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creating edible container garden

UPDATE: This blog post originally was published six-years-ago, and I still like to grow vegetables in pots. It’s hard to believe that my garden helper is now 16 years old and driving a car!

I hope you enjoy it!

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What type of plants comes to mind when you are planning what to plant in your containers?

I’m willing to bet that purple hopbush (Dodonaea viscosa ‘Purpurea’) and bush morning glory (Convolvulus cneorum) probably weren’t the first plants that came to mind.

Admittedly, I tend to think of using plants known for their flowers or succulents in my containers.  That is until a trip to California that I took this past April.

In the Napa Valley region of northern California, sits Cornerstone Sonoma, which describes itself as “a wine country marketplace featuring a collection of world-class shopping, boutique wine rooms, artisanal foods, art-inspired gardens.”

Believe me; it is all that and more.  There was so much to see, but what caught my attention were some unusual, yet beautifully planted containers.

Purple hopbush (Dodonaea viscosa ‘Purpurea’), shrubby germander (Teucrium fruiticans), and violas.
Square steel containers were filled with plants that are most well-known for their foliage and are seldom used in pots.

I was intrigued, especially when the plants used are a part of the southwestern plant palette.

There were quite a few things about this type of container planting that appealed to me.

One, it is low-maintenance – no deadheading required.  Just some light pruning 2 – 3 times a year, to control their size.

Second, the plants are all drought tolerant (with the exception of the violas).

Third, I like seeing new ways of doing things and using plants prized for their foliage in containers is something we don’t see too often.  

Fast forward a few months, and I had to rethink what to add to the large, blue planter by my front entry.  Why not try the same arrangement?


Granted, the plants are smaller than those I saw in California, but given a few months, they should grow in nicely.

As you can see, purple hopbush will grow taller, and its evergreen foliage will add both shades of purple and green to this space.  This shrub is one of those highly-prized plants that does well in both sun and filtered shade.

The silvery gray foliage of bush morning glory will create great color contrast with the darker greens of the other plants.  It may not flower much in this semi-shady corner, but I primarily want it for the color of its leaves.

Lastly, I wanted to use a plant that had bright green foliage, so I added a single foxtail asparagus fern (Asparagus densiflorus Myers), which will thrive in this semi-shady exposure. 

What plants, that are known for their foliage, would you use in containers? 

To read more about my trip to Cornerstone Sonoma and its gardens, click here

Have you ever thought of fruits, herbs or even vegetables as ornamental plants?  

Often the characteristics that make edible plants appeal to our appetite, can also add beauty to the garden making edible plants a great choice for the garden as they can do double duty as ornamentals.

I am always struck by how edible plants are increasingly used to create beautiful garden spaces.

I’ve recently shared several of my favorite examples from my own garden as well as in during garden travels for Houzz.

I hope you are inspired to look at edible plants in a new light.

Do you like to container garden?


I do.  


I have annual flowers, herbs, succulents and vegetables growing in a variety of containers around my garden.


Containers are a great way to expand the boundaries of your garden.  Even if you don’t have any piece of earth to grow a plant in, you can create a garden in a pot.


A couple of weeks ago, I saw some beautiful containers at a client’s home.


As you can see, they weren’t being used except to hold a child’s pool toy.

The pots were from Italy – Tuscany to be exact.

The pots had come from her husband’s restaurant, which had recently had their landscape redesigned and no longer needed the pots.  So, he brought the pots home where they have sat ever since.

My client mentioned that she was trying to get rid of them and did I know of anyone who would want them?

Are you kidding me?

Of course, I knew of someone who would want them….me!

Now, I just had to figure out how to get them to my house.  These pots were big and heavy.  But, I knew of at least two strong men who would maybe help me out.


My husband and nephew were kind enough to come out on a very hot afternoon and help me out.


The pots were quite heavy, but they were able to get them up into our truck bed with a little help from me.


The pots were a little heavier than we expected, but finally we got all three up into the truck.

On the way home, we stopped by a Dairy Queen for ice cream sundaes and to cool off.


I can’t believe that I didn’t have to pay anything for these pots, saving me hundreds of dollars.  

Of course, I am so thankful for the generosity of my client. 

Now I just have to figure out what to plant in them.  I will be using them in my back garden, which I hope to re-design this winter.

What would you plant in them?  I’d love to hear your ideas…

Come back tomorrow, when I will begin sharing a week’s worth of unique containers that I hope you enjoy!

Day 6 of our road trip began with gray, dreary skies and a chilly breeze.  


We decided to spend our time in Madison, Wisconsin by seeing the Olbrich Botanical Gardens, which were rated as the #1 attraction by Trip Advisor.


As we left our hotel, we were faced by roads under construction.  



Summer is the time for all road construction throughout the midwest because cold, wintery conditions are not conducive to construction.


