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      Text and photographs are © by Ellen Spector Platt & Ellen Zachos, all rights reserved.


      Showing posts with label annuals. Show all posts
      Showing posts with label annuals. Show all posts

      Sunday, September 29, 2013

      WHAT HAPPENED?

      On May 10, 2013, two of the four treewells that I plant in front of my building, each with a pin oak in the center, looking good.
      On Sept. 26, the same two treewells.
      The far one looks great, the other, pitiful. Both watered by building staff, both with the same with the same annuals planted lovingly by me in spring. What happened?
      Other Ellen and I did an analysis. Our pet theories coincided with slight variations.
      It all comes down to water.  The Great one above, is right in front of the building entrance, with a tree planted just 2 years ago, shallower roots but more soil. The soil was replaced at the time of tree-planting, less dog pee. The soil level is three inches below the concrete rim, so the treewell retains the water until it percolates downward.
      The Pitiful one is closer to the corner where the wind whips through, drying out the leaves. In the center lives a tree planted 16 years ago, in a smaller plot; established tree roots are everywhere.  Since it is further from the doorman, we surmise that more dog owners allow their dogs to pee there. But probably most important, the tree roots have heaved upward, pushing the soil level to the top of the concrete barrier. If the guy watering tries to finish quickly with a heavy flow both water and soil flood over the rim, making a big mess. He stops before this happens.
      Not enough water goes to the annuals!!!!!!!!!!

      Monday, July 15, 2013

      SEEDS:YES YOU CAN

      Above, 'Summer Splash Marigolds' with lantana on my 18th story roof garden.
      It's not yet mid-July but the Marigolds I started on my condo windowsill at the end of March are in full bloom. The color in the garden against the cold grey pavers and steely containers makes me happy. I was even happier when I saw a bee buzzing around them, and I'm trying to remain patient until my first butterfly sighting.
      One pack of seeds, only $2.79 from Renee's garden seeds* has given me 20 plants to spread around in multiple containers, and I have about 3/4 of the seed pack left. They'll probably still be viable next year if I store them in a cool, dry spot. The lantana cost me about $18 for a tray of 12 small plants at wholesale. Compare for cost, but that's only one reason to plant seed. You get a vast array of varieties and color choices and the genuine thrill of starting new life.

      I start seeds in commercial kits made for the job,
      In juice or milk cartons,
      cardboard egg cartons, and yes, even recycled plastic flower pots, that I've cleaned impeccably before reusing.
      Regular GardenBytes reader BFF Nana sent me an email with this news:
      "There was an article in today’s Boston Globe West section about the Concord (Mass.) Library that 'lends' packets of vegetable seeds and patrons give back from their harvest.  Cute idea! You 'borrow' seeds at the beginning of the season and bring back more at the end."
      Yet another great way of to share your garden, (see blog post below this.)
      My 'Summer Splash' marigolds are a cross between African and French types, (Tagetes patula x erecta) very bushy without pruning. Renee has kindly offered to send a complimentary pack of these marigolds to the first four Gardenbytes readers who email me with your name and address.

      *As a garden writer, I get free seeds from most seed companies upon request. I particularly love Renee's because of the varieties offered and the huge about of information on the seed pack . 





      Monday, July 1, 2013

      OTHER IDEAS

      When the Impatiens Necrotic Spot Virus hit nurseries last year, most stopped offering the ubiquitous common impatiens (Impatiens walleriana), which would only shrivel and die soon after planting. The virus, spread by thrips, has caused a huge financial loss to plant industry.
      I was curious to see what NYC gardeners would substitute given the shady sites and color and budget considerations. No better way to investigate than in NYC treepits. Above, a common replacement choice, begonias, green and white caladium, and New Guinea impatiens, not affected by the virus.
      Caladium again, fewer begonias, perennial ivy at the edges and a small strappy-leaved brake fern (Pteris) as a contrast to the huge elephant ears.
      Above, mostly coleus with a few caladium,  New Guinea impatiens and small boxwood shrubs.
      Mostly green and white with splotches of pink, the white shines in the shade.

      The Bromeliad flowers are just beginning to shoot up, and even these few should be a dramatic presence with the mundane begonias.
      Maidenhair fern, boxwood, coleus and the variegated tropical plant Stromanthe sanguinea.
      Above, my favorite so far this season. The purple Persian shield (Strobilanthes) a perfect foil for the smaller verbena.
      Thanks to Other Ellen for the tropical I.D.s





      Thursday, May 23, 2013

      COLOR CLASH

      In this year of impatiens blight, gardeners are finding other annuals for summer color. Have I gone too far? In the four treewells in front of my building I planted New Guinea impatiens which are not affected by the downy mildew. They're big, bold, more expensive than the stricken Impatiens walleriana. The shocking fuchsia color drew me in. But wait, I already have purple and orange pansies there, planted to augment red tulips and yellow daffodils now long gone.
      And I also bought coral/pink rieger begonias because I liked them. What a hodge-podge.

