Dear Master Gardener:
Perennials don’t seem to bloom for very long. How can I have continuous color throughout the summer with perennials?
Following is a list of perennials with an approximate beginning bloom time, which can vary slightly from year to year due to weather. Bloom time can also vary by cultivar; for example various cultivars of Astilbe, Hemerocallis and Hosta bloom from early to late summer. One way to determine what is blooming at a given time would be to visit a local nursery throughout the growing season to see what is blooming.
Lily of the Valley
Perovskia /Russian Sage
Dear Master Gardener:
Are there any “tricks of the trade” for planting and designing containers?
Container gardening can be a rewarding way to grow plants and add interest to your landscape. There are many containers from which to choose: terra-cotta, concrete, ceramic, fiberglass, lightweight foam, and plastic. Each one has advantages and disadvantages, but keep in mind that good drainage will make the difference in how successful your containers will be. To prevent blockage and water build-up, place a piece of landscape fabric over the drainage holes and layer an inch of small stones, broken pottery, or biodegradable packing peanuts (for a lightweight option). A good potting soil will allow the roots of the plants to thrive by providing air circulation plus hold moisture in without staying too wet. Look for brands of potting soil that contain Canadian sphagnum peat moss, ground bark, and perlite. Some brands contain a small amount of fertilizer as well.
In regard to design, use a thriller, and some spillers, and fillers. Place the tallest plant in the back center (thriller), smaller plants around the base of the tall plant (fillers), and trailing plants at the container’s edge to spill over the side (spillers). Determine your color scheme. If you would like a more formal look choose one color and for a less formal look choose several colors. Choose plants that grow well together and have the same water and light requirements. Check tags for light requirements; full sun means 6 or more hours of sunlight, part sun/part shade is 3-6 hours of sunlight preferably in the morning, and full shade is less than 3 hours of direct sunlight. Fertilize with a liquid fertilizer every two weeks.
Dear Master Gardener;
I have several outdoor containers in which I have always planted upright flowers, This year I would like to include some trailing plants, too. Can you suggest some?
A large number of plants will trail, so you should have no trouble finding ones you like. The first group consists of trailing plants grown largely for their flowers, most of which are small but numerous: impatiens, calibrachoa, bacopa, trailing snapdragons, wave petunias, alyssum, cobea, verbena, lobelia, torenia, nasturtium, begonia, bidens scaevola—and many more. If you want plants mostly for their leaves or leaf color, good choices would be sweet potato vine, sprengeri, vinca, ivies of many kinds, and tradescantia. Visit nurseries, noting already-planted containers for ideas. Your local nursery may not carry all on the above lists but will likely have others as well.
Crow Wing County Master Gardeners are trained and certified volunteers for the University of Minnesota Extension Service. All information given in this column is based on research and information provided by the University. To ask a question, call the Master Gardener Help Line at 218-824-1000, extension 4040 and leave a recorded message. A Master Gardener will return your call.