Two-Tiered Container Garden with Portulaca and Elephant Ears on the Side

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This two-tiered container garden has been impressing me all summer, and received lots of likes on my Facebook page, so I decided to share it here too.

Two Tiered Love

Two Tiered Love

It is two containers stacked, the smaller one sitting on top of the soil of the larger container.  I wasn’t sure what would be planted in the bottom level at first until I spotted some nice looking six packs of Portulaca grandiflora MOJAVE Tangerine Purslane at a local nursery. I could tell the plants were fresh and healthy, so I grabbed two 6 packs and planted them around the base when I got home. They were small sizes and easy to tuck into the soil.

I also knew this annual was a great candidate for the location of the containers, because Portulaca can take hot sun and is drought tolerant. The color of the blooms are a bright to soft orange, and with some Nepeta (catmint) planted in the ground below, the color combo of orange and blue blooms of the Nepeta would be complementary. Portulaca has a spreading habit and grows to 6″ to 8″. It blooms from early summer to frost. Definitely a hard working annual for our CT planting zones.

Orange with yellow centers of Portulaca

Orange with yellow centers of Portulaca

Elephant ears (Colocasia) were planted on each side of the container in the ground.  Using some kept from my overwintered stock, I thought they were Colocasia esculenta ‘Maui Magic’ but the color got so rich and lush, and at the right time of day, the leaves shimmer like a silky black negligee. So I was considering that maybe they were ‘Black Diamond’ but now I’m just not sure because ‘Black Diamond’ has pointy tips to their leaves.  Its possible the color intensified due to the location, which faces west.  I decided this was the case as I watched it grow larger all season and is still showy in fall.

Because it is against my house, it has nice shade in the morning, and the sun gradually warms up the area mid day, but by mid afternoon, it gets hot sun. As long as you water your elephant ears regularly, they can take the sun too. It turned out the rich dark color of the elephant ears look amazing against and near the showy orange of the Portulaca. It made the Portulaca stand out more with the contrast in color plus the leaf textures of both, the Portulaca being fine and Colocasia being coarse, worked.

Colocasia elephant ears, tropical

Colocasia elephant ears, tropical

The only downfall of the Portulaca is the blooms roll up tight for the evening. So, around 3 pm, the bloom show closes for the day.  The disappointment was my guests missed out on how incredibly beautiful they are if they visited later in the day. I had forgotten these flowers do this. In fact, a friend told me recently she has some at her house, and her husband asked her what happened to their plant when he came home one evening to see their’s rolled up tight too.

Closed by mid afternoon

Closed by mid afternoon

The top part of the two-tiered container let me down a tad. I expected the Brugmansia (Angel Trumpet) to grow taller along with the Canna next to it. However, the Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum filled in nicely. Known as Fountain Grass, it is always a great filler or thriller in a container garden.  It is an annual in our region. But the coloring of red blades can’t be beat, and worth replanting every year in containers. It reaches 2-3 feet tall and its fuzzy plumes are showy into the fall season.  It looks great with fall decor for some reason, guess because it has movement and has a nice rich color against the yellows, reds, and oranges of the autumn season.

Planted to the right of the pot were also some Canna plants with red blooms. Sometimes when I was admiring the Portulaca blooms, a buzz from a hummingbird would go by my ears as it visited the Canna. I call the Cannas, my ‘Rene Cannas,’ because my friend, Rene, gave the rhizomes to me last season.

My Rene Cannas with red blooms

My Rene Cannas with red blooms

For the spiller, the reliable Ipomoea batatas (sweet potato) vine was planted on the left side.  This one is Sweet Georgia Heart Red.  And on the right side is Sedum makinoi, which is new to me. It has a nice shape to its leaves and dark coloring so it fit in with the rest. Lastly, a little decorative Gnome was tucked in for fun.

Protecting my containers

Protecting my containers

The fact my containers are old and a bit worn did not matter because the plants created a lush and full look hiding the scratches on the pots. As one Facebook friend posted, it is “Beautiful, rich, luscious, heavenly.”  I, of course, agree!

