indoor plants

Creative Combinations You’ll Love!

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The entry garden gives a hint of what is to come

It’s always exciting to visit somewhere new, and this past week I found myself in Des Moines, Iowa. The first few days were spent filming a series of videos on container gardening for Garden Gate magazine (more on that exciting news soon) but on my last day I had time to visit the Greater Des Moines Botanical Gardens – and I am so glad that I did.

Plantsman extraordinaire, Kelly Norris, was appointed as Director of Horticulture a few years ago and his vision, artistry and flamboyant approach to design is evident throughout. From the new entry garden that boasts sculptural trellises and ethereal clouds of annuals in shades of white, lavender and purple, transforming the rose garden to a delightful multi-sensory experience, to the savannah with its matrix planting of grasses and native wildflowers, this 7 acre wonderland is full of surprises, ideas and COLOR.

Billowing plantings frame a path and the distant skyline of Des Moines

Billowing plantings flank a path and frame the distant skyline of Des Moines

Although each area had its own color scheme, subtle repetition of a single plant or accent color provided a sense of connection rather than  abrupt conclusion. It was the enchanting color echoes and contrasts used in one particular border that really caught my eye, however, combining shades of peach, coral and pumpkin with lavender and lemon. The effect was both bold yet restrained since it avoided harsh contrasts. It felt romantic yet not overtly feminine. Youthful and flirtatious yet sophisticated and confident.

Here’s how to get the look.

Repetition of Plants

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The bold, variegated peach and chocolate variegated leaves of copperleaf (Acalypha wilkesiana ‘Tricolor’) and the lavender blooms of Senorita Rosalita spider flower (Cleome ‘Senorita Rosalita’) together with a froth of yellow and gold daisies establishes the color scheme for this border

Repetition of dramatic foliage and flowering plants creates a sense of rhythm and guides both feet and eyes down the path. Key plants need to be relied upon when playing such an important role, hence the value of foliage. However this Proven Winners spider flower can truly hold its own in heat and drought, and I have extolled the virtues of its white sister, Senorita Blanca before.

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The Proven Winners Senorita Rosalita spider flower is a five star annual.

This sterile, compact spider flower blooms non-stop, does not need dead-heading, can tolerate both typical garden watering as easily as drought, doesn’t have a funky smell or sticky stems (like regular spider flowers) and is both deer and rabbit resistant. I personally buy at least a dozen each year to use in my landscape but they work equally well in containers.

Repetition of Color

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Notice the color repetition – or color echoes.

In the foreground is a golden bluebeard (possibly Caryopteris x clandonensis ‘Lil Miss Sunshine’), this color  repeated farther down the border by the foliage of Fireworks globe amaranthus (Gomphrena ‘Fireworks’). The bold coppery tones of copperleaf is echoed by a distant canna flower and a tropical cordyline, while the lavender spider flowers are echoed by several annual flowers and leaves.

Add something unexpected

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A pop of magenta wakes up the color scheme: pentas blooms and parrot leaf

The introduction of magenta enlivens the color scheme of this border. Both the foliage of parrot leaf (Alternanthera ficoidea) and several flowers are used to re-enforce this decision, the color enhancing the ruby tones within the copperleaf foliage.

Forest Pink globe amaranthus (Gomphrena haageana)

Forest Pink globe amaranthus (Gomphrena haageana ‘Forest Pink’)

Foliage Framework – the #1 ingredient

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A buffet of colorful flowers still needs to put Foliage First! (I do recall a certain book or two on that premise…)

At first glance this border is all about the flowers with the exception of the variegated copperleaf already discussed, yet look more closely.

Several blooming plants have been selected for their golden leaves and bold texture is primarily provided by several tropical foliage plants including Cabernet rubber plant (Ficus elastica ‘Cabernet’) and a pink-variegated cordyline (both of which are often found in the houseplant section in your local nurseries). Canna manages to bridge both roles with its peach flowers and large, emerald green leaves while parrot leaf (Alternanthera ficoidea) plays with the magenta tones.

