Container plants help add color

betsjukofsky@aol.comNovember 13, 2011 

  • HERB SALE

    The Herb Society of Hilton Head Island's Fall Sale will be held from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday near The French Bakery at Pineland Station on Hilton Head. Herb plants and products made by society members - including soup mixes, curries, vinegars, jellies and more - will be available. Money raised benefits local charities.

    Details: 843-671-9498

    LAND TRUST

    Congratulations go to the members of the Hilton Head Island Land Trust for attaining recognition from The National Register of Historic Places for the Fort Howell site that is owned and protected by the land trust. A celebration to unveil the official state marker took place on the site Nov. 7.

    MASTER GARDEN PROGRAM

    There will be a Master Gardner Program classes from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. on Tuesdays beginning Jan. 10 and running through April 3 at the Beaufort County Extension Service at 102 Beaufort Industrial Villages Road in Beaufort. Cost is $300 a person. Reservations must be made by Dec. 15. Details on a Hilton Head Island class have yet to be announced.

    Details: Laura Lee Rose, 843-255-6060, ext. 117; lrose@clemson.edu

There are those who would define Beaufort County by the Atlantic Ocean. There are those whose definition might include its many rivers. And there are many who will speak about its magnificent trees.

Put me down as among the latter. "Save the trees," I told our homebuilder, and he did -- all 40 of them. To this group I added many Southern natives that were must-haves. For three decades they grew, creating a canopy of shade. Gardening within the yard was pleasant, even on the hottest of summer days. The gardens were green and growing, but they were missing the beauty of color.

That's when I discovered container gardening. Sure, I'd been growing houseplants in pots for many years. Still, the idea of using pots of flowers that could remain outdoors throughout the seasons was new. One can create a climate for a container-grown plant merely by changing its position in the garden.

Pot gardening not only makes it possible to have plants you couldn't otherwise grow, it gives you a chance to try out new ones. Best of all, it makes for having color and lots of it where you want it: up the walkway to the front door, on steps, and in a small entryway garden. Tropical flowers with their vibrant flower colors break up the monotony of the hardscape around pools. As the sun's pattern changes with the seasons; the containers can be moved.

Today's plant containers are as unusual as your imagination allows. I and you have seen shoes and boots, bird baths, pumpkins and squash, seashells, baskets that hang, upside-down pots, wash basins and toilets. Living wreaths made of moss and small, seasonal plants can be planted and hung outdoors to decorate the house.

Container-grown plants can be useful, too. With that in mind, I visited the Hilton Head Island Greenery to listen and learn about growing herbs and vegetables in containers. Horticulturist Carol Guedalia is well known to many islanders for her vast plant knowledge, acquired at Haywood Community College in North Carolina and the University of Oregon, and later refined while on the Horticulture Board at Clemson University Extension.

Working with colorful herbs, vegetables and winter annuals, Guedalia put together eye-catching seasonal planters to be used as well as viewed. The plant containers she used were of a lightweight material, round and fairly shallow, looking much like a large salad bowl. Once filled with plants and the light soil that is used in planters, the container was easy to move around. Guedalia planted winter herbs of thyme -- all kinds -- mint, lavender, mint marigold, calendula, rosemary and parsley, mixing them with violas, pansies and English daisies that she called "the sweetest little guys."

Soil and amendments used in the planters were exclusively organic. To quote Pete from Pete's Herb Farm, "Growing in the ground, you don't need to fertilize. In pots, you do." Once the bottom of the pot is lightly covered with shipping "popcorn" or clay shards that you place sideways so as not to clog your drainage hole, pour in loose soil and a sprinkle of blood meal for the nitrogen and to ward off pesky animals. Put in the veggies and around the container's edge, a row of violas. Water well with a liquid starter food.

I came home with a planted container of veggies: red mustard, kale, endive, Chinese blue cabbage and Swiss chard stealing the show with its colors of red, orange and green. For planting in a smaller container, I've plants of orange calendulas, an English daisy (Bellis perennis), and a "Fizzy Lemonberry" pansy. So far I've not cut a leaf for eating from my vegetable container. It's so decorative I hate to disturb it.

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