Petasites japonicus (butterbur) – Awakens in a Pot every Spring

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Did you know that some plants are big time troublemakers in the garden (invasive, prolific spreaders, aggressive) but they are amazing STARS in patio pots and container gardens?

My blog page titled “Troublemakers Turned Stars” talks about which troublemaker garden plants you may use in container gardens. And, it starts with this plant:

Petasites japonicus (butterbur)

Two pots, one on a table behind the other

Two pots, one on a table behind the other

Its key feature: HUGE ruffled green leaves reaching 32″ wide.  It prefers shade and may be used in water gardening because it likes moisture – lots of it. In fact, in a container garden, you need to provide it with a nice long watering to soak the soil well daily in the heat of hot summers.

Why it’s a star in container gardens and patio pots:  Because of its huge leaves.  I like lush foliage, so this one is a keeper. And because you can overwinter it very easily in a big container garden or patio pot just by moving it into a sheltered location after the season is over towards the end of Autumn.

My storage location for this plant growing in large patio pots is my little shed or unheated garage. I’ve been moving pots with Petasites in it for 3+ years now at the end of the season to store them over the winter.  It is best to cut back all the foliage after it gets hit by a light frost in Autumn.

In the Spring, roll it back out, position it somewhere to show the big leaves off which follow its flowering cycle. This plant is interesting. It shoots out flower buds first and leaves start coming out in various places in the pot after.

Here is a photo below taken this month of the flower pods rising. Once you have this pot outdoors, be sure to cut off the flower heads before they start to set seed because you do not want it to be carried by wind to your landscape to take hold because in the ground, this baby spreads like wildfire and is hard to control. You don’t want it in places where it will take over the landscape unless you know how to control it very carefully. And one way to control a plant like this is to use it in container gardens and patio pots.

Petasites japonicus, variegatus

Petasites japonicus, variegatus

Why it’s a troublemaker:  This plant has rhizomes at the base, and they grow rapidly via a spreading habit.  In the garden, they would easily take over an area and invade. They can be a problem to remove.  In fact, in a container garden, sometimes the roots will creep up to the top of the pot or out of the bottom of the pot’s drainage holes.  They are ambitious. One way to provide extra reinforcement is to sit the pot on top of another as shown here.

Place the Pot with Petasites on top of another

Place the Pot with Petasites on top of another

Moved into the shed for winter after a haircut

Moved into the shed for winter after a haircut

Caution:  If you decide to use this plant in a container garden, be aware when it flowers, the seeds can self-sow in the garden. Sometimes, I’ve kept mine raised above the ground on an elevated deck, so this has not been an issue. Or again, as shown above, situate it on top of another pot filled with soil so if the roots escape, they will go into the soil in the pot below it.

At the end of the season, rolling these back into a sheltered location such as a garage, shed, or other space is plenty of protection to keep it alive in a dormant state until the climate and conditions are favorable for reappearance each spring.

This is why I love using perennials which return every year in pots – they save you money – and become treasured specimens.  In many cases, troublemaker perennial plants are great candidates for container gardening.

To see more about Petasites japonicus, click HERE.  It is a blog posting I wrote a couple years back with more photos of the plant’s flowers, root structure, and habit.

A Returning Petasites for Several Years

A Returning Petasites for Several Years

The leaves on this plant grow to dish plate size which make them very showy. When you put them away at the end of the season, it is helpful to moisten the soil so there is a bit of moisture, and visit it maybe once during the winter to put some snow on top to melt into the soil – this is what has worked for me.

Variegated Petasites (butterbur)

Variegated Petasites (butterbur)

Here’s a variegated Petasites I scored last year from The Garden Barn and Nursery in Vernon, CT. I’m glad to see the variegation on the leaves returning right now in my blue pot. After a few years, this pot may require a refresh of new potting soil – and a division of the plants.

Perennials like this are wonderful candidates in container gardens, and reasons why perennials will be discussed at this year’s Container Garden Workshops on May 16th and May 23rd, 2015. To learn more about the workshops in Broad Brook, CT, see HERE.

Detailed information about the plant and characteristics can be located HERE at the Missouri Botanical Garden website.