A different perspective

A different perspective – looking back at the border, now framed by the late summer foliage of Henry’s Garnet Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica ‘Henry’s Garnet’) and smoky plumes of Ginger Love fountain grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Ginger Love’)

Other Plants to Consider

If you’d like to try a color scheme like this in your own garden, here are a few other plant suggestions to get you started.

Peach-coral-pumpkin

Diascia ‘Little Tango’ (Annual/perennial)

Cuphea ‘Vermillionaire’ (Annual)

Knipophia ‘Creamsicle’ (Perennial)

Coleus (Annual)

Heuchera (Perennial)

Carex testacea (Evergreen grass)

Diervilla ‘Kodiak Orange’ (Deciduous shrub)

Exbury azaleas e.g. Northern Lights series  (Deciduous shrub)

Berberis thunbergii ‘Tangelo’ (Deciduous shrub)

 

Lavender – purple
Verbena bonariensis (self-seeding annual/perennial)

Coleus (annual)

Allium sp. (Perennial bulb)

Phlox paniculata ‘David’s Lavender’ (perennial)

Syringa sp. (Lilac) (deciduous shrub)

Crocus tommasinianus ‘Purple Haze’ (spring blooming bulb)

 

Magenta

Salvia ‘Wendy’s Wish’  (annual/perennial)

Phlox paniculata ‘Red Riding Hood’ (perennial)

Coleus

Caladium Inspiration

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Here in the Pacific Northwest, caladiums are considered a rather exotic houseplant that can vacation outside on the shady summer patio but are not your ‘mainstream’ summer annual. In fact they will rarely be found with geraniums or petunias at the local nursery, but rather remain tucked away with the indoor plants. Despite that I have been using them for years in container designs where they add bold foliage, exciting color and a tropical punch to my combinations. The only caution is that I wait until our night temperatures are at least 55′ before using them outdoors. In Seattle that may not be until early June. Warmer climates can enjoy them much earlier!

A trip to the Atlanta area last summer got me excited about these foliage floozies all over again, especially as there seem to be so many varieties available down there, including sun-tolerant ones. (Read plant-envy…)

So here for your viewing pleasure is a smorgasbord of caladium-infused container designs as well as a few ideas for incorporating them into your landscape (assuming your have less slugs than I do!)

The art of repetition

A series of low shallow bowls line this pathway, each planted with caladium (probably Red Flash which tolerates both sun and shade), green and white variegated spider plant and bright green Angelina stonecrop.

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Repetition is the name of the game here – what a stunning way to line a wide, shady pathway. Gibb’s Gardens, Atlanta

The entrance at the Gibb’s Gardens visitors center is truly delightful. By selecting plants that cope with either sun or shade (Surefire begonias and Red Flash caladium), the containers and landscape present a unified, cohesive display. I love the color echo between the begonia blooms and the caladium, all brightened with splashes of yellow or chartreuse.

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Containers, window boxes and landscape all unified in color and content, welcome visitors at Gibb’s Gardens, Atlanta

Repeating the heart-shaped caladium leaves with the similarly shaped begonia foliage is another satisfying design element. That together with the charming color echo between the white begonia blooms, a variegated plectranthus and the white caladium creates a feminine, romantic vignette, quite different from the sultry deep pinks seen earlier.

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Design by Gibbs Gardens

Allowing caladium to grow through a bed of coleus also offers a whimsical little-and-large perspective:

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Design by Harry P. Leu Gardens, Orlando, Florida

Exciting color contrasts

Red Flash caladium is prized for its oversized, vibrant red leaves and is an old favorite for both the landscape and container. However the wide, dark-olive green margins benefit from the addition of a lighter colored companion such as the variegated ginger below.