Written by Cathy Testa

One more photo:

On second tiere

PORTULACA LOVE

My Ongoing Greenhouse Procrastination

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A premonition

A premonition

It has been a while now that some of my friends have stated, “Cathy, you need a greenhouse.”  I’m not sure why it has taken me so long to get one.  I do own a few of those little hobby greenhouses, which by the way, have actually worked out nicely for transitioning small plants from the growers’ big greenhouses to my location, especially for small succulents or baby herbs, in early spring.  I line up the little portable greenhouses on my driveway.  The heat from the pavement provides a nice warming situation and they are easy to reach with my hose.  They are cheap and easy to carry from the garage every spring, so they’ve worked during the interim.

I have the perfect backyard for a larger “real” greenhouse. So, why haven’t I gotten one? Perhaps it is the fear of success – or having a greenhouse would provide me an avenue to get “even more” plants.  And this scares me, just a tad.  A hoop house is one on the consideration’s list – however, we had some nasty winter storms here in CT where many folks’ greenhouses collapsed from the snow’s heavy weight.  Perhaps, a hoop house with the covering is not the way to go. They are less expensive and somewhat easy to install, and useful, but have that chance of collapsing in winter. I’m actually lucky I didn’t put one up because we had some heavy duty storms the past couple winters.

One of the greenhouses on the Broken Arrow Site

One of the greenhouses on the Broken Arrow Site

So, in the usual, Cathy T fashion I began daydreaming about choices of greenhouse styles. I started a board on Pinterest of greenhouse photos. So many unique and fun styles were discovered. Some with colored glass, a bit artsy, others grand enough to make you sulk, for they were large and beautiful. Did this process help come to a conclusion on which greenhouse to get? Nope, this just confused me some more. Think of it this way, if you loved sports cars, and wanted to get just the right one, wouldn’ t you take some time to consider all the options?  It is so tempting to get a really exciting sports car, but then again – do you really need one or that one in particular?

I even had a guy come to my house from a garden show booth selling greenhouses.  As he was going over what he was selling, I asked many questions but my gut said nope, this is not type of greenhouse I want-even though-he offered to have it installed as a showcase since he lived and worked nearby. Perhaps an offer more beneficial to him than me. But it just seemed too small, and he didn’t really understand the hort side of my goals. But he was doing his best.  I need large, tall space for my favorite tropicals.

Another task I did to pursue my goal was order the Hartley book. You know the one, they showcase the finest greenhouse ads in various gardening magazines. Each are stunningly beautiful, and a fairy tale style dream of gorgeous greenhouses. There is one ad in particular that stuck out in my mind.  It’s of a woman, sitting on a cozy chair in the corner of her Hartley greenhouse with her dog at her side.  Her hiking boots (the type I prefer on my feet) are covered with some mud, and there are some plants around her, of course.  The view of the backyard through the greenhouse window panes does not show a perfect garden view.  It’s a little blurry, but her yard is more like a meadow, with tall weeds, perhaps, but the point is, it doesn’t depict a pristine flowering garden view, and I liked that because the greenhouse is perfect, but her gardens are not. She has a big pot of lavender on the other side of her.  Ah, yes, I think as I look at this photo, that could be me.  I would go sit in this greenhouse with my cats every chance I got, and especially, in the winter when the sun comes out for some extra Vitamin D.  As I flipped through the pages of this Hartley catalog showing and describing the various style of their finest luxurious greenhouses, I kind of cursed myself for getting the catalog.  The cheapest greenhouse on their list is $20,000.  When Hartley called me as a followup, they understood my words. Love, love them, but not sure I can do. Click HERE to see their website and what I’m talking about.

