Behold the Brilliant, Jewel-Like Treasures! How Will I Contain Myself? Playing with Pots: An Annual Obsession

May 4th, 2011 § Comments Off on Behold the Brilliant, Jewel-Like Treasures! How Will I Contain Myself? Playing with Pots: An Annual Obsession § permalink

Echeveria ‘The Pearl’, Kalanchoe pumila and Portulacaria afra variegata – An indoor garden pot, slowly acclimates to the great outdoors on my steel balcony

It’s an annual question. How will I contain myself? Although the vast majority of my gardening takes place in the ledgy pockets of soil here on my land, every year I create seasonal, potted displays and vignettes to punctuate the landscape. I started moving my vessels, urns and bowls outdoors a couple of weeks ago… And oh, there are so many pots to fill! In addition to the container designs I will create for my clients, I have many garden rooms of my own to accent. There’s a steel balcony to drape, several stone terraces, walls, walks and stairways to soften, shady niches to illuminate, decorative chairs to adorn and dining tables to fill with color.

Ever on the lookout for fresh inspiration, this weekend I will be attending a seminar, “Succulent Container Gardening & Hanging Basket Design and Care”, at Walker Farm in Dummerston, Vermont. The talk is being presented by long-time friends and colleagues, Daisy Unsicker (head propagator) and Karen Manix (owner) of Walker Farm. For nearly a decade, I worked maintaining the mixed borders of trees, shrubs and perennials at Walker Farm. And for years, I have been admiring —and enthusiastically collecting— their gorgeous, nursery-proagated plants. This historic farm has long been a favorite horticultural resource for connoisseurs of unusual annuals, perennials, trees and shrubs. But this season, I have to say, Walker Farm has really taken its always-spectacular greenhouse to a whole new level with an amazing display of succulents, tropicals and unusual foliage plants…

Mixed Succulent Container Garden (Starring Aeonium ‘Kiwi’) – Designed by Daisy Unsicker for Walker Farm

Beautiful Succulent Bowl (Staring various colorful players; including Aeonium ‘Kiwi’, Cryptanthus acaulis, Senecio rowleyanus and Echeveria) Designed by Karen Manix for Walker Farm

Another Gorgeous Succulent Bowl (Starring several divas and supporting acts; including Sedum and Aeonium)  Designed by Daisy Unsicker for Walker Farm

In an earlier post, I mentioned Walker Farm’s talented, long-time head propagator, Daisy Unsicker. When it comes to raising young plants, Daisy really has a special touch, and succulents are clearly her passion. If a gardener truly loves plants, and dotes on them with tender-loving-care, they tend to show their appreciation in the most beautiful ways. I can’t wait to hear Daisy’s design tricks and maintenance tips for succulent-pots, and to see what she and Walker Farm owner Karen Manix have cooked up for this Saturday’s container gardening seminar. Walker Farm isn’t able to ship plants, but if you are gardening in the area, I hope you will check out their beautiful garden center and greenhouses, and join them for their fabulous —and free— garden seminars (click here for details).

Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to preview some of the gorgeous plants now filling the lovely glass greenhouses at Walker Farm. In addition to the extraordinary selection of exotic plants in nursery containers (see some unusual examples below), Daisy, Karen an the staff at Walker Farm have designed and pre-planted some gorgeous, ready-to-go succulent bowls and other to-die-for container gardens. With colors bright as gem stones and exquisite, jewel-like forms, these plant-filled pots are like living treasure chests. From hanging baskets dripping with ‘Strings of Pearls’ (Senecio rowleyanus) to sapphire blue bowls filled with shimmering Jade (Crassula ovata cvs.) to hand-thrown pots overflowing with faceted pink-tipped Aeonium and amethyst-tinted, silvery Echeveria, Daisy has truly outdone herself.  Can you imagine such a delightful accent to your entryway or given as an exquisite Mother’s Day gift?

Solanum pyracanthum would certainly look sharp in my sunny terrace pots!

And Ozothamnus diosmifolius ‘Rose’ would be dreamy on the balcony

This sensual-looking Carex comans ‘Bronze Curls’ would move beautifully with the summer breeze

If you’ve been following this blog for awhile, you know that I’ve been singing the praises of succulent container gardening —indoors as well as outdoors— for a few seasons now. In fact, much of my indoor garden is filled with these dry-climate, jewel-box gems. The container atop this article —as well as others on the Indoor Eden page— is literally packed with succulents from small, local greenhouses and online sources.

