Posts Tagged ‘Container Gardening’

Hostas as Potted Plants

Icon Written by Wayne on October 1, 2010 – 12:01 am

One question we are asked often is if you can grow hostas as container plants? The answers is sure, why not. Hostas can be successfully grown in any well drained container. We have a number of potted hostas in our home gardens, sometimes for the visual appeal but more often because we have no where else to put them.

The advantage is that containers make your hostas portable, have pot will travel so to speak. Be sure to provide soil with adequate drainage, we prefer compost, so the roots do not rot. If compost is not available you will want to make sure the planting soil you use has some form of time release fertilizer included or added, since watering frequently leaches nutrients,

The containers need to be large enough to allow for root and plant growth. Potted hostas should have enough holes to ensure good drainage. The holes themselves should be covered with rocks, wire screening, or porous matter so that the growing mix does not slip through the drainage holes. Since we always seem to have several broken clay pots lying around we use these shards. As hostas grow larger, they should be transplanted into larger pots to prevent them from becoming root-bound.

Containers cannot be left outdoors for the winter or the plants will rot. In winter the containers should be placed in a location away from overhead moisture. An unheated garage works for us. Ideally, hostas should be kept at 30 to 40 degrees during winter months. When plants begin to grow in the Spring, they should not be placed outside until danger of frost has passed. You can put them outside during the day, or when temperatures are above freezing, but the plants should be brought in if frost is forecast.

We find it much simpler to replant our potted hosta back into the ground in the Fall. Sometimes we bury the entire pot in the ground, this way the plant is ready to go the following spring without experiencing transplant shock.

So go ahead be creative with your hostas, just keep the drainage good and the pots well watered. Have fun, this is what gardenning is all about.

Tips of the Month

We are often asked what should we do if we cannot plant our order immediately? What we do when we receive a hosta order when it is difficult or inconvenient for us to plant we simply refrigerate them. Unwrap the plants to determine if the roots are still moist, they are, rewrap them and refrigerate. If the roots are dry soak them for a few hours and re-wrap them being careful to make sure they are just damp and not soggy. The length of time you may successfully refrigerate hostas is directly related to how far the leaves have emerged. If the hosta leaves are just starting to emerge they may be stored for several weeks. If the foliage is more mature you’ll have to plant them after a few days.

Flower of the Month


Hosta Hybrid ‘Sagae’

It is an upright, vase-shaped, large hosta with a satiny blue-grey leaf and a very wide creamy border, remains the finest and most dramatic variegated hosta ever introduced! The pale lavender flowers top the 6 foot wide clump on 60 inch scapes in summer. We have grown this variety for a number of years and it still amazes us with is steady performance..

Web Site of the Month

Plant Delights Nursery

A mail order firm specializing in unusual perennials. The on-line catalog features an amazing number of perennials, including a wide variety natives plants. They have a special focus on “ amorphophallus, arisaema, asarum, cannas, crinum lilies, epimediums, ferns, hardy palms, hardy ginger lilies, helleborus, heuchera, hosta, lobelia, ornamental grasses, pulmonaria, solomon’s seal, tiarella, verbena, and zephyranthes”. We have been purchasing from them for a number of years and have never been disappointed.

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Banana Trees in the Northern Garden

Icon Written by Wayne on November 1, 2009 – 12:01 am

Last Summer, while making a quick trip to Lowe’s to pick up some lumber, we happened to notice a display of small potted banana trees. We could not believe they were trying to sell these tropical plants in Michigan. What a joke, we thought, with our cool Spring weather much less our early Fall. There just was no way these tiny plants would ever have a chance to survive much less reach maturity.

Banana Tree

Banana Tree

Needless to say we ended up buying one. We planted it in what we call our “Tropical Garden” which consists of one Sago Palm and a few Taro plants. These we over-winter in the living-room in front of the French doors. In the Spring we bring them outside and plant them around a small water feature. Not a big problem, as they are only about the size of a large houseplant and require little care. Little did we know how this would change.

We started to worry a few weeks later when our “little banana plant” was almost three foot tall “and growing.” By September, we new we were in trouble as it was well over six foot tall “and growing.” In late October, when we were bringing in the taro and palm we resigned ourselves to the fact that our banana experiment was headed to a tragic end as it was now over eight foot “and growing.”

