moneywort up

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Container gardens aren't just for summer - moneywort up

By Susan GrippUniversity of Illinois ExtensionHorticulture Educator

Container gardens aren't just for summer. Traditionally, we have spent nearly all our time and energy on summer plantings for our container gardens. But we shouldn't miss out on the three other seasons for beauty and enjoyment.
Here are some ideas for creating container-garden interest year-round.
Nothing seems to announce spring like blooming bulbs. Since bulbs have special chilling requirements, they need to be potted up in the fall. But bulbs planted in above-ground containers and window boxes usually do not survive in our climate due to the freeze-thaw action potential in November through March.
Interestingly, more and more area garden centers and outlets are offering potted bulbs in spring months, already chilled properly and partially sprouted. Simply purchase these young bulb plants and place them in your containers for instant spring excitement. They should continue to develop and bloom beautifully.
Planting cool-season flowers, such as pansies, and foliage plants together or adding them to bulbs is recommended.
In late spring, simply replace the spent flowering bulbs or the cool-loving flowers with warm-loving summer annuals. The foliage plants will continue to grow nicely throughout the year, giving a jump on those summer pots. Suddenly, your summer planting looks lush and filled in with these more developed foliage plants.
Among the plants that can add cool-season interest are pansies, snapdragons, sweet alyssum and lobelia. For foliage interest, try English ivy, dusty miller, Vinca vine, spikes and Sprengeri fern.
Summer affords us endless choices and combinations. From bold colors to pastel combinations, remember that success will depend upon matching plants with similar cultural requirements. Sun-lovers should be planted with other sun-lovers; shade-loving plants should be combined with other shade-lovers. Make sure your plants complement your house style and color.
There are many decorative foliage plants for summer as well. They help to combine flowers and provide texture and interest with the lush and full growth. On a short list of such plants for warm months are sweet potato vine, licorice plant, Coleus, Pectranthus and moneywort.
As the days shorten and autumn arrives, don't forget to add interest and spice to your containers. Consider replacing the warm-season plants with cool temperature lovers. Chrysanthemums are a favorite and show up in garden stores in numerous flower forms and colors.
Other plants worthy of fall container gardens include flowering kale and pansies. Foliage plants such as licorice plant, Vinca vine, English ivy, Sprengeri fern and dusty miller all stay looking good well into fall in most years. Much of your success will depend upon how much protection your pots have from cold temperatures and wind.
Be creative by adding pumpkins, gourds, grapevine and even sprigs of straw to the container garden.
In late November, if your container pots can withstand the harsh winter weather without damage, you can fill them with a variety of evergreen boughs. For a touch of color, add a simple ribbon.
You may want to add ornaments and miniature lights for nighttime interest. Try including other branches for winter interest.
After the holidays, simply remove the ribbon and ornaments. Keep your container filled with evergreens past the holidays. Most years, our weather remains cold, and if your planters are in a protected spot out of the sun and wind, the evergreen branches will remain green, often until March. If they brown up, simply remove and replace them with fresh ones.
For success with container gardens, the following tips are recommended:
Planting containers must have drainage. Use a soil-less mix. Combine plants with similar cultural needs. Match the plant's sun and shade requirements to the site.
Watering is important, as container plantings usually dry out faster than gardens. Water as needed. Later in the hot season, watering frequency may increase.
For water-soluble fertilizer, apply every two to three weeks. For slow-release forms, use a three-month formulation. The brand name is not important; the nutrient content is.
Watch for insect and disease problems. Remove dead flowers and foliage properly.