, height and texture; if it doesn’t work, try something different next year. We live in Michigan and an annual is just that, an annual.

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