September 26, 2016

Three Easy and Beautiful Ways to Use Mums in Your Garden

A single pink Dahlia looks stunning framed against this bright orange pumpkin.
A gorgeous orange pumpkin provides a wonderful backdrop to this unnamed variety of pink dahlia.
One never knows where one will find inspiration...whether for a color palette, or a composition of blooms, or an autumnal seasonal display. This dahlia above, just now beginning to show its drama (late summer intense heat held it back from strutting its stuff...) is the inspiration for my fall garden decor this year. Despite my mixing up the components of my fall show each year, it just wouldn't be FALL without mums! So let's talk about  Ways to Use Mums, this Quintessential Fall Flower, in the Home and Garden, shall we?

A fly buzzes about dahlias, mums and pumpkins.
Even the lowly fly is attracted to the beauty of a pink dahlia!
A few years ago, I wrote an article on this iconic flower of autumn for HGTV Magazine (subscribe here). The editor was an apartment city dweller, not experienced in the way of mums...or gardens in general. I was trying to explain how these happy flowers are used in our seasonal landscapes...

A beautiful pink dahlia and bud stand alone in the garden.
I wish I new the cultivar of this delicate pink dahlia.
A hybrid plant of sorts, somewhere between garden ornament and living botanical. I categorize them into what I call the  PURCHASE, PLANT (or Place) & PITCH category. It goes like this:

*You go to the store and are absolutely seduced by their tidy, bushy, happy colors and blooms. You buy them to autumnalize your home and garden. Sometimes you may buy too many. Heck no! You can never have too many of this inexpensive token of fall. I talk about what to look for when shopping in the FOUR YOUR GARDEN segment at the end of the post.

A beautiful color echo of dahlia and like-hued mum.
A beautiful color echo of dahlia and like-hued mum.
*You bring them home, and then you make one of three decisions as to how you will use chrysanthemums in you landscape. 

#1 Do you actually plant them rather permanently in place so as to show them off to their best advantage? I mean, actually digging a hole, taking them out of their pot, and tucking them in in accordance with the best perennial planting practices? With hopes that they will come back year after year for fall beauty? If so, make sure to keep their fast flushing growth cut back by half or so each summer until the end of July. This will delay bloom until fall, preventing premature flowers so to speak. You know, blooming  before or out of their season. (I am all about things showing off in their appropriate season, just saying'.) About a third of the mums growing in my beds are in this category....mostly in shades of pink, lavender and some yellow.

Pink mum in bud and bloom
Buy mums with just enough open buds to determine color.
#2 Or do you just gently tuck them into the existing flower or out of the pot....making a small crater of sorts for them to nestle into, without a lot of just the right height and in the right position for maximum pedestrian enjoyment (if you have a lot of passers-by as do I). They may or may not be relocated elsewhere permanently for future enjoyment. If they remain good looking and healthy throughout the season it might be worth the effort. If not, you feel no guilt in relegating them to the compost heap. About a third of mine fall into this category.

Cheery orange pumpkins peak out from behind equally cheery mums and dahlia blooms.
Cheery orange pumpkins peak out from behind equally cheery mums and dahlia blooms.
#3 Or are you strictly a lover of the mum vibe, but want to exert as little effort as possible in the pursuit of it?  This may be the largest category for most people, and what I had difficulty explaining for some reason to the peeps at HGTV. You are making no long term commitment to these little bushes of color. You just plop and place them STILL in their pots wherever and however. Dropped into urns or pots by your front door, tucked into masses of blooming annuals that are now fresh and revived with the cooler, gentler temperatures. Or in between mounds of pumpkins and gourds or corn sheaves and hay bales.....making sure to keep that plastic pot hidden from view, of course.

A deep green Japanese Yew and pale sedum blooms join the party.
A deep green Japanese Yew and pale sedum blooms join the party.
Any or a combination of this purchase, place and pitch or plant strategy results in great satisfaction and seasonal joy, I assure you. Just make sure that however you use these lovelies that you keep them well watered, deadheaded, and looking fresh for the duration.

A deep green Japanese Yew and pale sedum blooms join the party.
The interior of the dahlia repeats the yellow and orange tones of fall.
Even just one $1 yellow mum sitting in your kitchen windowsill will make you glad to be alive...and happy, delirious even, that (at least in Oklahoma), fall has arrived. :)

The fall vignette comes together.

For mum buying tips and other ideas watch last Friday's FOUR YOUR GARDEN segment (here) or in the player below. Lots more pumpkin pics and ideas in future posts and on Instagram. Details below.

Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to stop by Potager!  If you don’t want to miss a post, you can sign up to receive a daily email and you will never miss a thing. I’m also on Facebook, Pinterest, and InstagramOr missed a 4 YOUR GARDEN segment? Go here. 

Also, don't forget that the OKLAHOMA HORT SOCIETY'S ANNUAL GARDEN TOUR is coming up on October 1. Find out details and ticket locations here. I hope to run into you!

September 22, 2016

Seven Excellent Varieties of Boxwood for the South

boxwood balls and clipped edging form the enclosure of the potager
'Wintergreen' boxwood is the medium for the sculpted hedge of the potager.

On any given evening during gardening season, you will quite possibly find me in a well deserved comforting bath of bubbles from Dr. Teal's Relax and Relief Foam and quite probably accompanied by delicate floating garden foliage and petals...

of clipped boxwood leaves that fell into my garden boots and stuck to my sweaty feet and in between my you thought I was gonna say rose petals, huh?  For I am an absolute box-a-colic when it comes to this beautiful, glossy and versatile evergreen. I have never met a boxwood I didn't like, and currently have over ten varieties growing in my beds and containers. But without question, some varieties perform far better in our often harsh and temperamental southern Oklahoma climate, so here is a round up of my favorite, and in my garden at least, best performing boxwood varieties.


This adaptable, fast growing boxwood is the variety I selected about twenty years ago to form the hedge and create the framework for my potager. Its bright, glossy green foliage is tough, drought tolerant when established, and a thing to behold when freshly pruned. It has proven to be a tough and reliable character, even in the most destructive of summers. The images above were taken this year, happy and healthy and full, having recovered from this state below:

Extreme heat, over 105 for days on end with not a drop of rain, severely stressed the boxwood of the kitchen garden.
after an unbelievably brutal summer (2011, I believe) of heat and drought. But with tending and frequent pruning, regular rainfall in subsequent years, and a benevolent Mother Nature, it bounced back to its now glorious state. Being a fast grower helped this recovery, of course. But that is also the downside of 'Wintergreen'. It requires frequent clipping to remain in good and tight form and is demanding in this regard. On the upside, this variety is less expensive, and being a fast grower will quickly form a tight, grown-together hedge. My potager border was entirely planted from one gallon containers years ago, and over time shaped into its present form.

What I adore most about boxwood is its affability about being pruned and clipped into fanciful shapes (in this regard I am more a fan of spheres and cones than Mickey and Donald Duck). Boxwood balls tumble, roll and spill throughout my gardens, the situation determines the variety used. The two small box balls above are of the excellent variety...

Two petite 'Green Beauty' boxwood balls serve as finials to the small brick landing of the garden bench. The poodle topiary in the foreground is clipped Eugenia.

Both 'Wintergreen', a Korean boxwood, and 'Green Beauty' a Japanese boxwood, are characterized by their bright, almost kelly green rounded leaves, and especially glossy foliage... (read more about their differences here at SF Gate)...a wonder to behold when spring or fall light bounces off their rounded, shiny forms.  Both varieties can handle full sun to partial shade...though admittedly prefer afternoon cover during the hottest parts of the year. Remarkably unfinicky, handling both frigid and torrid temps. Like all boxwood, they can be prone to spider mite, so keep this in mind. Be on the watch for speckled markings and treat to both prevent and address infestations. I try to use a dormant oil spray each early spring for just such eventualities.

A sphere of Green Mound Boxwood sits patiently at the foot of my garden bench.


For easy care with minimal pruning, excellent naturally rounded form, and deep, rich green foliage, try 'Green Mound'. Because of its easy care nature and growth habit, and ability to handle both full sun and fairly dense shade, it is one of my favorites. The leaves are bit smaller and more pointed, making it a subtle counterpoint to other varieties of box, if that is a design effect you are trying to achieve. In the image below, note the nuanced, but still obvious differences between the large 'Green Mound', the smaller and glossier 'Green Beauty, and the deep lustrous green of 'Winter Gem'.

Three varieties of boxwood balls keep company. 'Green Mound', 'Green Beauty', and 'Winter Gem'.

Think of this boxwood stalwart as a kissing cousin of 'Green Mound', but growing naturally into a taller, more conical shape.  It too performs well in both sun....and shade, particularly if kept frequently pruned so as to maintain its shape and density of foliage.

'Green Mountain' positions itself between a Steeds Holly and pendulous pot of an orchid over summering outside.