      Three species, four colors. The green of the ripening bulb foliage separates them a little and gives the eye a respite from my impudence. What will happen when the foliage dies off and the pansies wilt in summer heat?  For once I'm not trying to control every detail and I love the accidental outcome.
      Notice the top middle of this picture. The streets department has sprayed instructions in orange paint by the curb. How kind of of them to augment my raucous color scheme.



      Friday, June 15, 2012

      Sweet Supertunia

      For years I've dissed Petunia. Sure she's pretty in a show-offy, teen age prom queen kind of way, but she doesn't age well. Without daily deadheading, Petunia fades fast. I've never used her in my own gardens or my clients' gardens, and I've tried to dissuade students from planting her, stressing her high maintenance nature.

      This year, the folks at Proven Winners sent me three pots of Supertunias. (I think this is where I'm supposed to say that I received the plants as free samples and that no money was exchanged for what I'm about to say. Is that right?) I was skeptical, but the saturated, fruity color of Supertunia Watermelon Charm was more than I could resist, so I added them to a client's garden overlooking Central Park West.

      (This will be a riot of color when the hardy hibiscus bloom and the mandevilla vines climb.)

      In four of the coolest, wettest weeks I can remember as a gardener, each plant has tripled in size. But here's the clincher: they are not leggy and the spent blooms pretty much fade away into nothingness. Can you see a dead flower here?

      How about now?

      These images were taken prior to deadheading.

      My main Petunia objection has always been the way the dead flowers linger on the plant accusingly, asking (with considerable attitude) why I haven't been more conscientious in my maintenance work. (Do I need that kind of pressure from a Petunia?) I try to visit this particular client once a week, but sometimes it's 10 days between maintenance calls, and I need to know that the plants I use won't look shaggy and neglected after an extra day or two.

      Yes, the Supertunia flowers are smaller than straight Petunia flowers and yes, this is undoubtedly one of the reasons the spent blooms are less obvious. Is that a problem? Hardly. The rich color and abundance of bloom more than compensate for the somewhat smaller flower size.

      We'll see how they fare as we head into summer. At this point I'm highly optimistic and ready to take back all those nasty things I said about the prom queen.

      Tuesday, May 1, 2012

      MY DOWNFALL

      In the easy and efficient Burpee Greenhouse Kit I planted seeds of Mexican sunflower (Tithonia) and Moon flower vine, imagining how stunning they would be in my roof garden. Splashes of brilliant orange in 15 containers, huge white flowers unfurling at dusk and climbing up the fences.

      Using the little peat pellets included in the kit as my growing medium and adding liquid organic fertilizer at half strength after 2 pairs of real leaves appeared, the seedlings flourished.

      Although I had warned gardening clients and friends not to be fooled by our Mid-march summer, I had the nerve, the gall, the chutzpah, to think I would be immune. So I put the tray on the roof, in a 'protected' location to harden off for transplanting. That was one and a half weeks ago. The garden gods punished my hubris, not with frost but 39 degree weather and strong winds.
      Now I have this... back inside and trying to survive. Instead of 36 strong and healthy plants, I my be able to salvage five puny ones.
      Have I learned my lesson? I'm ashamed to say, probably not.

      Tuesday, August 23, 2011

      a small thing


      I don't usually do small jobs, but when I got an email from my old acting teacher I didn't think twice. If you're lucky, you have one or two teachers in your life who truly make a difference. I've had two and Richard was one of them.

      Richard has a terrace but no irrigation and no desire to install a watering system. He didn't want a full blown garden, just a few boxes to block the view from across the street into his bedroom window. (Can you blame him?) I won't usually do a job without irrigation, but I'd do anything for Richard and I told him so.

      He wanted ornamental grasses, which sounded perfect for his full sun location. Once established, they'd be pretty drought tolerant, but getting them through the first season was the challenge. Friend and colleague Sara suggested using the rain-mat from Kinsman as a liner.

      The woven fiber mat contains water retaining polymers which absorb and retain moisture, releasing it to roots slowly, over time. These are potassium-based, rain-gel granules, not sodium based polymers. (There is some concern that sodium based polymers may result in root burn.) The bulk roll is 16 feet long and 22 inches wide, which was almost exactly how much I needed to line two, 22-inch cubes.

      I cut the mat to fit the sides and bottom of the containers, then taped them in place with painter's tape. The tape doesn't have to hold for long, just long enough for me to plant the container. Once the potting mix is added, it holds the mat in place. I also cut holes in the bottom layer to match up with the drainage holes in the container.


      We chose Miscanthus sinensis 'Morning Light' and I underplanted each grass with portulaca, another drought tolerant, sun & heat loving container plant.

