Good things can come from bad times and one of the positive trends arising from our ‘Great Recession’ is the discovery of gardening by so many newcomers. They’ll start with some tomatoes and peppers in containers, maybe a few zucchinis in the corner of their yard, but if we do a good job providing the information and resources they need, they’ll discover the enchantment of growing things…the simple joys of ‘having a garden’…and they’ll be back year after year! Along the way, they’ll plant a few marigolds to ward off insects, nasturtium for salads, they’ll discover that their rhubarb has bold distinctive foliage year-round, and before you know it, the vegetable patch is expanding to accommodate sunflowers, perennials, a cutting garden with yarrow and cone-flower, shrubs for fragrance and butterflies and wildlife habitat, trees for reducing household utility costs and alleviating storm-water runoff, as well as providing shade and tangible aesthetics…
Larger sizes offer gardeners a jump on the season.
Presently, only one in ten households in America is serious about gardening. Contrast that with our friends ‘across the pond’…England is a nation of gardeners! What if one-in-ten became two-in-ten? What if twice as many people discovered the quiet satisfaction, the therapy, the transcendentalism of raising plants? Our nursery and greenhouse industries…which go back 150 years in Northeastern Ohio…our seed and mail-order companies, our researchers, breeders and garden educators would be happily struggling to keep up!
First, let’s take a look at some of the new trends and opportunities available to gardeners this Spring. Most important of all are all the better-performing plants! Whether it’s Proven Winners(PW), Plants-That-Work, Garden Leaders or the Step-ables line of under-foot ground covers, there are brands out there searching and finding the best varieties and cultivars available. Surfinia Petunias(from Suntory), Superbells Calibrachoa (PW)and Rockapulco double impatiens (PW) are just a few of the flowering ‘annual’ series that are light-years ahead of their predecessors. (Keep in mind that ‘annual’ flowers only last one year in our climate but they bloom all season long! ‘Perennial’ flowers come back year after year but may only bloom for a few weeks!)
Calibrachoa Superbells Plum from Proven Winners, A Country Living Editor’s Choice
Coleus is king of the annual foliage plants: hot colors, cool colors, pinks and burgundies and oranges, sun or shade. Our favorites this year are Coleus Fishnet Stockings and C. Sun Jade. Perilla The Thrillah, a coleus look-alike from Grimes Seed in Concord, Ohio, offers great red/green variegation on uniform plants. If Coleus or Perilla begin to take over your combination planter after a few weeks…and they will…just give them a ‘hard pinch’ (cut back to the level of the other plants) and they will behave for a while. For an alternative, check out Alternanthera Party Time(from Itsaul Plants PP 14789)…or any of the other great alternanthera…which offer colorful foliage for shady spots.
Dracaena ‘spikes’ used to be the only game in town for that vertical element in your combination planter. We still love them, and we use them in our Mom & Apple Pie planters. But check out Cyperus King Tut, a Proven Winners selection, or any of the red grasses, Pennisetum rubrum, for something new and different.
Hanging baskets are the staple of springtime front porches and summertime back decks. Fuchsias are longtime favorites with us. Gather a handful of blossoms and float them in a bowl for a centerpiece or meditation focus. Or just enjoy their color and the hummingbirds that follow. Fuchsias are thirsty so make sure they’re planted in a ‘heavy mix’ that holds moisture. The new ‘gel’ products and watering balls are helpful to keep them perky. They’re very forgiving, so if you miss a watering or two, make it up to them by providing a ‘hard pinch’ and keeping them on the ground next to the hose for a while. In a week or two they’ll be restored to their former glory.
Dragon Wing Begonias are popping up in window boxes, hanging baskets and flower beds everywhere. They perform superbly in partial shade with season-long displays of red or pink flowers amidst glossy dark green pointed leaves.
Dragon Wing Red Begonia will grow up to 2’ tall and round in sun or partial shade. Great for baskets, boxes and beds.
Among design trends, we’re told that ‘square is the new round’. Even so, we still like many of our standard shapes and sizes! In some areas, traditional combination planters and baskets are giving way to single-element pots, often featuring a foliage plant or hardy shrub. However, we still like mixing it up with vertical elements, colorful accents and lively sprawlers.
Back-to-nature is a growing trend in perennials and shrubs, focusing on ‘native plants’ indigenous to our state or region prior to the arrival of Europeans. While the nursery industry has been slow to embrace this movement, since it turns the clock back on several hundred years of dramatic horticultural development, there are many zealots who believe the ‘natives’ are better-adapted to our environment and require less maintenance. We suggest a balance between native and ‘exotic’. Find the right plant for the right spot and enjoy each plant for what it is. Many natives or native-cultivars (close cousins) are already available in the nursery trade and put on quite a show, such as Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), Creeping phlox (Phlox subulata) and Butterfly weed (Asclepius tuberosa).
This mixed-sedum planter contains white-flowering Sedum ternatum, which is native to Northeastern Ohio.
Editor’s note: This essay with accompanying photos was submitted by Mark Gilson of Gilson’s Gardens in Perry, Ohio. His next post gives a short history of the nursery business in Lake County. Whether you are starting out with a container garden or landscaping acres, remember that plants that have been selected and raised for our region will be the hardiest and heathiest. Our local nurserymen/women are a true asset for all of us who love beautiful gardens. -Mary