Starting Seeds: Containers

I first posted this about ten years ago. Since my husband had unexpected bypass surgery today, I don’t have the time (or the concentration!) to write a new post. I hope you find this flashback to be a helpful reminder as we start our seeds for the upcoming growing season.


Seed trays_LAH_9674

Raise your hand if you remember starting seeds in elementary school. Perhaps they sprouted in the cells of a cardboard egg carton. Sound familiar? Now, did your seedlings grow and thrive? Hmm, thought so. Granted, you probably forgot to water them, or you dropped the whole shebang on the way home from school. But it wasn’t all your fault. Egg cartons make awful seed starting containers.

What should you use to start those little seedlings? There are a number of excellent choices. Suitable containers share several attributes.

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Thanksgiving Mums

Happy Thanksgiving! The table is set and the aroma of roasting turkey fills the air. You hear the doorbell and go to answer it. Sure enough, your dinner guests have arrived bearing pumpkin pies, hearty appetites… and a potted chrysanthemum.

Familiar as corsages and potted gift plants, chrysanthemums are the iconic fall bloomer. Available in a wide range of colors, from white through yellows to reds, pinks and purples, there is a shade for every garden. Orange, russets and golds are particularly appropriate for this time of year. Forms vary just as much. Spider mums have long petals forming shaggy heads, while others resemble simple daisies. Most garden varieties have double flowers such as the ones pictured here. All in all, the US National Chrysanthemum Society recognizes thirteen bloom types. The flowers are supported by stiff stems approximately two feet high and adorned with elongated heart-shaped gray-green leaves with uneven edges.

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Moving Back In

rosemary_blkforest_lah_7190Last night WeatherBug was blinking a frost alert—the first of the season—and sure enough, there was ice on our birdbath this morning. I hate to admit it, but summer is over. I don’t mind the end of the cucumbers; they were overly prolific this year. And the carrots are safe underground for months to come. What I miss are the fresh herbs that we’re still enjoying. So, they’re moving back in with us.

Fresh herbs are pricy at the market, and they don’t keep very long. Yet, herbs are some of the easiest plants to grow. Since our garden is quite a ways from the kitchen, I have several pots of basil, thyme, sage, oregano, and rosemary right outside the kitchen door. With the weather cooling off, it’s time to bring them inside.

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Creative Containers

Containers @DBG 19sept05 LAH 236A tantalizing spell of sunny, warm weather had me out on my patio last week. It looks so bare. Most of my pots are still safely tucked into the garage for the winter. Repeated freezing and thawing can crack unglazed pottery. Since we were out of town a lot last year, I didn’t plant anything extra, not wanting to overburden our very gracious house-sitter. This year I’ll be home, and I’m already envisioning my containers.

A simple geranium in a flower pot is fine, but I have grandiose dreams. Paying particular attention to the containers at various botanic gardens has inspired me. Here are three tips on planting spectacular pots.

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Wax Begonias—Indoors!

lah_6081What plant thrives indoors, shrugs off low humidity, and blooms all winter in bold shades of white to pink to red? Surprise! It’s wax begonias!

Also called fibrous begonias, these bedding plants have large, round succulent leaves in either lime green or a beautiful burgundy- or bronze-red. Flowers have fleshy petals surrounding a bright yellow cluster of stamens. Plants grow to a height of about six to twelve inches, and tend to flop, creating a solid mass of color, and even trailing over walls and container edges.

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