I didn’t just start fantasizing about the greenhouse thing recently, I’ve been thinking about it for years.  Three years ago, I downloaded a book titled, “So You Want to Start a Nursery” by Tony Avent. I’ve admired Tony Avent for years, he’s the owner of Plant Delights Nursery, and the reason I enjoyed him so much is he writes extensive, detailed information about plants he’s been selling for years.  He never seems to keep the info to himself – which is what I’ve experienced with other people in the trade that have a long history – some want to keep the knowledge to themselves, and don’t offer it up readily. He’s been a mentor indirectly because he offers much of what he knows, and this book is an example.  The book covers a lot about the skills, land, prep, and all the “nuts and bolts” of running a nursery.  He discusses the skills to consider, from technical to entrepreneurial.  I actually haven’t finished reading it.  It got set aside, and this posting reminds me to go back to that book, but here are some of the excerpts I highlighted so far:

“Visionaries see the future and know where they want to go but often lack the skills to get there.  Entrepreneurs are the ones with the mind-set, energy, and risk tolerance to actually make the vision become reality.  It is the combination of these personality traits that creates the nursery owner who can truly take a nursery to the top level.”  (Darn, that’s good, I thought.)

“The American Nursery and Landscape Association (ANLA), serves as a coordination point and clearinghouse for information related to all nursery and landscape issues.”

“…, a mastery of horticulture does not by itself qualify a person to run a nursery business(…skip a part, and then continues with), “…the nursery business involves much more than just plants.  Plants are the commodity, not our business.” 

“…several types of schools, from two-year technical schools to four-year bachelor degree programs.  When choosing a school, be sure to ask whether the school’s emphasis is technical or scientific in nature.  A science background, which is usually more theoretically based and geared towards research and teaching, is usually less important to starting a nursery than practical or technical knowledge.” 

Anyhow, Mr. Avent’s book is excellent and a great resource.  I saw him speak once, he’s very funny and open with his knowledge. If I lived near his business, attending his tours and workshops would be a priority. A dream would be to work for his business.  I bet he has a great deal of greenhouses!!

Another thought I had, because I have almost 6 acres, and it is classified as farm A-1 (I think that is the code), is to buy two or three smaller style greenhouses and set them up in different exposures.  Like a shade house here, a full on sun house there, and then who knows what – but the dream is how interesting that would be, different paths could go to each house, each could have a theme or shape (round green house?), and it also could provide a quarantine place for any problem plants.  Some may argue this is silly – a bigger house is better, more space, easier to maintain the plants, and all that jazz – but I still like this idea, for it would create an environment more fun to play in.  As I type this – I think about the nursery in Rhode Island called, “Umbrella Factory.” It is setup with various hoop houses, and they are all different, one has a pond inside of it, the other has plants lined out, and another is more like a retail world – around all are huge container gardens which I lust over when I have gone to this nursery, which I stumbled upon when I was in town to visit the beach.  You can sense their various greenhouses evolved probably over time, starting with one here, then adding another there.  It is a unique and charming place to visit – and they have lots of big tropical plants, gigantic hanging baskets, container gardens setup high on pillars, and more.  Yup, this is another “dream” situation for me.

LOL

LOL

But so far, that’s all I managed to get done–the reading and some research with lots of daydreaming…and I also finally mowed down an old rundown garden area where a or one of my greenhouses would go.  The art of procrastination with other spring and summer priorities took over.

Oh and another friend gave me a contact for where he got his attached greenhouse.  I ordered the catalog.  My friend admitted he paid bookoo bucks, but somehow, I sensed he’s never regretted it. He offered a tour which I’ve yet to schedule.  What is my problem? Am I afraid his greenhouse will make me get one just as nice?

Well, summer came along, design jobs kept me busy here and there, and I truly enjoyed taking time to have some fun this season — and now it is the end of August. Right.  I didn’t pick out my greenhouse yet. Missing the target goal. As I had lunch with a hort friend yesterday, confessing I do not know why I haven’t reached this goal, her feeling is I must have some other more important goal lurking. Or maybe it is me lurking, as in procrastinating. Guess it will have to just wait, as I continue my research, and rethinking of goals.

