by Susan Harris
I’ve always loved pastels in the garden, and in the spring, pinks and blues and white are everywhere. But once summer comes and the pastels have finished their really big show, I say why not go for a different look altogether – like hot colors. Yes, the truth is we don’t have to choose just one color scheme for the garden, as so many magazine articles about color would have us believe.
The front porch container challenge
Twice a year the pots on my front porch are transformed – from easy-care prostrate junipers in winter to the boldest, baddest collection of blooms I can possibly find in the summer, and then back to junipers in early winter. Yet for years I’ve been suck in the Wave petunia/sweet potato vine two-step. Colorful, yes, but frankly, I’ve been there and done that too many years to get excited about repeating that particular combination, no matter how successful it is. (And don’t let me discourage you from using them together because they’re do-ers!)
So this year I enlisted some help – from Homestead Annuals Manager Kerry Kelley – because I needed to think outside the box and when it comes to annuals, I’m woefully ignorant. But armed with information about available sun, pot size, and what other colors are happening elsewhere in the front yard in the summertime, Kerry suggested a slew of plants I’d never heard of. She even planned the arrangement in each pot and you see the results here, watered them in and hopefully ready to thrive.
In the top photo you see, on the left, 1 Calibrachoa ‘Compact Orange’ (which trails to 40 inches), 2 ‘Vancouver Centennial’ geraniums, and for the vertical elements, an ornamental millet ‘Jade Princess’. The very existence of ornamental millet was news to me, and this one’s supposed to grow to 3-4 feet tall! On the right are 1 Purple Fountain Grass, 2 Calibrachoa (a ‘Double Yellow’ and a “Compact Orange”), one purple sweet potato vine, and to trail down the sides of the pot, Lysimachia ‘Walkabout Sunset’.
Above left, I’m trying a single-species effect with 3 Geranium Grandiosa ‘Merlot Red’. On the right are 2 Orange Osteosermum and 1 Burgundy calibrachoa. Now geraniums I’m certainly familiar with, but “Calis” and Osteos? Never heard of ’em! But I’m totally psyched about trying them because like most annuals, they’ll grow fast, bloom continuously, and maybe even create some drama.
Lastly, here’s a pot that’s not on the front porch but near the front of a sunny border in the back yard, where I’m hoping to create an eye-catching focal point. So Kerry suggested a Canna ‘Emerald Sunset’ as the vertical element, with some Lantana ‘Pot of Gold’, a deep purple sweet potato vine, and a couple of Angelonia ‘Serena Purple’. More names I’ve never heard of and can’t wait to grow.
I’ll be recording the progress of these containers throughout the season and posting photos here. I figure I can’t be the only one whose repertoire of annuals is old and tired and in need of some new (to us) plants to try. Though now that I’ve announced the plan the pressure’s ON to keep them alive. Kinda like announcing publicly that you’re quitting smoking – succeed or be publicly embarrassed. My plan? Water, water, water, and always with some half-strength liquid fertilizer.