In November, with the first frost forecasted we said good bye to our friend the “ the little banana tree.” Alas we just could not do it, nightfall found us trying to fit a very large banana tree in the front door. The banana tree’s new home was next to the Sago Palm and Taro in front of the French doors, “ and was still growing,”

It is now late January and our little tree is “still growing.” Spring cannot come quick enough.

 Tips of the Month

We planted our banana tree on a lark! Looking back we have enjoyed every minute of it, even the mad dash to get it in before the first frost. You can practically see it grow as the leaves unfold. We are not sure what we will do with it next Fall as this unnamed specimen will be too big to bring in again, but we sure have enjoyed it.

That said, start by learning more about the available species than we did. A key factor to success when it comes to banana growing is to choose the right species. In our cold weather in Michigan you must choose a banana tree that will not get too big for your home.

The first priority to consider when growing banana is to use the proper soil. It is very important to use a well draining soil mixture Do not use heavy soils when growing banana such as potting soil, or soil from a yard. Plant the banana rhizome upright and be sure the roots are well covered and the rhizome has about 1/2 inch of the base covered with soil.

We advise that you water and fertilize banana at the same time using any type of balanced fertilizer to help grow banana. Bananas are heavy feeders so we suggest that you fertilize very lightly each time that you water. After your initial watering we would not water again until your soil is dry to a one inch depth. Please do not expect this to be a plant that you “water once a week”. Bananas like high humidity, hot, dry air will destroy the leaves.

Grow banana in bright light, 10-12 hours of light are ideal for most varieties. In northern areas grow bananas in containers remembering that they like to be root bound. Transplant to a larger container when your plant is quite crowded. Never plant it in a container without a drain hole.

Flower of the Month

Pink Velvet Banana

Pink Velvet Banana

Musa velutina “Pink Velvet Banana” is a hardy banana that is often found in the garden. Rarely exceeding six feet tall it produces many flower stalks near the top of the trunk, starting in late Summer. The colorful dark pink inflorescence and fuzzy pink fruits are great for flower arrangements. It likes rich soil and regular applications of fertilizer during the Spring and Summer. Keep well watered during hot periods. It prefers medium shade, but tolerates sun. Once established, they seem to be quite winter-hardy. Makes a nice focal point for a tropical or subtropical patio or courtyard. Excellent as a container plant.

Web Site

Plant Delights Nursery is a mail order firm specializing in unusual perennials. Their catalog features a wide variety of native perennials, as well as their Asian counterparts. The nursery opened in 1991 after years of plant collecting and selling at small back yard sales. The on-line catalog features well over 1000 different perennials. Many of the plants listed are their own introductions. Their plants are not just botanical novelties, but good noninvasive garden plants. We have never bought a bad plant from these people.

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Growing Speciality Tomatoes

Icon Written by Wayne on May 1, 2009 – 12:01 am

In Past Yard Talks we have talked about the red slicing tomato, cherry tomato, and the tasty Heirlooms. There are still a lot of varieties that are grown for other reasons. Some are grown for their long keeping qualities while others because they make good sauce or salsa. Some are designed for the apartment dweller or the patio.

Here are a few varieties that you may wish to try:

  1. file4Red Grape is a bite-size, firm, oval-shaped grape tomato that is bright red and bursting with flavor. It has outstanding color, flavor, texture, and preferred small size.

  2. file0Fresh Salsa is for salsa lovers. You can chop this tomato into tiny cubes that remain perfectly firm and solid yet also sweet. Large, plum-shaped and dripless, all meat, ideal for salsas, bruschettas and Italian sauces.

  3. file12Bush Steak Hybrid is the best of the large patio tomatoes, exceptional taste, size and quantity. This surprisingly compact plant is just loaded with large flavorful tomatoes. It combines big meaty fruit and early maturity on a dwarf plant, perfect for small garden and patio containers.

  4. file21Red October Hybrid’s fruits can hang a long time on the vine without softening or losing flavor. The first long shelf life tomato with the indeterminate plant habit that goes hand in hand with top-notch taste. Harvested fully ripe in fall, they will keep 3-4 weeks longer than other varieties.

  5. file31Tumbler Hybrid is the best tomato for hanging baskets and containers. It produces up to 6 pounds of sweet, bright red cherry tomatoes.

While you may not be able to locate all of these at your local nursery, they all can be purchased from seed at Burpee’s, Johnny’s Selected Seeds, or Territorial. These companies have been highlighted in past issues of Yard Talk and have links on our web site.


Tomato Tips of the Month

Making your own dried tomatoes is very simple and certainly is much less expensive than purchasing them at the grocery store.

