A couple of weeks back, I received my yearly trial pack of Proven Winners annuals: a giant box filled with six new introductions. Here they are, clockwise from top left: Superbena® Royale Chambray (Verbena hybrid), Golddust™ (Mecardonia hybrid), Lucia™ Lavender Blush (Lobelia hybrid), Supertunia® Pretty Much Picasso™ (Petunia hybrid), Slightly Strawberry™ (Anisodontea hybrid), Superbells® Blackberry Punch (Calibrachoa hybrid).
As I’ve mentioned before, I especially like receiving these boxes of plants because of the surprise factor. Often they aren’t plants I’d seek out in a nursery, but once I find a home for them in my garden, I quickly see their value. That’s been the case with the whole Proven Winners trial program; before I was “forced” (poor me) to find homes for them in my garden, I didn’t see the value in annuals. Now I like them – in moderation – for the instant punch of colour and easy care they offer.
This year’s box of plants arrived once my garden was pretty full up, so I decided to put all my eggs in one (hanging) basket.
This is the first time I’ve made a moss hanging basket from scratch (as opposed to planting into a plastic or wooden hanging basket container). Moss hanging baskets are usually made using a wire frame lined with peat moss, coir, or an artificial liner.
I used a Supamoss liner, which was clearly too small for my jumbo frame, but with a little added moss, it managed to hold in the soil. I don’t have more detailed photos of the process because, wow, was it messy. In a nutshell, starting near the bottom, I poked holes through the liner, inserted the plants, and topped up with soil. I worked my way upward, poking, planting, and filling, until I reached the top. Then I stuck a ‘Tumbler’ tomato in the centre, because apparently I can’t plant anything without it containing an edible.
I wasn’t thrilled with the look of the faux liner (especially with the gap at the top), so I covered the entire thing with moss. And damn, it looks fine.
Ta da! Can’t wait to see how it fills in.
Have you made a hanging basket this year? Share your photos on my new Facebook page!
One of the best things about being a garden writer is receiving plants to trial. Nurseries and growers send writers and other horticultural industry types their newest plant introductions so we can try them in our own gardens, provide feedback, and—hopefully—fall in love with them and rave about them to others.
I especially like receiving these boxes of plants because of the surprise factor. Often they aren’t plants I’d seek out in a nursery, but once I find a home for them in my garden, I quickly see their value.
That was certainly the case when Proven Winners sent me six of their new introductions earlier this year. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t have a lot of experience with annual bedding plants, (usually flowering plants grown for a seasonal display of colour). Perennials and edibles make up most of my plants, and although I usually tuck a few Euphorbia Diamond Frost® into the cool-toned bed adjacent to my front patio, annual flowers are nearly absent from my garden. Receiving an unexpected box of annuals forces you to rethink all that.
Take Petunia Pretty Much Picasso™ , for example. I’ve never grown petunias before, avoiding them simply because they are so, well, common. (I know, I’m a snob. Sue me.) But Picasso, from Proven Winners, is anything but ordinary. Its pinky-purple flowers are edged in lime green—one of my favourite colours in the garden. It’s a vigorous plant, trailing down the side of the tall container I have it in (along with rosemary, purple shiso, butterhead lettuce and golden variegated sage). It hasn’t stopped blooming since I planted it a few months back, nor has it needed deadheading. A real winner.
Now, I said I don’t buy many annuals, but I do have a weakness for foliage plants, and Ipomoea batatas (sweet potato vine) is queen of foliage in the world of annual bedding plants. (Well, perhaps coleus might have something to say about that, but I’ll let them duke it out.) Proven Winners has two new sweet potato vines coming out next spring: Illusion™ Midnight Lace and Illusion™ Emerald Lace (the “lace” in the name refers to their lacey leaf-shape). Here’s Midnight Lace, above, mingling with yet another Proven Winners new release called Diascia Flirtation® Orange in a colour combo your mother warned you about. I really like this diascia hybrid. Despite its name, it isn’t really a true, bright orange. It’s more a subtle salmon colour. It would be great in containers or hanging baskets. It’s bloomed non-stop since I received it.
Both of these new sweet potato vines (here’s Ipomoea Illusion™ Emerald Lace with Alchemilla mollis [Lady's Mantle] and Heuchera Dolce® Peach Melba) have more of a mounding habit than other ipomoeas I’ve grown. In fact, they’ve been rather slow growing, just slowly expanding rather than tumbling down in the cascading habit I’ve grown accustomed to in this species. This might be just what you’re looking for: I prefer the trailing variety.
The final two trial plants, Lobularia Snow Princess™ (sweet alyssium) and Lobelia Lucia™ Dark Blue found a home in an experimental hanging basket I put together. I say experiemental because it was a type of hanging basket I’d never used before; I also tried to use all edible plants (other than these two flowering annuals). You can see it hanging above my front patio in the above photo (that’s my neighbour’s yellow-and-red combo basket although it looks like they’re attached). I don’t feel like either of these plants got a fair trial in this container, which also contained purple shiso, chives, tricolour sage, strawberries, thyme, parsley, purple bush beans, nasturtium and sorrel. Lobelia Lucia™ Dark Blue was planted in the basket’s bottom pockets, which I found did not receive their share of water. As a result, they’ve limped along, barely alive (though still flowering!). Lobularia Snow Princess™ fared much better. It’s flowered continuously, and although it struggled a bit throughout the heatwave, it’s bounced back. Like all sweet alyssium, it attracts beneficial insects.
All of these plants will be available in spring 2010 wherever Proven Winners plants are sold.
I planted these ‘Music Box’ kneehigh sunflowers from Renee’s Garden in a corner bulge garden (a planting area the City makes available where there might otherwise be concrete or a hell strip) near my home.
I wanted to plant sunflowers in the garden – a hot, sunny location right across from an elementary school – because community gardens seem to need sunflowers, don’t you think? But because it’s at the corner of an intersection, the plants there had to be low-growing. Once upon a time, this might have ruled out sunflowers entirely.
Nowadays there’s a variety of dwarf sunflowers with impossibly cute names (Munchkin, Sundance Kid, Teddy Bear, etc). I chose ‘Music Box’ for its multi-branched, bicoloured blooms, and they didn’t disappoint. At less than a foot high, they provided the garden with that warm, carefree feeling sunflowers evoke – if not the impact of the traditional sky-high sunflower. I’ll plant them again next year: these were fun, super low-maintenance little plants that transformed an otherwise barren corner of my neighbourhood!