Stay tune for more about “Troublemakers Turned Star” plants for container gardens and patio pots.

Cathy Testa

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ContainerCrazyCT Visits the Boston Flower and Garden Show 2015

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Here are some highlights of the Boston Flower and Garden Show this year. I thoroughly enjoyed attending with a good friend, Rhonda. She invited me along and I am thankful we attended. The show was a little less packed this year in regards to displays and vendors – and it was not a surprise to learn why – apparently the huge amounts of snow fall in Boston this winter prevented some landscapers to load up supplies, like large boulders to frame displays, because all was buried under mounds of snow. We can’t blame them – it has been a rough winter especially for Boston folks.

Attending a flower show in a city like Boston is much fun, especially if you are able to spend an overnight by the Boston Waterfront, which we did. The hotel I like is the Renaissance Boston Waterfront Hotel located at 606 Congress Street. It is only about a block? away from the flower show’s location at the Seaport World Trade Center. We found our stay there very enjoyable. Staff and valet guys were friendly and helpful, the restaurant in the hotel served a wonderful breakfast, and you are literally minutes from over 18+ restaurants.

Renaissance Boston Waterfront Hotel - Seconds from the Show!

Renaissance Boston Waterfront Hotel – Seconds from the Show!

RESTAURANT RECOMMENDATIONS

My favorites so far from my visits to this show this year and the past are:

Rosa Meixcano, 155 Seaport Blvd – directly across the street (a bit to the right) when you exit the Seaport World Trade Center – amazing! Yumm. (rosamexicano.com)

Legal – Harborside, 270 Northern Avenue – take a right out of the hotel, take your first right, and cross the street – amazing seafood – truly! And if you want to go for dinner, make reservations ahead.

And we also tried Salvatore’s at 225 Northern Avenue for a night cap and appetizer. We sat at the bar, had a nice meal, and lots of activity was going on there on a Friday evening. It is truly convenient as well from the hotel noted above.

THINGS TO DO AT THE SHOW

Every year is different, but my kudos go to Cass Flowers & School of Floral Design. They offered mini-workshops all day at the show, and when my friend, Rhonda, suggested we sign up for the session on making fascinators, I didn’t hesitate to reply, “Yes!”

Cathy T and Rhonda Striking a Pose

Cathy T and Rhonda Striking a Pose at the Boston Flower & Garden Show 2015

I didn’t know of the term “Fascinators” until that moment – what fun it was making these and even more fun wearing them all weekend. Every where we went at the show and when dining out in the area restaurants, we wore them – and all we got in return was big smiles from people who saw us. I picked up the special florist glue used to make these at their booth because I definitely want to give these a try again, and perhaps offer a workshop on making fascinators as part of my “Nature with Art Class Programs” – Thank you Cass for hosting this event at the show.

Scene from Rosa Mexicano at 155 Seaport Blvd, Boston, MA

Scene from Rosa Mexicano at 155 Seaport Blvd, Boston, MA

The reason we decided to hit up Rosa Mexicano’s for our last meal before returning home was due to a vendor, selling lamps with leaf imprints on them at the show, recommending this place to us, and it was the perfect cap to a great weekend with a great friend.

SOME FAVORITE FINDS

Hudson Valley Seed Library – Love their artist created seed packaging! (www.seedlibrary.org)

Of Earth and Ocean – Handcrafted jewelry from Wellfleet studio on Cape Cod

Best Bees – Beekeeping Services – Rhonda attended their talk on bee keeping – she is going to do it!!

Nature’s Creations – Jewelry for the seasons, made from real leaves and cast (www.leafpin.com)

Rachel Paxton – Really pretty bird art and more (www.rachelpaxton.com)

Pink Cloud – I got a iPhone holder and thermometer – cat, dog, colorful themes – birds – check them out (www.pinkcloud.com)

Wooden Expression – Gorgeous Copper Roof Birdhouses out of North Attleboro, MA (www.woodenexpressions.com)

Green Mountain Glass – Crystal hangers for windows (I got 3!)

