Perennials in pots

As an experiment this winter, I am planning to leave some (very) hardy perennials in their big pots on my back deck to see if any survive the winter.  I have planted perennials in containers before but never had much success with leaving them in their pots for the winter.  I have tried rose bushes and ornamental grasses but apparently they are not hardy enough.  The general rule of thumb is they should be at least two zones hardier than your area to survive in pots instead of in the garden.

So, this season I am trying shrub roses, (much hardier than bushes) false spirea, forsythia and lilac bushes, as well as a plum and a maple tree, all of which grow prolifically in my gardens.  With the exception of the plum tree that might be a bust, the others are reliably hardy for this area (zone 2).  The two mature plums trees in my gardens send up shoots all over the yard so I won’t feel so bad if the one in the pot does not survive.  These subjects of my experiment have all been grown from cuttings in my ICU...

Anything else currently in pots that I wish to save must be brought in for the winter.  This year that will include a beautiful non-hardy ornamental grass that was extremely expensive, too much so to replace each year…

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I will keep you posted on their survival rate!

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Hardy Hibiscus Show Stoppers

Hardy hibiscus are my show stoppers in my GARDENS4U gardens this August and September.  Their unbelievably vibrant blooms, often the size of a dinner plate, will literally make you stop and gawk at their incredible beauty…

 

I love the hibiscus so much this season that I tried some in containers and fertilized them heavily to keep them blooming all summer…

As with any plants you expect to be perennial (they come back each year) read the labels before you purchase them!  These hibiscus are called hardy because they are considered perennials in more (colder) areas than their less hardy cousins.  These are hardy to USA zone 4, which are perfect for my Ottawa gardens.  Just be careful and patient in the spring, as they are slow to recover from their winter hibernation.  Because they die back to the ground in winter here, I put a marker near mine so I don’t inadvertently disturb or throw it out during spring cleanup.

Another important fact to consider is that perennials planted in containers are less hardy (2 zones) than when they are planted in the garden.  For example, although these hibiscus are hardy to zone 4 when planted in gardens, they would only be hardy to zone 6 in containers.  That means I will be moving these gorgeous containers inside before the first frost.

Freeze/thaw cycles

Many people do not mind rain in winter, as they look forward to spring.  The problem is the freeze/thaw cycles that go with the rain can be very destructive to your plants and their containers.  I leave many container plants out on my back deck for a few reasons.

  • I love the look of plants blowing in the wind, especially the ornamental grasses.
  • Most of the containers are too large (heavy) to move inside
  • I have lots of them so would need a good chunk of time to move them.
  • For some reason time always gets away from me in the fall, so the snow arrives before I get around to moving the planters.

Whatever the reason you have left your planters outside for the winter, you can ensure they survive.  When it rains a lot (as it has been here for the past few days) or a thaw melts snow on top of the pots, be sure to dump out the excess water before it freezes again. If you cannot dump out the excess water, bail it out.   If you do not remove it, the excess water will freeze and your pots will crack.  I guarantee this will happen if the containers do not have drainage holes in the bottom.  If they do have drainage holes the pots may still crack when excessive rain turns to ice.  This happens often here in Ottawa.  One day it is raining and almost balmy, the next freezing cold.

 

Another trick to protect your plants over the winter is to ensure the plants stay snow covered.  Snow acts as an insulator, protecting plants from freeze/thaw cycles.  I always shovel snow onto my roses growing beside my garage at my front door.  This spot is sunny and warmer than the rest of my gardens because the brick wall retains the heat absorbed from the sun.  This extra heat means the snow melts faster there, so I have to keep shovelling more on.  If you do this, be sure to use snow that does not have salt (from your sidewalk or driveway) in it.

 

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Is it raining where you live?  If it is, make sure it does not collect on your planters if freezing temperatures are coming next.  Freeze/thaw cycles are brutal on your plants and their containers.

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Please be sure to visit my other blogs:
Laugh out loud (LOL) with me at Your Daily Chuckle
and
Be inspired and motivated by famous words of wisdom at WoW
My gardening website can be viewed at gardens4u.ca

Versatile succulents

Succulents are easy to grow plants, even for the novice gardener.  They can be planted directly into your garden or in containers for indoors and out.  In really cold climates, you may have to bring your container in for the winter.

These versatile gems also make great centerpieces for DIY decorations at weddings or showers.  Recently I selected a variety of tiny ones, painted their pots pale pink, and created a centerpiece for decoration at a baby shower.  As my guests left, I tucked one baby succulent into their loot (party favor) bags…

 

These versatile succulents can be purchased in pots at your local nursery, or as seeds through a seed catalogue or by clicking on the Amazon links below…

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Please be sure to visit my other blogs:
Laugh out loud (LOL) with me at Your Daily Chuckle
and
Be inspired and motivated by famous words of wisdom at WoW
My gardening website can be viewed at gardens4u.ca

Awesome autumn

The best part of autumn is the awesome display of color in the trees and gardens.  Our weather here in Ottawa has been spectacular, in fact so spectacular that I have put off preparing garden beds for the winter.  All of my clients’ gardens are looking great with their late season displays…

…annuals are still going strong, in containers:

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and in the gardens:

 

late blooming perennials are still glorious:

 

and ornamental grasses are at their showiest:

 

I hope we have a few more weeks of this awesome weather to enjoy the gardens before the cold weather hits.

