Plant Profile: Angelonia Serena Purple

I’m in love with an annual. It doesn’t produce food to eat and it dies when the cold weather arrives but I still love it. It’s Angelonia Serena Purple. It’s clear purple flowers are stunning in containers or when paired with other sun loving annuals or perennials. Look at the blooms.

angelonia serena

 

I can hear the oohs and ahhs from here. Stunning, am I right? The Angelonia Serena series reaches 12″ to 18″  tall and is perfect for the front of the border. You can use them in a clump as a specimen planting or interplant them with other annuals and allow them to mingle. In the picture above, they are used in large containers with Canna ‘Tropicanna’ as the centerpiece. They anchor the lower portion of the container and provide great balance. Here’s a picture of the planter to give you an idea:

angelonia serena

 

As a side note, I’m really digging the purple and orange theme this year. The Angelonia Serena series comes in a range of colors including purple, lavender, pink and white. One of the most attractive features of Angelonia is that they don’t require deadheading. They just bloom and bloom until a good frost takes them out. Plant them in full sun or very light shade and they will reward you with blooms all season.

Have you grown Angelonia before? Many people aren’t familiar with them but I hope that you will give them a try if you haven’t in the past. Leave me a comment below or e-mail me about your experience. If you enjoy being part of the Mid-Atlantic Gardening community, join our e-mail list (upper right hand corner of this page), become a fan on Facebook and follow me on Twitter. Happy gardening!

 

Plant Profile: Plant Combinations for Your Containers

Today’s post is going to be a fun one…for me anyway. Sometimes I get bogged down with all of the horrible pests and diseases that can affect the plants that we adore so much. Or I spend too much time researching GMOs and think about how horrible our industrialized food production model has become. But today, today is going to be great. I want to look at plant combinations for your containers. Oooo-la-la!

I’ve been putting together annual plant combinations for years and it never gets boring. They are so delightful and brimming with excitement. To see a full grown container after it has filled in is a work of art. Of course, many of these combinations are easily duplicated in the ground as well and there’s nothing that says that you can’t mix perennials in too. In fact, if you have extra perennials from dividing them, stick a few in the pot and see what happens…you’re sure to be delighted!

plant combinations

In this container, I’ve used Persian Shield (the tall purple guy in the middle) with two different types of Calibrachoa (Million Bells). I love that these plant combinations all focus attention back on the Persian Shield. The yellow Calibrachoa is just enough to offset the magenta blooms of the more prostrate Calibrachoa.

plant combinations

This container uses purple fountain grass, magenta Calibrachoa and white Bacopa. The Calibrachoa and Bacopa fought it out for most of the season…if they are cut back periodically, they’ll give you a full season of blooms.

plant combinations

Pink and purple Angelonia are highlighted by lavender and white Bacopa. I didn’t design this combo but isn’t it beautiful?

plant combinations

Pennisetum ‘Rubrum’ in the center is accented by yellow Rudbeckia hirta ‘Becky’ and Ageratum ‘Blue Danube’. Who says that parking lot islands can’t be attractive?

plant combinations

Purple coleus and sweet potato vine are offset by pink and white petunias and purple Angelonia. I think this is a gorgeous combination.

 

plant combinations

 

This planting ended up being a free-for-all and I decided to include it to show you how aggressive sweet potato vine is in case you didn’t know. Those little red flowers are impatiens and they were crowded out by the sweet potato vine. A little more maintenance keeping the sweet potato vine in check would have gone a long way with this plant combination.

So what are your favorite plant combinations for containers or your borders? Leave me a comment below or e-mail me to let me know. I’d love to post your pictures for other Mid-Atlantic Gardening readers…don’t be shy! Send them in! If you enjoy being part of the Mid-Atlantic Gardening community, join our e-mail list (upper right hand corner of this page), become a fan on Facebook and follow me at Twitter. Happy gardening!

 

Reader Question: Growing Tomatoes in Containers

Today’s Reader Question comes from Chad in Virginia:

I’m planning on growing tomatoes in containers this year as my yard is quite small and I have dogs to contend with. Can you give me some tips and things that I need to consider?

Congratulations on not using your space limitations and dogs as an excuse to not grow your own food. It’s so important that people take charge of some portion of their food production; plus those tomatoes will be the most delicious that you’ve ever had. Let’s dig right into the ins and outs of growing tomatoes in containers:

  1. The container – make sure that the container you will be using is large enough to sustain a tomato in July. That 12″ tall tomato that you buy from the garden center will grow to be a 3′-6′ giant, depending on the cultivar. I think that the container should be at least 12″ in diameter…the bigger, the better.
  2. The soil – when growing any plant in a container, it is imperative that you not use garden soil. When garden soil is placed in a container, it creates an aeration and drainage problem. Check out this article for more information. So what should you use? If you can afford it, use a pre-mixed soilless media that is specifically formulated for containers. If your pockets aren’t that deep, use compost (bagged or from your own pile) mixed with vermiculite, perlite or another amendment to provide greater aeration. If you are using bagged compost, mix several types together at the very least.
  3. Watering – this is going to be one of the most important factors to take into consideration when growing in containers. While that little tomato plant from a 6-pack is cute and easy to maintain now, it is going to require a great deal of moisture when it’s producing tomatoes for your salads and sandwiches. Daily watering will be the norm and in the hottest parts of summer, you may have to water in the morning and evenings. To extend the time between waterings, consider putting a rotting log in the pot to create a hugelkultur container. Read this article for more information on how hugelkultur can reduce or eliminate the need for watering.
  4. Fertility – your tomatoes will be hungrier in containers than they are in the ground. When they are in the ground, they have all of the soil around them to garner nutrition from. In your container, they are limited to the soil in which they grow so you will need to supplement with additional nutrients. Consider making compost tea from your compost pile or using a fish fertilizer. There are many fish fertilizers like Neptune’s that have less smell than others.

 

I want to take a moment to discuss some of the benefits of growing tomatoes in containers. When the sun is beating down and it’s 98+ degrees outside, you have the ability to move your containers to a shady area for a bit of a respite. If your containers are heavy, use a hand truck or dolly to help with the move. Another benefit of growing in containers is you can avoid the first frosts of fall. Move your plants to the garage for the evening a couple of times and you’ll have fresh tomatoes long after your neighbor’s have bit the dust.

I hope that I’ve offered you some helpful tips for growing tomatoes in containers. Don’t limit yourself to just tomatoes, unless that’s the only veggie you enjoy. Consider peppers, cucumbers, watermelons, muskmelons, okra and leafy greens like spinach and lettuce. What other vegetables have Mid-Atlantic Gardening readers grown in containers? Leave me a comment below or e-mail me at stacey@midatlanticgardening.com. Happy gardening!