By Green Mountain Glass

By Green Mountain Glass

Sunny Window – Soaps and Lavender products (www.sunnywindow.com)

And of course…

Cass School of Floral Design, 531 Mt. Auburn Street, Watertown, MA 02472 (www.cassflowers.com)

The Boston Flower & Garden Show is held annually. This year’s theme was “Season of Enchantment” and it is held at the Seaport World Trade Center in early or mid March. For more information, visit http://www.BostonFlowerShow.com.

Cathy Testa

 

 

 

Elizabeth Park Offers A Spring Greenhouse Show

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Happy First Day of Spring Everyone!

Spring arrives today in about 9 hours from the time I’m typing this post – However, the clouds in East Windsor right now sure don’t match our date on the calendar. We may get another frosting of snow today – let’s hope it is the last for the season.

It is chilly and gloomy, so I thought I’d share just a few snapshots from my visit to the Elizabeth Park Conservancy (located at the corner of Prospect Avenue and Asylum Avenue on the Hartford-West Hartford Line) to cheer you up as you deal with today’s weather.

I attended the show yesterday. Fortunately, the sky was blue, the sun was shining, and the warmth of the greenhouse was a refreshing change from the cold temps still lingering outdoors.

(Address for GPS: 1561 Asylum Avenue, West Hartford, CT).

Burst of Spring Colors

Burst of Spring Colors

The first thing I noticed was the smell of Hyacinth, which looks similar to the purple Muscari shown in the photo above but is much bigger – and everyone knows of them – Hyacinth bulbous flowering plants are very popular during Easter. They have an intense strong scent so it is no wonder the blooms of many filled my nose the minute I opened the door to the greenhouse at Elizabeth Park.

Row of Happiness

Row of Happiness

I arrived at 9:45 am figuring it would be best for parking. Taking 91S to 84W, and the exit for Asylum Street, turn right, go straight for about 1.5 miles, and the park entrance is on your left.

First thing I saw was a big fallen tree on the ground which fell over from the force of the 40-60 mph winds the day before. It was near the entrance area. A tree working crew was just showing up to clean that up.

Proceeding down the lane to the greenhouses, I planned to park adjacent to a nice cafe, called the Pond House, they have at the site – but the parking spaces were already full. This really surprised me, so I exited and took a right, circled back, and re-entered the park again. By this time, the tree crew moved to another part of the road and they were all looking up at a limb hanging above. Because the road is one-way, I parked on the roadside near the rose garden beds and took a brisk walk to the greenhouses. I really didn’t mind the walk because it was blue skies and very sunny. Others were walking the park for exercise too.

Yellow tulip at Elizabeth Park Greenhouse

Yellow tulip at Elizabeth Park Greenhouse

I absolutely adore yellow roses and tulips – and I enjoy taking close up shots of flowers. So, with my handy iPad, I started to lean in to take shots. The greenhouse was quiet – only 4 other people were inside chatting and admiring the plants. I found out later the crowded parking lot was due to seminars and classes being held in the cafe.

Amaryllis Blooms

Amaryllis Blooms

Fascinated by the internal structures of flowers, I leaned closer to a beautiful Amaryllis flower to take photos. Many are blooming in the greenhouse. I love how the sun placed shadows of the stamen and pistil parts of the flower on the petals. To know those tiny pollen molecules move from the anthers of the stamen to the stigma female portion is incredible. So many things happen in plants, if only we could zoom in closer or see the insides operating.

Anyhow! The pink flower petals of the Amaryllis were sparkling in the sun which was truly glorious on a sunny bright winter’s day in their greenhouse. I was fortunate and happy I took the time to visit.

Frilled Edges of a Tulip

Frilled Edges of a Tulip

Visiting the greenhouse early in the morning hours was a good call. The sun was shining through and hitting the blooms everywhere. This tulip has frilly edges to its flower petals – making it all the more elegant in soft yellow.

This Spring Greenhouse Show at Elizabeth Park runs from March 14th to March 27th, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm daily. The various spring bulbs will definitely cheer you up if you decide to go.