Written by Cathy Testa

Sitting and reading about travels, and greenhouses

Sitting and reading about travels, and greenhouses

A Mansion Grand Enough for Topiary Camels in Newport, RI

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Cliff Walk View

Cliff Walk View

We had no intention of touring a mansion during our visit to Newport, RI this summer, but it ended up falling on our agenda regardless.  The last morning of our weekend, we packed a cooler filled with a picnic lunch, and headed off to the famous Cliff Walk.  Our goal was to sit and watch the rolling waves after we got in some exercise.

But, about 20 minutes into our walk, we discovered a barrier ending the path early. The sign indicated the Cliff Walk was closed “beyond this point” due to storm damage, up to Ledge Road.  Disappointed, yet determined, we backtracked to our car, and drove up Bellevue Avenue to locate the Ledge Road entrance, so we could continue our walk beyond the damaged areas.

Finding Ledge Road was easy, however, we discovered there was no public parking near that entrance, only private street side spaces.  We drove back up the end of Bellevue Avenue considering what to do next.  It was then I noticed beautiful and full Hakonechloa grass by a gated entrance.  I wanted to take a photo of the grasses because it was such a great example of how to use them in the landscape, so I asked Steve to slow down.

That moment lead to us entering the premises, marked “open” by a flag near the entrance gate.  The friendly man at the gate told us a tour of the mansion on the property was about to begin in a half-hour.  With nothing else on our backup plan, we got tickets to join the tour.  This was the last mansion on the famous Bellevue Avenue strip, called Rough Point – and maybe one that is overlooked since it is last on the strip.  I know we wouldn’t have bothered if it wasn’t so convenient as our next adventure of the day.

Camels Stuffed With Succulents and Herbs

Camels Stuffed With Succulents and Herbs

As we drove into the parking area, we both noticed topiary camels in the side yard, and thought that was interesting, and a little unusual or unexpected.  This was, after all, a mansion.  Wondering what the story was behind those, and thinking I will take photos of it later, Steve went to get tickets for us.  He exited the mansion with a white pamphlet in his hand, which I began to read.

“Wow,” I said, “This property was designed by Olmsted, … as in the father of landscape architecture.”

So naturally with the white pamphlet in hand, I was excited that we would be touring his home.  What a coincidence – this is something I’m actually very interested in.  Guess those Hakon grasses at the entrance were a sign of sorts.  Followed by the camels – well, this may be worth doing.  So onward we entered, and I couldn’t wait to hear about him and the property.

Front of Mansion facing Ocean n Cliff Walk

Front of Mansion facing Ocean n Cliff Walk

Upon five minutes into the tour guide’s talk, I was confused.  Why was she referring to a woman who owned this mansion, and not a man?  And who is this woman, by the name of Doris Duke?  She obviously was someone rich and famous by the million dollar paintings and art pieces in the house, but was she married to Olmsted, or what?  I turned to Steve holding up the white pamphlet and whispered, “I thought this was about Olmsted?”  He just shrugged his shoulders, and frowned a little when he heard the tour guide say it would be about an hour or so for the tour.

Turns out the fact the outdoor grounds were designed by the “father of landscape architecture and one of the most prolific and renonwed American landscape architects,” was not a major highlight of the tour.  It was just a coincidence, a good one for me, because I was now excited for both the tour and grounds to follow on our own. I figured after hearing the tour would take one hour, the best part would be when it was over when I could see the outdoor landscape and gardens, which they noted we could take our time to enjoy.  And it gives us access to view the ocean on the mansion side, versus the broken and damaged inaccessible Cliff Walk.

As we heard about this woman’s taste in her collections, and about her large dogs allowed to sit on rather valuable furnishings, and about her two camels by the names of Baby and Princess, I was intrigued, and very much interested and enjoying the story of Doris Duke’s life as a philanthropist, world traveler, and collector, while viewing the many treasures in her mansion and home.

