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Archive for the ‘Container Gardening’ Category

Holiday containers are all about texture.

With the weather about to cool way down, I didn’t want to wait to put together a mixed holiday container. It’s easy to spend a lot on items like packaged spruce tips, curly willow sticks, red twig dogwood and even faux berries and poinsettias, but you can also do a mixed container for very little money. For this mixed container, I started by using a collage technique to decorate the plastic pot with holiday paper.

Ready to start

This takes a day or more to do, so over the weekend, I also gathered the fixings for my pot. I bought a small Fraser fir Christmas tree for $15 (this will be used in another project as well) and cut the bottom 1/3rd of the branches off for the main greenery in my pot. The Fraser fir has kind of two-toned needles, which adds a nice texture to the pot. I also walked around our yard, cutting stray branches from a swamp white oak and a mugo pine. I like the wispy look of red cedar in holiday containers, but don’t have any in our yard. We do, however, have a very mature creeping juniper, so I snipped some wisps from that to use. I had some left over grasses that I had used in a Halloween display as well. The grasses had a large reddish seedhead, so I thought they would add something to the pot, too.

Uh...no.

This morning, assembly began. First, I filled the pot with leftover potting soil from this summer and began building the greenery around the pot. I started with the Fraser fir, then added in the white pine, the mugo, and the juniper for accents. It looked pretty good, fluffy and green, with a fair amount of texture. Then, I added in the red-headed grass (if anyone knows what this is called, please let me know through the comments) and some Joe Pye weed from the garden.  I tried several ways of placing it, but no matter what I did, the grass looked, as my husband said as he left for work, “dead and sad.” That’s not what we want this time of year!

The finished product.

With the grass out, I needed something else to brighten the pot. This is the first year I’ve had hydrangeas and I’ve been looking forward to seeing the snow on their broad flowerheads, but it seemed a good idea to sacrifice some of them to the pot. The tannish brown color contrasted nicely with the greenery and the flowers added another texture. The pot still needed some brightening. The pot has a natural look to it, so ornaments and ribbon seemed out of place. Instead, I put skewers into a couple of apples and stuck them in the front of the pot, and cut several branches of berries from a high bush cranberry bush.

The finished product contrasts nicely with the tall red-twig dogwood display and gives a cheery look to our front porch.

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It’s easy to spend a lot of money on holiday decorations for inside and outside of your home — but it can also be done on the cheap, and my goal this holiday season is to come up with a few nice decorations that don’t cost much money.

Here’s the ultimate cheap holiday pot: It cost nothing. A couple of weeks ago, I trimmed back some decidedly overgrown red-twig dogwood bushes. While many of the branches went to the county brush pile, I picked some of the longest, straightest, and brightest for use in outdoor holiday decorations. For this simple pot, I took a good-sized bunch of branches and set them in a strawberry pot that otherwise would spend the winter in the garage. Ta-da! A decorative holiday pot.

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Deck gardenMy sister sent me an updated photo of her deck garden. As you can see, even in this small space, they have herbs galore (parsley, three basil plants, and rosemary), and a couple of very nice looking tomatoes. The family has already had pesto a few times this summer. With the heat we’ve had the last couple of days, the plants should get even bigger in the next week or so.

I’ve also discovered another benefit of deck gardening in my own yard. I have a small window box on my deck that I planted greens in — mostly beets and chard. While the bunnies have been rampaging through my raised bed with lettuce and greens, they stay off the deck, so I’ll be eating deck-grown salad this week.

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indoor-beanA couple of weeks ago, I mentioned the bean plants that started growing in two very small pots on my kitchen counter. They flowered not long ago and today I noticed the bean to your left. There are about four of them on the plant, which is wandering all over the small space behind my sink.

While I’m not expecting a big crop, it just goes to show that no space is too small for a little gardening. In fact, I’ve seen a couple of pole bean varieties that are marketed for container gardens. (Apparently, beans have a shallow root system.) On a balcony with pots, you could grow tomatoes, herbs, beans, cukes — the possibilities are endless. The Texas Extension service suggests several varieties that work well in containers, or check out my friend Penny’s earlier container gardens.

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I love photographing succulents because of the textures and the lines. Here are a couple of shots of Jim Laupan’s succulents on display at the Minnesota Home and Patio Show, which ended yesterday. The light in the hall was not great, but Jim’s plants are fascinating no matter what the lighting.

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Great texture!

One of Jim's containers

One of Jim's containers

This is the whole plant from the close-up above.

This is the whole plant from the close-up above.

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Container Planting at Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

While I’m generally more of a words person, I like math when it comes to the garden. Sometimes knowing proportions and formulas really helps to direct my enthusiasms. So, I was excited to find another math solution to a garden problem: How many plants should I put in containers?  If you look at photos in garden catalogs and magazines, it sometimes seems folks are planting an enormous number of plants in their pots. That’s not necessary or even healthy for the plants, according to Carrie Larson, a broker representative for McHutchison, Inc. and a frequent and very entertaining garden lecturer.

I heard Carrie speak on new plants for containers at Garden Visions this past weekend. Carrie is the person who helps local greenhouses and garden centers decide what to put on their shelves. Judging from the photos she showed, she also has a way with containers.

Now, here comes the math, and it’s pretty easy: Plant 1 plant for approximately every 3 inches of diameter in your container. So, if you have a little 8-inch pot, don’t try to stuff more than three plants in it. A big 20-inch pot could take 7 easily. If you are planting bigger plants or those that really spread, you might plant fewer. If the plants stay small or dainty in size, plant more.

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This is my riff on the famous “Doors of….” poster series. It features the holiday container plantings I’ve seen around my hometown, Northfield, recently. This weekend promises to a busy one here, with Winter Walk scheduled for Thursday evening and the St. Olaf Christmas Festival on tap Thursday through Sunday so many of the businesses have “spruced up” for holiday visitors. The photos are (clockwise from upper left) a detail from one of the pots at Buntrock Commons, First National Bank display, Ole Store, Present Perfect, Buntrock Commons again, and Tiny’s Hot Dogs.

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