Middle Row Filled

Middle Row Filled

As I snapped away, one of the workers came inside to tend to plants, so I took the opportunity to ask him how the greenhouse is heated. The structures here are ancient and historic – In fact, Elizabeth Park is on the national register of historic places. There are three greenhouses on the property – only one is part of the showcase at this time. The worker was very kind and told me it is heated by large pipes which run directly under the benches, which of course, I didn’t notice or see because the benches are fully covered with flowers and plants. The temperature in the greenhouse was 60 degrees during the time of my visit, and he told me at night they keep it between 45-50, and the sun is what rose the temp to 60 at that time. I surely was enjoying it!

Splashes of Red and Orange

Splashes of Red and Orange

If you are a photographer, there are plenty of photo-opps here! One of the visitors in the greenhouse was a pro – he had this big tube which he held up at the end of his camera lens, and he didn’t take long to capture his photos. I was sure to not interrupt him – taking pictures of plants is a form of therapy while you go from one to the other in a old beautiful greenhouse when the sun is shining. The only thing you hear are the six fans circulating away at the top of the structure and some mumbles of plant admirers in the greenhouse.

For more information – Visit the Park’s Website

Cathy Testa

Powerful Perennials in Container Gardens – An Intro to May’s Hands-On Workshop

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The Theme – Powerful Perennials

Perennials, which return year after year in your gardens (or more technically stated, are a plant that normally survives for three or more seasons), are excellent candidates in container gardens and patio pots.

However, they are often overlooked for this use and many people do not understand their amazing benefits in container gardens or know which to select to achieve stunning combinations to make your container gardens look amazing in your outdoor surroundings!

This year’s Container Garden Workshops hosted by Cathy Testa of Container Crazy CT in Broad Brook, CT will focus on perennials which perform beautifully in container gardens and patio pots, and how and why you should use them to your advantage.

Container Garden with Mix of Perennials and Annuals

Container Garden with Mix of Perennials and Annuals Upon Planting!

Burst of “Dynamic” Color Periods

We all love color – and know many annual plants provide constant color in your container gardens, but so do perennials. Many perennials bloom at specific times during the season so they add a dynamic element to your containers. Some are short bloomers for a period of weeks, while other are long lasting for several months – It is a matter of knowing which perform best to maximize their show in your container gardens. Think of perennials as providing a burst of color at the right times to compliment the other mix of plants in your container gardens and patio pots.

Perennial: Agastache 'Blue Fortune' blooms all summer long

Perennial: Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’ blooms all summer long

For example, a blue flowering perennial, called Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’, which also goes by the common name of anise hyssop, has a very long lasting soft blue flowers in summer. The blooms start in July and continue blooming all the way into September. Not only is that long-lasting, if you find the blooms look tired towards the end of the summer, you only have to snip them off from the tall stems of the plant, and guess what? Within two weeks, you will see new fresh buds forming and opening up on your plant in the container garden.

Perennials Don’t Get Exhausted

Perennials don’t peter out as quickly as annuals because most do not profusely bloom during the entire summer which takes lots of energy, and they have reserves from previous year’s growth, unlike annuals, such as a petunias. Petunias, as an example, usually look tired or worn out by the end of August. I’m not saying annuals don’t rock in container gardens because they do and they are a must have – but people often overlook the values and bonuses of using perennials in container gardens and only consider them for the gardens of the ground.

Are Stars in Containers

Some perennials are aggressive spreaders in gardens, but when used in container gardens, they turn into stars. An example is the perennial, Ajuga reptans, also by the common name of bugleweed. You may know this one too. In the spring time, this low growing, ground cover looking perennial spikes up tons of purple flowers in May; they are noticeable.  However, they also have a habit of spreading in lawns – which is a nuisance.  This perennial actually travels from one spot to the next underground – so folks who desire perfect lawns dislike this plant.

Ajuga in a small pot

Ajuga reptans in a small pot packs a lot of punch – Just Adorable!!

In a container garden, however, the spreading issue of Ajuga is eliminated and controlled.  Because it is a tenacious plant, it will return in a container garden for several years however – the problem aspect is now a solution in container gardens and patio pots; it shines during the growing season with various foliage colors and tidy habit serving as an exception filler in container gardens with other mixed arrangements.

