Written on May 21, 2013 at 6:27 am , by Shawna Coronado
Every year I am faced with the oh-so-dramatic container flower decisions. I like to call it the Annual Container Plant Choice Invitational. Much like I did as a teenager while trying to get up enough courage to jump off the high-dive; I will stand for hours at my local garden center with a look of terror on my face as I try to decide which plant is the perfect one to combine with the others. Inevitably it’s an impossible decision: What child are you going to plant? Who’s going to walk the plank? Which plant is going to be the best mixer at the container party?
In the end, my choices always come down to two determining questions:
1. Which plant is the easiest to care for?
2. What color combinations am I going with this year?
When I think of easy annuals to grow there are two spectacularly colorful plants that make my top-of-the-top favorite plant list: coleus and lantana. Each make an amazing splash in the Annual Container Plant Choice Invitational in either the sun or shade category. These plants are fantastic mixers and can function as a either a feature plant or a blender plant in an urban container, planting bed, or vertical wall garden. Both types of plants have multiple varieties and plenty of color selections for the casual gardener at your local garden center.
To the right you see Luscious Berry Blend Lantana rocking the socks off my full sun vegetable garden as a border plant. Lantana is a great sunny spot solution and is perfect for attracting butterflies. Below is a photo of the lantana layered in a gorgeous pink and green container display with multiple annuals.
Have a shady spot? There is nothing better than a coleus to brighten up a dark corner. At the top of this page is a magnificent vertical wall garden done up with Emotions Inspired Coleus and impatiens. Lantana mixes well with leafy vegetables in a mixed vegetable container as well as annual flowers. Below is an equally bold display of mixed variety coleus, impatiens, and sweet potato vine at a restaurant on an urban street.
Need a simple solution for your containers that will add a punch of color? Lantana and coleus are two great, easy-to-grow plants that mix well with most annuals in your container party.
Categories: Gardening, Plants | Tags: annual, beet, border, chartreuse, Coleus, color, container, garden, green, Lantana, Luscious Berry Blend Lantana, pink, pot, sun, vegetable, vertical, wall garden
Written on May 16, 2013 at 1:34 pm , by James A. Baggett
Country Gardens friend and cookbook author Nancy Baggett (no relation, really) visited us last week to produce a story on sweet violet recipes with our crackerjack crew in the Better Homes and Gardens Test Kitchen. She made violet syrup, candied violets, violet marshmallows, a violet salad with violet vinaigrette, and a violet fizz cocktail, so we needed a LOT of violets for the photo shoot. Since my neighborhood is blessed with more than a handful of nature-loving children, I recruited my friend 11-year-old friend Caroline (a.k.a. Poppy) and her friend Maggie into service the afternoon before collecting hundreds and hundreds of violet blossoms in jelly jars. Here they are in my refrigerator.
Violas—violets, violas, and pansies—are popular edible flowers for good reason. They are a cinch to grow and they actually taste good. The pungent perfume of some varieties of Viola odorata adds inimitable floral sweetness to desserts, fruit salads, and teas while the milder pealike flavor of Viola tricolor and most other viola combine easily well with sweet and savory dishes. The heart-shaped leaves of Viola odorata provide a free source of greens throughout the growing season. Look for our story in the Spring 2014 issue of Country Gardens.
Written on May 16, 2013 at 5:30 am , by Whitney Curtis
One of my favorite colorful additions to a shade garden is the tall and funny-shaped foxglove. When I first started gardening, I was a little bummed that having a backyard full of trees meant that I would miss out on the colorful bursts of bright day lilies, poppies and coneflowers that would flourish in a sunny spot. I found a pleasant surprise this spring when the non-blooming foxglove I planted last summer shot quickly out of the ground in all its purple glory!
Up against a sea of fern and Solomon’s Seal greenery, this little flower has quickly provided great color inspiration for me to try to build on. I’m already planning where I’ll add another and what other vibrant shade-loving plants I can find. Astilbe, anyone?
My foxgloves are in rich, well drained soil with only dappled sunlight throughout the day. In my Atlanta, GA garden (Zone 7b-8a) they started blooming in late March and early April. They’re delicate but tough, I think, which is part of their charm. See more planting details on foxglove here.
Photos by Whitney of The Curtis Casa
Written on May 14, 2013 at 6:25 am , by Shawna Coronado
Gatsby is out in the movie theaters and audiences everywhere have been wowed with the views of the astoundingly beautiful gardens in the show. This movie and its gorgeous garden-filled sets really speak to the classic book the movie is based on, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Gatsby makes a powerful statement about the roaring ‘20’s and how one bootlegger lives lavishly in a time when so many could not. Decadent living is out of reach for the average gardener as well. However, it is easy to have a garden that looks lavish, even if you do not have the cash on hand to build a Hollywood Movie Set in your front lawn.
The secret? Tropicals. I have been using tropicals for years to make a powerful color statement. Tropical plants are singularly the most decadent denizens in my Northern Zone 5b garden. They look rich and have an amazing power to be eye-catching in nearly every combination you can think of.
