In hindsight I may have gone a bit too far, but last year when my better half suggested we could use a few more plants out on the deck I ran with it. She’s not known for her appreciation of things chlorophyll so this was unprecedented, and I’m sure you could understand my enthusiasm for encouraging an interest. For her I thought potted plants were a big no-no, and I’ve found this becomes an even stronger no-no when their planting and repotting takes place on the kitchen table… which is kind of close to the deck table… so perhaps this new interest in the deck plantings was the first step in easing the household ban on pots.
Before this garden I used to have quite a pot habit. The small balcony of my apartment was filled and overflowing with any container I could find and any plant which I thought would be interesting to grow out there, and at one point I was a little worried all the extra weight on my second floor balcony might one day come crashing down. But it didn’t, and I kept on happily planting until finally purchasing my first home.
When the deck was opened up to planting I scoured all corners of the yard and garage for any container which might still be able to hold a plant. Many of the old plastic pots from my balcony days came out of retirement and were slid right in next to my pretentious Italian terra cotta and glazed ceramic. I’ll see if I can do something about that next year, but this year most of the budget went to new potting soil. Potting soil has been a sticky subject around here since most of them stink, but I found Jobe’s Organics Potting mix and love its price and quality. It’s made with quality ingredients, it’s airy and loose, and it’s just what I wanted for filling large planters.
I have plenty of favorites which I either overwinter or buy, but this year’s big treat was the Cannova Rose canna which I bought already in bloom and already nearly bursting out of the pot it came in. It’s only done better since, and if you ignore some leaf damage from Japanese beetles and a few sloppy spent blooms dropped on the deck, it’s my idea of a perfect summer container plant. This canna is a seed strain and because of that should be virus free, also the breeder claims these plants have been selected to thrive in cooler temperatures, which is another plus for Northerners such as myself.
I lost a few of my older spikes (dracaena) last year to a surprise late freeze but I’ve got a few new ones growing along. The little ones are all over in the spring but what I really like is when they put on a few year’s worth of growth and become these big grassy exclamation points. They’re relatively easy to overwinter and my goal is a whole patch of them towering over the other plantings 🙂
The one pink and gold and lavender corner is dominated by another favorite which I nearly left to die last fall. In the late spring last year I picked up a clearance oleander, and this summer it’s really come into its own. Nonstop bloom on the single pink, but there’s a double in there as well, and that one is always a mess with few blooms open and always a few brown soggy spent flowers hanging from the branches. I try to ignore it.
As we go around the deck there’s another favorite which I always end up buying new each spring. The purple fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’) is a pain to overwinter but worth adding new every year for its dark leaves and light airiness of the seedheads. This year I put it with a new rose and although I paid way too much for the rose, and really questioned the decision to plant it on the deck (mostly due to all the blood it drew while planting), I love the effect.
Not to name too many favorites but sweet potato vines always show up in my planters. Some years they cover the deck, some years they hang through the railing, regardless of where they grow I like them and I like them large. There are dwarf types but for me I far prefer the far-ranging ones like chartreuse ‘Margarita’ or the dark purple ‘Blackie’.
I apologize for going on so long, I’m going to try and be a little less wordy as we go around to the front door plantings. They’re much less floral, but still a mess of color.
I wish I could explain my thinking out front, but it was really just a matter of using up stray coleus cuttings and overwintered tropicals.
This unknown to me creeping houseplant threatens to take over the pot as well as the porch. I’ve had it for a few years now and love the way it bleaches to a bright yellow wherever the sun hits. Unfortunately if the sun hits it too hard the leaves burn…
The other side of the front entry is also a horticultural tsunami. Vacationing amaryllis (hippeastrum), a few geraniums, and some on again off again gerber daisies are trying to fend off the looming sunflowers and an uninvited pumpkin. Serves me right for letting the pumpkins rot on the front steps all last winter, but the new pumpkin forming is almost like a self renewing Halloween decoration!
So after all of the mess at the entry our hanging porch planters are fairly plain. The asparagus fern gets thrown in the garage each winter, nearly dies by April, and then springs to life once regular watering resumes. It doesn’t drop faded flowers on the porch, doesn’t mind a week or two of forgotten waterings, and cost me about $1 a piece several years ago. I appreciate all these strengths yet she who judges doesn’t like these pots at all. Flowers would be nicer she says.
Now if I replaced the ferns what would I put there? Maybe she means add more pots all around the porch, that’s probably what was implied, and that might be a good starting point for next year. Come to think of it she did say she wouldn’t mind even more potted plants out back, and contrary to what I thought, she said it’s not too much back there on the deck. This of course kind of encourages me to find out what too much is, and it’s these kinds of challenges which fuel your imagination in February. I did still want to add a small eucalyptus tree after all, just a small one.