Doris Duke, it turns out, inherited an estate estimated at $80 million at the age of 12, from her father.  Her father was an industrialist, and founder of the Duke Power Company.  It was mentioned he also invented the first rolled cigarettes.  She was his only daughter.  Wow, 12 years old and rich, but not without wisdom as we learned more.  She gave so much of her money to worthwhile causes, appreciated art and valued treasures, loved animals, and traveled the world.  I was kind of diggin’ this chick more than the vision of seeing Olmsted’s designed property and grounds outside after the inside mansion tour.

The whole time during our tour, I fantasized about the kind of life she led, filled with supporting charitable foundations (some in the horticulture scene such as the Orchid Society), and wondered how she and her friends dressed during their social events in the mansion’s grand rooms.  But there also seemed to be a tone of loneliness, perhaps, or it was just part of my vivid imagination – but somehow, I sensed she lived somewhat of a solitary life at points.  Maybe it was something about how she would swim for an hour by herself in the ocean facing her grand home, or the fact she was married, twice – but both marriages were brief, and also sadly she lost her only child, 24 hours after delivery.  Or perhaps it was something about her independence – how she would allow her rather large dogs to sleep on extremely expensive furniture, and have two camels roam the property.  To me those were little signs that she was not only elegant but down to earth.  I could be wrong, but I wanted to continue my daydreaming as I looked over every piece being well-described by the tour-guide (who I suspected was a teacher in her former life because she asked us questions about history, and other things, kind of like a mini test).

Whatever the reason I sensed this air of loneliness about Doris Duke, the home itself was a place I felt was cozy as well as grand.  It was filled with amazing carpets and tapestries, furniture, and paintings beyond my artistic knowledge, but the house still had a feeling of a place you could live in without it feeling overwhelming.  The rooms were connected in such a way, it wasn’t over powering, and it included a conservatory, which I couldn’t wait to see.

Once we arrived to it – the conservatory facing the grand lawn and ocean beyond, we heard a comical story of how the camels, named Baby and Princess, were put into the conservatory during a hurricane one year.  Doris had the staff clear out the room and put them in there to protect them. I won’t tell the rest of the story, better to save it for the tour you will attend if you plan to visit Newport, RI. But they did survive, and one camel is still alive today.  This was another piece of Doris that made her feel down to earth and not too pretentious.  After all – who would let camels into a mansion!?!

Hedge tunnel path to Secret Gardens

Hedge tunnel path to Secret Gardens

Once our indoor tour was completed, I was eager to visit the secret garden behind the privet hedges briefly mentioned, and the kitchen garden on the opposite side of the 10 acres grounds, which was twice the size when Doris Duke was alive.  But first was to go see the camel topiary structures in the side yard stuffed with drought-tolerant sedums, succulents, and thymes in honor of Baby and Princess, a gift to Doris Duke from a Middle Eastern businessman, as part of an airplane purchase.  Yup, guess the camels make sense now.  They were grand enough for a mansion, or perhaps the mansion was grand enough for them.  This would depend on your point of view.  And the swimming gate where Miss Duke entered the ocean for her daily swims – hard to imagine with the rough waves beyond, or the beautiful stone bridge flanked by rocky outcrops.  I took off my sandals and enjoyed the soft lush lawn under my feet as I began to walk in awe of the place.  Suddendly I realize I wasn’t considering Olmsted at all, and only Doris Duke’s life and vision.  She had a big part in many aspects of the outdoor areas as I read more later.

Roses blooming in Gardens

Roses blooming in Gardens

While in the private garden on the property, with a rose arbor was installed and planted at Doris Duke’s direction, planted with ‘American Pillar’ roses, which bloom only once a year, usually around July 4th, which happened to be the weekend of our visit.  The area is surrounded by a privet hedge, and flowers and tropical plants are included in the gardens.  While it doesn’t stand as it did in the same fashion as when Doris Duke directed the plant list, there was much to be enjoyed.  One area surrounded by a hedge of catmint (Nepeta faassenii) with a Brugmansia in a container in the center, was a favorite of mine.  Along with a bed lined with lamb’s ear (Stachys byzantina) and Boxwood.  And to see banana plants, most likely the hardy Bajoo’s, made me feel all the more admiration for the property and home.

lambs ear perennial lines edges of garden

lambs ear perennial lines edges of garden

Banana Plants in the Garden with Perennials

Banana Plants in the Garden with Perennials

While I suspect it was common to put the gardens tucked away in private areas, part of that made me sad, for you can’t see them unless you go adventure there.  Again, dreaming about how I would put gardens throughout the property, rather than leave a wide open lawn, which by the way is maintained by organic methods.

