GardenSmart :: EPISODES :: 2003 show29
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Show #29

Our Container Garden Contest was a hit. The response both by mail and email was tremendous. We were overwhelmed by the beautiful, unique and whimsical containers. Some were large, some small, one was in a shoe, one a barbecue grill. They came in all shapes and sizes. It truly was difficult to pick one as the best. But we did pick a winner.

The winner this season is DeWayne Gallatin. DeWayne excelled in both the quantity and quality of his containers. As well, we were impressed by the way he transitions so beautifully from the ground to a container. It is often difficult to tell where the plants on the ground end and the plants in the container begin. They fit beautifully together. DeWayne taught us some new tricks.

DeWayne became interested in horticulture at an early age. When he turned 16 his grandfather said - get a job. He went to a public garden, they had a greenhouse and he became a garden grunt. It was there that he fell in love with horticulture, especially creating containers. He particularly enjoys the design aspect - creating color combinations and unusual height combinations. In fact some have called him the "king of containers." (No kidding). His friends often ask him to conduct classes and he frequently helps others pick out their plants. He feels containers are an important component to any great garden. They're portable, changeable and they add instant presence to the area where they're placed.

When choosing an area that needs a container, DeWayne first looks for a space in the garden screaming for an instant spot of color, an area that can be made exceptional. He then looks at the surrounding colors. What colors should be emphasized, what colors does he need to match? He then, importantly, decides what is available. Mums aren't available in January, for example. He next thinks about height. What is the scale of the pot? How tall should the vertical element be in that particular space? Should the container itself be visible? How large should the container be compared to the space. Before finally selecting the container, because he knows it will be heavy when planted, he first places it in the selected area. He then sizes up container and space, imagining the fullness, color, etc. Even so, the beauty of a container is that it can be moved once planted, it can be placed in other parts of the garden.

We look at one of DeWayne's works of art. He has selected a good size container for the area, which is an open, large space. This container contains a lot of interesting forms or textures, but has a fairly simple color scheme. He starts by finding a focal point in the container, then works from the back, forward. In the back he chose Cosmos, a plant that provides height, a vertical element. DeWayne then used the color pallet of the Cosmos to tie in other plants. He likes Cosmos for several reasons. It's a durable plant, easy to grow and it provides height. The Cosmos' colors - whites, yellows and purples, are found in his supporting plants. Mums, provide size and help fill the container. Since he wanted them to stand out a little he put them on mounded soil so they would sit a little higher. Purple Cabbage is planted lower and protrudes out the front and over the sides to soften the edges. It is a rich, dark purple and adds visual weight low in the container, plus it provides a sense of balance and stability. A Tricolor Sweet Potato, is a holdover from summer, and is retained, because it too, ties in. This container is different, yet has a simple color scheme, everything is either pink or purple or some combination of those colors.

DeWayne changes plants as the seasons change. If a plant is healthy and will thrive and survive in the nest season, he uses it again. Don't be afraid to retain some plants but change plants out as their season ends.

We look at another container. Dr. Rick likes this one because it's difficult to tell where the garden ends and the container begins. This container is placed at the guest entrance. A Cleria hedge is in the background and is pretty but not exciting, very dark green. DeWayne wanted a "wow" effect but felt he could provide that with texture, not color. He took a container and placed it back in the garden, it's not sitting on the patio, but in the garden itself. As the season progresses and the plants mature the container slowly disappears into the garden, however it still provides height and texture. In this container DeWayne planted an Australian Tree Fern and under it he planted white Impatiens and Variegated Ivy. Impatiens are also planted on the ground, making it difficult to tell where the Impatiens on the ground stop and the Impatiens in the container start. DeWayne knows Impatiens get leggy and grow rapidly during summer, thus knew they would fill in any empty spaces. The Tree Fern provides the vertical element necessary for effect. He bought it as a 3 gallon plant. DeWayne has seen these plants grow to 12-15 feet tall and as much as 15 feet wide. In the container, because the roots are constrained, this tree would only grow to about 5-6 feet tall. In the winter he puts it in a green house, ties it up and it will over winter. He ties the frawns so they take less space. It doesn't need to look beautiful in winter, just keep it alive. As the frawns die back , he cuts them away. Don't over water, just water when it gets dry. Next season this plant will probably outgrow its' space in this container, DeWayne will then find another space for it. This container is stunning because it combines the light green color of the Tree Fern with the deep shade of the Cleria in the background. The Impatiens flow seamlessly from the ground to the container. Again a simple color scheme, dark green in the background and lighter green in front. It doesn't clash, it blends beautifully.

Researchers at the Center for Water Efficient Landscaping at Utah State University say there is much that can be done to create a beautiful, lush lawn yet still conserve water. First, aerate our lawns. For warm season turf, Spring is typically the best time to aerate. Fall is best for cool season turf. It is also advisable when mowing to keep the grass as tall as possible. The taller the leaf blade, the longer the roots. Third, leave clippings on the lawn and allow them to be absorbed by the grass plant. Finally, realize that more is not always better - extra water and extra fertilization is a great idea when conditions are right but during times of drought or during times of stress too much fertilizer and too much water can be a detriment. So ease off both when water is lacking.

DeWayne designed another container specifically because he wanted a vertical element against a tall brick wall. The container is Polistyran, a false terra-cotta look. Polistyran is light weight, which allows it to be moved easily. The color was wrong for the space so he painted it to match the surroundings. He first used a good primer, covering the whole pot. He uses a paint brush because he's found that spray paint will chip. After the primer, he used a good exterior paint. It looks natural and has stood the test of time. In the container he used a Evergreen called Sky Pencil. It's a Holly and is very upright and very tight. This plant can grow anywhere in the country, however, in Northern climates it is prone to snow damage. With a heavy snow it may split open. To combat this problem tie the plant up before snow or ice hit, use twine and pull the leaves into the trunk. This will keep the leaves and branches from falling, then breaking. Otherwise this is a great plant. To add punch DeWayne has added Zinia Orange Profusion. This plant also comes in white or cherry, but DeWayne loves orange. It compliments the Black Sweet Potato and DeWayne likes something that spills over the front and softens the edge.

