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Tame unruly gardens with pocket plantings
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
When the quantity of flower plantings gets out of hand, even good folks can become slaves to the garden.
To be perfectly honest, I had a home where I felt like I had created the botanical garden from you-know-where. Sure, it was pretty and everyone "oohed" and "ahhed," but after a while it started to feel like I should be getting paid for the upkeep. Sadly, my garden stopped being fun and became work.
There is only a limited amount of plant material we can take care of before things start to go awry. Whether you want to call it a small planting or a pocket planting, today's hurried gardeners may find this perfect for both an aesthetically pleasing landscape and a fun hobby.
Once we have our pockets in place, the door to having year-round color opens. At any moment we desire, we can come in with an instant refresher of color. Late-summer color easily can be replaced with chrysanthemums, then followed by pansies, violas, kale and cabbage.
When considering pocket color, think about placement. Where is the most important place in the landscape? The first area to consider is the entryway. This is where visitors arrive at your steps. Let flowers here be the sign that says, "Welcome."
The next logical place for a pocket planting is any area where you spend a lot of time. When I was a child, it was the front porch area. Everyone sat on the porch, relaxed and reminisced. Many of today's homes have no front porch -- but most do still have a back yard.
As a child, the back yard was the baseball field and the golf green. Sometimes it was an obstacle course -- after all, you had to be careful not to lose your head on the clothesline. No back-yard visitors back then; I guess we didn't want folks coming over to see our underwear flapping in the breeze.
Today, back yards have incredible decks, patios, porches and swimming pools. This is where we relax outdoors entertaining friends and family. It is also where we need color.
Containers actually may be the perfect place for small, manageable flower gardens in the areas described above. Their portability makes containers ideal because they can be moved to desired locations and as the sun shifts through the seasons.
They can be stair-stepped, clustered together or elegantly arranged at any location. Container plants can mean less work from the standpoint of soil preparation and watering, and they even can be placed closer to the gardener who doesn't want to bend over.
Make sure the containers drain freely when watered, use a light potting mix and know that frequent watering in the summer will dictate more fertilization. Used controlled-release granules for ease of application.
And lastly, though we have chosen to go with a pocket planting versus a bold, sweeping display garden, we still have to plant a sufficient quantity to get the job done. Anything less will look like the gardener was clueless.
We are beginning a new planting season -- why not shop this weekend for fall color and do a little pocket planting in your key locations?