Brugmansia with Catmint

Brugmansia with Catmint

In The Kitchen Garden

In The Kitchen Garden

We discovered, as we toured the kitchen garden on the opposite side of the property, cinnamon and clove, are used as an insecticide.  A staff person, nameless and camera shy, came by to talk to us and told us this.  He said it was part of Miss Duke’s commitment to environmental causes, and the property, all 10 acres, have been maintained using organic practices since 2007.  This is truly amazing.  Removing my sandals as I walked the lawn areas, it was soft and cozy underfoot, and not one pesty insect was spotted in the kitchen garden as I snapped photos.  Our mysterious staff person, dressed in a white chef shirt, took our photo and complimented our chemistry saying he could see we were enjoying touring the grounds.  I kind of figured he was also investigating our investigation – this is a place, obviously is filled inside and out with rare and valuable beauty.

Opening where Doris Duke walked for swims in the ocean

Opening where Doris Duke walked for swims in the ocean

Some Tips:

DATES: Check the tour dates of RoughPoint, The Newport Home of Doris Duke.  It is closed during the winter season.

CAMERA: Bring along your camera – for the outdoor portions.  Indoor photos are not allowed.

LUNCH: Pack a lunch – as we did, for they don’t limit your time on the grounds, so you can enjoy the view with some snacks.

TIME: Give yourself one hour for the indoor tour, and one hour to enjoy and tour the historic grounds.

CLIFF WALK ENTRANCE: Enter the Cliff Walk via side street entrances (versus the beginning point).  There is one on Webster Street and Narragansett Avenue, shaded and free to park street-side.  Or, you can park at the beginning point of the walk, the entrance by the beach off of Memorial Boulevard, but have to walk up a long hill, and in the hot humid sun, we opted for the shaded area starting the walk a bit further along off Narragansette Avenue (connect via Annandale Road).

Cathy Testa
Container Crazy Cathy T
http://www.cathytesta.com
860-977-9473

Steve next to Fig Trees in the Kitchen Garden

Steve next to Fig Trees in the Kitchen Garden

My Monster Cement Planter

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Jimmy, my brother, installs stamped concrete walkways, so I finally asked him to do one outside my basement door. Then I told him how I’d like to have him build me a huge planter box below the deck. I gabbed about how cement is so popular these days, even running inside to show him photos from a Martha Stewart magazine issue showing cement outdoor tables and more.  Anyhow, he knows I get nutty about these dreams of mine, but he said we could do it.  He agreed on my dimensions, and the cement planter resulted in a 5 x 10 size.

After it was completed, which was last fall, I filled it with the soil from my disassembled container gardens from that season. It was perfect because the cement planter is below my deck, so it was easy to dump the soil into it from above. Plus, I was recycling my soil.  Then I put a big plywood board over it for the winter. It ended up serving as a useful table during my winter Kissing Ball and Evergreen Creations class.

My Monster Cement Planter

My Monster Cement Planter

Alas, it came time to plant it this year. First, of course, was my red banana plant, as the thriller. I imagined the leaves would pop up to the deck railing levels by summer.  As of today, the leaves are 52″ long.  Yup, I measured it.  In warmer zones, the Ensete red banana can reach 12′ tall.  In prior years, this tropical plant, Ensete ventricosum ‘Maurelii’ has grown tall in my patio pots and containers, reaching probably 5-6 feet tall, but never has it grown as wide and large as it has in my cement planter.

