Saying Goodbye to My Summer Favorite: Coneflower

container idea mile a minute trees and shrubs 005 225x300 Saying Goodbye to My Summer Favorite: Coneflower

Summer is almost officially over, but the heat is still here.  Although fall is my hands down favorite season, it means that my favorite garden flower, the Purple Coneflower, will be on it’s way “out” soon.  I’ve been trimming back my cluster of the pink and purple blooms a lot these past two weeks, in the hopes that I can coax another wave or two of flowers forth, before they begin to go dormant.

This year I went a little crazy with my  Coneflowers, dividing the clumps in early June after they had only been established for one year, and probably could have benefited from another year to plump up more.  Luckily, the native plants seem almost unkillable in my yard, bouncing back from one issue after another and thriving just the same.  They are an ever popular plant with the butterfly, bee, and Goldfinch crowd, who I attempt to lure into my city garden every year, with great success.  How wildlife finds my yard, sandwiched like it is between Industrial buildings, and interstate 95 in a busy city, I’ll never understand, but I am always glad they make the trip to find me!

This past spring, the groundhog that lives under my back porch kicked off the growing season by foraging through my Coneflowers and eating them back almost to the ground, which posed a challenge to my goal of 2008 to “live and let live” in my yard.  After weighing my options, and the ethics of dragging the “hog” out from under my proch, rubbing his nose in what was left of my flowers, and punting his squeaky behind across the Daylilly bed, I optcontainer idea mile a minute trees and shrubs 006 225x300 Saying Goodbye to My Summer Favorite: Coneflowered to take the heigher road, if only to save my neighbors from the spectacle that would have been! “Confucious,” as I have named the animal, luckily pondered the errors of his ways, and has left my favorite plant untouched in the past months, leaving me plenty of flowers for summer arrangements.  He taught me a valuable lesson about Purple Coneflowers though, since his overzealous spring pruning trained the plants to grow to half their usual height, and produce prolific blooms that were mostly hidden under larger flowers and shrubs.

I’m looking forward to next years batch though already, and in the coming weeks I will be able to move the conflowers in my pot designs there into reforestation areas on the property I manage, where the native plant will hopefully thrive, and prove to be useful for the wildlife there.  If the animals I plant the Coneflowers for are even half as appreicative of the early spring foliage as “Confucious” was, I will be expecting Thank You notes on “Smokey the Bear” stationary some time next May.

Your thoughts: Do you have a favorite summer flower or plant that you are going to miss?

Container Garden Ideas: Funky Perennial (#001)

img 0177 225x300 Container Garden Ideas: Funky Perennial (#001)I don’t know about you, but I really enjoy the flexibility of container gardening! Unlike established garden beds, containers can be changed seasonally or even more frequently just to suite the mood! I like the ‘play room’ containers give me to try out new plants, such as those I get occassionally as gifts from friends and family. Sometimes I use my personal pots as holding tanks for new plants undergoing a trial period – until they either prove their worth as a pot plant, or inspire me with a new bed layout that includes them. This month I have a cluster of Bachelor Buttons awaiting a verdict. Unfortunately for them, I designed some summer pots without them (at least for now), and set out renovating two large patio pots.

Around porches, I tend to use larger pots because they have a lot more space for designing and visually help bridge together in-ground plantings with taller trees and shrubs. Today I wanted to add a splash of color and texture to two pots near my door – so I planned out a perennial garden pot that should provide lasting color from late Spring through early Fall. Here’s what I did:

Funky Perennial Pot Idea:

I began with a very large pot capable of holding 3.5 cubic feet of soil, with a diameter of about 24 inches. I had two left over clumps of English Ivy in each of the pots that I decided to work with, but for my new design, I clumped them together for continuity, leaving room on another side of the pot for other trailing vines or ground covers.

My shopping list for these two pots includes:

My goal for this pot was to really show off the shapes and textures of some of my favorite perennials, so I mixed draping plants with the mounding and upright ones. I chose the Ivy, and the Nettle to add clumps of low-growing, draping color over the sides of the pots. The tiny purple flowers on the Nettle also attract bees and butterflies, while the multi-colored leaves of both plants look great, and brighten the edges of the pot. The Dwarf Cypress is a mounding plant that I love using, since it adds beautiful yellow color and movement wherever you plant it. Not only do I like its evergreen color, but I love that it doesn’t leave you with the scratchy growth that other evergreen ground covers do. Pruning it, or collecting cut flowers around it is never an unpleasant task, and it smells pleasantly year round.

I chose the red Lily because it is a great bloomer, and a great addition to the mid-ground of the pot. With dark green foliage to compliment the other plants, and a firm upright growth pattern, this plant will lend the pot some structure. Tickseed Coreopsis is another great mid-ground bloomer that can send out heaps of yellow blooms for five or more months straight, depending on your climate. Both the Lily and the Coreopsis also attract large amounts of pollinators to your pot, and add a height of about one foot to the design.

The centerpiece of this pot is the Purple Coneflower – my all time favorite flower. This plant will rapidly fill in the center of your pot with tall flowers up to 2 or 3 feet, and it is such a hardy native plant that it’s hard to kill if you are the forgetful type, and miss watering it. This flower will bloom from mid-Summer to frost, and attract all kinds of wildlife.

Your thoughts: Do you have a favorite perennial plant you find yourself sneaking into many of your garden spaces? What successes have you had mixing together some unusual plants?