Container Solution

“Container Solution”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana

Finally, we have had some rain. Just like so many areas in the country this summer, we are still in an extreme drought, but 2 inches of rain over the last four days has helped. Of course, even with this rain, we are still way below our normal rainfall, but it is nice to be free from dragging hoses around the garden for a few days. Because of the drought, not very much is going on in the garden this year as in past years. Hardly anything is blooming because I think the dryness and heat seems to be really stressing plants out. They are just staying alive and not really growing. I am hoping the recent rain will help this as it usually does.

Because of the drought, that started back in late March, I have not dared to plant several small shrubs that I purchased in late winter. I am holding them over till either we get more rain or early fall arrives. Because of this, I am using more containers in the garden than ever. Before, I used containers mainly on the patio or front entry, and they consisted of annuals or tropical plants. Gradually, I stopped planting those, especially the tropicals, because it just got to be too much trouble to overwinter them. I only kept a few favorites in pots or hanging baskets.

Starting last year when I pretty much stopped planting annuals in the garden, I did make a few containers of colorful coleus and placed them in areas were the ground was not suitable for planting. This gave spots of color without too much work.

This year as I was contemplating a problem spot in the entry garden, I thought of containers as a solution. The area where I needed “something” was under a Kwansan cherry tree and so did not get much sun. In the past when I planted coleus there, they didn’t do well – leggy, sparse looking. Impatiens took too much water, hosta even failed, and tree roots didn’t make for any deep planting of other shade plants. Finally, I decided to go with containers and thought caladiums (notice the raindrops) should do well. I just wish I would have thought of this earlier.



Since this is the entry garden and makes that all important first impression, that bare spot really stood out. Now, with the three blue pots of red caladiums and one pot of Persian Shield in the back, this area looks so much better and blends in nicely with the rest of that garden area which has filled out well since spring. I only wish I would have thought of this container solution sooner.

A Serene Garden

“A Serene Garden”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 


It is only in recent years that I have become fond of Japanese style gardens.  Maybe it takes a bit of maturity or experience to realize that colorful gardens are not any prettier than gardens that are basically green with texture and contrasts.  Or maybe it is the hustle and bustle of today’s world that makes me appreciate the calmness and serenity of a Japanese Garden.  Saturday was the first time that we explored this type of garden that is set up in the New Orleans Botanical Garden.  With all the people at the garden show bustling about, this garden which was close by, remained quite, peaceful, and meditative. 

The entrance was a corridor of bamboo, which directed you into the heart of the garden.


Bamboo Jap Garden (redu)


As you enter the garden, you see a stone urn filled with water.


Jap Garden - Urn (redu)


Once in the open area, there are several vignettes as you look in the four directions.


Jp Gar Teahouse (redu)


Jp Gar Stone (redu)


Jp Gar Teahouse 2  (redu)


Finally, as you walk out of the area, surrounded by bamboo, you come upon a stone lantern which just reinforces the sparse atmosphere which is so calming.


Jap Garden - Lamp (redu)


While I know I will never have a Japanese garden area on my property, this particular garden has inspired me to make a small area simple and natural, a perfect place to meditate and relax.

Finding a Solution

“Finding a Solution”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 


When Hurricane Katrina came through in August of 2005, we were spared any real damage.  We were so fortunate that our house did not sustain any damage beyond a little bent guttering and a few cracked roofing shingles along the roof’s edge.  The garden and the trees were a different matter.  We lost about seven big trees which made many areas of the garden go from mostly shady to mostly sunny.  We were very upset to lose our wonderful, large trees, but I have had the attitude that this loss has just allowed me to plant something different.

One area that has now become a problem is the garden around the back patio.  Pre-Katrina this was filled with mostly holly ferns and hostas.  For the last three summers, these shade loving plants have done okay with a lot of watering.  At the end of last summer, I decided that a few holly ferns that were in the sunniest area had to come out.  They were turning brown from too much sun.  I moved them to the side garden under some live oak trees, and they are thriving.  Now, I have come to realize that more plants are just going to have to be moved, too.  More holly ferns and hostas are just not happy.  They are getting way too much afternoon sun.  Their foliage is turning a pale green, in the case of the hostas, or is turning yellow and brown, in the case of the holly ferns.  When it gets a little cooler in the fall, I will be moving them to shadier quarters.  Now, my problem is what do I replace them with?

Around this patio area, I want something that will be low growing and evergreen – about the size of the holly ferns.  With our mild winter temperatures, we are often outside year round, and I want this area to look good all the time.  I guess I am looking for some “bones” for this patio garden.  I started looking through my garden books, but nothing struck me as right.  So, this meant I needed more garden books.  Using gift cards, I found two books that have helped me start to make some decisions.

