Vegetables in the dirt, part 2

Copyright 2014 Gene Breshears
I put two fuchsias and two petunias in each hanging basket.
After spending Saturday evening with the tomatoes, I needed to get the rest of the flowers I’d picked up planted. We have a number of pots that sit on the steps of our porch, and I try to keep flowers in them. I haven’t done a good job of keeping care of them this year, so the pots had the dead remains for last falls flowers in them.

I’ve also, for several years, had two hanging baskets that I usually put fuchsias into. A lot of the stores with garden centers in our region have a push with fuchsias at the beginning of April, so if I head to one of them in the first weekend or so of that month, I can find dozens of different varieties of fuchsia to choose from. Since I didn’t get to that until June this year, I had exactly two varieties to choose from, one that results in blooms that have dark purple centers and red exteriors, and the other has white centers with pink exteriors. There also weren’t very many of each.

A lot of people in our neighborhood have hanging baskets of petunias this year, and I found both some very dark purple (almost black), the the lighter violet with purple stripes varieties. So I decided to do fuchsias and petunias mixed in the hanging baskets this year.

In order to hang the baskets, I had to trim back the big climbing rose a lot more than I had planned on this weekend. The yard waste bin that we share with everyone else in the building was nearly full before I started working on our flower beds, and I’d added a lot of material Saturday. I didn’t have the official bags you’re supposed to use (when you buy them at a garden shop, you are pre-paying the extra waste collection fee for them, you see), so I couldn’t put anything that wouldn’t fit in the bin out there. But I did have to make room for the baskets.

It was also a little sad because about half the the rose blooms I had were on small spindly branches coming off the big mostly-dead branches that were in the way of wear the hanging baskets usually go. So we wound up with a bunch of pink roses in the living room.

Copyright 2014 Gene Breshears
Three very small starters, two red and one pink, in my largest planter.
For all the pots that sit on the porch steps, I went with an old standby, portulacas. Portulacas are also sometimes known as moss roses. They are not related to roses at all, and I don’t think they look much like roses. What I love about them is that they are nearly impossible to kill. They are extremely tolerant of one forgetting to water them. Which is really handy, because I will forget to water the plants from time to time, particularly during either the middle of June where we will often have overcast days without any rain. It feels as if they ought to have been rain, so I think my subconscious decides that I don’t need to worry about the plants when we have several days like that in a row.

The potulacas grow fairly quickly, so in just a few weeks they ought to be covering all the dirt in the planter shown. They also bloom multiple times each season. I picked up enough starters to put one to three each in the nine planters we usually have on the steps.

Copyright 2014 Gene Breshears
Of course we have a sea otter planter as part of the mix!
The other spot color flowers I picked up were purple alysum, which is a hardy ground cover I use a lot. I always pick up a few packages of seeds for them to sow in the long flower bed. And when I find it, I picked up Lily Miller’s heirloom variety. The heirloom is good for my purposes because they grow much taller (the non-heirloom are at most two inches tall, the heirloom can grow up to a foot tall). Also unlike the other types, the heirloom varieties produce fertile seeds. The down side is that three-forths of the second (and third, and fourth, and…) generation flowers are white, in stead of purple.

I have no idea how they manage to produce packets of seeds that all come up purple, when the offspring come out mixes of white plants and a few purples.

The other downside of the heirlooms according to at least one of our neighbors is that there have been patches of heirloom alysum popping up in yards all up and down our block since I first found the heirloom variety about a dozen years ago. I haven’t found the heirlooms in a few years, my I already have a bunch growing on their own. I added non-heirloom seeds to the mix, and since none of the ones coming up from seed are blooming yet, that’s why I picked up some starters from the garden center. Just to put the color there until the seedlings get bigger.

I get that alysum is a fairly aggressive ground cover. If they didn’t produce so many cute little blossoms on every single plant, more people would think of them as weeds than do. So I understand one of the motives of the seed companies selling seeds that produce mostly infertile plants (it also means we have to keep buying seeds each year, of course…), but I wish it were easier to reliably get the heirlooms.

I pulled weeds out of only one small part of one flower bed. I need to weed a lot more next weekend and get the rest of the crabgrass out from around the irises. I’m a little surprised as how the crabgrass is starting the strangle out the irises. I didn’t think anything could overwhelm those!

Wait here, Audrey. This is between me and the vegetable. —Seymour, Little Shop of Horrors

2 thoughts on “Vegetables in the dirt, part 2

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