Category Archives: container gardening


I have long loved fall.

You would think as a passionate gardener

That would not be the case

With the season winding down and all.

Certainly I know what is coming

An end will come with its inevitable freeze.

But here in the middle of September

Winter is still a bit out of reach.


And what a September it is.

Endless days of crisp air and sunshine.

This is the time of the year

That the garden slows

And so do I.

My weekend gardening days

Move at a more reasonable pace.

Which gives me time to observe.

Bumble bees in flight.


Baby praying mantis

Blending in with zinnia leaves.


Even a large praying mantis

Outside the kitchen window.


Orb spider spin their amazing webs.


Butterflies bask in the soft fall sun.


And peppers finally have their day.


This is also the time of year

That pots come into their own.


They begin to ooze over the side

With the fullness of the season.


I’m not great with annuals

But September makes me look like I know what I’m doing!

Plants that were cut back in mid summer

Are coming into full bloom again.


Smaller…more contained than their spring version

But just as lovely.


The last few years

I’ve taken a new look at fall

As a time to plant.

As I pull up things that are spent

Cockscomb mostly


I plant seeds in their place.

So mixed leaf lettuce, arugula and carrot seeds

All were planted today.

Not in tidy little rows

Like most vegetable gardens.

But in the empty spaces.

I know I’ve said it many times

But fall seems like the time to repeat

The value of taking time

To observe nature

It’s seasons

It’s changes

It’s lessons.

Enjoy the week,



Filed under Arugula, Bugs, Bumble Bee, Butterflies, Carrots, cockscomb, container gardening, Fall, Fall Vegetables, Gloriosa Daisy, Orb Spider, Peppers, Seeds, Uncategorized, Vegetables, Zinnia



This is the time of year that really messes with my head.

On Friday it was cold

And wet

And windy.

Frost and freeze warnings

Running through our part of the state.

But…it’s only mid October.

We should have at least 2 more weeks before a freeze

Maybe as long as a month.

So do I believe the forecast.

Drag all those ferns inside

Depriving them of a few more weeks

Of open air and sunshine.

Because once they are in

They are in.

Too heavy to lug back and forth.

Or do I just cover them for the night.

I opted for the later


And got lucky.


But basil is a different story

It begins to pout at anything below 50 degrees.

So I cut it all

And put it in the sink

Awaiting the energy to make it into pesto.

The red pesto is done.


But the green is more labor intensive.

So here we are on Sunday night.

Still with a sink full of basil.


Maybe tonight.

But it’s the front yard

That truly suffers from

Horticultural Confusion!

You’ll notice I haven’t written much about Hydrangea this summer

That’s because after not 1 or 2

But 4 freezes stretching to the very last day of April

My Hydrangea have bloomed very little this year.

Until now.

So as the mums, which line the front of the hydrangea bed,

Are budding and blooming.

So are the Hydrangea.


Thankfully for the most part they are in the same color family

So it seems to work.


Then there’s the true front yard mystery.


Growing along the grassy edge

Of the new bed John created

On the front landing.



I’ve never planted it here.

The closest would be the pot on the landing

But how did it jump so far?

And that my friends is what I love about gardening.

The mystery.

No need for answers

Just revel in the mystery.




Filed under Basil, Boxwood, container gardening, Fall, Ferns, Gardening, Hydrangea, Lettuce, Timing, Uncategorized


Last weekend while I was far away.

We came very near to an unseasonably early freeze.

Which can only mean one thing.

Time to get serious about making basil pesto!

Every year I think I’ll get to it all along the way.

Instead I just go into the garden

And cut the basil that I need.

Then late in the season

I pick an afternoon

And make pesto.

That yummy herb paste

That can be used in well…everything.

My habit it to make several batches.

Freeze them in ice-cube trays.

Then place the frozen cubes in a freezer bag.

Whenever you need a bit of basil flavor

It’s right there – ready to go.

I’ve also been known to open up the bag

On a particularly frigid winter day.

And breath deeply.

The smell of fresh basil will take you back

To the heat of summer.

My preferred location!

I use the recipe of a family friend, Liz.

Whose daughter, Mary, is also a friend of mine.

Liz’s Basil Pesto

3 C. packed fresh Basil leaves

1/3 C. grated fresh Parmesan Cheese

3 cloves Garlic

6 T. Toasted Pine nuts

4 – 6 T Olive Oil

Juice of 1/2 Lemon – keeps it bright green!

Pulse 1st 4 ingredients in food processor or blender.

Pulse and scrape sides until well chopped.

How smooth or chunky is a matter of personal taste.

I like chunky.

Then slowly add olive oil.

Stir in Lemon juice.

Freeze in ice-cube trays sprayed with non-stick cooking oil.

When completely frozen remove from tray to freezer bag.

There you have it.

Summer in a bag.

I grow Basil everywhere.

In the ground.

In pots outside.

In pots inside.

