Tag Archives: summer containers

Summer Watering

Now that the hectic pace of spring has come and gone, it’s easy to think that all the hard work is over.  The planting, fertilizing, trimming and clean-up are all complete, shouldn’t we just sit in our Adirondack chairs and gaze serenely at the garden? We can’t forget one of the most difficult tasks a gardener faces, summer watering. With our Northwest summer drought, plants need consistent and thorough watering to grow and stay healthy.

I’ll never forget a Myrica californica that is growing in the arboretum.  When I first noticed it a few years back it appeared healthy. The leaves were green. It had new growth, but it was small.  We added irrigation to its bed and within a year it had doubled in size.  After two years it has tripled in height and width.  It’s a changed plant now, like it has a new breath of life with regular and consistent watering. I see its potential.  It’s interesting that we might think a plant is doing just fine.  It’s green.  It grows a bit every year.  And then suddenly when all its needs are met…wow! It can take off.

There are many methods available, sprinklers, watering cans, drip irrigation and in-ground irrigation systems with timers.  Water is a precious resource and we should always be thinking about conservation.  Setting up a home irrigation system such as drip irrigation may seem complex, but is really quite manageable. The main thing to remember is that plants prefer a thorough deep watering to a light superficial sprinkling.  When we spray the surface, the soil may appear dark and moist, but underneath the roots have no moisture. We have to allow time for the moisture to reach the root zone. Water when the soil dries out, more often when it’s hot and less when it’s cloudy and cool.

It’s happened so many times.  I think I’ve watered a container really well, whether a small four inch pot or a large patio container. I might have to dump the soil out or dig into the container, and I’m shocked to find out it’s dry at the bottom!  A good method is to water a container until the water runs out of the bottom.  I also like to give a container as much water as I think it needs.  And then do it again. Give it twice as much.  If the soil is too dry it can become hydrophobic and it takes a long time to absorb the water.  Then the container will have to be watered two or three times.  Over-watering can be a problem too, but only if the soil constantly remains wet and is never given the chance to dry out.

Planting similar groups of plants together can also help conserve water.  Annuals and big leafy perennials take more water than established shrubs and trees.  Keeping them in separate beds will make watering easier. Many of our Northwest native plants are tough and drought tolerant, but remember this is only after they have had a few years to grow a good root system. So when you add any new plants, even if they are ‘drought tolerant’, remember to water for the first two summers.  Mulching is a good idea as it helps retain moisture. Rhododendrons are usually ignored all summer, but these plants will really benefit from a consistent supply of water. Remember, a healthy plant that has been well watered and fertilized will more easily fight off insects and disease. Just like us, if we aren’t getting enough sleep or eating well we tend to get sick. So enjoy your summer garden and don’t forget to give your plants a drink. And then do it again.

Pennisetum Pot

I planted this container for a client and it finally came into it’s own when the purple fountain grass grew.  For months this Pennisetum ‘Rubrum’ just sat there and waited out the cool months, barely inching its way upward.  Finally, towards the end of July it started to shoot out and now in August it’s the focal point.  Combined with the geraniums, verbena and calibrachoa, there is color and texture, loved by people and frogs alike.

Just the Facts
Purple Fountain Grass     Pennisetum ‘Rubrum’
Zones 8-11 (Not reliably hardy in the PNW)
Likes sun, drought tolerant
Blooms late Summer through Fall

Summer Color Containers

Super Shade Mix

A customer comes into the nursery and questions me about plants.  I need some plants for a container.  Check. I need color. Check. I need something great for my entryway. Check.
We excitedly start heading towards the annual area where the flowers are bursting with color. But then come the fatal words….and there is no sun. Nothing!  Not even a glimmer or a ray.  Most plants appreciate a little light , it keeps them doing their job.  But people want what they want, so we get imaginative. We take a sharp turn away from the glittering annuals and head toward the shade plants. Towards the land of ferns and fuchsias. Impatiens and begonias. There are some great plants for the shade, but it takes a bit more creativity. In this shade planter I mixed begonia, astilbe, gartenmeister fuchsia, impatiens and baby tears.

Mixed Planting

The other option is to make a mixed planting.  Sun? Shade?  Who cares?  This one at Redmond Town Center looks great and tosses in petunias with begonias.  Maybe if something is unsuccessful they just replace it with a fresh plant.  If you’ve got the time and money, why not?

Sun Container

This sun container has bold foliage from a banana tree and spiky New Zealand Flax. The super-sized dahlias and sunshine bright gerber daisies add pop, along with the golden barberry which adds a warm glow.  And finally a few smaller planters  with a conifer, which will look great all winter, and another with a delicate fuchsia.  Have you tried something new this summer?

Verbena and Cypress

Fuchsia and Impatiens

Fresh and New Container Designs

At the nursery where I work we have an annual employee container design contest.  Here is some of the creative genius that is currently on display.  Can you guess which one I made?