NW Gardens: Put on your summer best

NW Gardens: Put on your summer best

Patio Container Gardening

I was interviewed by garden writer Marty Wingate for an article entitled Put on Your Summer Best which was published in Seattle PI.

Marty writes “Nursery shelves and tables are overflowing with plants that would be perfect in a pot. To help you plan, plant and maintain your summer containers, we talked with Toni Cross, owner of Seasonal Color Pots, to get all the details for creating a fabulous display. We followed a pot that Cross planted up for one of her clients in May of last year, and then took another look at it in early August. The container held a combination of texture, form and color from both foliage and flower.”

First, the plants.

Cross says the best selection is available now, especially when it comes to annuals. Most annuals are sold now in four- or six-packs, or in 4-inch pots. The plants are small; you can wait until late spring when the plants will be larger, but the variety of plants from which to choose at that time will be smaller.

We may go first for flowers when planting up a container, but Cross urges us to choose interesting foliage to create combinations that look great in or out of bloom. Coleus (Solenostemon) surely tops that list; in fact, no one really wants to see a coleus send up its insignificant flower stem and detract from the leafy display.

‘Peter’s Wonder,’ used in Cross’ pot, stands out with its ruffled edges, deep pink veins and green-and-yellow patterning. An abundance of bright and contrasting colors can be found in coleus selections, including the burgundy-and-gold ‘Dipt in Wine’ and the purple-veined ‘Fishnet Stockings.’ Coleus is a perennial in much warmer climates, but in the Puget Sound region, we often treat such plants as annuals and stuff our baskets and pots with them each summer.

Another such “annual” is the summer geranium (Pelargonium). Cross used the ivy-leaved selection ‘Black Magic’ for this full-sun container, because of its round, crisply crinkled leaves and its dark purple flowers that appear all summer.

Lantana is another shrubby — and for us, annual — plant that Cross often chooses for pots. Its long season of flowers, which draw butterflies, are a plus, and its small, mounding form is a good contrast to more upright plants.

But not all pots are in full sun, as we well know. For pots in the shade, Cross selects annuals such as Impatiens, because, she says, “they keep going and going and going and don’t need a lot of deadheading.”

Begonias rate high, too. Cross uses the ‘Dragon Wing’ series for its glossy leaves and small, but bright, flowers that, like Impatiens, keep coming all summer.

Ornamental grasses are the perfect companion to shrubs, perennials and annuals for their movement in a breeze and their texture and form. Some of Cross’ favorites are the upright forms of Carex ‘Ice Dance’ and the relaxed clumps of C. flagillifera ‘Kiwi.’ or Calamagrostis ‘Karl Foerster.’

Continue reading by viewing the online link to the rest of Marty Wingate’s article.