The thriller is Ensete red banana with fillers of elephant ears

The thriller is Ensete red banana with fillers of elephant ears

The red banana plants features are thrilling to me because its large reddish leaves grow fast from a thick trunk base. The leaves come up like rolled cigars which is appealing. Then they quickly unroll to show a big tropical look. This tropical plant is hardy to zones 9-10 so I had stored the base carefully last fall to reuse as an annual here in CT.

Watering the red banana and its companion plants was no problem either. I just showered them from above when I walked around with my light weight garden hose to do the pots on my deck.  The only trouble experienced was the bothersome Japanese beetles earlier in the summer munching on the leaves. Cutting off the unsightly leaves was the solution for more would arise.

Astilbe perennial blooms

Astilbe perennial blooms

In the beginning of the season, Astilbe perennials bloomed red and pinks. They put on a bloom show for a while. And they will return every year. I also added several types of elephant ears from my stored specimens, which included the Colocasia esculenta ‘Maui Magic’ and Colocasia esculenta ‘Tea Cup.’

Tucked around were elephant ears

Tucked around were elephant ears

‘Maui Magic’ elephant ears are a fav. Its purplish stems and large leaves in a clump are spectacular. ‘Tea Cup’ elephant ears have cupped leaves. Water droplets sit in the center and bobble around as a breeze comes by, or my cat. My cats like to lick the droplets sometimes, and once I found one cat sleeping under the plants in this planter. They were reaping the benefits of cool shade from the large red banana plant’s leaves and the elephant ears, plus the monster cement planter is in a quiet location where they can rest or sleep.

A biennial plant starts with pods

A biennial plant starts with pods

Another plant added was Angelica, selected because it has unusual looking flowers. It is a biennial, and also has large foliage resembling giant parsley. The blooms, shaped like pods, first arrived mid summer and are open now. Bees are really enjoying them. I was excited about this plant too because it grows very tall, up to 5-8 feet.  The deep plum flowers are a nice color combo next to the reddish banana leaves.

Planter filled lushly

Planter filled lushly

Next to bloom will be the pink Turtlehead perennial. Latin name is Chelone lyonii. This will bloom any day now, and more bees will follow. I had this perennial in a pot last year, and loved it. Its a late summer bloomer, and will continue until early fall, plus it also gets large.  Its on the left corner with dark green leaves, dense, and packed in nicely. It likes consistently moist soils, and so does the Angelica and tropicals in this monster cement planter.

There are other beauties in the planter, such as Rodgersia pinnata and Thalictrum aquilegifolium (Columbine Meadow Rue).  The Meadow Rue is the only perennial relocated from a former garden mowed down. It gets very tall, 2-3 feet, and has wispy pale tiny flowers in late spring to early summer. It has more of a woodland feel but the height factor made it a companion. And of course, no container garden would be complete without a spiller, sweet potatoe vine on the corner.

Red banana leaves arise rolled up

Red banana leaves arise rolled up

Planting this monster cement planter has been easy and a joy. No bending to the ground, or weeding. They can not get in practically, not just because the plantings are full, but the height of the planter helps to prevent them from creeping in. I’d rather plant hundreds of these types of large cement planters over gardens in the ground any day. Now if I could just convince my brother to build me more!

written by Cathy Testa

The thriller is Ensete red banana with fillers of elephant ears

The thriller is Ensete red banana with fillers of elephant ears

Container Gardens in the City

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A very good place to see large, bold, and lush container gardens, window boxes, and even green roofs — providing you can get high enough– is the city. Makes perfect sense because there is very little, to no soil or ground space in front or behind private homes, and if there’s a secret garden in a courtyard, it may not be visible to the person walking by.

So as I walked the streets of Boston, Massachusetts recently, I took photos of some beautiful planters spotted in various locations such as Beacon Hill and near the Prudential building.  Whether maintained by a lucky city dweller, or business owner, all that were seen on my journeys were very healthy and impressive.