Ajuga reptans

Image: Wikipedia/EnLorax – Ajuga in the ground – shows the blooms, which are so pretty in a container!

Ajuga reptans is just one of the many examples of perennials which can be vigorous or quick spreaders in the ground, but is not a problem in a container. The flush of purple color from its blooms is beautiful in a container especially when combined with other spring colored plants like the soft yellow of daffodils or pinks of tulips. Or it can serve as a very long lasting foliage feature in your container gardens, and this perennial doesn’t get lots of problems.

For this upcoming Container Garden Workshop in May 2015, two cultivars of Ajuga reptans: ‘Burgundy Glow’ and Ajuga ‘Chocolate Chip’ will be available for purchase along with many other wonderful perennial plants. Both of these cultivars I have used in containers and patio pots with wonderful results.

‘Burgundy Glow’ has white, pink and purple variegation on its leaves with 6” spikes of blue flowers in May, and ‘Chocolate Chip’ has intense violet-blue spikes rising 3” above miniature, vibrant, chocolate-hued foliage in May through June. One year, I used ‘Chocolate Chip’ in a little container and it was so pretty, and this one can take shady conditions too.

Ornamental Grasses or Grass-like Perennials

You may not think of ornamental grasses or grass like perennials as container garden plants but two of these which I can name right off the bat are Hakonechloa macra ‘All Gold’ and its counter opposite in regards to color is Liriope muscari ‘Big Blue’.

Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola' on right

Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’ on right – Similar to ‘All Gold’ but All Gold  is well – all gold!

Hakonechloa macra ‘All Gold’ is one of many hakon grasses I selected for this workshop because it has stunning gold blades of foliage that grows in graceful clumps and the color is intense and vivid. Take that intense vivid color and put it next to the right color bloom of another perennial – and voila – you have eye magic or eye candy.

Then there’s Lirope muscari ‘Big Blue’, the polar opposite in color compared to the hakon grass – it has a dark green long strap-like leaves – and it is not an ornamental grass but a perennial, so it, like ornamental grasses, it returns year after year and is tough too.

Lily turf is Lirope’s common name, and it can be used to cover lots of turf – because it does spread – so this one fits my “Troublemaker Turned Star” scenarios for container gardens. It is a strong grower which is a problem in landscape situations, but it makes a wonderful low height type thriller with 15-18” long leaves with violet flower spikes in late summer in containers and patio pots! I’ve used Lirope in containers and it comes back every single year – it’s tough! This enables me to reuse it and just add new supporting candidates with it in the pot every season.

Container Garden with Perennials: Heuchera, Hellebore, Bellis, Euphorbia.

Container Garden with Perennials: Heuchera, Hellebore, Bellis perennis, Euphorbia in early Spring!

Other Perennial Benefits

There are other wonderful benefits to using perennials in your pots – Again, they return, as mentioned above, for at least three or more years – so this saves you money; they may be transplanted into your gardens or yard after the summer season is over in the fall, so you will enjoy them for years to come; and they give a dynamic bloom period or show at specific times in your container gardens. This gives your container a living interest because suddenly, in the midst of summer, a burst of a new color opens in the blooms of a perennial in the container, or perhaps it is an early spring bloomer or late bloomer in the fall – either way, it adds a new interest for you to enjoy and view. It is the ta-da of container gardening.

Perennial Purposes

Perennials also serve lots of other wonderful purposes. They have fragrant foliage and flowers, many can be used as a cut flower for your vases, and they attract butterflies and bees – and others have medicinal purposes too.

Bee enjoys a Perennial (Turtlehead)

Bee enjoys a perennial (Turtlehead) – A late season bloomer and very showy plant in containers!

There will be varieties for sun and shade available at these two workshops in May 2015. A total of 120 perennial plants have been ordered, 6 each of 23 species. Learning their features and how to use them with other plants in the containers will be part of this workshops offerings.

Red Banana Leaves with Various Elephant Ears

Red Banana Leaves with Various Elephant Ears – The Type of Tropical Plants Available at the May Workshops!

