Give me, odorous at sunrise, a garden of beautiful flowers where I can walk undisturbed. – Walt Whitman
While searching for quotes for this piece, I found hundreds of them. Flowers mean many things to many people. Of course their beauty is paramount to most of us, but there is so much more in a flower than beauty or scent.
Flowers also have their own language. In 1714, after five years in exile at the Ottoman Court, King Charles II of Sweden brought back to Europe the knowledge of the coded messages being used by the ladies of the Turkish harems. Lady Mary Wortly Montague introduced the idea to the English Court in 1718, and by the time of Queen Victoria in 1837 the tradition was Empire wide.
So, let’s see what we can make them say for you!
Mary, Mary, quite contrary
Flowers can fill many niches in your overall garden scheme. They can be spectacular color displays during a certain season, as changeable as your mood. Or they may offer a stable background with which to play with design and form. You don’t even necessarily need a garden! An incredible display can be achieved using pots and window boxes, and that’s what I’m going to focus on in this article.
How does your garden grow?
As with any successful garden, soil preparation is the key. You need top quality potting mix, and a handful of slow release pellet type fertilizer. Do yourself and your plants a favor and buy the best you can afford. Cheap potting mix is usually just that. Cheap. Inferior quality, lacking in water retention qualities and the micro-organisms necessary for strong sustainable growth. The last two times I ever bought cheap potting mix were the last for me. The first lot ended up sprouting all these crazy little yellow fungi, and the second gave me an infestation of spider mite which I am still battling to this day. I kid you not. You’ve been warned.
One good little piece of information that came out of all that was the idea of putting your bags of potting mix in the sun for a few days before using them. The heat and moisture inside the bags will kill the majority of soil borne bacteria and spores.
Here’s where it can get incredibly interesting. You see, you don’t need pots – you can use anything that will hold soil. From old toilet bowls to teacups – if you can put soil in it you can use it : as a centerpiece, or part of a very unique display. Growing pansies in grandma’s old, cracked milk jug is a great way to remember and honor her for many years to come. If you have many different kinds of pots and containers, you can tie them all together by painting the pots the same. Or you could paint them to reflect the color of the flowers growing within. Or to contrast with them. The variations are only limited by your imagination.
Silver bells and cockle shells…
So what do you grow? As always, my strong advice is to just go for a wander around your neighborhood and see what is working for other people around you. The elderly couple out pruning in the front yard are an invaluable source of information about what works and what doesn’t. Your local nurseryman or landscaper will also generally be more than happy to give you advice. One tip I will share is one I always use. When ever you plant something, no matter what it is, I always put a few appropriately sized flower bulbs in the pot with it. It’s a real buzz to get a little surprise every spring when they come bursting through.
Also, think outside the box. Although they are generally thought of as upright plants, a hanging basket full of Freesia is an absolute joy to behold. I’ve also seen Jasmine in a basket – small but very striking.
So where do you put them? If you’re so tight on space that you need pots, where will they fit?
Vertical gardens are very popular. They’re basically a metal mesh frame attached to a wall, which you hang pots on. You can have an ever-changing display this way, and rotate plants in and out from your larger garden if you have one. Vertical gardens are also an excellent solution for herbs, and I have had excellent results with strawberries in them.
Staircases are custom-made to display objects of beauty, and plants certainly qualify. A pot of vibrant color on each step will go a long way to lifting your mood and the ambiance of the area. Use common sense here though, you need to leave room to walk!
If you are lucky enough to have a pergola, or other outdoor structure, you can use the space above your head for a stunning hanging pot display.
I would love to know your thoughts about flowers – do you have a special favorite? Why? What memories do they evoke for you?