A relative newcomer to my boxwood posse, this glossy leaved, sturdy plant is a tough cookie that takes well to pruning and remains a manageable size. It can handle heat and cold, but don't plant it (or any box for that matter)  too close to a brick or concrete wall where reflected heat and lower light on the back side will compromise its good looks. Like all boxwood, give it good drainage, water well until established and provide adequate air circulation.  As I recall, it became available about the same time as


This box is truly a gem. The folks at The SOUTHERN LIVING PLANT COLLECTION describe its attributes thusly:

This fine-textured broadleafed evergreen grows as tall as it is wide, reaching a maintainable size of 3 feet and resembling a little green muffin. It's an exceptionally  
compact boxwood excellent for use in smaller gardens for borders and focal areas. Densely branched, the tiny, green foliage is abundant and adds a distinctive note to the landscape, retaining its color particularly well in winter. The moderate rate of growth makes these boxwoods ideal for carefree edging in a wide area of the US. Other splendid characteristics include deer resistance and tolerance of dry soils once established.

Need I say more?


This winner is another staple in my garden. Monrovia (here) describes its growth habit as rounded, moderately fast grower, topping off at about 3-4 feet. I have used it extensively in my front landscape, where its deep hue and rich winter color make it a boxwood classic. But we all start out small at one time, and these baby ones in the image below are happy to reside in small pots until their mistress decides otherwise.

Clipped, gallon size Green Velvet boxwood is root pruned to fit into smaller pots for a pleasing little vignette.
And there you have it. My Favorite Varieties of Boxwood.  Dare I say it? You may call me 


For more information on boxwood, watch the antics of Linda Cavanaugh and myself as we discuss this beloved American evergreen. Find the link to this FOUR YOUR GARDEN episode here

Watch LC and me give each other grief on FOUR YOUR GARDEN,
Fridays at 4:30.
Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to stop by Potager!  If you don’t want to miss a post, you can sign up to receive a daily email and you will never miss a thing. I’m also on Facebook, Pinterest, and InstagramOr missed a 4 YOUR GARDEN segment? Go here. 

Also, don't forget that the OKLAHOMA HORT SOCIETY'S ANNUAL GARDEN TOUR is coming up on October 1. Find out details and ticket locations here. I hope to run into you!

September 8, 2016

TBT: A Repost from Spring 2015: and My Best Case for Planting Tulips this Fall

I have been dealing with Mac software issues for over a week now....hopefully all to be resolved tomorrow. Forgive my absence! Until I am up and running again with new content, please enjoy this repost of tulip time 2015. If this doesn't convince you to order and plant some of these lovelies this fall, I don't know what will.  All tulips below were ordered from COLORBLENDS.COM

..and without actually sitting down in front of the computer and writing...a POTAGER blog post doesn't get in the blogosphere for you to read. Blogging consistency (no duh) not being a strong suit of mine. Nine times out of ten, when the weather is fine and the outdoors glorious...

...the high touch of my gardening will win over the high tech of my gardening every time. So let's play catch up. The tulips are gone now....the 2015 tulip season now relegated to memory and digital images...thought you would enjoy a few, along with...

some tweaks and touches and changes I plan to make next year to gently shift the show in a direction that nears the ever elusive perfect vignette I see in my head during tulip time. If you were among

the many-many-many who drove by to see the show unfold or passed by due to the timely detour down 40th street because of the work on Western Avenue,

then you quite probably saw me wandering through the maze of color, savoring the moment, analyzing the composition, looking for signs of emerging horticultural delights,

and, yes, thinking about those subtle tweaks I want to make for next year.  But first, some changes made for 2015.  I had shaken it up quite a bit from last season...tearing out more lawn and extending the curvy bed down the west side.  

In select areas I added some pots of topiary...I liked the structure and verticality they gave to the tableau... though when they sometimes refused to stand straight or were prey to those shiftless squirrels it flared my OC tendencies big time.

I added some more texture with more spring blooming, non-tulip attractions...dianthus, an un-named yellow-blooming perennial gift from a friend...

more violas, golden feverfew, and fern and coral bells.

A heady place to enjoy spring, sit and visit, live in the ever so brief moment.

700 tulips in all this year. The entire floral symphony putting on its peak performance for our early Easter and a GARDEN GATE magazine shoot the next day.

I especially enjoyed the borrowed landscape of my neighbors whose tulips bloomed in tandem, making the long view even more beautiful and a drive down my street incredibly pleasant.

Oh, a couple more additions that sent it over the top.  Don't you agree?

Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to stop by Potager!  If you don’t want to miss a post, you can sign up to receive a daily email and you will never miss a thing. I’m also on Facebook, Pinterest, and InstagramOr missed a 4 YOUR GARDEN segment? Go here.