June 22, 2018
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Container madness hits Marjorie’s Garden

Contributed | BDN
Contributed | BDN
By Reeser Manley

Space is at a premium in Marjorie’s garden, particularly for sun-loving annuals and vegetables. Over the years many of the vegetable garden’s beds have been turned over to cultivation of raspberries, strawberries, grapes and highbush blueberries. Small fruits are Marjorie’s passion.

We always find space for garden peas, tomatoes, and onions, and a trellis or two of cucumbers, a hill of summer squash. And an entire bed for sweet peas, a passion we share.

Self-sown annuals pop up in different spots every year and some are allowed their space in the sun. Calendula seedlings emerged with the germinating peas this spring, reminding us that we had planted a few calendulas in that bed last year, and there are always nicotiana seedlings and mullein plants in their first or second year. The second-year mulleins send up tall spikes of bright yellow flowers in summer and scatter millions of seeds throughout the garden in autumn. In spring we selectively rogue all but a few.

When all of the sunny beds are filled with plants or plans, we plant to containers. At this point there are 20 pots scattered about the garden and more to come, for there are still flats of seedlings to be transplanted: chocolate peppers, two more varieties of flowering tobacco, heirloom tomatoes and basil for pesto.

It is madness without cure. In October, as we put all of the pots away for winter, we pledge never again, no more lugging the watering can about the garden on hot July afternoons. But every May they all come out from storage, scattered across a patch of grass to be scrubbed clean for the new season. And they have multiplied over winter, Christmas gifts and such.

In May we bought a bale of potting soil, mixed it with composted goat manure, and filled half of the pots before our first visit to the nursery, still promising to be conservative. At the nursery we immediately selected pansies for pots on the porch rail, a garden tradition. Stopping there we might have kept our promise, but instead we took the grand tour through every greenhouse, envisioning beautiful combinations of color and texture, designing specific plantings for each of our favorite pots.

In addition to pansies, there are pots of basil and parsley on the porch steps. A small wooden planter on the rail at the top of the steps holds a Silverberry petunia in full bloom, each flower a pale pink tube with a deep pink throat, and on the opposite rail sits a large terra cotta pot of yellow daisies and deep red nasturtiums.

Beneath the garden’s fringe tree, blooming now with panicles of creamy white fragrant flowers, sits a glazed pot painted with dragonflies and planted with seeds of a blue morning glory. In July the leafy branches of this small tree will support sky blue flowers on slender twining stems. Other containers of morning glory seedlings sit at the edge of the garden’s deer fence and under the tall iron stake that holds the hummingbird feeders.

Sitting in the sun of the perennial garden is an old terra cotta pot, weathered to a patchwork of green paint and raw red clay, planted to three annuals: a deep pink twinspur (Diascia), a purple-leaved sweet potato vine (Ipomoea batatas), and the fiber optic grass (Isolepis cernua), a fine textured grass with an arching habit and tiny white flowers that resemble fiber optic lights set at the end of slender stems. I selected the grass first, intrigued by its habit and texture, and then chose the sweet potato vine and twinspur to provide contrasting color and texture.

The garden designers will tell you to start your container garden with a plan. My advice: start with a bunch of pots, some old and some new, and visits to local nurseries, letting your imagination do the rest.

Send queries to Gardening Questions, P.O. Box 418, Ellsworth 04605, or to rmanley@shead.org. Include name, address and telephone number.

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