  1. The first thing is to pick the correct tomatoes, you want small meaty tomatoes for drying such as Fresh Salsa or one of the plum tomatoes.
  2. Carefully wash and dry your tomatoes. Cut the fruits in half lengthwise, you can remove seeds if you like, but it is not necessary. Larger tomatoes should be cut into one inch slices. Cutting a slit in the skin side of the tomato will help accelerate the drying process.
  3. Drain your tomatoes on paper towels and then place the halves skin side down on the racks of your dehydrator, leaving enough space between the pieces for the air to circulate. You can salt them at this time for a little more flavor and the salt will help to draw the liquid from them.
  4. Drying tomatoes in your dehydrator may take from 6 to 12 hours, depending on the thickness of your slices.
  5. To oven dry, place your tomatoes by putting them in single layers on wire racks. Your oven temperature should be between 140 and 150 degrees and prop the door open slightly. Oven drying will take from 12 to 24 hours. Do keep checking on them and remove ones that are done.
  6. The tomatoes are dried when they are leathery, but non-sticky. They should not be hard and brittle or moist. The drying process will concentrate all the flavor in the juice.
  7. Store your tomatoes in glass jars with an airtight lid, stored at room temperature in a cool, dark place. They will keep this way for up to 12 months before the flavor, nutrition and flavor will begin to decline.
  8. To rehydrate your tomatoes, soak them for 5 to 10 minutes in hot water.

Here is one of our favorite uses of dried tomatoes:

Toasted Baguettes with Mozzarella and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

1 baguette
Olive oil
6 ounces thinly sliced or shredded Mozzarella
16 sun-dried tomatoes, drained
Basil leaves

Thinly slice the baguette and arrange them on a baking sheet. Brush the top side of each slice lightly with olive oil, then broil the slices until golden and toasty.

Spread each bread slice with a portion of the mozzarella, then top with a sun-dried tomato and basil leaf. Bake in 450-degree oven just until the cheese has melted, about 5 minutes.

Flower of the Month

file41The Burpee Big Boy Tomato Flower is one of the prettiest of this plant species. It has a clear yellow shade darkening toward the center. We have found it very fragrant, attracting bees and other insects.

Featured Web Site

erritorial SeedTerritorial Seed has been serving the seed gardener for over twenty years, offering a wide selection of seeds. We were particularly impressed with its large selection of garlic sets, over ten varieties. Visit their site to see the results of the 2004 Great Northwest Tomato Taste-Off.

Growing Roses in Containers

Icon Written by Geoff on April 1, 2004 – 7:41 pm

In our previous Yard Talk on Old Roses we mentioned that we dug up all of our Hybrid Tea Roses and moved them across the garden. We jokingly said how much easier this would have been if the roses were in containers. Faced with the task once again the joke just may be on us. 

There definitely are some advantages in growing roses in containers. In our case we could have easily moved the plants as the growing conditions changed, namely the trees got bigger and the sunlight less. We could simply pick up the plants and plop them down in a new spot. 

Not everyone has room in their yard for a rose garden, but most gardens have room for at least a few containers, even apartment and condominium dwellers. Container-growing is great for people who love to grow roses, but only have pavement or gravel surrounding their homes. If you need to move to a different apartment or even city, you can simple pack them and bring them along. 

Potted roses can be easily moved about to change the design effect or layout. You can even move the containers around to showcase those which are now blooming or to complement another plant or setting. Roses grown in containers offer gardeners the flexibility of blending roses into their garden landscapes even as the seasons change. 

Container growing simplifies winter protection, where winter cold is a problem, you simply move the plant to the shelter of a porch, garage, or basement. This can greatly simplify Fall maintenance. Just think, no more cutting back, banking or installing those funny white Styrofoam Winter hats! 

When roses are grown in containers, water and food can be delivered to the rose alone, it does not have to compete with other plants or trees. Since the rose is off the ground and can be spun around allowing food and water to be applied more uniformly. You will find spraying easier too! Sickly roses can be moved quickly to another area for doctoring. 

Planting in containers provides us the opportunity to refresh the soil frequently. We can now repot roses as we would any other plant, thus assuring it of having the best possible growing medium. This is particularly important in growing roses which are such heavy feeders. 

Growing roses in containers can be done by gardeners with physical limitations. Pots can be elevated or placed on movable carts to increase accessibility. Where the gardener cannot go to the plant the plant can be brought to the gardener. 

