It doesn't take much arm twisting to get me to make a trip to our local independent garden center (IGC). In fact, I've been known to widely interpret loose suggestions from my wife as direct orders to go plant shopping post haste. Yesterday, when she mentioned that I hadn't planted anything in the "little boy planter" on our front porch, I assumed she meant I should rush right out and remedy the travesty immediately.
This time of year, I'm itching to freshen up the garden. Many of the early summer perennials are in their post-bloom green phase. There is still a good deal of color from the bedding annuals and containers planted in June, but the garden needs a little something new to carry it through to autumn. While the garden sections of the big box stores tend to be sparsely populated racks of dying plants by August, most independent garden centers still have good quality plants -- and a lot of great bargains to offer you as a customer.
This year, I hadn't planted the top part of our patio terrace because I'm still working on its overall design and hadn't decided what was going to work in the upper level. The empty bed has bothered me all summer, but hadn't found any solutions until I spotted these Boston ferns and Caladium during my trip to the IGC.
Plant shopping this time of year is a completely different experience than spring. In spring, I'm more focused on buying plants that are familiar, that I know will perform well in my garden. I'm more adventurous in late summer, looking to spread my gardening wings into new varieties and completely new genera. This container (an old clay pickle crock in which I drilled drainage holes) now holds four plants new to me -- Solenostemon 'Festive Dance', Begonia 'Black Fancy', Begonia 'Boyfriend' and Coprosma 'Tequila Sunrise'. All four plants can be easily grown indoors during the winter as well.
Along the southern edge of our property, I have a 10-12 foot daylily border that is rather nondescript after the lilies bloom. To spice it up a bit, I bought and potted up four plants -- Pennisetum Vertigo™, Carex 'Bronzita', Cyperus Baby Tut™ and Solenostemon Under the Sea™ 'Red Coral'. At this point the season, most annuals you can buy are much larger than those you buy in spring, so they'll fill a container more fully than you might expect. This 16" pot was overflowing with just four plants.
The driveway corner of our front border is one of my favorites in spring and early summer, but becomes a little bland by August. The addition of this vertical white pot and a few plants has completely changed how visitors to our home are greeted. The color and texture of the Canna, Hebe, Ipomoea and Portulaca stand out against the blue-grey backdrop of the Baptisia and blue spruce.
Lest you think I went on a plant shopping spree, but failed to fulfill my wife's initial suggestion, I found an adorable Lysimachia called Superstition™ for our little boy to hold on the front porch.
If your garden needs a little freshening, look no further than your local independent garden center. You'll most often find knowledgeable staff and a wide variety of good quality and well-maintained plants. Be sure to browse more than the clearance tables, too, as they are beginning to stock more woody ornamentals for fall planting and houseplants for the winter months.