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Design by Gibbs Gardens

White caladiums need a different approach. In the container below, the pink venation of the caladium is highlighted by the beefsteak plant (Perilla ‘Magilla’ – a coleus look-alike) while the black tropical foliage of a calathea (Calathea ‘Dottie’) adds bold contrast

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Caladium, calathea, beefsteak plant and a woodland fern make up this unexpected combination. Design by Le jardinet

Creating a focal point

The bold foliage of caladium can be used to add a welcome focal point to an overly-floriferous planting scheme, as can be seen in the example below

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Design by Gibbs Gardens

The large, white leaves also add a cooling note to the border of warm, jewel-toned flowers.

How are YOU using caladiums this year? Do share your ideas by leaving a comment below!

Resources

Growing caladiums from tubers in warmer climates:

Classic Caladiums website

Southern Living

 

Growing in zones 5-7:

Longfield Gardens blog

Personally I just purchase fully grown plants in June! I have found that I am most successful if I keep the drip irrigation lines away from the crown of the plant to avoid over-watering but otherwise have found them easy care. Just cut off spent foliage at the base as needed.

 

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Table Top Pots – Perfect for Holiday Gifts

The Nativity Scene was re-organized daily by Katie! 1991

The Nativity Scene was re-organized daily by Katie age 3 1/2

When our children were small and the budget was tight we made all our Christmas gifts, cards and even tags. I would start many weeks ahead of time, the sewing machine working late into the night as I made matching flannel shirts for my husband and son (then 2 1/2 years old) and a Beatrix Potter duvet cover for our daughter.

My husband and son back in 1994 with their matching shirts

My husband and son back in 1993 with their matching shirts

 

 

The kitchen would be filled with spicy aromas as I steamed home-made Christmas puddings to be wrapped in red cellophane and cooked up dozens of mince pies. Cards were crafted from folded fabric one year, lino-cut block another.

Always the comedian - Paul hangs his own ornament on the tree. 1994

Always the comedian – Paul hangs his own ornament on the tree. 1994

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even the Christmas stockings, nativity scene and large wall hanging-style advent calendar were stitched with love. In hindsight I wonder how I ever did it all!

Twenty or so years have gone past – life got busier, budgets eased and we were able to give ‘bigger’ gifts. It was so much fun to be able to go to the store and select something special for friends and family. Home-made Christmas decorations mingled with shiny new baubles and trinkets discovered at specialty stores.

The children are now adults, our daughter  married  with a home of her own and we seem to have come full circle. I still enjoy the festive atmosphere at the shopping mall – in small doses! But I much prefer to be at home, carols playing, log fire burning and filling the home once again with the smells of Christmas. A few beautiful, specially chosen gifts share space under the tree with homemade items.

Each piece made with love by my husband Andy

Each piece made with love by my husband Andy

Special ornaments are still purchased and exchanged on Christmas eve but  we also wait to see what beautiful designs my husband has handturned on his woodworking lathe, each piece crafted with  love and sure to be treasured for a lifetime.

Today it’s less about budget than about choice. We understand the value of giving the gift of time.

So to help you create a special gift I’ve got a few design ideas for quick table top containers for inside and outside the home. Once you’ve assembled the materials they take only minutes to put together.

1. The Miniature Christmas Tree

A 10" diameter outdoor container - color all year

A 10″ diameter outdoor container – color all year

Materials

Frost resistant container approx 10″ x 10″ with drainage hole

Potting soil

1 x 4″ Alberta spruce or other conifer

1 x 4″ berried wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)

1 x 4″ bugleweed (Ajuga repens)

2 x 4″ golden creeping Jenny (Lysimachia n. ‘Aurea’)

 

Putting it together

Add potting soil directly to pot – no crocks at the bottom

Add plants and tuck soil into gaps

Water until it drains through hole at base

Optional – finish with a pretty red bow

Where to keep it

Outdoors in sun or shade for winter, part sun in summer

 

2. The Woodland Pot

7" diamater woodland pot for a covered porch

7″ diamater woodland pot for a covered porch

Materials

7 or 8″ diameter birch bark pot with liner but no drainage hole

Charcoal (buy in small bags from a nursery)

Potting soil

1 x 4″ Alberta spruce or other conifer

1 x 4″ flowering hellebore e.g. Jacob

1 x 4″ berried wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)

1 x 4″ Emerald Gaiety euonymus (Euonymus .f ‘Emerald Gaiety’)

Moss to finish

Optional; wired bow and glittered stems

 

Putting it all together

Add 1/2″ charcoal to base of pot.

