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Ten Tips for Growing Great Tomatoes

ten tips for growing great tomatoes

We’re not sure if there’s anything that tastes more like summer than a delicious, garden-fresh tomato. The supermarket can’t even touch the quality of these gems fresh from our gardens. When you bite into a sun-ripened tomato straight from the plant, it’s hard to imagine why anyone would bother buying them from a store.

Tomatoes are simple and easy to grow, but if you want that knock-out flavor without the frustration, our pros have some recommendations for how to make your plants thrive this summer. Garden success has never tasted this good.

Tip #1: Do Some Research:
There are so many delicious tomato plants to choose from, so it can be daunting to make a decision on which one(s) to include in your garden. When it comes to annuals and pretty blooms, we advocate for falling in love with your favorites and letting some creativity flow. But when it comes to the more practical tomato plant, a bit of research ahead of time is important. Ask yourself what kind of tomato crop you want — small cherry tomatoes, big beefy tomatoes or something in between, and what kind of plant you want to be growing — determinate or indeterminate.

Think seriously about your garden and what you want from it: are you willing to put in more hours of work for the tastiest of heirloom tomatoes from more challenging plants? Or would you rather spend your summer relaxing and enjoying a beautiful garden with determinate plants that mostly take care of themselves? Thankfully it’s not an all-or-nothing game, you can plant as much of however many types as you want! A bit of research is all you need to start on the right foot and avoid any summer surprises as you grow.

fiddle-leaf fig plant

Tip #2: Some of Our Favorites:
Picking a tomato variety can be difficult because there are just so many good choices to pick from! To make it easier, these are some of our favorite tomatoes for all garden needs.

Roma is a great jack-of-all-trades tomato that doesn’t require much maintenance. For a simple and straightforward garden, you can’t go wrong with this one.

Beefmaster is an indeterminate variety that requires some work like pruning and staking to keep it in line, but the resulting harvest is worth the effort. Consider staking these plants, as their tomatoes are so heavy that they can bend or damage the stems!

Early Girl is another indeterminate, requiring a modest amount of maintenance. But with an early maturity, you’ll get to enjoy tomatoes sooner in the season and for longer with this plant.

Sweet Million has it all in the name, an indeterminate with millions (ok, hundreds) of tasty little tomatoes — perfect for snacking!

Green Zebra and Black Krim are heirloom tomatoes for those that are both adventurous and traditional. Heirlooms are varieties that have been passed down for decades, and these tomatoes offer unique looks for their heritage. You’ll also be impressed by their delicious taste.

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Tip #3: Start Off Right:
Whether you’re growing from seeds or buying starter plants, at some point you’ll be taking small little seedlings and planting them outside into your garden or containers. Only stocky plants, ones that aren’t lanky and floppy, should make the final cut and be planted in your garden. These are going to be the most successful at growing with the least amount of work from you.

Tip #4: Sun and Heat:
Tomatoes thrive with some warm weather and soil, so choosing a spot with maximum heat and sun exposure is the best way to get the tastiest tomatoes. We promise that with a good location, you’ll be able to taste the difference that sunshine makes.

If you have the option, the best places for many tomatoes are in big containers or raised beds, where their soil and roots are easily warmed by the sun. Pass on the traditional bed with one of these methods, and you’ll have your friends and neighbors begging for your secret when they have a taste of your tomatoes.

If you plant in a traditional bed make sure to plant your tomatoes in a different spot than the previous year.  This will help prevent disease and insect problems that can lay dormant in the soil until the following year.

fiddle-leaf fig plant

Tip #5: Drainage:
Tomatoes don’t like to have wet feet, so make sure your soil drains well. If it naturally retains water, you don’t have to give up, though. Simply add some peat moss into the mix before you plant, giving them the structure, nutrients, and drainage that they crave.

These plants are heavy feeders, too, so make sure you establish a fertilizing schedule to give them the nutritional boost they need to produce delicious crops. Use an all-purpose fertilizer for the best results.

Tip #6: Planting:
Tomatoes will sprout roots wherever the soil touches the stem. Start by submerging a third of the stem when you plant — you’ll get a head start on developing a healthy root system! Just make sure you take off any leaves that will be buried so you don’t invite rot.