So then, how will I contain myself this year? Well, I haven’t quite decided. But, I do know that in addition to the usual urns and vessels overflowing with colorful blossoms, my garden will be decorated with a large number of succulent containers, grass-filled barrels and an assortment of what I like to call, ‘un-flower pots’. No matter what I end up planting, I’m certain that I’ll return back here with plenty of new design ideas and maintenance tips to share after the weekend workshop at Walker Farm

A planter of my own design, featuring Sempervivum hybrids ‘Purple Beauty’ and  ‘Kalinda’ with river stone mulch

An oxblood red container on my terrace provides a lovely color contrast to the ice-blue Echeveria ‘The Pearl’, here today with a shimmering rain drop

Sempervivum hybrid ‘Kalinda’ on my terrace

A Succulent Pot of My Own Design (plant details listed in text below photo at top of this article)

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Un-Flower Pots: Modern Ideas for Low Maintenance Container Gardens…

June 10th, 2010 § 4 comments § permalink

Sempervivum ‘Purple Beauty’ (Hens and Chicks) and Haworthia in a Glazed Pot with River Stone Accents, Design and Photograph © Michaela at TGE

Although I have an unabashed love of colorful, fragrant blossoms, flowering plants aren’t ideal in all garden situations and circumstances. At times, I reach for the color, texture, form and/or movement of other plants -such as ornamental grasses and succulents- when designing a garden. Container gardens, particularly in dry, windy locations, can be very high maintenance unless the right plants are chosen for these challenging locations. Often, before I plant containers for my clients, I experiment with the design’s durability in my own garden first. This is an outrageously fun process of course, and a fine excuse to purchase annual plants for the steel deck outside my studio…

Stipa tenuissima (Mexican Feather Grass), Garden Design and Photograph © Michaela at TGE

Ucinia egmontiana (Orange Hook Sedge), Garden Design and Photograph © Michaela at TGE

Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’ and Stipa tenuissima in a Modern Deck Arrangement, Garden Design and Photograph © Michaela at TGE

The hot, dry, windy conditions on this sunny deck make it the perfect test-lab for low-maintenance container garden experiments. Over the years, two of the more successful annual combinations on my deck have been ornamental grass arrangements, and the succulent containers pictured here. This year, after reviewing Debra Lee Baldwin’s Succulent Container Gardens for Barnes and Noble’s Garden Variety blog (“Sweet Succulent Sensation – Ready for Some Outrageously Beautiful Container Inspiration”) I was inspired to take my easy-care succulent containers to a whole new level. But do I miss the flowers? Hardly. I find the jewel-like colors and textures so fascinating that I think adding flowering plants to these dramatic containers would be gilding the lily. Many succulent plants do in fact blossom, of course, and an number, such as Sempervivum and Echeveria, produce sensationally beautiful flower-like rosettes. Their shocking beauty is more than enough for me…

Sempervivum hybrid ‘Kalinda’. Garden Design and Photograph © Michaela at TGE

Sempervivum in a Pot with Stone Accents, (this frost-proof container is left outdoors year round). Garden Design and Photograph © Michaela at TGE

Close up of Sempervivum hybrid ‘Kalinda’. Garden Design and Photograph © Michaela at TGE

Sempervivum – The Rock Rose – Photograph © Michaela at TGE

Sempervivum in a permanent, frost-proof outdoor container. Garden Design and Photograph © Michaela at TGE

Sempervivum and Stone-Accent Mulch. Garden Design and Photograph © Michaela at TGE

Over the winter, you may recall my experiments with indoor container gardening, including dry-terraria arrangements, such as the one pictured below, (featuring three different plant forms: tall and spiked, mounded and trailing), and cactus bowls. Now that the warmer months have arrived, I have relocated these plants to larger-scale pots -accented with natural river stone- to my rusty steel deck. So far, the transition has been quite successful, with only one minor loss due to the well-known, ‘rambunctious labrador retriever effect’. If you too have a hot, sunny deck or terrace to landscape, and little time for maintenance, consider adding some easy-care pots to your seasonal arrangement. A large vessel, filled with tall ornamental grass works well as a backdrop for smaller containers filled with herbs or flowers. And small clusters of pots in a uniform color, such as the oxblood containers shown here, combine beautifully when grouped on terraces or arranged along the edges of steps. I will feature more container gardening ideas in the coming weeks, but if you are serious about creating a succulent oasis of your own, I suggest checking out the two fantastic books linked below…

Plants from an indoor succulent bowl, (read article here), can be moved outdoors to fill containers in warmer months. Pictured here: Echeveria ‘Pearl’, Sanseveria trifasiata ‘Laurentii’ and Portulacaria afra variegata from The Old School House Plantery. Container Design and Photograph © Michaela at TGE…

In summer, the indoor cactus bowl goes on summer-deck-ation…

Order Thomas Hobbs’  The Jewel Box Garden from Amazon online…

Order Succulent Container Gardens from B&N or Amazon online.

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Article and photographs © 2010 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

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