Tropical Additions

Tropical plants with large lush foliage features will be part of the Container Garden Workshops this year as well – because they are a passion and, like perennials, they have great benefits – the ability to reuse them year after year when appropriately stored over the winter, their dramatic and showy role due to their ability to grow fast, and adaptability to warm climates, which is what we have here in CT during the summer months. Many tropical will last all the way into October with no signs of stress, giving you a real show until the first frost of fall arrives.

Containers in Sept 2015

Containers in Sept 2015 shows the thriller of Colocasias (Elephant Ears) – Available for Purchase at the Workshops!

Every year, elephant ears (Colocasia), banana plants (Ensete and Musa), and some other unique tropical plants are offered as part of this workshop. Pairing up a dark toned elephant ear, such as Colocasia ‘Maui Magic’ with a vivid bloom of a perennial has dramatic effects in containers, and in this workshop you will see how it’s done.

A total of 185 tropical plants have been ordered, 8 each of 21 species, and learning their features and how to use them with other plants in the containers will be part of this workshops offerings.

Pinboards – Perennials with Power for Container Gardens

Start visiting my pinboard titled, Perennials with Power for Container Gardens, to get a glimpse of what the featured perennials and tropical plants will be at the Container Garden Workshops scheduled on May 16th and May 23rd, 2015. I will be adding photos up until the workshop dates. This will give you an idea of what will be featured, and some are shown in container gardens and patio pots too.

Two Workshop Date Options

This year, the workshop is being offered on two dates. There are some considerations beyond your calendar’s availability on which date you may want to select. Both sessions will have the same topics and materials available.  More details of what is included in the class is listed on www.ContainerCrazyCT.com, click MAY CLASS (BIG CONTAINER GARDEN) under the Nature with Art Programs menu.

May 16, Saturday – Session No. 1:

The May 16th date is after our typical spring frost date but we won’t know until we hit April. Experts say we are “almost guaranteed” to not get frost from May 10th through September 26th, but after our winter and global changes – do we trust weather guarantees anymore?

This means if you elect to attend session no. 1 on May 16th, your containers may require protection if we get an overnight frost. Frost is not as harsh to perennials, but will affect tropicals. If you are okay with moving your pot or covering it with a light sheet if forcasters say we will get a frosting, then May 16th is for you.

May 23, Saturday – Session No. 2:

The May 23rd date will be safe – however, it is Memorial Day weekend, and schedules tend to be busy – but with that said, nothing is better than placing your newly arranged container garden out on your deck or patio just in time for the festivities.

Registration one of 3 ways:

  1. Visit the Facebook page for Container Crazy CT and click on EVENTS to join.
  2. Complete the Contact Form found at the bottom of the class pages from the top-menu bars of http://www.ContainerCrazyCT.com.
  3. Email containercathy@gmail.com or call (860) 977-9473

Payment:

$15 per person + cost of plants purchased at the class. Payment of class fee of $15 is required by mail one month prior to the class date. Payment is non-refundable for any cancellations one week prior to the class date. Sales tax is applicable on all plant purchases during the class.

Send to: Cathy T’s Landscape Designs, 72 Harrington Road, Broad Brook, CT 06016

For a PDF version of this text: Container Garden Workshops Intro 2015

Thank you,

Cathy Testa

Cathy Testa is a container garden designer in Broad Brook, CT. Her work has been featured on the television program, CT Style, and in several gardening publications. She offers classes year round where nature is combined with art and is available for container garden installations.

Succulents ContainerCrazyCT_0010For a Calendar of All Events and Workshops, click HERE.

 

Wasabi Coleus with Vivid Lime Green Coloring is a Top Performer

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When it comes to a wide array of foliage colors, coleus plants are one of the best to use. It is no wonder the National Garden Bureau has declared 2015 the Year of the Coleus. Just look at this image below, downloaded from the bureau’s website (www.ngb.org/downloads). The variegation is speckled, trimmed on the edges, and splashy! And this plant is so easy to grow. Coleus plants are known for being tough and are quite recognizable by plant lovers.