Never want to be without the stuff!

About a month ago I started my indoor pots.

The plants are only a few inches tall now

But by the time the outside basil freezes

The inside basil should be well on its way.

Happy in the south-facing window

Of my toasty warm 2nd floor office.

I’ll also bring in the pot I had upstairs last winter

Which has loved being outside all summer.

I wonder how long a basil plant can live.

We are about to find out!

Hope you are enjoying these cooler days.


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Filed under Basil, container gardening, Herbs, late summer garden, Pesto



You may recall that earlier this spring I made another attempt at figuring out my patio pots.

Years of so so results had left me not at all excited about container gardening.

I’m pleased to report I think I’ve figured it out.

My theory was all wrong.

For years I have planted lots

And I mean lots of small bedding plants.

Petunias, marigolds, petunias…

I always picked a variety in case it was a bad year for a particular plant.

It had worked lots of places that I had lived and gardened.

But for some reason the theory was all wrong here.

I think it’s because the pots are so big

And I couldn’t put anything tall  like a topiary basket

in the middle since it would block the view from the breakfast room.

So this year I went for fewer bigger plants.

I mean bigger in every sense of the word.

The plants were bigger when I started

and their grown habit is bigger in the end.

The center is deep red Dipladenia.

Though the one that’s in the sun all day fades a bit.

Both pots had Nierembergia that wintered over.

Mostly purple.

To that I added golden Lantana

and blue Plumbago

Those are the “big” plants.

I did fill in with Gomphrena

Impatients on the shady side

and even a few Petunias.

Initially I left last winter’s lettuce.

Bit by bit it was pulled up and the new plants allowed to fill in.

It was a very good idea. 

I never had huge holes

Which made for a smooth transition.

Now chances are that because I have so many plants

that at maturity are big enough to fill the pots on their own.

That they will get way to big in the next month or so.

I’ve come up with what is, for me, a novel solution.


You may realize by now that I have a hard time reigning things in.

Myself included.

So as the Lantana heads across the steps to join hands with its sister in the pot on the other side.

I’m thinking it’s ok to whiddle on it a bit.

We’ll see.

Enjoy the week.



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Filed under container gardening, Dipladenia, Gardening, Gomphrena, Impatiens, Lantana, Nierembergia, Plumbago, Uncategorized


A few years ago we re-did the back patio.

Lifting all the worn out brick,

Expanding it a bit and

Replacing it with new brick.

At the same time we bought GIANT new pots

Traditional Rolled Rim Italian clay were our choice

Rolled Rim Italian Clay

Rolled Rim Italian Clay

I think we were on the garden tour that first year.

So I invested in fantastic pink tropical Hibiscus.

Glorious in the green house

Not a bloom on them the weekend of the garden tour!

Thus began my years of problem pots.

I won’t bore you with  year by year disaster stories.

Suffice it to say that I’ve had trouble finding the right mix.

Last fall I murdered the mile high purple fountain grass.

Last Year's Attempt

Last Year’s Attempt

It was great till it grew so tall I couldn’t see my garden from the breakfast room

And…the wind blew it over onto the flowers.

So out it went.

For lack of a better idea I just planted them to lettuce.

Peg Checking on the Lettuce

Peg Checking on the Lettuce

Made sense to me.

The pots are close to the kitchen

For easy cutting.

And with the mild winter I had terrific lettuce for months on end.

Now that it’s late spring it’s starting to bolt

And taste a little bitter.

Besides I’m having  a luncheon in my garden next week

So I had to do something.

The answer came at my friend Susan’s front door.

Dipladenia Deep Red !

Dipladenia Deep Red

Dipladenia Deep Red

I found it at my favorite local nursery in hanging baskets.

Brought them home and was ready to pull up all the lettuce.

When I stopped.

Let’s try just pulling up only the lettuce I need to make room for the new plants.

Leave the rest for filler.

Great idea.

Along with the Lettuce, Nierembergia survived the winter

And is blooming wildly…more filler.

Winter Survivors: Nierembergia & Lettuce

Winter Survivors: Nierembergia & Lettuce


Next I added True Yellow Lantana, plumbago, Gomphrena, and Purple and White Petunias.

White Cascade Petunia  "Short-Term Annual"

White Cascade Petunia “Short-Term Annual”


I know, I swore off petunias last year.

But they sucked me in so

I did a paradigm shift.

I don’t expect them to survive the whole summer. 

I now consider them “short-term annuals”!

Don’t buy very many and tuck them close to something that will live.

And again, I only removed the lettuce that was necessary.

The end result is well, great in my book.

Full & Finished !

Full & Finished !

The pots look full.

Much fuller than normal for this time of year.

As the plants grow, the lettuce will die.

Nature will take its course.

Love when that happens.

Enjoy the week.