Carefully add potting soil

Plant up as shown adding soil into gaps

Add decorative items

Finish by adding moss to hide soil

Water just enough just to moisten the soil. The charcoal will absorb some excess and stop smells. Do not overwater

Where to keep it

Outside on a covered porch where it will not receive direct rain. (Can be brought inside for a few hours)

3. A Fresh Look

A Fresh Look - try a cyclamen over a poinsettia

A Fresh Look – try a cyclamen over a poinsettia

Materials

7-8″ diameter burgundy metal container with liner and no drainage hole

Charcoal

Potting soil

1 x 4″ Normandy pine

1 x 4″ Pepperonia plant

1 x 4″ button plant

1 x 4″ cyclamen

1 x 2″ ivy

Moss

Optional; wired bow and berry accents

Putting it all together

Assemble as per woodland container BUT keep cyclamen in plastic pot

Water as for the woodland container but remove the cyclamen and set it on a saucer of water then allow to drain before replacing it in container.

Where to keep it

Indoors in a cool location.

 

An invitation

Join me for one of my Holiday Container Workshops on December 6th  and make memories as well as a unique container. The log fire will be burning, Holiday music playing softly in the background, warm, homemade English mincepies and a glass of bubbly to enjoy and a few hours to step away from the busyness of the season.

There are two workshops to choose from but spaces are filling up quickly. For more details and to register click HERE.

Here are just a few photos from one of the workshops last year.

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Enjoy this season of giving by giving a little of yourself.

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It’s All a Load of MOO POO

Annie MooPoo

Here’s how to get healthier houseplants, happier veggies, abundant container gardens and a jump start on seed sowing; it all comes down to Moo Poo tea by Haven Brand products.

What is it?

You know all the slippery yucky stuff in the cow fields that you try hard to avoid stepping in? There you go – except this is dried in the sun for several months and doesn’t smell – promise! It is sold in little teabags so is much more convenient than liquid compost tea sometimes available at nurseries. I mean you can’t put that in a Christmas stocking can you? Oh and it comes from happy cows that have grazed on native grasses.

What does it do?

 

Photo taken early July -

Photo taken early July – by September everything was HUGE!

It conditions the soil so that plan roots can absorb nutrients. This in turn promotes healthier root growth and stronger plants. It can also be used as a foliar spray for a quick nutrient boost

So what are the benefits over other fertilizers?

  1. It is entirely organic – no chemicals or synthetic chemicals are added at any point in the process
  2. The price! A three-pack of Moo Poo is $12.95 which makes over 20 gallons
  3. It doesn’t damage the soil unlike a number of chemicals that kill beneficial microbes and fungi needed for plant growth
  4. You see the results quickly because it releases nutrients quickly
  5. Easy to use – just stick it in a bucket and add water. No complicated measuring

What plants can it be used on?

