Planning for potting
To most people the first week of June symbolizes the beginning of summer, the end of school, or the time to get out of the house to enjoy the wonderful off-season in Vail. But for me and all of the garden fanatics living in our valley, the beginning of June means no more frost (hopefully) and no more restrictions on gardening.Whether you buy your pots already planted or you plant them yourself, annuals are the quickest way to add a zing of color to your home or business. Choosing the proper container to use is more important than you think. In order to have fabulous, vibrant pots, drainage is of utmost importance. Choose a pot that has adequate drainage holes. If I find a container that does not have drainage holes, I usually drill several small holes 2-3 inches apart across the bottom of the container. When choosing containers to plant in, be creative. All of the containers I own have been altered from their original state. Add some exterior water-proof latex paint to old terra cotta clay pots or find alternatives to conventional pots at thrift stores or antique stores.Although annuals will only be a seasonal fixture, they do require consideration and planning. The most important thing to consider when designating the proper plant combinations is the future location of the pot. Is the location a sunny or shadey area? Windy? Hot or cold? Choose plants that can stand up to the conditions your containers must survive in.In addition to the cultural requirements of the plants, be sure to consider the type and colors of the plants you choose. In most containers, choose one type of plant to be the ‘centerpiece.’ The centerpiece should be a tall, eye-catching plant. Ideas for centerpieces include grasses, dracaena spikes, marigolds or cosmos. Another vital element of container planting are trailing plants. Trailing plants add additional dimensions to containers because they have the capacity to grow downward. Trailers can be either grown for their flowers or their foliage effect. Between the centerpiece and the trailing plants, add plants of varying sizes and colors. Be sure to use one plant variety solely for foliage effect to add texture to your combination. The larger the container, the more varieties of plants you could use. For smaller containers, keep the combination simpler and use less plant varieties.Aesthetically, most people use color to choose plant combinations. However, color actually comes fourth in the design chain after cultural requirements, size and texture. The best combinations are those that involve complementary colors. The complementary color pairs are yellow and purple; green and red; and blue and orange. Complementary colors are most successfully used in a two to one ratio. A popular combination of colors from last year was a centerpiece of yellow South African daisies (Osteospurnums) with dark purple petunias.As with everything in today’s culture, there are fashionable annuals for this summer. Try replacing the old stand-by vinca vine with the impressive Dichondra argentea ‘Silver Falls.’ As the name implies, this non-flowering trailer cascades waves of silver leaves over the sides of containers. Calibrachoa hybrids are another popular flowering trailer that closely resembles mini petunias. For amazing unique colors, try ‘Million Bells’ in Terra Cotta or Sunset. If you like snapdragons, try the newer summer snapdragon (Angelonia angustifolia). Don’t be fooled, this open-faced, upright flower is not a snapdragon but it does make an excellent centerpiece. Colors and speckling on the flowers range from white to pink to plum.Popular plant varieties change quicker than runway fashions so be sure to keep your eyes open during your travels and garden center shopping this summer. Be creative with your design and enjoy your new container creations!Stacey Kay Helm is nursery manager at SHC Nursery and Landscaping in Edwards, and has a B.S. in Landscape Horticulture from Colorado State University.