Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Gothic Green Thumb: Growing a Goth Garden in Containers


Growing Flowers in Containers

What would apartment or condo dwellers do without potted plants? I have been successfully growing flowers in containers for a few years. Don't get me wrong, I'd love an in ground garden but right now that's not a possibility for me. There are times when an all container garden is better than an in ground one; the major benefit to a container garden is that it's easier to control the soil but the downside is that only certain flowers and plants will do well when grown in containers. Unlike a permanent in ground garden, you can move your containers around to change the look of your yard or deck. This is especially helpful if your plants haven't been getting enough sun, you can pick them up and move them into the sunlight.

 Here are some of my tips for gardening in containers:
  • Get a good potting soil. It usually has a mixture of soil, perlite or vermiculite, and peat moss. It's formulated to allow for proper drainage and nutrient retention. Not product plugging here but I use Miracle Grow Potting Soil or a mixture of it and an all purpose soil for my larger containers. I don't recommend all purpose on its own, it's too dense and lacks the qualities of a good potting soil. When I first started gardening I made the mistake of using purely all purpose soil and it compacted, killing my plants. Potting soil should have a light and fluffy texture to it. If you have something thick and sludgy it won't work well and likely won't drain properly. Also, I have to mention that knowing the PH levels in your soil is important for growing certain plants. If you want to grow a flower that requires more acidity you will have to look for a potting soil with that quality. There are often PH testing kits available but these are generally used for in ground gardens, with container gardening you have the benefit of purchasing soil that has the components/PH levels that you already need.
  • You don't have to use just annuals, I grow many perennials in my planters too.
  • Choose plants that can live together! Some plants are prone to choking others out. I once planted some morning glories in with my petunias. Big mistake! They choked the petunias to death. Likewise, petunias are prone to getting leggy; last year I had them in my planter box and they became horrid sprawled out things that killed off my pansies.
  • Similar to above, don't overdo it with your planting. Flowers need room to grow and the ones you buy at the garden center are often not at their full size. Each individual flower will have different spatial requirements and these can and do change when planted in containers. Sometimes the information will be present on the flower tag, other times you will have to look it up online.
  • Don't plant too little, either. My flower boxes looked way too skimpy a few years ago. I suggest using a filler, or what's called "groundcover", for the empty in between spaces. I might use something small and bushy like alyssum to go in with my pansies and snap dragons.
  • Some flowers will require shade where others need full sun, don't mix the two together. 
  • Don't assume that rain will give your plants enough water. Some people may believe this because they're planting in small pots and not great big gardens, but the truth is is that rainwater might not be sufficient enough. Unless you had a significant amount of rainfall, you should always check and make sure that your plants are watered enough. You also want to avoid over watering which will encourage root rot and kill the plant. All you need to do is stick your finger into the soil and if it's more than an inch dry you'll need to water your plant(s). If you find that your plants get dry too quickly they may have become root bound, this is when roots exceed the soil to root ratio and take over the pot, you would need to transplant the flower or flowers into a larger container.
  • Remember to fertilize; what kind of fertilizer and how much or often depends on the plant's individual needs.
  • If you purchase a larger container you don't need to fill it all with soil, you can insert floral foam into the bottom to reduce space (unless you need that extra space for roots for say maybe something like a small tree or shrub).

Photo from Dragonfly Garden Design & Build LTD

Selecting flowers for your garden

On your first visit to a garden center you'll likely be overwhelmed by the colorful array of flowers. You might be tempted to grab up as many "goth themed" flowers as possible but don't! If only planning your garden was that easy. As mentioned above there are different variables to factor in when choosing plants for your container garden. The most important thing is to understand the needs of each individual flower/plant. Consider the following:
  • What climate does it require? * Look for information about Plant Hardiness Zones, this is especially important when purchasing online. My government offers a full scale map that details what zone I'm living in and I use that as a guide for successfully choosing the appropriate flowers. I live in roughly a Zone 6 so anything above 7 is pushing my luck!
  • Does it thrive in full sun, partial, or shade?
  • How much space does it require?
  • How tall does it get?
  • Does it have any specific soil or care requirements?
  • Can it be planted with just about anything or does it do better with only specific plants?
Arm yourself with this knowledge and you can begin planning your container garden. Start by visiting your local garden centers. If you're lucky your garden center will group flowers by their sun requirements, full sun, partial or shade. I once visited a garden center that had created a condo friendly section where they carried potted flowers and shrubs, it was great! If your garden center isn't so organized you might want to ask a clerk for assistance. Compile a list of possible flowers and return home to research which ones can be planted together without issue, and which, if any, require special care.