Mix of Coleus - Photo from National Garden Bureau

Mix of Coleus – Photo from National Garden Bureau

Last year, I used Wasabi coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides ‘Wasabi’) in several container gardens for a wedding client. The bride wanted lime green along with cobalt blue and white colors in her décor for the wedding. Lime green was an easy plant color to obtain. There are many plants with lime green or chartreuse colors, and I immediately had several pop into my head, such as:

  • Alchemilla mollis (lady’s mantel) – ruffled foliage, lime green foliage and flowers (filler)
  • Canna ‘Pretoria’ – tropical fast grower, lime green foliage (thriller)
  • Heuchera ‘Citronella’ or ‘Lime Rickey’ (coral bells) – foliage lime green, many Heucheras offer it
  • Iris ensata ‘Variegata’ (variegated Japanese iris) – sword like foliage with half lime green stripes
  • Lamium maculatum ‘Anne Greenway’ (dead nettle) – spiller with lime green and white foliage
  • Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’ (golden creeping Jenny) – great spiller with lime green foliage
  • Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’ (sedum) – great filler or spiller, tough for hot sun containers
  • Tradescantia andersoniana ‘Sweet Kate’ (spiderwort) – strap like vivid lime green with blue-purple flowers

These are just examples of perennials in that color, but many annuals, ornamental grasses, and a few shrubs also show off lime green or chartreuse colors. The plant list could go on and on, but it was important for me to have strong performers and those which would last towards the end of the summer.

Containers with Wasabi Coleus by Cathy T

Containers with Wasabi Coleus by Cathy T

Two easy plant choices, which I knew from experience would last, were the annual plants, Wasabi coleus and Ipomoea batatas ‘Marguerite’ (sweet potato vine). Both plants have bright yellow to lime green foliage and really stand out in container gardens.

Close up of Wasabi Coleus

Close up of Wasabi Coleus – Heavily Serrated Leaf Edges

Wasabi Coleus

One of the aspects I adore about how Wasabi coleus worked in the container gardens is how its lime green coloring was highlighted or intensified as it sat near the dark toned elephant ear plants in the pots.

Wasabi Coleus with Dark Toned Elephant Ear Plants - Photo by Patrick C.

Wasabi Coleus with Dark Toned Elephant Ear Plants – Photo by Patrick C.

For the elephant ears, two varieties were used, Colocasia esculenta ‘Black Magic’ and C. esculenta ‘Black Diamond’. The coleus was so vivid and intense next to the darker toned elephant ears making each plant all the more dramatic.

Colocasia esculenta 'Black Magic'

Colocasia esculenta ‘Black Magic’

Colocasia esculenta ‘Black Magic’ has to be one of my all time favorite dark toned elephant ears. It has amazing downward facing heart or ear shaped leaves rising from tall plum to purple-black stems and grows to about three to six feet tall. The reason I find them great tropical performers is because the stems cluster and rise in a nice full batch from the center, and they stay tidy but are very lush and full, serving a the main thriller plant in the container gardens.

Container Garden by Container Crazy CT - Wedding Pots

Container Garden by Container Crazy CT – Wedding Pots

Coleus has strong stems which helps it to stand upright in the container as a filler plant next to the elephant ears. However, those strong stems may break in windy situations or if bumped up against. But, the good news is with a quick snip to any damaged stems, regrowth bounces back nicely.

Wasabi Coleus on left in the pot

Wasabi Coleus on left in the pot

Wasabi coleus does not tend to send out blooms, so I did not have to deal with cleaning them up. From the time I planted them in the containers until the point it was time to tear them out, there was not a flower in sight which to me was a good thing because I prefer the foliage colors and textures of coleus plants – the flowers are not that intriguing to me.

Wasabi Coleus ContainerCrazyCT_0023-001

In fact, I experienced no problems with Wasabi coleus. No blemishes, no spots, thus no worries. It was an excellent specimen from beginning to end.

Containers in Sept 2015

Containers in Sept 2015

The lime green to chartreuse color of this annual plant served to meet the client’s desired colors, and provided a nice texture with its heavily serrated edges, plus it grew upright and tall, filling in nicely alongside of the other plants in the container. However, there were a couple other plants incorporated into the pots with similar lime-green coloring.