Southern Shade (redu)


Southern Sun (redu)


I bought Southern Sun and Southern Shade by Jo Kellam.  These two books have great ideas for plants.  For just about all of my gardening years, I have had to deal with too much shade, so the sun book gave me some good ideas for plants, and since there still are areas around the patio that are shady, the shade book helps too.

So far, I am thinking about using agapanthus as the evergreen plants to replace the holly ferns.  They are evergreen in this area, and will also not grow so high.  I have some in other areas of the garden, and they are getting a little crowded, so using them should work out well both in design and in the pocket book.  I am still trying to decide on the smaller filler plants to take the place of the hostas.  It seems more research is needed.

Good Color Combo

“Good Color Combo”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 


We continue to see more spring flowers showing up and in a few weeks, I am hoping that the garden will be in full flower.  The Vinca minor has started blooming under the magnolia tree.  They are about the only thing that seems to want to grow there in so much shade.  The lavender flowers are so pretty and reinforce the pastel spring theme which is just starting.






The cool season annuals that I planted last fall are really starting to bloom profusely now that we have had some warmer weather.  In looking at the flowers, I am realizing that purple goes with everything.  I really like the purple violas and the red petunias together.






The pastel yellow Baby Duck petunias and the blue Louisiana Phlox also make a nice combination.  Once again, purple mixes well with all colors.






Planning ahead in the fall certainly means more than just planting spring-flowering bulbs.  It also means thinking ahead to what the cool season annuals will look like when they finally start blooming, and I am glad my combinations seem to be working out.

Two Season Colors

“Two Season Colors”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana

It is not surprising that in springtime when we go shopping for plants to add to our garden that we pick flowers and foliage plants in bright, cheery, summery colors.  Colors, such as yellow, bright pink, and orange, all seem to say “summer”, and, after a long, often dreary winter, we seem to need those bright colors.  Think of tropical hibiscus and purslane that come in those sherbert colors.

But, some of those colors also transition into autumn.  Take the orange, for instance.  My sister’s tangerine lantana was perfect for the hot summer, but, now that it is fall, the color blends in with the cooler weather.  Think pumpkins, gourds, and squash.


Another example is Sweet Caroline ornamental sweet potatoe vine.  When it first shows up in the garden centers in the spring, it also seems perfect for a summer garden.  But, now it has a second life as a fall showstopper with its gorgeous bronze-colored leaves spilling out into the garden.


Finally, we come to coleus, that great summer annual that can also be a great transition into fall.  In the softer, more golden sunlight of autumn, many of the coleus just seem to glow.  The bright lemon yellow of summer takes on a more mellow tone.  Even the reds seem more burgundy than the bright red of spring.


So, next spring, when I am planning out my summer garden, I will make sure and take into account the colors of summer that can transition into fall.

Focal Point

“Focal Point”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana

When I first started gardening, I was living in an apartment with just a patio, so I started out with container plants.  I still have many plants in containers for various reasons.  For example, tender plants that must be protected from winter’s chill, plants that beautify the front porch or patio, and those I just haven’t been able to get around to planting in the ground.

But, I have been wanting that one, big focal point container.  The one that really draws the eye.  The one you see in magazines or garden books that just makes you stop and stare.  I haven’t come up with one yet that would fit in with my garden, but I did see one at the garden show that I would love to have.

I would need a very large area for this large container arrangement, but it does give me some ideas.  I liked the way it was planted underneath.  Using a shorter frame for a container, you could plant around the base and have the same effect.  I liked the way the ground plants anchor this tall frame and container into the area.  The crotons with the green trailing plants are great for fall color.  By using ivy as the trailing plants, you could then just have to change out the center plants as the seasons change it you wanted it to be seasonal, or with hardy plants it would be great year round.  I was even thinking that maybe a blooming hydrangea for spring would be nice, and when it stops blooming, just plant it in the garden.  With a large container, the possibilities are endless.

The more I look at the photo I took, the more I think I can duplicate this on a smaller scale, and then, just maybe, I will have that focal point container I’ve always wanted.

The Cat’s Meow

“The Cat’s Meow”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana

At Saturday’s garden show, another striking area was a small garden done all in white (my favorite garden color) and green.  It was so peaceful and serene.

The flowers in the back of the border are cat’s whiskers (Orthosiphon stamineus). When the blooms open, they have a long spike of flowers with stamens similar to a cat’s whiskers.  They grow about two feet high and three feet wide and made a great backdrop in this little garden.  Bees, butterflies, and hummingbird all are attracted to this plant.

