Friday, July 07, 2017

Container Gardening-2017 Project Follow-Up

Remember those pots we did together a few weeks ago? 
I focused for a few posts on container garden tips and tricks
and used a project from our church as the example..
Here are some quick links:

Container Garden tips and tricks-Part 1
Container Garden tips and tricks-Part 2
Container Garden tips and tricks-Part 3

It turned out pretty rad.
I don't think there's been a single project 
this rewarding for me personally.

If you doubt that plants can welcome people
then you should see the faces and hear the comments
of our congregation when they enter.
Our goal was to help our church family 
feel welcomed and lifted up as they 
gather together.
Mission accomplished!
Many people actually touch these 
plants as they walk into the church.
I take that to mean that 
they find the pull of the plant material
and the beauty of the colors irresistible.

As immediately satisfying as these beauties were,
gardening is not something that 
I do for immediate (and only immediate) gratification.
With good planning, gardening 
is the gift that keeps on giving
as the plants mature.

In this post, I want to share some photos that demonstrate
 how the planning we did in the beginning
has allowed for these living creatures
to grow, evolve and change
in beautiful ways.

Late May (2 weeks post plant):

You can see that the plants are bigger.  
They are settling in enough to show their colors but
are still quite small compared to their mature height.
There is a lot of visual interest (different shapes, textures) while they get going
so the viewer doesn't feel like there's a pause happening.

The Dahlia in the middle was showing off quite a bit this week.  
Also, the double impatiens were starting to kick it up. 
Having single doses of an individual plant
keeps the eye from trying to balance everything in symmetrical form.
Keeping the palette similar (lime and purple)
means that in spite of different form/texture, 
everything in the pots seem to 'go together'.

The lime green coleus and sweet potato vines really shine here 
and have started to quickly add on size.
We are seeing height begin to reach
but also seeing the drape over the sides 
begin to add dimension.
These planters are beginning to show us the 3-D design
we envisioned.

Mid-June (5 weeks Planted):

 If we had not planned for this....
we would be freaking out within a month of planting these beauties.
Look at how much size the plants have put on 
within 5 short weeks?

Can you believe these are even the same pots?
Look at that Lantana sending out fireworks!  
You can barely see it in the first picture.  
And the elephant ears have tripled in size.
The fountain grass is a great backdrop, 
 the Canna lily shot up and is blooming!  
I didn't get a good side view on this day
but the sweet potato vine and coleus on the sides
are starting to spill out.
We had to move the pots away from each other
to give them space and keep them
from crowding each other out.

Early July (6 weeks Post-Plant)

Approximately 6 weeks after planting, these pots have
lost their minds.
Can you see those petunias and sweet potato
spilling over the sides?  They reach almost to the ground.
The Canna lilies and elephant ears almost cover the brick.
And the color focus has shifted once again
as the Lantana takes a short pause
before it blooms like gangbusters again.
You can see more of the lime and purple contrast
happening in these photos.

One of the best parts so far is that we've only had to water 
these plants about twice a week.
I expect that to change as the summer heats up
and the plants become even more gigantic.
It's also likely that as the summer continues
and plant growth continues
that we'll have to do some strategic pruning.
The Lantana has already needed some trimming.

The pots on the right side get slightly more shade than the pots on the left.  
It's interesting to see how different plants have 
responded to the slightly different micro-climate.'s interesting to me the plant nerd.

Friday, June 30, 2017


I know of several marriages right now that are ending 
and many that are just beginning. 
I could talk forever about how unprepared I was for marriage 
when I entered into that union at the ripe old age of 23.  
I was so young and so sure that it was the best decision.  
I was right...but not for the reasons that I thought at the time. 

Here are just a few thoughts as I reflect on
what I didn't understand about marriage 
when I got married...


That being married won't fix me
won't turn me into someone brand new
won't fairy-tale away trauma
won't erase hurt
inflicted by my family of origin
or previous relationships.

That being married will break me 
into bits
and I will remake myself
many times through this marriage.