Plants of the week from Gardens4u, take three…

Here are my favourite plants this week…

Traditional Perennials: Asiatic Lilies

Asiatic lilies (also known as tiger lilies) come in many colours and heights.  Unfortunately I had to give up on them years ago as japanese beetles demolished them every season.  I now plant the lily trees featured below, same beautiful bloom, just sturdier and taller stems.

 

Modern Perennials:  Lily Trees

Similar to the more traditional asiatic lilies in appearance and bloom time, lily trees have much stronger stems which makes them more resistant to the japanese beetles that devour the former plant.  Lily trees grow to six feet in height by their third season and boast impressive blooms. Every years more and more color variations are available.

Shrubs:  Hydrangea

Hydrangea bushes have beautiful bloom in white, pink, blue and even mauve.  There are several varieties to choose from.  The most common is the “snowball” or Annabell type with round blooms that start off pale green in color and change to white.

The pale pink, blue and mauve flower heads belong to the mophead variety, with the color depending on the acidity of the soil it is planted in.  For blue blooms slightly acidic soil is required to allow aluminum in the soil to make the blooms blue.  Aluminum sulphate can be added to the soil for this purpose.  Fertilizer low in phosphorus (middle number on fertilizer packages) and high in potassium (last number on packages) will ensure blooms are blue.  For pink blooms slightly alkaline soil is required to prevent any aluminum from making the blooms blue.  Adding lime to the soil will increase the pH (make it alkaline) to prevent the soil from absorbing aluminum.  Adding fertilizer high in phosphorus (the middle number) also prevents aluminum absorption.    If you have trouble making your soil the right pH for the color of blooms you desire, consider planting the hydrangea in a pot where the soil pH is easier to control.

PeeGees or paniculatas have cone shaped, pale pink flower heads and come in tree form as well as bush form. Oakleafs have leaves shaped like those on an oak tree and have cone shaped white blooms that turn to pale pink.

Vines: Ivy

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There are many types of ivy to grow; my favourite is the Boston ivy that covers my back deck, creating my “green room”

 

Annuals: Million Bells

 

My favourite cascading annual for containers is called Million Bells.  They come in many colors, be sure to choose contrasting colours for your containers like the orange and purple above.

 

Stay tuned for next week’s picks…

 

Experiment with perennial succulents for containers in full sun garden locations

This year I am experimenting with perennial succulents in my urns that are located in full sun.  I had two coco liners filled with soil left from last summer’s hanging baskets.  I turned them upside down over my cast iron urns, tucking the fiber into the edge of the urns to make them fit and to prevent soil and water from leaking out.  I then cut slits in the fiber and tucked slips of succulents (sedum and stonecrop) into the slits.  For the top, I used a large sermpervivum rosette (the hen part of the hen and chicks succulent plant).   I am hoping the succulent slips will cascade over the sides of the urns as they grow.  I will rotate the urns occasionally as the sedums grow towards the sun, so they will cascade evenly around the perimeter of the urns.

Perennial succulents are an excellent choice for a hot, dry location in your garden.  There are many varieties to choose from; sedums and stonecrop are two of my favourites.  Choose a variation in color for a spectacular display. Once established succulents require very little water, and in fact too much water will cause them to rot.  These urns of mine sit in front of my garage with a hot, dry, full sun, southern exposure. Over the years I have not had much luck with any other plants growing there.  They all start off well, but quickly lose their appeal as they get leggy and dry out.  Hopefully the succulents will do the trick to keep my urns looking great all summer.

I also use succulents such as sedum and stonecrop as groundcovers in hot, dry, full sun locations in my garden.  They make beautiful edging plants in the perennial garden.

Gardens4U: Closed For the Season….Reason??…Freezin!!

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       CLOSED FOR THE SEASON…                                          REASON?…                                                      FREEZIN!!!!

I am sad to report, GARDENS4U is closed for the season.    This week I will be adding evergreen boughs to the planters on my front step and in front of my garage.  Let me know if you would like me to do the same for you here in Kanata.  Follow this link EVERGREEN to view pictures of ones I made up last year.

Next month I will  be selling beautiful Christmas centerpieces in December here in Kanata.  These arrangements have amaryllis bulbs as their focal point and make a unique gift for your mother, mother-in-law, neighbour, hostess, etc.  The amaryllis bulbs have been forced to bloom during the Christmas holiday season. This picture is from last years batch:

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Stay tuned for this season’s list of creations…