Some of the wedding pots mid summer

Some of the wedding pots mid summer

Duranta – Sky Flower Tala Blanco ‘Gold Edge’

Another plant, which is not a perennial but annual in our CT planting zones with lime green appeal, is Duranta serratifolia (Sky Flower Tala Blanco ‘Gold Edge’).

Duranta Gold Edge  -- Photo by Cathy T

Duranta Gold Edge — Photo by Cathy T

This species is a shrub and its vivid lime green to bright yellow foliage with green centers is extremely electric. The coloring is very bright and the plant is tough. The only concern is handling it because stems have sharp spines, but otherwise, it definitely adds flare to the containers. As noted above, cobalt blue was another color requested, and this plant made the blue to purple flowers in the pots pop.

Duranta at Different Stages of Growth

Duranta at Different Stages of Growth

Marguerite Sweet Potato Vine

You don’t even need to say or mention why sweet potato vines are excellent for container gardens. They trail, grow relatively fast, and are showy in pots. Pretty much everyone into gardening knows of them – similar to how gardeners are aware of coleus plants. This is why the ‘Marguerite’ sweet potato vine was used as the spiller, a plant which trails off the sides in the container gardens. It has a nearly perfect lime green color and grows quickly.

Sweet Potato Vines next to cobalt blue gazing ball decor in the pot

Sweet Potato Vines next to cobalt blue gazing ball decor in the pot

The sweet potato vine plant eventually grew so long, I had to pick them up in my arms when moving the pots into my trailer for delivery. It felt like I was holding the train of a wedding gown. Ipomoeas are sun to part shade annuals. They are very versatile in any type of container gardens from hanging baskets to window boxes. Sweet potato vines could be considered the staple of spillers because they cascade so nicely and keep growing.

Sweet Potato Vine Marguerite (Spiller)

Sweet Potato Vine Marguerite (Spiller)

The container gardens at the wedding event served more purposes than just dressing up the space, they were great for protecting guests from tripping over the tent cords. And the bright lime to yellow green of the three plants (Wasabi coleus, Marguerite sweet potato vine, and Sky Flower) seemed to glow at dusk as the wedding day progressed which turned out to be beneficial.

Placed at key places during the Wedding Event

Placed at key places during the Wedding Event

After the container gardens were returned to my nursery, because they were obtained as rentals by the bride and groom, they continued to show their beauty until the early days of fall. When the season was over, I piled the stalks and cuttings of the plants into a garden cart to compost. Even here, you can see how amazing the bright lime greens showed up in the pile of mixed plants removed from the containers.

Garden Cart at Take Down

Garden Cart at Take Down

By the way, many people view coleus as a shade plant, but it can take part sun or dappled sun. Coleus ‘Wasabi’ was a great filler in these container gardens, but many other varieties tend to cascade downwards, serving as what I’ve titled as a “sprawler”. Sprawlers are similar to spillers, except they reach out a bit like arms coming down or reaching out of a pot. Also, big plants, like the elephant ears used in this combination, provide some shade over the lower growing coleus plants.

Containers by Container Crazy CT of Broad Brook, CT

Containers by Container Crazy CT of Broad Brook, CT

One sprawler which comes in mind is Coleus ‘Dipt in Wine’. It has a red wine color. One year when I used it in a container garden, it gently moved its way outward and downward from the pot. And…well, I could go on and on about coleus plants, so I should stop here.

At the Wedding Event - Pot staged in different places by hammock in a small garden bed - Photo by Patrick C.

At the Wedding Event – Pot staged in different places. Here by hammock in a small garden bed – Photo by Patrick C. (A family member of the groom and bride!)

Saying “The Year of 2015” is the “Year of Coleus” seems a little silly because it has always been a yearly choice for me.

Cathy T being silly on delivery day

Cathy T being silly on delivery day

For more details about how to grow and care for coleus, visit the National Garden Bureau page.

Cathy Testa

P.S. Only 15 days until spring!

Sweet Potato Vine next to white Mandevilla vine and Blue Gazing Ball

Sweet Potato Vine next to white Mandevilla vine and Blue Gazing Ball