Once we arrived at the gardens, we were greeted by the sight of containers filled with a combination of edible and ornamental plants.

I love how the blue of the lobelia contrasts with the bright green of the parsley and ‘Red Sail’ lettuce.


Cabbage is one of my favorite edible plants to add to containers.  

All of these edible plants can be grown in pots in my southwestern garden, but are planted in fall, not spring like in Wisconsin.

During this trip, we have visited three botanical gardens and have not spent one dime on admission fees.

Why?

Most major botanical gardens have a reciprocal admissions if you belong as long as you are a member of your local botanical garden and they are part of the reciprocal program.
At first glance, the gardens were beautiful and I couldn’t wait to start exploring.


The gardens have bee hives located in out of the way areas, which are filled with Italian bees that are said to be rather docile.

The bees play an important part in pollinating the flowering plants throughout the gardens.  The honey that is sometimes sold in the garden gift store


The individual gardens are spaced around ‘The Great Lawn’ which is a large circular grass area where concerts are held.  

The first garden I explored was the ‘Meadow Garden’.  This garden is sustainable and very low-maintenance.  

It is filled with drought-tolerant grasses along with wildflowers and flowering bulbs.  What I really liked about the garden is that it does not need supplemental water or fertilizer.  

Maintenance is limited to mowing twice a year.

What I didn’t like about the garden, was the mosquitos.  But, I came prepared and they mostly left me alone.


Walking on, I wanted to explore the herb garden because they play a huge part in my own garden.  


The entry to the herb garden is quite formal.  Boxwood hedges border the center garden area.


Edible plants combine with ornamentals for beautiful container plantings.


I love flowering chives and how they used them as a border.

Varieties of mint and thyme were nicely displayed and the herb garden also had herbs used for dyes.

*The brown plants in the background are recovering from the severe winter with new green growth slowly coming back.




This bed of flowering annuals was completed edged in flowering chives.



A Thai pavilion dominated the center of the Thai garden, which brought back memories for my mother who spent a few months in Thailand as a young woman.
While tropical plants cannot survive a midwest winter – the plants used in this area had a tropical appearance with large leaves while also being cold-hardy.


The bridge that connects the Thai Garden to the rest of the garden, crosses over Starkweather Creek, which bisects the garden.


People can canoe or kayak up 5 miles from this side of the bridge.



Boats can dock on the other side of the bridge and the creek leads out to Lake Monona.




This area is called the Sunken Garden, which is gently sloped so that rainwater flows toward the lake.




The formal water feature was flanked by two container plantings, which were quite contemporary in style.




The pond had beautiful yellow and purple flowering Japanese iris.




Vines were used in different ways throughout the garden.


A tree provided needed support for a clematis vine with its maroon flowers.




 Years ago, I tried growing clematis in our first home.  It did grow, but never flowered.  I learned later that it gets too hot in the desert for clematis.




Another clematis was flowering next to a beautiful host underneath a tree.




I love pink flowers, don’t you?




Wisteria was growing up on arbors and I never tire of viewing their lovely flowers and inhaling their heavenly fragrance.




The vision of a rose climbing upward always makes me want to go home and grow one up the side of my house.


Have you ever heard of ‘Paper Birch’ trees?

Their bark peels off in perfect sheets that is sometimes used to wrap around decorative candles.

I have always had a special place in my heart for birch trees.  Growing up in a Los Angeles suburb, we had three growing in our front yard.  I have always loved their white bark and bright-green leaves.


Underneath these birch trees was an interesting ornamental grass called dormitor quaking sedge (Carex brizoides).  I like how it lays down making it look like green waves underneath the trees.


 Walking near the Perennial Garden, I spotted a blue-flowering plant that looked rather familiar.


It turned out to be a blue-flowering variety of autumn sage (Salvia greggii), ‘Blue Note’.


Can you imagine how patriotic a planting of red, white and blue autumn sage plants would look?


Here is another lovely edible, ornamental container that caught my eye, using kale.


Don’t you just want to sit down and relax in this area?


Pale-pink bee balm (Monarda species)  was the only flower in this area of the garden, but it was more then enough alongside the ornamental grasses.


Sometimes less is more.




Walking on a paved area, I saw a planting of perennials right in the middle.  


Interestingly, there was no border or any clearly delineated space.  Just an opening without pavers where plants seemingly come up in the middle of a sea of pavers.


I kind of like this idea.  How about you?




If you have been reading my road trip posts, then you have probably noticed my obsession with peonies, which don’t grow in the desert.


Wherever we go, I see shrubs covered with gorgeous blooms.  




Well, Olbrich Gardens were no exception.


I must have taken over 100 photos of all the different blooming peony varieties that they had.




From a distance, peonies resemble bushes filled with roses.