Whether you decide to grow just one rose in a single decorative pot or a garden filled with beautiful container roses it adds a whole new dimension to rose gardening. We strongly suggest you give it a try.

Fall Container Gardening

Icon Written by Geoff on October 1, 1999 – 4:59 pm

Well, here it is fall again in the gardens. It just seems like yesterday we were all sitting around the kitchen table watching the spring rains washing away the last traces of winter’s snow. Their are just so many tasks we still must do before winter shows itself again. Flowers to be dried, nuts and berries to be harvested, roses to be winterized, and tender plants to be potted and brought in. We have been using more containers in the garden the last few seasons. Container gardening allows you to grow plants in places where in-ground gardening is not practical or possible, such as patios, terraces, balconies, decks, porches and rooftops. Since container gardens are portable, you can simply move the containers to a frost free location. We usually manage to bring in a few spiders, crickets, toads and an occasional chipmunk. 

Gardening in containers is ideal for people with limited garden space or a lack of time for gardening. Containers provide splashes of color throughout the yard and can be planted with mixtures of flowers, herbs and vegetables. Need some color for that evening patio party? Simply move in the container plants. A little more rearranging and you have a bright cheery nook for the morning brunch. Stack them on blocks, bury them in the ground, hide them away in the permanent plants, their use is only limited by your imagination. 

Gardening in Containers is an exciting option for those who:

  • Have small spaces for gardening.
  • Want colorful accents to place around the home or apartment.
  • Cannot comfortably kneel or bend.
  • Have limited mobility.
  • For busy gardeners, cooks, plant lovers.

Thanks to containers, just about anyone can have a garden. Even apartment dwellers without a garden plot nurture miniature flower beds in window boxes safely secured to sills and ledges. Container-grown succulents and small trees are also likely to be moved from here to there, filling gaps as the season progresses. In island beds, a single antique urn becomes an eye catching centerpiece; smaller pots and recycled containers, on the other hand, look best displayed in groups, near the base of an outdoor staircase. 

These days, the choice of containers is limited only by a gardener’s imagination. Graniteware basins, food-storage tins, shoes, baseball caps, and a host of other flea-market finds look no less charming than a costly hand blown glass container. We still like the old time hand thrown clay pots for our garden, they seem to have a charm of their own. No matter what your container choice is, all pots must have good drainage. Without it, roots rot and plants die. 

Do not use garden soil for containers! Even the best garden soil is not the right choice for container growing. They will not provide adequate drainage and contain disease organisms, bacteria, and weed seeds. Garden soils also compact into heavy masses, preventing root respiration and fertilizer absorption. Your mix should be light and airy. It should retain moisture and nutrients and be quick to drain. To reduce root rot problems, use the same mix throughout the pot. While you can mix your own, we would suggest using a commercial mix such as Redi-Earth or Jiffy Mix. Unless you use large amounts or enjoy working with different soils it is just easier and more economical to purchase a mix. A good list of soil recipes, soil blends or potting soil recipes can also be found at the Backyard Gardener’s site at 

Plants in containers need frequent watering. They may require several waterings a day during very hot weather. Soil in containers dries out much more rapidly than soil in the garden. The best way to decide when to water is to check every day by inserting your fingers into the top few inches of soil. Clay or terra cotta containers dry out faster than plastic containers, with baseball caps and sneakers somewhere between. Moisture retenders can be added to the soil that grab and hold large amounts of water molecules and then slowly release it. They greatly increase the moisture retention of the soil without clogging it up. They are available under a range of brand names, such as “Water Grabber.” In very dry locations you can put one container inside another larger container and pack the space between with gravel, dry peat, or perlite to slow loss through the sides of the pot. 

Container plant roots cannot grow deeper or spread out in search of food. You must compensate for their smaller root area by feeding them more frequently. Use a well-balanced fertilizer such as “Miracle Gro,” or “Rapid Gro.” Organic gardeners will have fine results with a combination of manure tea or fish emulsion and liquid kelp. Be sure that whatever fertilizer you use, it is well-balanced and contains not only nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, but essential trace elements as well. Shepherd’s Seeds has a wonderful informative web page on container gardening at that we recommend going to. 

We always dread having to bring in all the house plants and other container grown plants, there just never seems to be enough room. Of course, it does not help that not only have the numbers increased through the years but, our collection now includes a few trees. Then again, as we look out over late winters’ landscape, dull and grey, it is good to have some green things around.

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