If your tomato plants got a little lanky while you were waiting to plant, simply plant them a little deeper than normally would. This technique transforms that lanky and floppy stem into a healthy root system, saving the plant and encouraging successful crops.

When you plant consider adding an organic fertilizer to your planting hole to give your plants an extra burst of nutrients.  You can also consider adding a handful of egg shells, which contain calcium and will help deter blossom end rot.

fiddle-leaf fig plant

Tip #7: Mulching:
Mulch is a fantastic tool in the garden, as it suppresses weeds and insulates the roots of your plant keeping heat and water in. Your tomatoes will benefit from keeping more heat and moisture at their roots, which is exactly where they want it! Perhaps the best part about mulching is how much it cuts down on garden work by stifling weeds, which also leads to less competition for nutrients for your plants. Spread a natural mulch in a generous layer around your plants and reap the benefits!

There are lots of options for natural mulch that work fantastic in the garden. For your edibles, we suggest something that isn’t chemically treated. You can choose from all kinds of naturally-occurring woods and barks to find something that satisfies both your practical and design needs.

Tip #8: Proper Staking and Tying Up:
This tip is for indeterminate tomatoes primarily, because the determinate types have a bushy habit and generally take care of themselves.

When you’re tying up your more wild-growing indeterminate tomatoes, try to use something soft and flexible so that their stems aren’t broken by the ties. You can purchase ready-made ties for your garden that are designed for the task, or even use something like strips of old pantyhose to keep things tidy. Tie it loosely but secure with a knot to keep your plant in order and off of the ground.  Sturdy tomato cages can also be used to stake your tomatoes.

fiddle-leaf fig plant

Tip #9: Pruning is for Suckers:
Tomato plants, especially indeterminates, send out “suckers” during the growing season. These growths don’t help you and your tomato crop very much and actually pull nutrients away from the fruit that you are trying to grow. Prune away these growths, keeping all of the nutrients and hard work that your plant is doing focused on important things, like growing fruit!

Near the end of the season, pruning can also be useful for other parts of the plant that are wasting energy. As you near the first frost of the season, start thinking about cutting your losses and discarding some tomatoes that simply won’t make it to maturity so that your plant can focus its efforts on the last few crops of the year.

Tip #10: When to and Not to Refrigerate:
The ideal temperature for ripening tomatoes is at room temperature. Place fresh produce that you plan to consume right away on the counter to get the most out of their superior, from-the-garden taste. Trying to ripen tomatoes in the fridge is likely to leave you with tomatoes that lose their fantastic flavor and could end up mealy and lacking in texture.

While you might want to refrigerate some tomatoes if they are already ripe and you won’t be eating them quite yet, you can still end up losing flavor and quality this way. Instead, think about all of the fantastic dishes that you can cook them into now that you can save for later. Things like pasta sauces or salsas will help you make the most of your garden produce.

Growing tomatoes is popular and easy, but there’s more to know than just putting your plants in the ground and watching them grow. With a couple of simple tips, you’ll have all the tools you need to have phenomenal crops all summer long, to be enjoyed by you, your friends, and your family. If only we had tips for what to do with all of your bountiful harvests!

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The Dirt on Dirt: Creating Better Soils

Creating Better Soils

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The Dirt on Dirt: Creating Better Soils

The Ted Lare Look

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No matter our aims – from aesthetic to functional – there’s something incredible about watching something grow from nothing in our own backyards. Planting a tiny seed or watching a little seedling grow from just bare dirt is an experience that is important in our gardens every year. But is it just as simple as planting in dirt?

Soil vs Dirt:
Soil and dirt are terms that we might use interchangeably in our everyday lives, but they are actually key differences that make the change from a thriving garden to a barren one.

Soil is chock-full of microorganisms, micronutrients, and a lot of the delicate differences that make your soil alive and able to support life.

Dirt, on the other hand, has lots of the main building blocks, but is missing the key ingredients for life. While you can still technically grow from dirt, it’ll take a lot more work from you and your plants will never have the healthy glow to compare with those grown in soil.

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How To Create Better Soil:
Good soil is the foundation for everything in your garden. It isn’t as glamorous as talking about the hottest new styles, colors, and annuals, but it’s the beginning of a healthy looking garden and a landscape experience that’s less work and more time enjoying for you. The healthier your soil is the less problems you will have with pests and diseases.