Growing in front of the cat’s whiskers were white torenia.  Covered in white blossoms, these plants from a distance almost looked like pansies (which of course could not survive our hot summers).  Even this late in their growing season, they still looked good.  These plants stay rather low so they are perfect in front of the cat’s whiskers, covering up the base of the taller plant.

Along the side edges of this garden the variegated green and white plant made a nice final touch.

I am fond of a green and white garden, esp. in summer, and I thought this one was done very well.  After seeing how nice the cat’s whiskers did here, I may have to add some to the back of my garden beds as well next spring.

The idiom “cat’s meow”  means something outstanding, and this phrase certainly applies to this small, intimate garden in the New Orleans.

Display Garden

“Display Garden”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 


One of the nice things about going to a botanical garden is the ideas you can get from the display gardens.  As you enter the New Orleans Botanical Gardens, one of the first areas you encounter is a small brick patio surrounded by potted plants.



There is a garden bed encircling the patio which contains big shrubs and palms.  In front of the bed are clusters of containers with mostly tropical plants (this is New Orleans, after all).  If you notice, the potted plants are grouped (usually in three’s) with some containers raised on bricks for variations in height.  Also, different sized pots are used.  Extra large pots have smaller ones grouped around them as this next photo shows.



My patio is almost this size, so this display garden gives me some ideas for next summer.  I don’t think I would use as many tropicals because I do not want to have to overwinter them, but I am sure containers of perennials and annuals instead of tropicals would look just as nice.  I like the extra large containers that seem to give some substance to the area. 


It is nice to see a garden at this time of year because it is filled out and at its peak; you know what it is supposed to look like.  When you see a spring garden, the plants are usually small, and it can be hard to visualize how it will look at the peak of summer.  You can be sure that in the winter and next spring, when I will be garden planning, I will be looking at these pictures for inspiration.



Garden Views

“Garden Views”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 


Today, I was able to work in the garden for the first time in weeks.  The last month and a half has been very hectic around here.  I just can’t seem to get back into any kind of routine, but, today, I finally was able to work all day in the garden.  It was doubly nice because of the cool, dry temperatures.  I was able to do several fall garden clean up projects that I have been wanting to get to for weeks.  I am hoping tomorrow to be able to start planting some seeds for the fall, esp. my lettuce and bluebonnets.


This morning, before I started in the garden, I went out very early and took some photos of how the garden looks this year in fall.  Yesterday, I showed some close ups of flowers that were blooming, and, today, I’ll show the garden.


This is the view from the front walk looking north.  In the foreground is a section of the entry garden, and to the left is the row of azaleas that divides this side yard in two.




This shot is taken at the North property line looking towards the backyard.



And, this shot is of the property line on the south side.  I just worked on this border last spring.  It was so overgrown with vines and ferns.  I wanted to keep it woodsy, for privacy from the neighbors, so I planted white lacecap hydrangeas, sweet almond bush, winter honeysuckle, variageted shell ginger, and ferns.  When the Margarite sweet potato vine got too vigorous for the entry garden, I transplanted some to this area, and it has added a bright green to this basically green areas.


Moving to the back, this is a shot of our peach and pear trees (which have lost most of their leaves) and a huge mound of sweet autumn clemetis.  It used to grow up a river birch, but we had to take that out last year.  I just couldn’t bring myself to get rid of the clemetis, so it has just grown in this mound.  I guess this spring we will have to put in a trellis for it instead of just letting it run amok.

Here is the border around the patio.  I will have to move several holly ferns in the spring because they are getting too much sun since we have lost several large pine trees.

The back corner is next.  Our lot is pie shaped, so this is the point.  This is where I keep the chinese hibiscus during the summer because this is the only area in the back that gets full sun.

Last is the north side with daylilies, azaleas, bamboo, and varigaeted shell ginger.

I just realized that I took photos of the sides and back gardens, but not the front garden.  Well, I guess that will have to be another posting since it is now too dark to take any pictures.

Late Summer Garden

“Late Summer Garden”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 


By the end of summer the garden has grown into the lush setting I envisioned in the late winter.  This is the first year that plants are large enough to have filled in just about all areas of the garden.  The back corner  is an example of this.  You can’t even see the neighbor’s yard next door.



To the right of that area, it is just as thick.



The beds surrounding the patio echo the same verdant growth.  I can hardly believe that just a few years ago every thing seemed so small with big spaces between plants, and now look at it.



I just hope that TS Gustav doesn’t turn into a big hurricane and hit us, ruining the garden and much worse.  I really am worried about this storm.  Even though it is days away, the authorities are already talking about a mandatory evacuation.  I would hate to have to go through a Katriana all over again.  Though it is too early to tell where it is going, I am trying not to worry and am hoping it just fizzles out down in the Caribbean.  Please, keep good thoughts for the Gulf Coast.

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