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  1. Vegetables as a foliar spray or use it for watering. I do this once every two weeks as a boost. I also used it to help salvage what I could from last years embarrassing crop!
  2. Containers. For the past few years I have been asked to create container gardens for magazine photo shoots and MooPoo has been a lifesaver! This year I received a delivery of shrubs which ended up getting left in a UPS truck over a weekend despite assurances this wouldn’t happen. They were in pretty bad shape when the arrived. The only thing I could do was re-pot them and begin a bi-weekly watering and foliar spray regime with MooPoo. Not only did they survive they thrived and looked stunning for their close ups (The article will be published in Country Gardens magazine next year)
  3. Indoor plants. Now this really would be a test if I managed to keep plants alive indoors using MooPoo! That would mean remembering to use it, however, and I am notorious for completely ignoring  indoor plants. Others assure me it works like a charm though
  4. Seed transplants. You know how fickle those newly transplanted seedlings can be? Well I used MooPoo on them last year and every one of them survived….which explains why I provided the neighborhood with veggie starts
  5. Bulbs. Soak your spring bulbs and garlic in MooPoo overnight before planting and just see how fast those little shoots emerge!

Still don’t believe me?

My good friend and co-author Christina Salwitz put this video together for rancher and owner Haven Brand Annie Haven. Those of us who contributed are  gardeners, horticulturalists and garden writers. Many of us are also designers. We Moo Poo in our own gardens and recommend it to others.

Ready to buy?

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Order here –  get some for you, some for friends and some for those Christmas stockings!

Happy MooPoo-ing

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Container Creations – inspiration for Spring!

The nurseries are filling with the colors and scents of spring, the birds are singing and I find every excuse to be outside working in my garden rather than sitting at a computer. It’s a time of anticipation – what 2015 new releases will growers ask me to trial this season? What color combinations shall I try in my containers this year?

Containers are such an easy way to experiment. If something works especially well perhaps I’ll use those colors/plants in my landscape? If I decide to have a more refined color palette in 2014 I don’t have to redesign my entire garden, just a pot or two. So it’s a good time to review my containers from the last couple of years and take note of what I liked and what was a disaster  – and yes there are always a few that I don’t share!

Color Schemes – some like it HOT

Sizzle Factor!

Sizzle Factor!

This orange pot has become one of my favorites. It is unapologetically bold and as such calls out for juicy foliage and fiery colors. The combo above was from 2012 and I love the way the dahlia and canna compete for ‘thriller’ status with those Mango Popsicle dwarf red hot pokers exploding like fireworks from a variegated abelia.

 Version 2 introduced succulents

Version 2 introduced succulents

Same pot, different look – this was 2012. I liked the contrast with the succulent and conifer, both sharing the soft blue-green tones but overall this wasn’t as balanced as the original design. No matter how I tried it seemed top heavy on the right side.

– some like it cool

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I just love these two cube containers and their fun colors. In 2012 I planted them as a pair and kept to the colors of lime, black and white – very simple yet effective.

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For our daughters wedding last year I did something a bit different and added coral tones as this was part of her color scheme.

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We used the pair to flank the entrance to the vegetable garden; well we had to dress it up somehow!!

A tropical punch

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The best part about waiting until early June to plant my containers is that I can raid the indoor plant section at my favorite nursery and include great tropical foliage such as this wildly variegated croton . As you’d expect I love the focus on foliage with the couple of wild splashes of color from the flowers.

Get creative and make the most of brightly colored foliage

Get creative and make the most of brightly colored foliage

In super shady places I can rely on the tropicals to give me the most color – Kong coleus and bromeliads look fabulous.

A softer look

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Maybe you’re more of a pink person? Here’s a way to update the look – add black and white for a dramatic punch. Notice the feathery Ghost Japanese painted fern that is adding  height to the combination – an unexpected addition to the  plant selection.

And finally….

Fun - succulents planted in fire pit

Fun – succulents planted in fire pit

When you run out of containers try this! Our succulent fire pit was a big hit in 2013 so I plan on doing something similar this year although I’ve moved it to a different location.

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The succulent hanging basket was a last minute addition when my traditional basket failed! I’m definitely going to do this again and love the combination of fleshy succulents with feathery lotus vine. All drought tolerant and low maintenance too. Plus the deer couldn’t reach them!

If you live in the Seattle area why don’t you join me for one of my Spring Container Workshops next month? They are always lots of fun but there are only a few spots left so don’t delay!

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