Here’s some ways to get your dirt upgraded to soil:

Getting Off of Chemicals:
We want to help our garden be the best it can be, and tinkering with our soil comes with the territory. The good news is that what’s best for your soil in the long run is to have some restraint and do less. Soil has been doing its thing for millions of years and has itself figured out; so the less we interfere, the better.

A garden that lets natural processes regulate pests is much healthier than one that we’ve killed all the life from with chemicals – opening the door for the next infestation, and the next, and the next. Working too hard in our gardens and using too many chemicals disrupts the natural paths of things, and while it might help with one issue, often leaves openings for more issues to pop up instead.

Good soil relies on the presence of creepy-crawlies – the vast majority of which are microscopic and very beneficial to the health of your garden. Under the surface, you don’t see bacteria and nematodes working hard to transform nutrients for your plants to use. With chemistry and biology, a garden soil full of critters is essential for life.

Using too many chemicals to support your garden or to treat pest breakouts will turn a soil full of life into lifeless dirt, and could even prevent these useful microorganisms from ever coming back.  

Avoid excessive fertilizer use, which can burn valuable and fragile microorganisms, and never exceed the recommended dosages on the container labels. While some of our garden favorites come addicted to these – like our high-octane annuals – not all of our plants have an equal need and many absolutely thrive off of gentler options, like organic and natural fertilizers that promote a healthy soil environment.

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Adding Organics:
It is important to add nutrient-rich materials to your soil at least once a year. This can be done by adding a few inches of compost, leaves, grass clippings, straw, manure or mulch on top of your existing soil. When you mulch your garden, it begins to break down the minute it touches the soil, leaving behind nutrients for microorganisms and worms to feed on year-round.

While the process does slow down during the winter, it does still happen, and the nutrients that are produced are picked up by the plants’ roots whenever they need them.

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Dig With Care:
Again, less work here is more! Tilling the garden can help the materials gain deeper contact with the organisms so the breakdown process occurs more quickly. However, tilling can also confuse organisms as they will be moved around from their normal confines. Overworking the soil can actually break down the soil ecosystem by exposing them to too much air, chops up decomposers, and brings weeds up to the surface.

Instead, take advantage of the opportunity to sit back and enjoy your yard a little more rather than working. Only till, shovel, or fork when you need – like to add compost and other mix-ins to your soil to enrich it in the spring. Other than that, leave the soil undisturbed to work hard for itself, leave the tools in the shed, and save your back.

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Foot Traffic:
Air is as essential to the healthy life of your soil as it is here on the surface where we breathe it. Microorganisms need it to survive and the delicate roots of our plants need the gaps to expand and grow. Every step compresses the soil and can crush these air pockets.

Avoid excessive foot traffic in your veggie and flower beds, especially after rain or being watered. We like laying boards between your rows of vegetable to avoid crushing the soil, suppress weeds, and clean up the look of your garden.

Testing your Soil:
If you are concerned about the health of your soil and would like to determine what to add to your soil to make it better we recommend testing your soil. Soil testing can be done by Iowa State University for a nominal fee. This method will tell you exactly what you should add to your gardens to create healthy soil.  

You can also test the soil yourself at home by using the simple, yet effective jar method, which will tell you what percentage of your soil is sand, clay, loam, and organic matter. To do it, put 2-3 inches of soil in a mason jar, fill it 2/3 full of water and vigorously shake. Let it settle out for 24 hours then look through the jar and pick out the layers. The sand will have settled first, then the clay, then loam, and organic matter. If you have perfect soil, your soil should consist of 40% sand, 40% silt, and 20% clay. If not, you can use the results to determine what you need to add to your soil!

If your soil needs more sand, it may be beneficial to incorporate more compost rather than sand. Sand doesn’t mix well into soil and typically will form pockets of sand in your garden rather than a good blend. Compost will translate into better drainage which is sands major use.

If your soil has too much clay, work on incorporating organic materials to increase silt materials. This will eventually result in a lower percentage of clay in the soil. Too much sand is remedied the same way, but the organic matter is used to slow drainage and hold moisture.