A few of my favorite tropicals are seen here in photos from my front lawn tropical garden. Combining giant Mega-Cabbage from Bonnie Plants with a creative selection of tropical cannas and elephant ear (colocasia) from Plants Nouveau resulted in a fantastic, rich, over-the-top tropical garden. In the photos for this garden bed you see Canna Maui Punch, Canna Orange Sparkler, Canna Blueberry Sparkler , and Colocasia Red-Eyed Gecko. Contrasting colors like chartreuse, purple, blue-gray, and orange make a fabulous eye-catching combination for a mixed annual and vegetable bed.
With their bold leaf colors and gorgeous flowers, tropical plants have a way of making any visitor to your garden smile and they combine well with perennials, annuals, or vegetables. Better yet, you can save money by over wintering the tropical plants from year to year. Remove them just before frost, cut off the tops of the plants (save the root system), store in the winter in a cool, dry location. Then plant again in the spring time in a soil rich with compost after all danger of frost is gone.
Build a Gatsby Garden and bring a beautiful and lavish look to your neighborhood this summer.
Categories: Gardening, In-Season Plants, Plants | Tags: blue, cabbage, canna, chartreuse, colocasia, decadent, garden, Gardening, Gatsby, gray, lush, orange, plant, Planting, purple, rich, The Great Gatsby, tropical
Written on May 10, 2013 at 10:10 am , by BHG Guest Blogger
Spring is in full force now and the U.S. Compost Council (USCC) just launched their Million Tomatoes Compost Campaign, a tomato growing campaign using donated compost. So go ahead: Start your own vegetable garden with a special spot for some tomatoes. With the help of Nathan Lyon, celebrity chef and campaign spokesperson, you’ll have a thriving garden in no time.
Lyon is well known for his delectable cuisine and his PBS show “Growing a Greener World”, but this spring Lyon is taking time between cooking and filming for a great cause: the Million Tomatoes Compost Campaign, which focuses on spreading the word about the importance of compost for a healthy garden. Compost has been donated by several USCC STA certified compost producers to participating community gardens that will grow tomatoes, either for their own use or for donation to local food banks. The campaign hopes to exceed one million tomatoes by the end of harvest in August.
When Lyon was first approached about the campaign, he was instantly hooked. The project fit perfectly with his interests and what he had been working with on his show. His passion for gardening was cultivated long ago as he used to spend his after-school time with his grandparents in their Virginia garden. Ever since he has been expanding on his skills as a gardener and sharing them with those around him.
“That’s what’s so great about this campaign: You are empowering people by showing them how easy it is to grow your own food and get involved with the community,” says Lyon.
Lyon—as well as a number of other chefs—will be working with the community gardens, schools, and other organization to educate people on using locally grown food. Recently, he created several kid-friendly tomato recipes for the campaign so kids can also get involved, too. Lyon urges others to pay attention to their kids wants. A lot will be excited to get in the garden and grow their own food if you give them the chance.
“Have them grow their own produce and they will be really excited to taste it because they are now stewards,” Lyon explains.
Getting kids involved starts with you. So why not take the time to start your own tomato garden this year? You can easily get involved in the campaign by starting your own tomato garden at home or in a community lot. Go to www.buy-compost.com to see how you can contribute to the campaign.
—Kelsey Schirm, BHG Guest Blogger
Written on May 9, 2013 at 5:30 am , by Whitney Curtis
Hello BHG readers! It’s nice to meet you. I’m Whitney, of the home and garden blog The Curtis Casa, and I am thrilled to be a part of the Everyday Gardeners blog. I’ll be here once a week sharing my gardening inspiration as well as a few tips and tricks I’ve learned in my garden.
When we bought our Atlanta, GA home with its shady backyard almost four years ago, I was surprised to find my favorite home-owning hobby involved playing in the dirt, studying leaf shapes and wondering about the pH of our soil. I really shouldn’t have been so surprised, I grew up with more than a few talented gardeners in my life. Three ladies in particular left indelible marks on my green thumb, Estelle, Beverly and my Mom.
Estelle, we called her “E”, was a sweet elderly lady and frequent babysitter who lived down the street from us when I was a young girl. I toddled through her perfect rows of roses and posed for Easter pictures in front of her monochromatic azaleas. Spending time in E’s garden is etched into my memory. And then there’s Beverly, who was our nanny when my sister came along, and I’ve heard countless stories about the garden adventures she and my Mom got into – installing trellises, cutting holes in sheetrock, digging up plants off the side of the road. Beverly always offers sound advice (I often type out emails from my garden bench) and even sends plants by request from her own garden. The Virginia Bluebells I just planted came straight from Tennessee! And, of course, there’s my Mom. I remember pulling weeds with her in the garden as a little one, for 25 cents a bag. Now, in my garden, Mom and I walk around discussing plants, paths and garden accents. I’m always impressed how she can pull a plant name out of her memory. She’s helping me create our shady garden, and unbeknownst to me until recently, she’s encouraged an enthusiastic gardener, as well. And that story she always tells about caring too well for her beautiful Mexican sage plant, right before it died? Her advice is consistent: “You just have to ignore it for it to grow right.”
I’m using what these ladies taught me daily and I’ve come to realize, gardening is one of those hobbies best spent in the company of others. Especially others whose green thumbs and gardens you admire. Now let’s go get our hands dirty!