However, once you get closer, you notice the the leaves have a different shape and so do the unopened blossoms, which are shaped into balls.




Their petals tend to be more ruffled then roses.




And, their blossoms are huge!


We spent a lovely morning in the gardens, but it was time to hit the road for our next destination.


On my way out, I noticed an outdoor eating area with centerpieces made from plants that I was quite familiar with…




(Agave americana var. medio picta) was the center point of numerous succulent containers.


It wasn’t unusual to see succulent plants in many of the gardens we visited.  While they do fine in the summer months, they need to be brought indoors and protected during the cold months of the year.


 After taking 334 pictures of the gardens (seriously), it was time to hit the road.


Whenever possible, we try to stay off of main highways and focus on using smaller highways that run through small towns and countryside.

The Wisconsin countryside is green.  I mean really green!


Dairy farms dotted the landscape along with beautiful scenery.  We thoroughly enjoyed our journey.



Tomorrow, we spend time along the towns by the Mississippi River before heading toward Minnesota Amish country.


**I wanted to thank those of you who have left such wonderful comments.  I appreciate them so much!



Fall is here and nurseries are stocked with all sorts of cool-season annual flowers.

So, my question to you is, what will you plant your annual flowers in this fall?
Will you use a ‘regular’ container?


Or, maybe you are the type who likes to do things a little differently?

Maybe one of these unusual planters is more your style?

An old bicycle basket finds new purpose as a planter in Noblesville, Indiana.

Marigolds planted in an old wheelbarrow along Route 66 in Williams, Arizona.

Old pots and bowls used to plant miniature gardens in an antique store in upstate New York.

Old chairs transformed into planters in the historic downtown of Noblesville, Indiana.

A ‘bed’ of flowering bulbs in Amish country in Shipshewana, Indiana.

An old bathtub serves as a large planter in downtown Asheville, North Carolina.

Galvanized metal bucket containers at an Amish swap meet.

I was fortunate enough to have seen all of these unique planters throughout my travels.  But, it was these galvanized bucket containers that inspired me to purchase an old antique watering can and create my own unique container for flowers…


 I found this rusty watering can in an antique store in Prescott, Arizona and I knew just where I would put it in my garden.

I added some holes on the bottom, and filled it with violas, lobelia and alyssum.   It sits right in the middle of my side vegetable garden where I can see it from my kitchen window.

I hope you enjoyed seeing a few of the unusual planters from my travels.

**I would love to hear about any unique items that you have seen transformed into planters 🙂

Welcome to the second edition of “AZ Plant Lady  House Calls.  


Earlier this month, I shared with you a landscape dilemma that a homeowner needed help with.  I was able to help her find a solution that would introduce color and herbs to a sunny corner of her garden. 


Well, this same homeowner had another problem area.



This shady area lies next to her sliding glass door and she has had a tough time getting anything to grow in this area.  

You can see some straggly Vinca minor and a raised container growing a few weeds. 
I have rarely seen nice-looking Vinca minor growing in our area – so it is not a plant I recommend.

The homeowner wanted a plant for her container that would flourish along with a flowering groundcover.

What would you do in this area?

Believe it or not, it can be hard to find a plant that can handle our hot, dry temperatures that can also do well in shady areas.  But, there are a few.


Recommendation: Purchase an orange-colored container to add some color to this area and plant a Mother-in-law’s Tongue (Sanseveria trifasciata) in the container.  

For an extra decorative touch, you can add black pebbles on the top of the planting soil.

This tropical plant will add height and texture and is very easy to grow.  *Protect from freezing temperatures by bringing them indoors.

Years ago, I worked for a golf course community that had large containers in full shade by the front doors of the clubhouse.  After trying many different kinds of plants – this was the one that did the best.


Around the base of the raised container, I recommended planting 5 Mexican Heather (Cuphea hyssopifolia).

These do great in light shade and bloom off and on all year.  They grow well in zones 9 – 11.


The leaves are small and so are the flowers on this groundcover that grows approximately 1 foot tall and 2 feet wide.

The purple flowers will provide great contrast to the new orange container.

Both the Mother-in-law’s Tongue and Mexican Heather are low-maintenance and will flourish in this shady spot.

So, what do you think of this solution? Do you have a shady area where you have a hard time growing anything?

I hope you enjoyed the latest edition of “AZ Plant Lady Virtual House Call”.  I will be posting more in the future in the hopes that I can help you with an issue you may be facing in your own garden.

Last week, I hinted at the garden video that I created for the folks at Troybilt as part of my paid partnership with the ‘Saturday 6’.


In the past, I have been in gardening videos, but I had a film crew who did all the filming and editing for the videos for their website.


This time, there was no film crew.  I was asked to create a homemade ‘how-to’ video for Troybilt on a gardening subject that I selected.


