Tag Archives: petunia

August, Oops, September Garden Update

A while back I thought I was getting caught up, but then sending twins off to college this fall proved to be quite a time consuming effort!  So the garden has been a bit on auto pilot for a little while now.  Thank goodness it got off to such a good start this spring.  Here’s some tidbits on what I would have written about, if I had had the time 🙂

There was a family of chickadees that must have nested and fledged near my feeders.  For weeks, I was so entertained by the hilarious antics of the 3 young chickadees that truly behaved like little kids.

baby chickadee

baby chickadee

I got a lot more green peppers and Mariachi hot peppers as the summer went on.  Unfortunately, Daisy was not at all dissuaded by munching on the hot peppers and continued to eat almost all this year’s pepper harvest (Little White Pepper Thief).

green pepper

Surveying the garden for her latest snack…


A couple of years ago this patch of creeping thyme was a disaster.  I wrote about it in my earlier post, Creeping Thyme Problems.  I was skeptical that the severe pruning was going to help, but it has.  It looks gorgeous and lush, and smells awesome when I walk on it to get to the garden hose.  So if in doubt, cut away, it’ll be better for it!

Creeping Thyme

Creeping Thyme

I didn’t get many sunflowers this year thanks to the bunnies.  But I did get this one, beautiful Evening Sun Sunflower.  Made me smile.

Evening Sun sunflower

Thankfully Daisy doesn’t seem have found the tomatoes or basil. I don’t ever seem to tire of fresh tomato salads.

tomato basil salad

The raspberries I planted in the spring flourished over the summer.  I even got a few tasty raspberries in the late summer.  Looking forward to having the plants mature and getting lots of berries.   What did I plant?  See my previous post “My Raspberries and Strawberry Plants Are Here!”


Two of my clematis plants got a terrible case of Clematis Stem Wilt earlier this spring (What’s Wrong With the Clematis and Clematis Stem Wilt).  I was hopeful that the plants would survive and I think they did.  Both plants put up a couple of new, healthy looking stems that looked good until the last few days when something has decided to munch on the leaves.  We’ll see in the spring how they look.  At least there’s hope.


The petunias were home to lots of pollinators.  This bumblebee was fun to watch as he dove deep into each flower.  He seemed to really prefer the dark pink over light pink.  While I have no decent pictures, I had hummingbirds also visit my yard late this summer.  I don’t always get them, so it has been a treat the last few weeks to have them visit.


How was your garden this year?

(BTW Go Hokies! Go Blue!)

Geranium and Petunia Planter: Summer Maintenance

In my last post, I showed you how I planted my geranium and petunia planter (Geranium and Petunia Planter).  Aside from watering and fertilizing as needed, there’s a little bit more maintenance to do to keep the plants bushy and pretty. Basically you need to pinch off the dying flowers before they turn to seed.  This keeps the plant putting its effort into making more flowers instead of focussing on going to seed.

Every few days, check and look for dead or dying flower stalks.


Not only are they ugly, they are sucking plant energy into finishing seed production rather than into flower production.  


Pinch down low, where the stem meets the plant and pull downward.  The flower stalk will break right off.  If this seems tricky, or you’re not getting a clean break, you can use clippers. 


Now it looks prettier and there’s lots of new buds ready to burst forth.  

geranium and petunia planter

Now for the petunias… These are the old fashioned types, so you need to pull off all the dead and dying flowers to keep the flowers blooming all season.  Be sure to not just remove the petals, but pinch back to the base of the flower, or to just above the first leaf below the flower.  Otherwise, you’ve left the seed pod to mature.

Some of the new hybrids either don’t need dead heading at all, or the dead flowers just drop off with a breeze or a shake.  Very convenient!


Don’t forget your hanging geraniums either!  They need the same attention.

hanging geranium


Geranium and Petunia Planter

geraniums and petunia planter

In my experience, to have a successful planter or pot, there’s a few tricks you’ll want to use.

  • First, be sure your planter has a drain hole.  If not, try to drill some if the planter material allows
  • Add a layer of something to keep the soil from washing out (and can cut down on the amount of soil needed if the planter is large).  Depending on the size of the pot (therefore weight), you can use stones, styrofoam peanuts, a layer of newspaper, etc.  I’ve even used pinecones in some.
  • Only use potting soil!!  It’s specially blended to avoid soil compaction and retain moisture.  I usually use Miracle Gro Potting Mix.  If it’s the first year of using the soil, fertilization isn’t usually needed, after that be sure to fertilize on a regular basis.
  • What kind of plants you add is up to you.  There’s lots of resources to come up with interesting combinations.  Use what you like!

On to planting… Geraniums and petunias are one of my favorite combos.  It’s simple, but gives a great splash of color in this low rectangular pot that sits on my patio.

First, decide how the plants will be arranged.


It’s easiest to remove some of the soil first.  Set the plants in, the pack the soil back in the plants.


Remove the plant from the pot.  This is easiest done by grabbing the stem down low next to the soil and turning the plant over.  Tap, twist or squeeze the container and pull gently.  Be careful to get the dirt with the roots.


If the roots are root bound, squeeze the root gently to allow some of the roots to separate out.  This allows the roots to come in contact with the new dirt and grow.  If really root bound, physically pull the root ball apart at the bottom  to get root growth started again.


Plant the root ball level with the surface of the soil.  Pack the soil back in around the root ball.  Be sure to get as many roots in contact with the potting soil to grow for a healthy plant.  Water generously to soak the roots and push out any air spaces that will block soil and root contact.


Now time to add the petunias.


Be especially careful removing the plants.  Grab low and push from the bottom.  Plants in these small 6 packs can easily be pulled right out of the soil if you’re not careful.


