Deadheading Versus Self-Cleaning Annuals

Every week or two, as I am deadheading the spent blooms on my lantana, I think about this distinction. What am I talking about?

Think about annuals, for a moment. A true annual’s function is to set seed and die. Not all plants that we grow as “summer flowers” are annuals, of course. Many of the “annuals” that we grow up here in the frozen north, as I like to call my climate, would be perennials if I lived somewhere further south or west.

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So an annual, like a marigold, for example, or my lantana (which is technically a perennial in warmer climates), or impatiens or begonias or lots of the flowers we grow in the summer, either need to be deadheaded (have the spent blooms removed), or they are “self-cleaning,” a handy little feature which means that the flowers fall off themselves.

Now, in the case of something like impatiens, depending on species, sometimes they still form a seed head. That gives rise to one of their common names “Touch Me Not,” because if you’ve ever touched a ripe impatiens seed head, you know that it can explode with surprising force and send those seeds flying!

Perhaps the best example is something like basil. You’ve always heard that you don’t want your basil to flower. Why is that? Well, basil is a true annual and once it flowers it begins to decline.

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The same is true for cilantro, another annual. You don’t want that flowering (unless you’re growing it for the coriander seed it makes–or as a pollinator plant!)

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As for my lantana, every week–or two, if I am lazy–I just cut off the spent flower heads–and perish the thought, any seeds that they’re forming. I want all the energy to go back into the plant to produce as many flowers for bees and butterflies as possible!

Happy Memorial Day!

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Memorial Day is usually all about the planting of my vegetable garden–something I do to honor and remember my Dad, who was a World War II veteran. But this year, that garden is still contaminated with pesticides, I fear, so I’ve had to plant flowers.

So here is that look, above.

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And here is my “vegetable” garden, instead. It’s going to have to suffice.

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At work, we plant a vegetable garden as well. It’s a little unusual because there we garden with a woodchuck (aka, a groundhog, or a whistle pig, or whatever you might call them in your part of the country.

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Interestingly enough, usually he/it/they leaves the tomatoes and peppers alone–as well as my herbs that I plant to try to protect all that (and for the pollinators, of course!)

This year, something nibbled one of the tomatoes. I think it was a rabbit. We are too “urban” to have deer, and quite frankly the nibbling was too delicate for a deer.

Whatever it was, it didn’t care for the tomato leaves. It just left them there, and didn’t try any of the others. Whew!

So I end my post with a huge than you to all who served. You are not forgotten.

It’s Container Garden Time!

It’s finally warm enough to bring my plants off the porch, outside and to get them into containers. You saw one of them last Wednesday for “Wordless Wednesday.”

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This is an herb container. You may remember the Spanish Lavender from an earlier post. I have surrounded it with rosemary, thyme, chives (already starting to flower) and parsley.

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You can see that I am already starting my “edibles” wall. It has to be this way since my vegetable garden soil is still “poisoned” from last year’s unfortunate incident with the erring landscape company. I may find that I like everything so close to the kitchen that I never go back to the raised beds–who knows?

As for the Spoiler, he’s already said that he likes the flowers in the raised bed.

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I had a container garden lecture on Tuesday so I planted up some containers that I might not ordinarily do. This one is a “riff” on the geranium, vinca, dracena spike combo, but done with houseplants so the whole thing can be brought in for the winter if you choose.

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And since not everyone loves the look of all succulents (and we don’t live in Arizona or the desert southwest, so really, why do we insist on planting them everywhere?) this is my take on a dry container that will go a long time without water. (Actually I do love the look of succulents–but I keep them as house plants instead!)

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Finally, for those of you that were with me last year, you may remember that I did this combo last summer. The two colors of million bells fill in nicely under the croton and blend together to form an orange-y yellow carper over the top of the whole pot. It’s very nice. It the end of the season, I compost the million bells, fill in those spots with fresh soil and return the croton to a sunny window indoors.

So that’s some fun with containers at my house!

Container Gardeners, These Are For Us

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If you are growing plants in containers, have you tried the fabric pots yet?

I tried one for the first time last year and I liked it so well that I bought 5 more this year. They have everything going for them.

First, if space is an issue, they are a breeze to keep and store. This is a 5 gallon pot. It folds down to the size of a large, glossy magazine–just about as high and thick. I  bought a 5 pack of them. They arrived, folded, in an express mail envelope. Try doing that with any other sort of container!

They’re made right here in the United States, in Oklahoma City, to be exact, by a family company that began manufacturing them for trees.

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This is mine from  last year,  planted with a tomato and some herbs.  The tomato grew so well that I eventually pulled out two of the 4 herbs.

This year I am planning to be even more ambitious . I am planning a couple of tomatoes –1 per bag, obviously–& a bag of cucamelons. I will do a bag of just herbs, to give them room of their own. And I have a fig for one, that’s begging for extra room.

So I should have a nice edible garden–if I can get the Spoiler to haul the soil for me. Thanks to Amie, I won’t be moving much.

And I found–& buy–these all on my own. I get no credit or anything else for promoting this product.  In fact,  I know that there are other fabric type bags out there. I buy these because I like supporting an American company.  You can make your own choices.

The Plant that Keeps on Giving

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I bought this plant (the one in the base of the citrus) as a 6″ annual for an outdoor hummingbird container I was planting in 2015. It was called “Jewels of Opar” (don’t you love common names sometime? They’re so romantic!) The botanical name is talinum ‘limon’ presumably for the chartreuse foliage.

As I was scouting around for the botanical on this, lo and behold, I also discovered it was edible! Gracious! This really is the plant that keeps on giving! When I entitled the post that, I merely meant that since 2015, it has self-sowed into various containers of mine and continues to bloom all over the place. You see it here in 3 containers in 3 different stages: blooming, near bloom, and seedling.

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It was blooming outside in my garden beds as well. When I find these flower stalks going to seed, I shake the seeds over my beds and borders and the next season I find plants coming up in the gardens. How delightful. Plants without work. I am all for that!

The article I link to above makes mention of how wonderful these itty bitty tiny flowers are for pollinators. So many of us grow huge hulking flowers to draw in bees and butterflies but we forget about our smaller bees. There are bees that are the size of a grain of white rice and we need to be mindful of those pollinators too!

Of course, if you are going to attempt to eat what you are growing, make sure that you are growing it organically. No pesticides of any kind, especially on the plants but even in your soils. Be mindful of that.

Otherwise, just enjoy these lovely plants and flowers.

 

House Plants in Containers

Whenever I lecture on either house plants or on container garden design,  on of my  mainstays is to talk about using house  plants in outdoor containers.  I think this is a very under-done practice, and when gardeners do do it, they often discard ( or compost) the house plants at the end of the season with the annuals.  Not only is that unnecessary,  but it deprives the gardener of something that can be reused for many seasons and often in different designs each season.

Last weekend,  I took a stroll around a nearby town and photographed some of the containers to show house plants creatively used. These are all on borrowed time–we are already 2 weeks past our first frost date. But most of them look great!

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This is a diffenbachia together with some fuchsia and purple leafed sweet potato vine.  Very pretty.

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A simple arrangement of aralia, scaveola, and impatiens.

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Tricolor dracena, more impatiens and begonias.

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More sweet potato vine–chartreuse this time– more impatiens and another diffenbachia.

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Some variegated tradescantia, yet more impatiens and a ti plant. There were many of these ti plants all over town but these were the best looking. Some were completely overwhelmed by the other flowers and foliage.

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And now for something completely different,  just a peace lily in a basketimely. This can easily be whisked inside for cooler weather.

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Finally  this is not the best looking planter, but I love the use of thyme as a ” spiller.”