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Soil pH:
The ideal soil pH is between 6.2 and 7.2.  If you would like to know the exact pH of your soil, you will need a litmus soil tester or to have a soil test performed by Iowa State.   Based on these tests, you can then add material to the soil which helps to change the pH of the soil.  If your soil tests acidic, you need to add lime or limestone to the soil. If your soil tests alkaline, you will need to add sulfur.

When applying these materials, follow the label directions. It takes time to actually change the pH of the soil, so be patient with this process and pay attention to how your garden performs. If it is healthy and producing, the soil is probably in good shape. If it is still having problems, then look into having it professionally tested.  

Nature has an amazing capacity to work in your soil to correct itself if you give it the chance to grow. All it takes to turn backyard dirt to thriving soil is a little know-how, some patience, and even a little less work.

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Top New Edibles of 2018

“I like being able to tell people that the lunch I’m serving started out as a seed in my yard.” 

– Curtis Stone

One of the best parts of summer is growing your own fresh fruits and veggies right in the backyard. Meals never taste more delicious than after a fresh harvest. Save the trip to the grocery store and bring your own produce section home, only an arm’s length away! Here are some of our top choices for new edibles in Iowa this year.

Gigantic Verde Tomatillo 

These small, husked cousins to the tomato are packed full with flavor and are staples in Mexican cooking. The Gigantic Verde Tomatillo variety brings more delicious flavor and excitement to the table than its predecessors and tomato cousins. The larger yields, fruit, and juicier sweetness of this tomatillo makes it the perfect flavor for a salsa verde to bring freshness to your favorite summertime snacks.

Plant your Gigantic Verde Tomatillo in full sun against a trellis or stake to keep fruit off the ground. Keep the soil moist, but not soggy, throughout the season for the best-tasting fruit. Harvest your tomatillos when they feel firm to the touch and the husks have broken open slightly. You know when they are ripe as their green flesh transforms to yellow. Eat them right away by removing the husk, or leave it on and your tomatillos will stay fresher longer!

Brandy Boy Tomato

An awesome beefsteak variety, the new Brandy Boy Tomato is a tasty way to change it up this year. This tomato is a cross of the heirloom tomato Brandywine and Better Boy. The result is a tomato that has a delectable sweet and tangy heirloom flavor, but with better disease resistance and a tidier growth habit. Try them in a homemade pasta sauce or even diced into a delicious bruschetta!

Tomatoes need plenty of sun and moisture to grow. Plant them in rich, moist soil and keep them well-watered throughout the season. Mulching plays an important role in growing tomatoes for both moisture retention and protection. Tomatoes’ delicate roots can be prone to many problems, including rot if damaged, so protecting them is key. Grow them against a stake or tomato cage for big, juicy fruit and harvest when they are heavy and firm to the touch.

Pixie Grapes

These perfect patio grapes are a cousin of grapes we often find in our houses in a tall, stemmed glass. Their mouthwatering, crisp, sweet flavor will probably taste similar to many wines! Homegrown grapes are a decadent treat all summer. These grapes got their start in vineyards and have been perfectly designed to fit in a patio container for delicious flavor at your fingertips all season.

Prep your pot with moist, well-draining potting mix with an organic, slow-release fertilizer for an added boost. Plant your Pixie Grapes in full sun with a small trellis to support your grapevines as they grow. You’ll know they are perfectly ready with a quick taste-test – sweet means just right!

Pictured below: Artwork Broccoli (left), Dragon Roll Pepper (right)
Images from: All American SelectionsBurpee

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Artwork Broccoli

We’re all familiar with our big, bushy broccoli varieties with short stems and thick stalks. Breaking tradition comes the new Artwork Broccoli. These little bite-sized broccoli heads harvest piece by piece, rather than as one, large head, so the flavor is always fresh day-of. Their long, flavorful shoots are just as earthy and sweet as the tops, making the whole thing amazing for every broccoli recipe, especially stir-fries.

Artwork Broccoli needs full sun and consistently moist soil to grow. Plant in a rich, well-draining soil and mulch to keep moisture even all season. Harvest the central crown of the broccoli first – the top of the stalk – when it reaches 1” in diameter. Do this first and enjoy the sprouting of tasty shoots all along the length of the stalk throughout the summer.

