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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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.

 

Flashback Friday – Crocosmia Perennial with Fire Red Blooms in a Whiskey Barrel

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Good Day Everyone!  

For this week’s Flashback Friday,’ where I select photos from a prior blog post, here is a perennial from the genus Crocosmia in full bloom in the middle of summer.

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It was planted in a container garden the size of a whiskey barrel and placed behind a bench in a small garden area by my house. Shown here is the cultivar ‘Lucifer’, and it impressed me quite a bit during the summer of 2013.

Crocosmia_0005

“It will flower in the late summer with VIBRANT wands of scarlet and yellow pops of color.  When most annuals tend to fade away from the summer heat, this tall, spiky foliage perennial plant provides a big thrill , and it may be transplanted into your garden in the fall to reuse.” – CT

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How could you not adore these vivid red and yellow flower buds and funnel shaped flowers?  They are really eye-catching. The bees and hummingbirds visited often that year, and it was fun to stop by to take photos of them. In addition, the plant’s sword-like foliage is really striking, tall, and makes a showy full thriller in a big container or patio pot.

Photo by C. Testa

Photo by C. Testa

Do you ever wonder if the bee sees the end of the camera and thinks, “please stop taking my photo! I’m busy.”

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This perennial is truly grand and enjoys sun to part sun conditions. It makes a wonderful cut flower in floral design arrangements (re-cut the stems and use lukewarm water in a vase to keep the color intensity).

Additionally, this perennial is deer resistant – another bonus!

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And best of all – it returned in my container for two straight years, but on the third year, it was hurting a little bit with reduced growth, which was a sign it required better growing conditions, refreshed soil – or a new home – into the ground.

As a perennial here, a Zone 5-9 plant, it will survive in a garden bed for years to come.

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To see more details about this plant, visit my blog post complete with videos and reference links:

Crocosmia It will Rock On in your Container Gardens

TGIF Everyone, Cathy Testa

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See the 2015 May Container Garden Workshops themed this year Perennials with Power in Container Gardens.

 

 

What do Horticulture People do during January? Plan and Rest, or Rest and Plan!

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Around this time of year, I see people in the horticulture industry either vacationing somewhere tropical for a much needed rest before spring arrives, placing their plant orders, preparing calendars for the upcoming growing season, and attending conferences to keep learning more about growing, selling, and sharing their plant passions with garden enthusiasts.

Thus, in January, our minds are very busy with planning and hopefully taking some time to rest – because in the growing season, it is a busy time and non-stop.

Container Crazy CT’s 2015 Monthly Snapshot Calendar

A calendar depicting activity underway on my calendar for my clients and gardening friends has been posted on this blog, under the “Nature with Art Programs” drop-down menus. Or you can see it here:

ContainerCrazyCT 2015 Calendar (2)

WORKSHOPS

You will see, there are a lot of fun gardening shows and conferences underway. I’ve already ordered my plants from my local Connecticut grower for the upcoming spring season, specifically for Cathy T’s May Container Garden Workshops scheduled on “two” dates this year – May 16th and May 23rd.  SAVE THE DATES!  And for visits to local farmers markets.

CATHY T CLASSES

In April, there is an Eclectic Wind Chimes Making Class – and we are very excited to have lined up a very special guest artist, Laura Sinsigallo, whom is originally from the Broad Brook / East Windsor, CT area. Click the links above to see the details. We already have sign-ups – it will be a fun way to kick off spring.

ContainerCrazyCT 2015 Calendar (3)

GARDEN WALK AND TALK TOURS

The 2nd half of the 2015 year will bring on Garden Walk and Talk Tours, which were started up last year, and are FREE. Save the Dates – first will be an amazing vegetable garden in Willington, CT by another talented artist and garden lover. More details will be posted, but to learn more – visit the drop down menus on the top banner of this blog page.

GUIDED TOURS

In September, a Guided Tour of the Brimfield Antique Show is on the schedule as well – Yup, you can go with Cathy T – and let me tell you – this is such a fun event to attend, and at the end of the season is a good time to get the best bargains and try to haggle with the sellers – something I’ve learned to do over time.  Want to go? Save the Date, Click the above drop down menus for the details and contact forms.

ARTISTS INVITED

If you are a local artist interested in showcasing your products and sharing your skills with a captivated audience, feel free to contact me. The theme is creating with Nature and Art.  Don’t be shy – reach out!  We’d love to hear from you.  Same goes for anyone interested in sharing their garden with us – it is really a great way to network, meet new friends, learn tips you have used in your own garden – big or small – we are in!

Email: containercathy@gmail.com or containercrazyct@gmail.com.

Happy Hump Day Everyone,

Cathy Testa
ContainerCrazyCT.com
860-977-9743