I decided to create a video on one of my favorite subjects…

“How to grow vegetables with ornamental plants in containers.”



The video is supposed to be amateurish and not polished.  I can assure you that I fulfilled their requirements.  There is no way that anyone can mistake my video as professionally done.


But, I had fun and I hope you like it.




 




I hope you enjoyed the grand tour of my edible garden that I created in my side yard.


Today, I would like to show what is happening in my original vegetable garden…


As you can see, there is a lot growing in this area.

Among the vegetables is a giant sunflower, pots filled with ornamental plants AND vegetables and hollyhocks that have finished flowering can be seen alongside the garden.

Off to the right side, you can see my container corn.

And yes, those are plastic patio chairs inside my vegetable garden.  (I’ll explain why later.)


This edible garden is actually made up of three parts.  My original vegetable garden was a fenced in square space.  Like many gardeners who like to grow their own food, I realized that I needed more space – so we added on an extension a couple of years ago…


The third part of my edible garden consists of vegetables growing in containers along with ornamental plants…



I currently have zucchini growing in the closest pot along with a jalapeño plant, parsley and sweet potato vines.

The middle pot is filled with a Thai pepper plant, chives, cucumber, celosia and kangaroo paw.

The third (and my most favorite container) has a bell pepper plant, cinnamon basil, green & purple sweet potato vines, dianthus and angelita daisy growing inside.


The outer vegetable garden is filled with sunflowers and bush beans.

Our family loves to eat ‘string beans’.  They are easy to grow and to freeze for later.


Here is something that you may not know about growing beans.  “They make their own nitrogen, so you don’t need to add any nitrogen fertilizer.”  

In fact, if fertilize them with a fertilizer that contains nitrogen – it can cause them to grow beautiful leaves, but not beans.  That is because there needs to be a balance between the other major nutrients – phosphorus and potassium.

If you do apply a fertilizer, make sure that contains a low amount of nitrogen.

I have lots of cucumbers growing in the original vegetable garden along with a couple of pumpkin plants.

As a child, I grew up calling cucumbers ‘gurkens’, which is what they are called in German.  I spent some time when I was young, in Germany, visiting my grandparents while my grandfather was working over there.

I love cucumbers and we eat them 3 or 4 times a week.


It can be a little hard to spot ripe cucumbers.  Most of my cucumber plants are growing up onto the trellis, but sometimes you can find cucumbers growing on the ground.  You need to move the leaves aside to see them.

I like to eat cucumbers with salad, using my grandmother’s top secret’ salad dressing recipe.

I only wish that I could grow cucumbers and leaf lettuce at the same time….


Okay, back to the patio chairs sitting in my garden.

Why on earth would I place chairs in my garden?

Well, they are an easy way to provide shade for vegetables that quickly wilt in the full sun.


And so, that is what is going on in my edible gardens this summer.

**I am excited to share with you a gardening video that I made for Troybilt as a part of my involvement with the ‘Saturday 6″.
I’ll debut it for you on Monday 🙂

In my last post, “Pots, Trash and Goodbyes“, I talked about how I bought some new glazed pots for my front entry.


You would expect that planting pots is pretty straight forward.  But, what many of you didn’t expect was the ‘trash’ that I put in the bottom of my containers.


You can see that the trash at the bottom of this pot consists of mostly recyclable trash such as milk cartons, soda and pasta bottles.

So why on earth would someone put trash in the bottom of a pot?

Here is a clue…


Have you bought potting mix lately?

It is expensive AND many pots are so large, that plant’s roots don’t reach down to the bottom.

So, why waste all that expensive, unused soil at the bottom?


Because this pot was to be filled with shallow-rooted annuals and perennials – I filled the bottom third of the pot with empty plastic containers.

I not only have saved myself money, but my pot also weighs a lot less then if I had filled the entire pot with soil.


If you are planting shrubs, trees or other deep-rooted plants, then you need a lot of soil for the roots to grow into – so, don’t use this trick for these types of plants.

The next time you plant containers, be sure to raid your recycle bin first for ‘trash’.

**You can also use foam packing peanuts in place of empty plastic containers.

**************************

Thank you all for your kind words of support as my daughter, Rachele, left for basic training yesterday.

We got a 1-minute phone call, telling us she was okay and that we would receive a letter in one week and a phone call in three.

My sister-in-law attended her swearing in ceremony in downtown Phoenix just before she boarded a plane for basic training.

She got her hair cut ahead of time.
Rachele didn’t want her dad and I to go because she said it would be too hard for her not to be sad and cry.  So, I was happy that my sister-in-law, who worked nearby, was able to go and support her and take photos for us all to see.

We are all starting to write her letters and the ones that the kids wrote are so sweet and just break my heart because they miss her already.