Every year I like to do something different with my containers out front. The first year, in 2007 a few months after we moved in, I completely underestimated the amount of sun the summer stairs would receive. That year I did simple pots of New Guinea impatiens and they fried! After a vacation out of town a local woman made a special point of knocking on our door (after church!) to tell my love how terrible our plants looked and how poorly we tended to them. Krissy evaded the woman's arrogant rant, and I was extremely thankful that she didn't mention that her man, the one responsible for said terrible pots, was in fact a professionally trained horticulturist. Hey, no matter how much training you have it still takes years to understand your site. So for 2008 I went totally tropical using plants I knew would want the sun and hotter temps. There were a lot of bright foliage plants like croton (Codiaeum variegatum pictum) and the focal point was an orange hibiscus that bloomed strong all summer long. The pots were smaller and dried out too quickly so I learned I had to increase the size of the pots. If you think about it larger pots will equal larger volume with relatively less surface area so they won't dry out on you as fast. In 2009 I had fun incorporating annuals and some sun loving houseplants together into a very poppy display. However I guess I did a little too good of a job because by the end of summer a couple nice pots full of hot orange and deep purple petunias had somehow upped and walked themselves to someone else's home. Fancy that! ...eh, thieves suck. Which brings us to this year. I went to get some new terra cotta pots for the front stoop and I guess I was excited because I ended up doubling the amount of containers I'd had in years past, going from 5 to 10. Due to the theft in '09, and based on the plants I was able to get my hands on for little or no money I opted to go back to focusing on foliage and texture for the summer season. There is a bit of everything, annual to tropical to perennial, from yellow to green to red, small to medium to large, but somehow it seems to work for me.
On the top stair planted with the annual Alternanthera that provides green to purple-red foliage is a Begonia I brought out from inside. The alternanthera will continue to grow and spill over the side of the pot in time, along with tiny white flowers soon to begin. Begonia maculata 'Wightii' is a sensational begonia with white polka-dots on the leaves. I hacked it back hard before moving it out so it is coming back slowly and looking pretty peculiar. A few begonias in the mix this summer are kids from inside and ultimately they'd be happier being more sheltered and protected but whatever, they are holding on fine and providing enough of a look. They're annuals for us here so destined for the compost pile this fall they might be. That is basil in the center, Ocimum basilicum, and so far it has been able to keep a nice low profile. On the other side the pink-silver leaves of Begonia 'Sinbad' I've always admired.
On the left side of stair four is another Sinbad begonia. That one I have had for a few years, and too cut it back hard this spring, but it always looks full and fantastic by the end of the season. The right two pots have a total of five different colored Korean chrysanthemums. They will bloom mid to late fall and I have no idea what color they will be, but their big daisy-like flower will undoubtedly be a great late season surprise. In front of the pot with only two plants I stuck another Begonia chunk, this one a rich dark foliage begonia that I can't remember the name of. Like I said, it's kind of a hodgepodge but it works.
Another of the alternanthera and the dark-leaved begonia are at the left side of the third stair. In the center is Teucrium, the medicinal herb known as germander. A tight little plant with fine texture germander will put up small spires of pink blossoms in full sun, but has yet to get going for me this year. And then on the right is the big light green badboy, Hosta plantaginea. This plant likes to get huge so kind of funny to pot it up, but the white flower spikes that are forming now are so strong and sweet and fabulous that I had to try it. The metal awning overhead and associated runoff has left a few rust stains on the leaves but I don't mind so much.
This Jasminium on the left was offered by a friend last year who couldn't figure out where to put it in her garden. Obviously the fresh, bright yellow foliage is something, so I quickly took her up on the offer. I have no idea what species or cultivar it is. The annual salvia in the center is Salvia 'Cherry Blossom' and the spikes of white and pink flowers are very ornate, though I have found they aren't lasting very long on my hot little stoop. In both of those pots the Oxalis 'Charmed Wine' I had actually written off. The dormant corms of the plant had been inside on the windowsill all winter so I potted them up with the same sort of "oh, whatever" kind of attitude. The little shot of purple definitely helps, not to mention I forever love how the foliage of oxalis retracts and closes up at night. So the big perennials on the lower right of this years display are Boltonia asteroides, the late summer blooming garden favorite. Like the hosta these plants like to get big, but I figured the experiment of seeing how they do potted up was worthwhile. I wondered if they might stay smaller with a more confined root space. Yeah, not so much, as I've already pruned them back a couple times. As the name would imply they too will have daisy-like flowers in a month or two, white with a yellow center, and very charming. Last but not least is one of my favorite cascading evergreens for containers. Juniperus procumbens 'Nana' is a creeping juniper that doesn't grow fast but can still get to a good size over many years. It'll be time to repot that one soon enough, as it too is one of the stoop veterans.
So there you have 'em, summer containers 2010. Cheers,