19 March 2008
All-star annuals for Containers
So we've selected our containers, and prepared our soil, and we know where we want to put our containers (maybe). Now comes the fun part: picking out the plants. I happen to really, really enjoy selecting annuals for containers, and yes, I'm going to focus on annuals because that's what I primarily use. I do have one concrete trough of alpines, but I also have lots of room around our place for perennials, shrubs, trees, etc, and I like doing containers of annuals because I can change them up with ease, they flower their little heads off or have sparkling foliage, and I don't feel guilty consigning them to the compost heap at season's end.
You can pick plants with flower colours that match your container colours, or that contrast, whatever suits your tastes. I do some of each, naturally. This big mosaic pot was custom built for me by a local artisan, and because its colours are so striking, I tend to choose annuals with flowers that more or less match; blues, orange, greens, a bit of purple. In this caseI used a brilliant orange gerbera, purple heliotrope, blue lobelia (probably from the Techno heat series, which last really well in our garden even during the heat that we do get in high summer)and a callibrachoa, possibly 'Terra Cotta' or 'Purple Sunrise.
For those who love blue, and who are frustrated by lobelias, try anagallis. It comes easily from seed, or you can purchase the various cultivars such as 'Skylover' or 'Wildcat Blue' and it works reasonably well in a container. I normally shear mine back when I first get them as they do get leggy in a nursery setting, and they tangle their stems with other plants nearby. But anything this blue can be naughty if it wants--all is forgiven when it flowers.
This African daisy is a Venidium, sometimes called Venidio, that I wouldn't be without. I find them in red, rosy pink and coppery orange at a couple of local nurseries, and they are great with that silvery grey foliage. Deadhead them, and they will go until the hard frost of November--really! I have photos from last year, and you may remember me extolling this plant's virtues in the past.
Obviously I have something about African daisies, or just daisies in general, because this is Osteospermum 'Astra Pink Yellow', definitely a star performer last year. I've read that some people don't like pink and yellow together, or find them problematic to match up--this plant solves that, and provides a colour combination that I found I really liked. Hopefully I'll locate this plant this year, because the cuttings I took didn't root.
I fell in love with Torenia, or wishbone flower, a couple of years ago when I saw this colour combination, so different from the usual purple-white or blue-white combinations. Maybe the wishbone doesn't show up as well--but I'm smitten with 'Yellow Moon' very much so!
Portulaca love the heat, and they will take it a bit drier than my climate gives them if planted in the ground. The solution has been to plant them out in containers; some go in a large hypertufa trough, others into terracotta containers along with annual ice plant (Mesembryanthemum) and still others get put into small black metal planters I picked up a few years ago. They bake nicely in these containers, and flower like maniacs, and I'm reminded of my mother's twin sister, my late aunt, whenever I see them, as they were a favourite flower of hers. And that's why I plant them and mollycoddle them a wee bit. This is 'Yubi Rose' at least I think it is!
While I LOVE Steve Silk's recipe for planting containers with Thrillers, Fillers & Spillers, I don't always follow that recipe, although this is a plant that I consider a thriller: Agastache, or Hummingbird Mint, in this case 'Acapulco Orange'. Everything about this plant makes me happy, from its lemon-minty scent to its floriferous, easy care nature, to the way it DOES act like a magnet for hummingbirds and other pollinators. I generally have it in rose as well as the salmony-orange, and several different companies have their own versions in shades of salmon through to magenta. This may well be perennial for others with better winter drainage or slightly less hostile winters, but I haven't overwintered it outside--so far!
Bacopas bored me until two years ago, when some savvy breeder produced a couple of cultivars with gold-green variegation in the foliage, as well as lavender flowers. This is Copia Golden Leaves, and I know I've raved about it before, but it truly was an outstanding annual, as you may remember from this first post on containers, where the snow-covered bacopa/sutera was still flowering in November. I've already sourced it for this year, and I'm not telling where--til I get mine home, of couse. Bwah hah hah!
It's been probably a decade since I first discovered lantana and was besotted with it. Not with its scent, that's for sure, which I find very unpleasant, but it sure is a butterfly magnet and does especially well in containers for me. It does need to be deadheaded, and although this is a photo of one of the Sorbet coloured types, I really like the stronger, hot-coloured ones. The problem I find is that each company has its own names for the various colours, and yet there's not always a lot of difference between the offerings of one company and another, so I get confused and forget ALL the cultivar names. Must be my age.
I was never a fan of ageratum until a couple of years ago when I discovered a deep wine coloured variety, (One was called Island Mist Magenta, but there was one with wine in the name, too. Same problem as with lantana). Then I discovered that I rarely use white in my containers, and the purity of the white ageratum really delighted me, so now I do at least one container in red and white, for the Canadian flag, or Red, white, blue and a splash of yellow, for the Acadian flag.
Don't forget foliage is a really important part of great containers, both in terms of colour and texture. Of course I've gotten fond of the brilliant sweet potato vines in their fiesta colours, and the newer coleus (despite their new genus name which sounds like sneezing) but there are a host of other intriguing plants, including Helichrysum (especially, for me, the Lime/lemon-lime types), begonias, Swedish ivies, oxalis and lysimachias. My favourite lysimachia is the deliciously named 'Walkabout Sunset', but the only photo I could find is below, with the container in the very back, full of nemesia I grew from seed and an orange callibrachoa that I loved. If time permits this week and I can find some of the missing photos (don't ask...), I'll do a second post on interesting annuals. Hopefully I'll discover some new annuals this year (or some old ones) that also make me happy. If spring ever comes, that is...