Stressed Out Plants?

Rain, rain and more rain…….and hail.   Yes, we know we should be happy for the rain, since we know it will be well appreciated later this summer.  We should be enjoying the rain, right?  After all, most summers, rain is almost a novelty in Colorado.  Well, the novelty has worn off.  The ground is saturated in many areas, making it difficult to get things going in the garden. Your plants may even be exhibiting signs of stress from the excessive moisture. Brown mushy leaves and stems or gray-green. crispy leaves are both common signs of too much moisture. So, what can you do?

I apologize now if this sounds a bit preachy, but  we want to help you build your garden path, not lead you down the proverbial one.  The single most important thing to do for your garden is to amend the soil. Clay soils don’t allow roots to permeate through the particles and when water-logged roots don’t stand a chance. Amending the soil isn’t the glamorous, fun part of gardening, but it is the foundation for all we hope to grow. Build a good foundation and you’ll experience great results.  Prepare minimally and you can expect success relative to your efforts.  There are times in life where there simply is no substitute for going all out.  Preparing your soil is one of those times.  Often you won’t have a chance to do more than spotty amending between plants after the initial preparation.  In other words, there’s no going back.  Well, there is, but it requires a complete do-over and a tremendous amount of additional effort.  (stepping off the soap box now)nyc

What can you do for existing garden plants showing signs of distress?  Boomerang.   Just like the name suggests, it’s a “comeback” microbial-based formula for plants that helps relieve stressed root systems.  It is filled with nutrition that is easily absorbed by plants and encourages new root growth.  Most importantly, it really works.

BOOMERANGWith the abnormal amount of moisture there are a few undesirables visiting our gardens.  Slugs.  They slither and slime all over our precious plants and then consume leaves and petals,  without any consideration to the gardener.  They can’t even stick to the same leaf.  Nope.  They have to taste all of them.  Diatomaceous Earth is the answer.  It causes abrasions to insects when they come in contact with it.  The insects lose fluids and dehydrate.  It’s an organic control that works effectively.  Bonus – it also helps control earwigs, my arch nemesis in the garden.  natural guard

All of these things will reduce your gardening stress, as well as the stress on your plants.



Perfect Petunias

Supertunia Bordeaux
Supertunia Bordeaux with Sweet Potato Vine

I love petunias! Some might even call me an addict. While there are those who think they are too pedestrian, the truth is they are one of the best choices for sunny Colorado gardens. Petunias are versatile. They can be used in hanging baskets, planters, borders and in mass plantings. They thrive in the summer sun and heat. They tolerate a little frost in early spring and fall, making them ideal for mountain gardens, too. With regular fertilization, they will bloom non-stop until a fall freeze. They’re also water-wise plants, preferring their soil dry moderately well between water applications.  An infinite choice of colors exist for our planting pleasure.  No other annual packs as much bang for the buck.

Wave Petunias
This pot was about 40″ tall and 40″ in diameter. As you can see, the Wave petunias have nearly covered it.

If you haven’t caught the Wave yet, you’ve been missing out. The original Wave petunias reach 6” tall and create a 36” carpet of blooms that hugs the ground. Easy Wave petunias are mounding plants, reaching 12” tall and spreading to about 30”. Shock Waves have petite blooms, grow to 10” tall and spread up to 30” in diameter. Tidal Wave petunias give new meaning to the word “voluptuous.” When planted every 12”, they create a hedge of flowers that can reach up to 48” tall. These are ideal for large pots and planters like wine barrels.

My favorite series of petunias is Sanguna. The colors are uniquely vivid and their flowers are large. Their spreading habit makes them great candidates for use in border plantings, and also allows them to be used as trailing plants from hanging baskets and planters. They are resilient to wind, rain and most anything else Mother Nature dishes out. There are new colors in the series this year. Be sure to look for Sanguna Radiant Blue, Sanguna Radiant Rose and Sanguna Picotte Punch. One of the more unique colors is Sanguna Atomic Blue, with its iridescent, nearly neon blue blooms.

Petunia Sanguna Atomic Blue
Petunia Sanguna Atomic Blue

The oversized, 3″ grandiflora blooms of Hort Couture’s Panache series of petunias should be on everyone’s list of plants to grow. There are some incredible colors. Venetian Red is one of the most stunning red trailing petunias.   And we can’t forget Panache Hell’s Bells.  Spectacular orange blooms really set this one apart.   If you’re a Bronco’s fan, it’s a must-have plant to go with your favorite blue salvia.

Panache Tickled Pink Petunias
Panache Tickled Pink Petunias

There are some special petunias that have been hybridized with calibrachoa. These “SuperCal” petunias combine the best traits of both plants. They are vigorous trailing plants with 2” blooms. They aren’t sticky and they shed their own dead flowers. That’s right. No more sticky fingers from dead-heading.

All petunias are not created equal. There are hundreds from which to choose. Knowing the traits of a few varieties can be helpful when trying to select the right petunia for your purpose. Most petunias can be classified as trailing, mounding or spreading. If you consider what you desire as the end result for your planting, you’ll have no trouble finding your perfect petunia.

Hanging Baskets Basics

16″ hanging basket of lilac petunias, calibrachoa, trailing verbena, and yellow bidens

Hanging baskets can be a quick and easy way to add color and style to a patio or porch, but it’s important to select the right plants for the spot you have chosen. A basket of petunias is never going to be happy in a shady nook, and tuberous begonias will crisp up in the afternoon sun. When choosing plants, you also want to consider how easy it will be to water. If watering the basket is going to be a challenge, you can help compensate by choosing plants that can take dry conditions, or choose larger pots or self-watering pots and soil amendments that will help you maintain moisture around the root zone.