Saturday Morning Visitor

Saturday Morning Visitor

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Filed under container gardening, Dipladenia, Gardening, Gomphrena, Impatiens, Lantana, Lettuce, Nierembergia, Petunia, Uncategorized


 Upper pot Foxtail Fern - lower pot sun annuals

Since this weekend is the first weekend past the “official last frost day”,

 I’m guessing that many of you will head to the greenhouse to buy annuals this weekend.

So…I’m trying to get this off a bit early this weekend.

I’m writing on Friday night and it’s well….almost freezing. 

But…tomorrow will be in the 70’s so we’ll all be itching to get going. 

Let’s talk pots.

First a disclaimer. 

I have a lot of opinions on pots.  But they are just that – my opinions.

So take them as that and go forward into the world of pots and annuals.

My theory is bigger pots and fewer of them is the way to go. 

In all my yard I have 10 pots.

And they are big pots. 

The smallest is 18″ in diameter.

The largest is 30″.

Frankly 18″ is a bit small but it holds an asparagus fern.

They’ll grow practically without a pot so you don’t really have to worry about them.

The thing I dislike about lots of little small pots is that they just require so much time to water – all the time.

And things die when it gets really hot. 

So… think BIG!

I’m partial to clay pots – Italian clay which is sturdier than Mexican clay.

I’ve had 2 Italian clay rolled rim pots for over 25 years.  

They are pretty gnarly by now which is why I love them – personality!

Italian clay will have thicker walls than other clay and will survive the freeze thaw cycle that so many of us deal with. 

25 year old Italian clay pot with Madavilla vine and sun annuals.


There are great fiberglass pots on the market now. 

They can get a bit pricey but are worth the investment.

They are lighter weight which is good if you are need ing to move them in and out from season to season or if you are still in the moving around stage of live.

Then there is plastic. 

My least favorite but practical in many aspects.

If  you do go with plastic buy the best quality you can afford.

There are some commercial quality plastic pots that actually resemble clay.

The one on my landing is plastic kind of by default as I remember.

Now…on to potting soil.

Actually, lets talk filling really big pots with non-soil.

I often use old  plastic pots to fill the bottom of a big pot.

This saves money on potting soil since the roots often don’t go more than 8″ – 10″ at most.

The soil itself is tricky.

It needs to be light – and retain moisture.

You can buy commercial potting soil.

Which is where I start.  Then I add peat moss which will help to keep the moisture in.

I also like to add the commercial moisture retention granules.

Be sure and follow the directions on the package of how to use them. 

They will SWELL up like you don’t believe when you put them in water.

It’s great fun!

Mix this all together with your hands until it’s fluffy.

If I’m planting caladiums I mix a special non-soil mixture of equal parts sand, peat moss and pine bark nuggets.

This will provide good drainage and keep the caladium bulbs from rotting.

What to plant?

The options are endless. 

Historically, I have used pots of all annuals and still do for the most part.

I’m trying to broaden my horizons.

So look at perennials, grasses  and bulbs in addition to annuals.

Of course, the beauty of annuals is that they bloom and provide color all season long.

Greenhouses will have sample pots planted to give you ideas.

There are always magazines.

But remember gardeners reading garden magazines is like real women reading VOGUE!!!

I also take pictures during the season of pots I like and keep a file on my computer.

Some of those I’m sharing today, although I seem to only be able to find last years pots and a few dreamy ones from the Rocky Mountains.

Street planting Breckinridge, CO

The basic design principle is to have 3 elements in each pot.

Something tall in the center or back.

Mounding plants in the middle.

Trailing plants along the edge.

Tall plants I use – by no means a complete list – are:

Sun:   Mandavilla – on a big – 4″ metal frame, Agastache, sun Coleus, Asparagus fern, Foxtail fern, tall Snapdragons. Salvias & grasses.

Shade:  Kimberly Fern, Caladiums & Coleus are great.

Mounding plants are endless.  Here’s what works for me:

Sun: petunias, nierembergia, allysum all mound and trail.  Also Marigolds, sun Begonias, Snapdragons, Gomphrena, Heliatrope, Lantana, Pentas

Shade:  Impatiens, begonias, snapdragons will tolerate light shade, short caladiums.

Trailing plants:

Swedish ivy, English ivy, vinca minor & major, Helicrysum, Sweet Potato Vine Verbenas, Wave Petunias.

That should get you started.

And now a word about pace.

This past 2 weeks my cranky back has been well….cranky.

It has forced me to re-evaluate everything I do and how I do it.

Specifically, the pace at which I do it.

I think I’ve been treating gardening like a 1950’s family road trip.

You remember, pile into the car and drive like crazy – past some pretty fun looking stuff – to the destination.

Now I must remember that gardening is like the saying. 

“The journey is the destination.”

Slow down –  step back and take it all in – accept the pace of nature.

Enjoy this week’s journey.


New blooms this week…



purple Dutch Iris


Wisteria - only a few dozen blooms this year.


Filed under container gardening, Uncategorized