      For the record, I paid full price for this product. It's easier to give something a bad review if you don't feel beholden. I needn't have worried. I planted the grasses at the beginning of July, then promptly left town for two weeks, during which time NYC experienced a brutal heat wave. When I got back, I called Richard to see how everything had come through, and he had good news: no drought stress on the grasses and he'd had to cut back the portulaca, it had grown so well.

      The moral of this story is that if you just want a few containers and can't install an irrigation system in your outdoor space, you aren't limited to cacti and succulents. With drought tolerant plants, and a little extra life support, good things are possible.


      Friday, August 19, 2011

      VACATION

      What does this New York City garden writer do on vacation? Visit gardens of course. Helen Dillon's garden in a residential section of Dublin, Ireland is open to the public for 5Euros a visit. Dillon is a garden writer, lecturer, TV person, and thoroughly opinionated gardener, the best kind. This is not an estate garden but a home with nice sized plots in back and front yards, all within sight of the neighbors homes. Rare and common plants are crowded in together,in soil amended with homemade compost. Ireland, an island nation, has a maritime climate with mild winters and summers, Dublin averaging 47 degrees F. in winter and 67F in summer. Above the tree poppy, (Romneya coulteri) native to southern CA and Mexico, and winner of the Royal Hort Society Award of Garden Merit. This woody sub-shrub is perennial in Dillon's garden but would not be for me here in NYC. To start from seed it requires wild fire, and The Tree of Life Nursery in Calif. lights pine needles atop planted seeds to get them to germinate.

      Examine the bright blue bachelor buttons below and double click on the image to look at the plants across the reflecting pond. Notice anything??? The bachelor buttons and many other annuals, perennials, and bulbs surrounding the pool are actually planted in unobtrusive pots, then moved around to fill in holes where certain plants have gone by. This garden is always lush. I've used the same technique in all of my gardens but never to this extent. Amazing. Below find my dear friend Dr. Diana W. from Wales amidst the pots and the flora.



      Friday, June 10, 2011

      ULTIMATE RECYCLING

      (above, one pack of bachelor button 'Blue Boy' sown in 2006)
      Here in NYC of course we recycle paper, plastic, metal, the usual stuff: garbage to the compost, good clothing to one of the many worthy thrift shops, books to the library for their sale. But the ultimate form of recycling happens on my roof top with little help from me.
      Annuals that I've started from seed, resow themselves for the following year: Among the herbs, new dill, cilantro, calendula, viola and bronze fennel will sometimes emerge even in the same growing season. The flowers are well represented by bachelor buttons from the mother plants at top that show up here, and here
      and here.as do portulaca, California poppies, spider plant (Cleome), and cosmos. I got a particular thrill this year when, in the space occupied by the only hydrangea that died over the winter, emerged a plethora of cosmos seedlings, enough to dig a few and plant in other in other bare spots around the garden. I've had second and third generations of larkspur and love-in a mist (Nigella damascene) as well.
      Returning
      Perennials also blow their seeds around the garden. Clematis found a home in the pot of black bamboo and in spring climb so rampantly that they cover the bamboo. Goldenrod, and blackeyed Susans are not weeds to me as they move from pot to pot on the wings of a slight breeze. I'm actually thrilled when I spy something in a new location and try to plot the path of the wind. I love to see seedlings pop up between pavers though I suspect it may not be the best for the roof membrane.This year I'm coddling two tiny seedlings that might be scions of my coral bark Japanese maple. (above) If they prove to be so, I'll buy new big containers and settle them in for a lifetime above 3rd. Avenue.
      The Dilemma
      Deadheading usually spurs the growth of both annuals and perennials. It's a task I thoroughly enjoy, the kind of mindless garden activity that's both productive and relaxing. My new spectacular lupines come with the instructions to cut off spent flower stems before the seedpods form. But if I do, they won't be able to seed themselves, as lupine are prone to do. Bigger, stronger mother plant, or potential babies? That is the question.

      Wednesday, March 2, 2011

      IT MAY NOT LOOK LIKE MUCH BUT...

      On Feb. 18th, 2011 in NYC, it's too early for the 'onion snow', but snow it does, AGAIN. On my rooftop, remnants of last fall's decorations are partially buried.

      Indoors, my zinnia seedlings started on 1/23 in their Burpee Greenhouse have sprouted 3 sets of leaves, just the stage to nip off the newest set to encourage branching.
      Chive seedlings also look and smell encouraging.

      By Feb. 23 the snow has mostly melted. In Central Park I spy hellebore buds.

      And on my roof garden, these thrilling signs:

      Self-sown seedlings of bachelor button 'Blue Boy' magically appear in my containers. (O.K., had some planted there last year). They'll be the first annual to bloom in my garden, distributed to many containers by the wind and by my deadheading and leaving the spent flowers in the pot.

      Some euphorbia whose name is long gone from my memory are in full bud.

      A new hellebore I was sent to try last fall is actually in full bloom, although a little ragged. It's 'Hellebore Gold Collection Cinnamon Snow' and a very welcome sight despite that ungainly name.

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