Available sunlight is the starting point for all plant selection, so it’s important to determine the number of hours your plants will receive in the location you plan to plant. Do you have a northern exposure or heavy shade from a tree? It doesn’t matter if “it’s really very bright!”—you will have poor performance from sun lovers like petunias. Our visual perception of light isn’t necessarily an accurate measurement of available light to the plant.

Full sun is 6+ hours of direct sun that will shine on the foliage of your plants, each day. These are going to generally be southern, western, or south-western sides of the house, and not tucked back under an awning. If it’s a spot you want to avoid in the middle of the afternoon, odds are good that it’s the perfect spot for a basket of upright geraniums or calibrachoa.

Easy plants for sunny baskets include petunias, scaevola, calibrachoa, trailing portulaca, lantana, trailing verbena, and bidens. A blend of petunias, verbena, and bidens will provide a mix of both colors and textures with long-blooming flower power. An easy care combo for full sun could include a salmon geranium, 3 ‘Bombay Blue’ scaevolas, and 3 light-yellow calibrachoas.

Mimulus, best for shade or filtered light areas

Part-Sun is less than 6 hours of sun per day, which typically amounts to morning sun only. These are usually eastern exposures or an area that would have all day sun, if it weren’t for that gorgeous maple planted two owners ago. An area with dappled shade for the full day can be counted as part-sun for planting purposes.

Easy plants for morning sun include New Guinea impatiens, torenia, many begonias, ivy geraniums, and bacopa. Bacopa can sometimes stop blooming at the peak heat of the summer, but the foliage remains as a lovely cascade and will bloom again once the temperatures cool a bit in late summer and fall. Pansies can also be included in this group, but like bacopa (and most of us!), high temperatures induce a resting phase. A quick and lovely part-sun combo might include a few yellow or salmon ‘Mocca Mix’ begonias, a few ‘Gold n Pearls’ bacopa, and a 4-pack of deep blue torenia.

Full Shade is quite literally no direct sun in a day. Common shade zones are under a porch or patio awning, under dense tree shade, or in the shade of buildings.

A basket of shade-loving plants could include pansies, compact or trailing coleus, bacopa, begonias, fuchsia, and traditional impatiens. For a quick combo, try 3 Illumination begonias and 3 white bacopas.

Calibrachoa, great for sunny hot spaces and easy to grow

With all basket plantings, it is important to monitor the growth of your plants so that you don’t end up with one vigorous plant taking over the entire pot (I’m looking at you, trailing petunias!). Mild, selective pinching and pruning throughout the summer will encourage new growth from the top of the basket and help keep your baskets looking full and fresh.

A word about feeding your plants – Yes! We’re asking our annuals to entertain us with beautiful blooms all summer long, through any sort of weather or challenge that comes their way. They can’t do that without regular fertilization. Try Jack’s Classic Blossom Booster for the majority of your flowering plants, outdoors and indoors. Petunias prefer a special diet, so try Jack’s Classic Petunia Feed. Follow the instructions on any fertilizer you select.


Fall Containers Not Just for Pansies Anymore!


Fall automatically brings to mind changing colors and inspires us to change out our tender summer annuals for new shades. Traditional pansies and mums are a classic seasonal adornment to bridge the gap from summer to winter, but have you tried combining them with other late-season color?

Try some of these ideas and you’ll have containers you’ll love through to Thanksgiving! Most of these are perennials, so they can be pulled out and planted in the ground when you are ready to change out for holiday decorations.

Ornamental Kale/Cabbage- most commonly found as large rosettes in shades of green, icy blue-green, purple, pink, or red, kales are long-lasting and easy to maintain. Annual.

flowering kale
Sedum- covers a wide range of colors, textures, and heights. Some varieties are only a few inches tall, while others such as Autumn Joy can reach 2 feet. Mixing varieties in the same container can produce an amazing results—a tall, billowing sedum in the back of a pot can be nicely balanced by ‘Dragons Blood’ spilling off the front in shades of red (or ‘Angelina’ for yellow). Many varieties have quarter-size fleshy leaves that shift in tone from cool blues to fall tones.

Euphorbias- flower vividly in the spring and have red/orange/yellow leaves as fall sets in. Foliage texture can be rigidly upright to wispy and delicate. Some have a full & fluffy look, while others are more airy.

Heucheras/ Coral Bells – Available in a wide range of fall colors from deep, rich purples to caramel. Green varieties blend to reds and purples as the season progresses and add a sophisticated flair.

Rudbeckia- Plants (and flowers!) can be mammoth or miniscule depending on variety. ‘Toto’ reaches a pint-sized 1’ in height and bronzed ‘Autumn Colors’ will reach 2+’. Also in the tall group are ‘Indian Summer’ and ‘Prairie Sun’. ‘Goldsturm’ has smaller flowers but a ton of them.

Ornamental Grasses- Easy fillers that come in a range of tones. Provide structure and overall form for the combination.


Now that you have some ideas, how to put them together? Generally speaking, container plantings look best when you follow the adage “Thriller, Spiller, Filler”. Sedums can be any of those, depending on the varieties you select. Euphorbias are likely to be fillers or thrillers. Rudbeckias make a great thriller, and heucheras are lovely fillers. Adding back in the mums and pansies, a large patio pot might contain:

  • 1 Autumn Joy Sedum
  • 1 Grass, Zebra (yellow and green)
  • 2 Heucheras- one purple, one red or caramel
  • 1 6pk pansies, any colors , 2 Mums, any color
  • 1 Kale

For a smaller container, try:
– 1 kale
– 1 mum
– 2 small sedums


Remember to pull out and plant perennials in the ground if you would like to have them come back next spring. Plants are less likely to overwinter successfully in containers.