Dragon Roll Pepper

These popping peppers offer a slightly spicy, yet sweet flavor with a bit of smokiness and have become a culinary delight at farmers markets and restaurants across the nation. Starting off fairly mild, Dragon Roll Peppers will mature with a bit of kick, but only about 1/10th of a jalapeno. Just a bit of spice makes these the perfect snacking peppers on their own. They add awesome flavor when diced raw onto fresh tacos or for roasting. They are certainly a talking point of any dinner party.

Plant them in a hot, sunny spot in your garden. Warm and moist soil gives these peppers their edge, so mulching will keep them at top performance. Water regularly and feed them with an all-purpose vegetable mix to give them a boost if they need it. Harvest your peppers when they are still green by cutting off part of the stem.

Pink Icing Blueberry

Named for the blue and green foliage that is dusted with pink edges, Pink Icing Blueberries are the must-have berry for your garden this year. They’ve got adorable foliage that makes them a great accent plant for your garden or patio, and they are rich in delicious berries to enjoy all summer. The big, juicy berries are so flavorful and sweet that you’ll have a hard time holding yourself from eating them all right off the plant. If you can, though, try them fresh with some Greek Yogurt or baked into mouthwatering muffins.

Pink Icing Blueberries will perform best with at least six hours or more of sun. They are self-pollinating, so they do not need another plant to produce fruit, but they will have better yields if you plant more than one. They will need a rich, acidic soil to grow, so having compost or peat moss on-hand for amendment may be helpful. Water them regularly and deeply to provide plenty of moisture to your growing fruit. You’ll know they’re perfect for eating when the little berries are full of color and no longer green.

Enjoy a fresher taste in your kitchen this summer with some irresistible new fruits and vegetables. Add a twist to your cooking, baking, or even just snacking with a flavor for every palette. No matter who’s coming over, you’ll have something fresh for everyone with these top new edibles of 2018!

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Best Iowa Perennials for Spring Blooming

“I am more myself in a garden than anywhere else on earth.” 
– Doug Green

Perennials are the perfect reminders that spring has sprung. Popping up again year after year, perennials are perfect for celebrating the warmer weather. With our tough winters, however, picking perennials for our climate can be tricky, but just as important. The healthiest plants are the best way to achieve a stunning garden. Below are a few of our favorite spring blooming perennials to recommend that flourish in Iowa!

Irises

This outstanding flower is one of the most gorgeous plants to add to a garden. It’s a popular old-fashioned classic for good reason. These iconic blooms are statement makers that are sure to please, and they are quite easy to take care of. Irises prefer full sun and moist soil, but they tolerate a variety of conditions. You can use them in part shade and drier soils as well. After they are established, they do not need a lot of attention, making them a great option for low maintenance gardens. When planting them, add some organically enriched soil and you will have delicate, draping blooms all spring. While available in many colors and varieties, some of our favorites are the dark purple Caesar’s Brother and the cream and white Butter and Sugar Siberian.

Pictured below: Iris ‘Caesar’s Brother’

Creeping Phlox

Creeping Phlox has amazing, star-shaped flowers that are both drought-tolerant and pet-friendly. These flowers don’t compromise beauty for being very hardy and functional flowers. True to their name, these flowers have a creeping quality, making them perfect for ground cover in the garden. WhitePinkBlue, and Purple are amazing springtime colors to choose, but you can get them in almost any shade you desire. They prefer full sun (but not too hot) and regular watering, letting the soil dry in between. Plant in moist and well-draining soil that is loamy or slightly sandy for the best growth.  However, they do tolerate a variety of conditions.

Old-Fashioned Bleeding Hearts

A true classic that gardeners have adored for years and years, Bleeding Hearts are amazing, native perennials, meaning they’re designed by nature to grow here! Their long reputation with gardeners speaks for itself, and their dainty blooms are sure to inspire a certain nostalgia. While many new variations of this plant have come out in recent years, our favorite is still the classic dark pink and white. Make sure the dangling, heart-shaped flowers have full to partial shade and weekly waterings and you’ll have beautiful blooms without fail.