Plants in cell packs are often quite root bound.


Give them a squeeze to open the roots up.


Finished product!

geraniums and petunia planter

Do you have a favorite simple plant combo you keep coming back to?

Uh Oh, Frost in MI Last Night

Last night the temperature at my mom Peggy’s house was predicted to get down to the low 30’s.  That means frost was a real possibility. If you saw her gardens in my post a couple of days ago (Gardening: All in the Family), you know her plants are well underway and many not able to survive a first.  So what to do?

Every plant has its own tolerance to cold.  Zinnias, Impatiens, Petunias?  Forget it, they like it warm.  Cold weather vegetables, strawberries, perennials?  Maybe leaves and flowers damaged initially, but they’ll be just fine.  The seed packet or container tag will give you some insight into what they can tolerate.  When in doubt, cover them.

garden frost

If you know that the plants are likely to be damaged by an overnight frost, you need to cover them with a sheet or blanket.  My mom has a whole collections of sheets just for this purpose.  By tenting the sheets over the garden, it creates a warm air pocket around the plants.  If it’s thought to be colder than a light frost, you can add a a layer of plastic over the blanket to trap even more warm air (never right on the plants).  Be sure to remove the coverings first thing in the morning before condensation starts to form on the inside.  If still cold enough, the moisture could freeze on the plants and cause harm as well.  An actual freeze requires even more elaborate weather protection, or you may just need to sigh and start over.

Then say a little prayer and hope for the best.  Peggy’s plants looked good this morning.  It did get down to 31°, but warmed up quickly once the sun came up.  Hopefully that’s it for the cold weather.

Gardening: All in the Family

For as long as I can remember my mom had vegetable and flower gardens, sometimes big, sometimes small.  So did my grandparents.  All this interest in growing things rubbed off on me and hopefully I’ll pass it on to my kids.  With that in mind, I had my mom and daughter take us on a tour of their June gardens.  First my mom, Peggy, in northern Michigan.

So lucky to have the space of all these raised beds (check out all the raspberries in the back!).

photos by peggy

 Petunia garden protected from the rabbits

photos by peggy/stephi gardens


photos by peggy/stephi gardens

Hummingbirds are enjoying the flowers right now.  Soon they’ll be looking for some extra food.

photos by peggy/stephi gardens

A more natural garden.

photos by peggy/stephi gardens


photos by peggy/stephi gardens

A lovely visitor–Tiger Swallowtail

photos by peggy/stephi gardens

Salad in a bag!

photos by peggy/stephi gardens

 Succulents!  This is a creative work in progress. I can’t wait to see what she does with this.  I know she’s got some great ideas.

photos by peggy/stephi gardens


photos by peggy/stephi gardens


photos by peggy/stephi gardens

My daughter Emily lives in an apartment with some friends downtown.  When we were talking earlier in the spring, she was complaining about the price of tomatoes.  Soon after that, I happened to see a great looking potted patio tomato plant that would fit on her porch.

stephi gardens

She couldn’t have been more excited and has taken lovingly care of this plant.  It gets a hello and a glass of water from the mason jar every morning.  Recently I got a text that read “Mom!  2 of my tomatoes hatched!”  I hope they grow big, red and juicy for her.  I think she’ll be hooked then.

Do you have someone who inspired you, or have you inspired anyone else to garden? 

Brrr, it’s Cold

As expected, we sunk down below freezing Tuesday night. Glad I got the last of the vegetables harvested. Surprisingly, many of the garden plants actually looked pretty good in the morning, but we’ll see after 2 days of below freezing temperatures overnight.

I ended up leaving the single perfect rosebud on the plant. In the morning it was still tightly closed, just half the size as the day before.

The coleus and petunias showed their unhappiness by curling up their leaves and petals like they were trying to stay warm.


Then later yesterday, I headed up to Michigan for a quick visit to my mom’s. The drive was interesting, both from the quirky weather and the seemingly random changing of the colors. I would have expected a gradual transition as I headed north, but instead, the colors were highly variable, with some places still green, others showing beautiful colors, then still more already bare. This morning, we woke up to this–



Not sure I’m ready!

White Line Sphinx Moth

The other night I was outside helping grill around dusk. Right next to the grill, I have planters with geraniums, petunias and coleus.


Flitting around the petunias that night was this hummingbird-dragonfly-bug-like thing. Its wings were beating so fast, I really couldn’t get a handle on what it was. All I could really tell was that it was not a hummingbird, but was definitely getting nectar from the petunias, checking out the other flowers, distinctively patterned and very pretty. I meant to try to look it up, but I really didn’t know what I was looking for.

Then, oddly enough, the next morning my radio alarm comes on and there is an interview with a local garden specialists about the recent explosion of something called a White Line Sphinx Moth (Hyles lineata). That was it, made my ID pretty easy. For some reason that I haven’t been able to figure out, they’ve been spotted in higher numbers lately in the Midwest, including Chicago.

White Line Sphinx Moths, also known as Hawk Moths, are fairly large moths and behave much like a hummingbird, flitting about, hovering above flowers and using its very long tongue (or proboscis) to reach into the flower and drink the nectar. The caterpillar phase of this moth is also unusually large (3 inches or more) and has a distinct hornlike appendage. They look similar to the very destructive tomato hornworm, but are not as much of a garden pest.

I hope they stick around a bit, it was fun to watch.

Photo Credit: Larry Lamsa (Creative Commons licensing)

Photo Credit: Larry Lamsa (Creative Commons licensing)


MI Garden Photos

This gallery contains 10 photos.

Here’s some beautiful photos from my mom’s garden in northern Michigan. Photos taken by Peggy