Check out BHG's Plant Encyclopedia. I used this when I was trying to determine which annuals to look for and what would suit my gardening needs. The entries are very detailed and will often note what works well in containers. You can filter search results based on size, season and colour. The encyclopedia also offers detailed plans for creating cottage style gardens, gardens that could attract butterflies, red themed gardens and so much more. Have a look!

I hesitate to tell anyone to jump head first into gardening with colour as the primary focus. Colour is paramount but shape, smell and purpose can also be equally as significant within the garden. Consider height and space requirements first and foremost, then your zone, and then your colour scheme. If you want to prioritize using plants that are purposeful, like adding herbs or flowers that you can utilize, or you want to attract butterflies or birds to your garden, you might have to adjust your colour scheme accordingly. Amass a list of possible flowers and then you can choose which colours suit your taste.

Start a Book!

Notebooks may seem obsolete with today's technology but I personally find them to be quite beneficial provided that they're well organized. I try to keep my books divvied up; one for sewing notes, one for story notes, and one for housekeeping/gardening and all around home improvement notes. My home and garden book will contain information on perennials, annuals, herbs and soon to be deck measurements and planter building plans. I want to be able to pull this thing off the shelf and look up whatever I need to, like did I need a certain drill bit? Do these flowers go with those flowers? Who carried it for what price? Sure, I could record all of these details onto my phone but I find it's getting too cluttered with my writing and art inspiration notes! I don't need gardening notes all the time, it just takes up valuable phone space in my eyes, so why not fill my ordinarily skimpy looking bookshelf with books? It's sad to think that bookshelves will become obsolete someday...

So what will you put in your book? Whatever you like! But you can take some inspiration from mine. Try creating detailed entries about your favorite flowers. Ask questions like "in which seasons do they bloom? what soil type do they prefer? what are their uses or benefits?" You may choose to group flowers by colour or theme. Treat it like your own personal gardening encyclopedia! You can also use your book as a gardening journal to catalog your triumphs and failures and document gardening techniques that you found were most successful.



A few flowers to consider

(From top left to bottom right)
1. Ajuga
2. Black Pearl Ornamental Pepper
3. Plum Coleus
4. Halloween Pansies
5. Shadow Cat Dahlia
6. Black Petunias
7. Blackberry Heart Sweet Potato Vine
8. Tuberous Red Begonias
9. Joseph's Coat

What about roses?

You may know about the Black Baccara, the darkest and gothiest of roses. I would love to add it to my garden someday but not all roses are container friendly. Through my own stupidity I have purchased three climbing roses which are not meant to be grown in containers. As their title implies they are destined to climb and therefore should be planted in ground by a fence or arbor. Hence why we are forced to create a planter specifically for these roses. I think it's acceptable to start climbing roses in pots but they should make it into the ground by the following year. Now, I'm not saying that you can't grow roses in containers, it's just that many of the fancier varieties of rose will not be available to you. Miniature roses are usually the best choice. They're cheaper and easier to come across. Finding container friendly roses in your garden centers might not be easy. When I was shopping I saw few varieties. You may need to buy online. This site has a great list of roses that can be grown in containers, plus descriptions of the different colours.

Conclusion

The gardening experience can seem overwhelming but can also be a great deal of fun, don't be too intimated to try it. The great thing with container gardens is that you can start small and build your way up.

Best,


2 comments:

  1. I love this post!! Great tips! Great advice! I love the picture from Dragonfly Garden Design!!
    I think one of my favourite things to come up every year, is my black tulips, which are more like a very deep rich purple, with a hint of black.
    I also have one side of the back yard, where I just let anything grow. People might say weeds, but not for me!
    All the best for your food diet! It is so hard! I live with family, (for who I am grateful for), but they don't believe that certain foods can do these things to you! Then they persist, to keep eating it, so your body gets use to it! Uggg..... I am going to live on boiled eggs and spinach! LOL!
    Big Hugs!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love black tulips! It's a shame that they don't last very long. My black and yellow variegated petunias bloomed straight into fall, it was lovely to have them for so long. I used to have a weed garden lol at the front of our old place. If you get wildflowers they attract butterflies, and they're pretty even if they are weeds.

      I can relate to your struggles with family not understanding our dietary needs. My mom just does not get it. We had a conversation that on the FODMAP diet garlic and onion are the worst offenders. Her response was "I don't understand! I've never had a problem eating those things, ever." My husband looked at me like she was crazy. I said, "Mom. That's great for YOU but I can't eat that shit any more. Please stop assuming everybody should live like you, we are not two in the same." She went on to insist that I should just eat it until I adapt which I countered with my experience with the gluten test. I feel amazing off of gluten. If my mom would put down the junk food she might be surprised at how much better she'd feel day to day, but I digress, that's another story! lol

      Delete

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