Columbines

The name “Columbine” is derived from the Latin “Columba,” meaning “dove,” as the flower is said to look like five doves huddled together when the flower is inverted. They prefer partial to full sun and regular waterings, letting the soil dry slightly in between. You can choose from a wide range of varieties, but we are loving the pale yellow Corbett Columbine and the red and yellow Little Lanterns variety. With regular deadheading, these show-stopping flowers seem to bloom forever. They may even attract some hummingbirds, too, providing extra details to your backyard masterpiece!

Pictured below: Old Fashioned Bleeding Hearts

Pictured below: Lenten Rose

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Lenten Roses

Charmingly captivating, Lenten Roses feature amazing blooms that come in many interesting colors. Lenten Roses are some of the early spring flowers, which will give your garden a pop of color almost as soon as the snow melts.

They come in almost any color imaginable, but our favorites this year are Apricot BlushBlue DiamondCherry Blossom, and Painted Double. Plant them in a rich, well-draining soil and give them full to partial shade with weekly waterings. Mulch to keep their roots cool and use an acidic fertilizer after blooming for the best show this season.  

For best results year after year, try to pick out a spot that is protected from our harsh winter conditions, perhaps on the East side of your home, as Lenten Roses can sometimes react poorly to harsh winters.

Other Perennial Favorites

With so many beautiful perennials to choose from, it’s hard to make the shortlist. Here are a few of our other top choices for perennials this spring. There are many lovely flowers available that will thrive in our climate, filling your outdoor space with delightful blooms.

  • Salvia: Gorgeous, dark stems with stunning flowers – we love violet blue Carodonnas and lavender Pretty in Pinks. Give them full sun and plant in enriched, well-draining soil and water weekly.
  • Bellflowers: Classic, cup-shaped blooms that come in hundreds of colors – we love the violet-hued Takion Blue. Give them partial to full sun and ensure their well-draining soil is consistently moist for best performance.
  • Penstemons: Garden greats with colorful foliage and flowers – we love Husker Red (burgundy foliage and white flowers) and Dark Towers (bronze-red foliage with pink flowers). They need humus-rich and well-draining soil, partial to full sun, and regular watering.
  • Catmint: Fragrant flower spikes that cats love almost as much as catnip – we love the periwinkle blue Walker’s Low. Ensure they have good air circulation, partial to full sun, and weekly waterings to keep them at the top of their game.

Choosing perennials that work with you, rather than against you, is the goal this spring. You’ll spend less time fighting the elements in your garden and more time sitting back and enjoying the spectacular display in your own yard. These perennials are proven performers in our Iowa climate and are gorgeous options for your garden this year. Check out our full perennial blooming calendar to see more spring blooming perennials and stop by the Garden Center today to get your garden going with these vivacious varieties and more!

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2018’s Top New Annuals

Ted Lare Top New Annuals for 2018

“Flowers seem intended for the solace of ordinary humanity.”
– John Ruskin

Spring has finally started to show its face with confidence, and many of us are excited and ready to get busy in our gardens. We’ve been impatient for warmer air and new growth and now that the season is here, we’re thrilled to see what 2018 has to offer.

The top new annuals this year are worth the wait. With brighter colors and lots of style and attitude, these are some of the best annuals we have seen to date. The leaders of 2018’s trends range from pink to yellow, but this year’s trends are all ready to steal your heart – and steal the show in your containers and garden.

“Sky Pink” Petunia

Looking up at the fresh skies of spring, most of us expect to see various shades of dazzling blue. Intense hues of pink, however, are typically reserved for sunsets and rainbows. Staying true to its name, the “Sky Pink” Petunia is a performer that is ready to amaze. In 2017, many of us saw the exciting beginning to the beautiful “Sky” series, and were captured by the stylish mysticism of the “Night Sky Blue”. The line continues this year with the unbelievable “Sky Pink”, the most striking way to keep your garden style up to date.

These petunias are both vibrant and versatile. “Sky Pink” is a fair size, standing at 1’ tall and with a 2’ spread. They’ll be the perfect fit for a container or hanging basket so they have all the space they need to spill over the sides in a cascade of color. Keep in mind as you select your container and location that you petunias will need shelter from winds. You’ll have the best-looking petunias when they are planted with southern exposure and some wind protection.