This Zinia is a cross, a hybrid, between the regular garden Zinia and the Narrow Leaf Zinia, Angustafolia. It is drought tolerant, which is important with plants in containers. Because typically once plants in containers get full they need water every day or every other day.

This combination is particularly striking because behind this container is a stand of Persian Shield or Strobilanthis. It is a great tropical looking plant, good for the summer. In the back are Bananas, they provide big texture and height. They really give that "wow" effect. By chance, right now, the Banana is blooming and the bloom has the exact same purple hue as the Strobilanthis. There is also some Cleria in the area. The container ties everything together, the greens, the purples, the oranges, it all looks great and harmonizes the different components. Dr. Rick thinks there is a tip here. If gardeners will keep a log, record garden facts, keep track of what happens in the garden that information is often very useful when planning the next year.

Most of the time when we think of containers we think about a container with plants growing out the top. DeWayne has another approach, but it can still be considered a container. It's a topiary. He has painted a metal frame, resembling an animal, black. The frame is then filled with Unmilled Sphagnum Moss. The frame then blends in and disappears. Sphagnum Moss is normally found in potting soil where it is ground up, this is in a more natural sheet form, right from the bog. He soaks it overnight and it absorbs water, becoming pliable, it then can then be molded into the sculpture or topiary. After stuffing the Sphagnum Moss inside the frame he adds the plants. In this case he chose Variegated English Ivy, Ingrid Liz. The Ivy is placed inside the frame on the Moss, DeWayne then takes the runners and attaches them to the frame with floral pins. He selects plants in 2 1/2 to 4 inch pots, puts them close together, then trains the runners. Once it fills in he maintains it by snipping wild runners. If there is a bare or thinning spot move a runner to the bare spot and pin it down. The only soil in this topiary is the soil that the plants were originally growing in, the original root ball of the Ivy. It is kept sheared, tight and low, but looks great.

Georgia this week visits with Ruth Levitan. Ruth's garden is always in demand for garden tours and Ruth today shares with us some of her garden design philosophy. A garden shouldn't be a frill around the house, it should be separate from the house, it should bring you outside.

The paths in her garden become a journey, not a destination. As one walks along the paths one sheds the feeling of the house, the house is no longer important, what is important is the outdoor experience.

Ruth wanted water in the garden, thus dug a large hole for a fish pond. It is backed by large shrubs so it becomes a destination. After stopping one might then look for another destination. Large trees then can then be used, they become a window, a place beyond a place, another destination.

In this garden the view is always changing. There are wonderful paths that cause one to meander, they lead us through the garden. It is charming. Ruth feels that yards have natural divisions which can become adventures. When one walks around a tree, for example, one sees things from a different angle. Suppose the builder has scrapped everything, left everything flat. Instead of having a square lawn, think about reducing the yard to paths. Place, along the paths, simple native bushes, then plant borders around the bushes. Pathways provide a place to walk and allow one to absorb things on either side. She feels the less lawn, the more interesting the environment. Plus she feels there is nothing more boring than pushing a lawn mower.

Georgia has enjoyed the special vistas in Ruth's yard. Thanks Ruth for sharing your unique design philosophies with our audience.

DeWayne had another area that he felt needed added color. He found an old birdbath, not being used, and turned it into a spectacular container. The birdbath had turned green. He could have painted it, but felt that painting might detract from the plants and not accent the age of the birdbath. Instead he cleaned it up, it looks like it has been around for at least a hundred years. He filled it with potting soil and added Red Dragon Wings for height and added Mums for Fall color. This container is a good example of using high intensity plants, plants with a lot of clarity in their color. It turned a drab area into one that jumps out and catches the eye.

DeWayne likes to leave some containers out year round. However when leaving a container out it must be made of concrete. Terra cotta gets wet, then chips, cracks and splits. Concrete can be left outside year round but it is heavy so it isn't easily moved. Thus he tries to put a permanent plant in these containers. In this case he has used standard Boxwood. This Box has been topiaried, he clips it to keep it shaped, therefore it has a more formal look. This plant should probably only be in the container for about three years, if it is still a good looking plant at that point, plant in the ground, in a more natural setting. Permanent plants won't do as well in containers long term, as they would do in the ground. Their root system is subjected to higher temperatures and lower temperatures - more fluctuation. They experience not only wide fluctuations in temperature but in moisture as well. Three to five years is about all one can expect with plants like this in containers, they then should be replaced with different plants.

Since there won't be anything else around these containers, take into consideration the whole picture and address not only the container, but its' base and the surrounding bed line. They should all compliment each other. DeWayne likes to top dress around the base, for this he utilizes pine bark or mini pine bark.

DeWayne even has very small containers. In these he has planted Rye, Wheat Grass. He planted it, soaked it overnight and in five days had a beautiful stand. It makes a beautiful table topper, is good for animals or can be used in a healthful, organic drink.

Dr. Rick congratulates DeWayne on being our winner. He has lived up to his name "the king of containers." His containers are beautiful, stunning and unusual. DeWayne thanks Dr. Rick, he is excited to have won.

We're starting another contest and will announce a winner in the Spring of 2004. If you have something unusual, send us your picture. We are looking forward to visiting the next winner at their home and showing everyone their gardening showpiece.

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Photos and story by Monrovia Nursery Company

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