Maybe with no space for gardens, owners take more time to water the containers filled with lush plants because they don’t have a garden to tend. Whatever the reason, it is a special treat to the city visitor taking notice, and perhaps the only method to add color, foliage, and flowers to the tight spaces in the city.

Beacon Hill Window Boxes

Beacon Hill Window Boxes

No visit is complete without walking the historic Beacon Hill area. Lots of gorgeous window boxes

Prudential building

Prudential building

These by the Prudential were huge!  You can see tropicals are popular in the city.

Beacon Hill Window Box

Beacon Hill Window Box

XCambridge by a restaurant

Cambridge by a restaurant
East Cambridge outside a business building

East Cambridge outside a business building

Near Kendall Square

Near Kendall Square

Canna plants with Mandevillas. And other tropicals. My style. Large and lush.

East Cambridge

East Cambridge

Pennisetum grasses with sweet potato vines full and trailing. Just abundant for the street side.

Close up

Close up

Begonias can take the heat well as seen here

Near Kendall Square

Near Kendall Square

Huge blue pots add vivid punch to the combo of plants here. Not just one pot, but many along this walkway area.

By bz

By bz

Simple but again, healthy and adding movement with the tall thriller, and spiller sweet potatoe vine.

These were just the few i captured. I would write more but working on my Ipad to post is a lttle tricky. Will update with plant names in a later revision. For now, enjoy and let these be some inspiration for the large and showy containers in your environment.

Written by Cathy Testa

Mini Embellishments offer Maximum Inspirations

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The first thing I did this morning, even before turning on my coffee maker, was take a photo of my mini creation from last night’s workshop held at my home.  It is themed after the bird houses in my own backyard and kept simple, yet it made me smile and feel inspired. I think I’ll keep it right here by the chair I like to have my morning coffee in, and during the dreary days of winter, it will be a little reminder of warmer sunny days returning when the birds start visiting our birdhouses to build their nests again.

My Birdhouse Themed Mini Garden

My Birdhouse Themed Mini Garden

Themes were an important feature discussed by my very special guest instructor, Rhonda Niles, of Gardening Inspirations. She went over the how to’s and the why to’s as she gave a very professional workshop for the attendees.  Many of my good friends, clients, and new faces from local garden clubs were part of the group. Having a mix of people made observation interesting, as each person pondered their theme choice.

Barn yard themed by an attendee

Barn yard themed by an attendee

One attendee, Dianne, themed her miniature garden on a farm and farm animals. She has a quaint farm herself, and is an avid horse lover.  The charming bowl she brought with a handle was the perfect choice.  She asked her partner to drill holes in it, for she knows the rules about drainage, and in his honor, she included a mini beer can in her scene. Can you see it?

Another themed her creation on a dog park, and there were fantasy themes such as fairy woodland hide aways. One of the fairy gardens scenes was by my cousin, another Diane in the group. She thought about including a wine table but we agreed the vino didn’t seem right in this fairy world. But I just loved how she put a fairy on top of the little house, and the other one on a patch of soft grass.

Fairy land Scene

Fairy land Scene

Each came out very unique and special. I particularly enjoyed themes based on a special place. It is fun to recreate a place in a pot.  Kim, another attendee, created a secret looking scene too.  It came complete with the gazing ball and white bunnies. And her red wooden pot choice was perfect too.

Woods n Treasures by Kim

Woods n Treasures by Kim

We enjoyed some girl time, refreshments, and one of the most pleasant cool evenings of August. Everyone was enjoying creating so much, it started to get dark and we worked by candlelight.  Many attendees had balanced looks to their designs – perhaps a method to practice landscape designs!

I am blessed to have the opportunity to offer these types of classes, and appreciate Rhonda’s efforts to setup, instruct, and provide explanations about the dwarf plants and miniature embellishments. With good care, everyone’s take home Miniature Garden will last a very long time.

Thank you to Rhonda and our guests for a very enjoyable evening!  And…Have a good weekend.

Cathy Testa

workshop

workshop