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Condo dwellers guide to gardening

Caramie SchnellVail CO, Colorado
AE Johnies Garden Center 2 DT 4-27-07
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The words “spaghetti pot” likely conjure up images of a tangled mess of pasta, covered in bright red sauce. At Johnie’s Garden in Minturn the term refers to a 12-to-14 inch container filled with five plants – oregano, thyme, rosemary, basil and a canning type tomato, like Roma. Each summer the garden center sells plenty of the pots to hungry garden lovers.”They sell extremely well,” said Tom Glass, Johnie’s Garden center manager. “What keeps the composition under control is you’re using (the herbs) up until the tomatoes ripen. And when they do ripen you can literally create spaghetti sauce.”Just because you live in condo-land and don’t have an expansive garden in your backyard doesn’t mean you can’t grow summer blooms, herbs and even a few vegetables on your deck or patio.”I would say 95 percent of my customers want to purchase a pot that is displayed on their doorstep or deck or hanging from the eaves of their house. That’s really what we’re known for – having beautiful, combination flowering containers,” Glass said. Cheryl Phillips, owner of Earth Song Gardening based out of Avon, is busy planting containers for the company’s clients, she said. She then “grows” and cultivates the pots until mid-June when she delivers them to clients. They last until the middle of October, depending on how cold the nights get. The growing season is shorter in the valley than, say, Grand Junction or Denver, she said, (and even varies between Gypsum and East Vail) but there’s still a solid five months to enjoy a plethora of potted plants.

When customers approach Glass for recommendations the first thing he asks is what the sun exposure is like in the area you want to keep the plant. “It’s the limiting factor,” he said. North facing deck typically get the least amount of light, making it good for shade loving annuals like impatiens, ferns, ivy, begonias and fuschias. Southern light, which is more intense, is good for flowers like marigolds, petunias, geraniums and anything in the daisy family. Vegetable plants, like tomatoes or peppers, like Western sun, which is typically hot and harsh. An eastern facing deck gets some direct light in the morning, but overall the light is gentle, which appeals to flowers like pansies and lobelia. Glass warns customers that most containers need to be watered every day in the summer time – potted plants generally require much more water than if the plants were in the ground, he said.

The container the plant is in makes a difference, Phillips said. Terra cotta pots typically dry out the fastest, but work particularly well for potting herbs. Most herbs hail from the Mediterranean so they’re used to the soil drying out between watering, Phillips said. “They don’t like a lot of moisture around the roots all the time,” she said.Using a wood, plastic or a ceramic container might be a better option. A hanging moss basket that’s exposed to sun and wind will need a lot of water, she said, but if it’s in the shade, can probably go three days without needing watered. The bigger the container, the longer it will take for the soil to dry out, Phillips said. Whatever container you chose, make sure it has drainage holes about a 1/2 inch in diameter. Be sure to layer the bottom of the pot with rocks or pieces of broken clay pots to keep soil from coming out the holes when you water the plant.



If there’s such a thing as a perfectly planted pot, Glass might be the one to spot it. With 25 years in the business, he said there’s more to consider than just water, fertilizer and sun when it comes to gardening. As opposed to a big round mound of plants in a pot, Glass said “you want a plant that trails, something that covers the middle of the composition and a crowning influence – something that is dominant or makes the pot look finished.”For the truly artistically minded, consider creating a composition made up of all the same color flowers, simply using texture to make the pot interesting. Or matching the color of one flower’s tips to the leaves in another plant.”Once in a while you stumble upon a composition that is truly artistic and unique. It’s really kind of fun,” he said.================================Plant your ownWhat: Container garden workshops Where: Avon and Eagle Libraries When: The flowering plant workshop will be at the Eagle Library at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 23 and at the Avon Library at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 24.

The herb and vegetable garden workshop will take place at Eagle Library at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 30 and at Avon Library at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 31.Who: Cheryl Phillips of Earth Song Gardening will lead the classes.Cost: $20What to bring: a 10-to-12 inch container and a pair of gloves. Soil and plants will be provided. Register and pre-pay at the libraries or call 949-6797 for more information.===================================Arts & Entertainment Writer Caramie Schnell can be reached at 748-2984 or cschnell@vaildaily.com.


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