Each of these flower’s spots are as unique as a snowflake, so we recommend that this annual be planted on its own to really show it off. With its bright color and unique markings, a container featuring only the “Sky Pink” will have more impact than trying to showcase them in a crowd of other plants. If you choose to plant these petunias with something else, choose plants that that accentuate their personality. A tall magenta grass could give these prima donnas all the space they need to dazzle.

“Sky Pink” is an aggressive growing annual and is very hungry as a result. Add a slow-release mix when you plant if the pellets are not already in the soil. Follow up with weekly fertilization with an all-purpose with a high middle number for stunning blooms all season.

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“Can-Can Bumblebee” Calibrachoa:

Just as sensational as the famous dance, “Can-Can Bumblebees” are a thrilling showcase of color. They’re a mix of everything at once: they have a star, and eye, and tricolor. This aggressive, sunbathing beauty is the perfect choice as the centerpiece in a container or hanging basket. We suggest pairing this showstopper with complimenting colors or textures. Choose pinks and yellows or tall grasses to highlight the best of this flower.  Purples will create a contrast that is sure to make your “Can-Can Bumblebees” the center of attention.

“Can-Can’s” are an aggressive grower that will blend well with other sun-loving annuals. Avoid pairing it with older annual varieties, since they may not be able to compete and could be overpowered. This Calibrachoa forms a shapely bell and will spill blooms out of your container, so it will need partnering plants that can keep up with them.

Unlike petunias, these flowers still perform well under harsh weather conditions. They will be a great pick for a windy spot, so long as they regularly get enough iron. Feed your “Can-Can Bumblebee” with a high last number all-purpose fertilizer and it will be easy to keep these flowers in tip-top shape this season.

Including these fashionable blooms in your garden is a great way to command attention all summer.

“Mistral Yellow” Begonia:

Begonias might have an unfair reputation as boring plants for stuffy gardeners. The new varieties of Begonia boliviensis make a compelling case that these tropical plants are on-trend and ready to amaze.

The “Mistral” series aims to impress with a couple of heavy hitters that put them on everyone’s radar this season. The blooms of these flowers play the strategic long-game in your gardens. Tiny individual blooms number in the hundreds and spill over your container’s sides to create an enticing bubble bath of dainty flowers.

This newest variety is a beautiful yellow that is as bright as sunshine. In contrast to their dark and variegated leaves, these flowers are vibrant enough to be planted alone.

“Mistral Yellow” may be small in stature, only standing a few inches high, but don’t let that fool you. These plants are aggressive growers and, given a shaded and sheltered spot, will spill out of your container in generous heaps. A container or hanging basket would be the ideal choice to promote this gorgeous cascading effect and keep the begonia’s roots warm. Placing your “Mistral Yellow” in a location with east or north exposure will give the best results.

A bit of air circulation is the key to success with this variety. Allow the soil to dry slightly between watering, and feed weekly or bi-weekly with an all-purpose mix for a healthy plant that is ready to impress.

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Modern Container Gardens

“My garden is my most beautiful masterpiece.” 
– Claude Monet

Gardening trends are their own little paradox. On the one hand, the essentials of how we take care of our gardens and the joy that comes from nurturing life out of soil remain the same each year. But our gardens themselves get a refreshing lift each season with new trends and fashion. The new “it” trends are as seasonal as our gardens themselves.

Container gardening is the best choice for exploring new trends with each summer. They’re creative, dynamic, but also very non-committal, so you are free to explore new ideas as much as you’d like. A few of this year’s top trends are the perfect fit for your own container garden this spring:

Gardening with Succulents

Succulents continue to have an impressive presence in garden trends and on garden center shelves. These adorable plants have a unique aesthetic and add a certain edge to any indoor or outdoor creation. Succulents are the perfect combination of ease of care and contemporary style.

Succulents are a great choice for a chic container. Choose a shallow container (terra-cotta is a great choice) and hunt for your new favorite succulents at our garden center. The most striking container should have a healthy mix of different shapes and colors. Even if one type of succulent catches your eye more than the others, the mixture will help them all to stand out even more once they are planted.

For the creative, it could be a great DIY project to make your own container. Head to the antique mall and take advantage of any improvised vessels you can find. Bird cages, toys, dishware, and even shoes have been inspirations for many succulent crafts.

Some tips for creating the best statement-making succulent container:

  • Choose a few of your favorite succulents you would like to bring indoors in the fall. By keeping them in their pots when you plant them, you can easily separate them from the container when the weather cools. Give them lots of winter light indoors until next spring and they will eventually become specimen pieces as the seasons go by.
  • If you have the space, you could bring your whole container indoors. Spray it a few times to make sure it is clear of opportunistic pests before taking it inside for the winter.
  • Try blending your succulents with less expensive bedding plants to create a planter full of unique interest. Costly designer annuals will overwhelm and devour your succulents, but sun lovers like marigolds, zinnias, portulaca, and other classics are great choices.
  • Choose soils and containers that have excellent drainage. Try blending a potting mix in a 1:1 ratio with cactus soil for an easy blend that your succulents will thrive in. Consider layering pebbles on the bottom of your container if spacing permits to improve drainage even more.
  • These trends offer a unique take on the normal garden favorites. Choosing any or all of these great seasonal trends offers your backyard and garden a fresh new take on the season that will be catching the eye for the entire summer.

Gardening with Water:

Backyard water features are chic and add a serene calm to your yard, but sometimes you don’t want the full commitment. You can actually take advantage of the backyard water trend without the landscaping hassle. Something as simple as a container can be transformed into a trendy statement for your yard this summer.

Creating a backyard pond only requires a non-permeable container, some water, and a few aquatic plants. Whether you choose to commit to a permanent feature or just retrofit a container, the principle is the same.

To make your own miniature water feature, find a large container without any drainage holes. Add some clay-based soil, some water, and specific water garden plants to complete the look. You may even choose to add fish for an extra aesthetic bonus. Simply provide your miniature garden with 6 or more hours of sunlight a day, and your water garden is ready to impress!

As you build, remember:

  • You can add soothing sound effects with a small pump. The sounds of water will fill your yard, and the ambient humidity will give any surrounding tropicals a healthy boost! As an added bonus, a pump will keep your water moving and help to discourage any mosquitoes from making themselves at home.
  • As beautiful as they are, avoid any repurposed alcohol barrels for your pond, as they could leach harmful chemicals into the water, potentially harming plants (and fish).
  • You’ll need to add water as it evaporates. Water plants and fish are sensitive to chlorine. Let your tap water sit out for a day or two to evaporate some chlorine away before you add it to your container.
  • Maintenance might require cleaning some algae from your container. Once or twice a year is usually enough to keep it at bay unless you have fish in your container.
  • Get creative with this project, and choose a statement container to really make your seasonal water feature pop in your yard.

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Gardening in Ultraviolet:

Pantone is the color authority for all things design. They have an exhaustive library of colors and they are trusted as the leading name in indoor and outdoor decor, as well as fashion and art. Every year they announce which of their colors will be setting the trend for design. After a few years of underwhelming selections, 2018’s choice of Ultra Violet (18-3838) is full of potential.

One of the most complex colors on the spectrum, the intensity of ultraviolet comes down to science. Human eyes can only see some of this color, the rest is filled in as your brain’s best guess. While other creatures like a bee can see the true color with their fuller spectrum of vision, we are treated to the optical illusion of a color that is half real and half imaginary.

Popular ultraviolet blooms take full advantage of this trick for an even more impressive range of beauty. The combination of real and imagined color can make the color of intense violet appear vibrant in full sunlight, but downright brooding in the evening. One set of blooms can transform your outdoor space with color that almost changes to fit the ambient mood of your yard.

Here’s how to make the most out of ultraviolet for the trendiest and most stunning containers this season:

  • Violet contrasts strongly with yellow. Adding a simple and vibrant sunny yellow next to your ultraviolet blooms will spice up your container. The contrast will bring out the best of your violet. You won’t be able to keep your eyes off of this color combination!
  • Violet is so intense that it can be lost in the shade or shadows. Pairing it with a bright companion (like a lighter foliage) will give it the stage that it needs.
  • Purple works extra hard in your containers to keep its appeal even into the fall. The lower angles of sunlight late in the season plays tricks with the light and will bring out yet more dimensions of your ultraviolet flowers.