That I can and will feel lust and attraction and affinity
for a myriad of people
throughout my life
and that is not a foundation
or sustenance for a covenant.

That I will have long stretches where I do not like my spouse
or romantically love him,
when I may actually hate him
where he won't love or like me either
and that won't mean that one (or both of us) 
are somehow

That I will remain married through times that are
 impossible for me to imagine at inception-
through discomfort and confusion
through rage and anger,
physical pain,
emotional trauma,
stomach bugs, 
home improvement fiascoes,
births, surgery,
ER visits, breakdowns, funerals
and the ultimate hardships will be
 those times where we 
stop connecting.

That taking up the role of wife is a vocation
that has specific duties which I am 
almost wholly unqualified for.

That I will have to unlearn all my assumptions
and understandings, 
to really unpack my beliefs about what a wife is,
and eliminate most of them from my perspective
to be able to approach that job
with grace.

That grace is not dancing
beautifully across a ballroom floor
or white picket fences
or happily ever after.
Grace is not found in following
the prescription
or keeping up with the Joneses.

That grace is choked out by too many 'shoulds'
and gets lost in the laundry.

That grace is found in searing hot messes
on a battlefield of mud
or in the soft sunshine of afternoon walks.
That grace tastes like salt-water
and sometimes stings 
like hot needles in old wounds.

That the same key to connecting with a stranger
is the same key to being a wife.
It's called kindness and it
is a slow acting antidote.

That perfection is a lie
wrapped in cellophane.
That there is no formula for 
navigating this existence 
that doesn't include pain and struggle.

That I will need to share myself,
be willing to have spotlights on every bit of my soul
be naked in this relationship
in every way.

That I will have to decide again 
and again
to be loving
when what I want to be 
is righteous.

That even though we both speak English
we don't speak the same language.

That we share the same last name
but we are not the same person.

That men are allowed to be afraid and weak
and women are allowed to be strong and resilient.
That we are all allowed and invited
to be all the feelings
whenever we need to be-
no rules, no limits.

That we are saving ourselves
and each other
and also letting each other down
as we walk each other home-
back to our Maker.

That marriage is a song about 
and restoration
on a visceral level.

That marriage teaches 
me continuously 
about forgiveness
and potential.

That love conquers hate
but only after the fear
is displaced.

That getting married
was an invitation
to become closer 
and more connected
to the Creator.

That these participants
in a marriage
 are two whole people
who make something altogether
when they reach for the Creator
through serving 
each other.

That our vows 
were meant to lift us up
so that we could fly
not keep us caged
so we'd behave.

There was literally....nothing that I knew 
about marriage when I got married.
Everything that I thought I knew
or that I understood about myself
or that institution
has been burned away
as this marriage has come into being.

What I know now is
That neither of these people
need fixing
nor do they need 
to be incarcerated
by a promise.

That I am beautiful
exactly as I am
in my brokenness-
enough all by myself (with God).

That he is beautiful 
exactly as he is
in his brokenness-
enough all by himself (with God).

all three of us
 we are 
more than enough...
but that it takes each of us
to make this union live.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017


You've stepped into the third installment of my attempt to give advice 
relating to container gardening.  
When I started this series, I thought it was going to be one quick post. 
 Because...container gardens aren't that hard right?

Working on this post made me highly aware 
of many instances where container gardens go wrong.
Or just don't quite go right.
It's also made me more aware than usual of how easy it is to judge.
If you have a tried and true system that you love, then LOVE IT!
I'm glad you know what works for you and you're not required to change for me!
I don't always get it 'right' nor do I always care that I get it right.
There are some examples in my yard right now
of containers that are not display worthy.

I'm writing for the person who is overwhelmed,
has no idea how those containers they saw ended up so pretty,
and no idea that they could do it TOO!
After talking to several people and understanding where they went wrong
I revised my assessment for what could be helpful to non-gardeners.
There is a need for perspective and space assessment.
Today we're going to talk about how to use the installation step (actually planting stuff!)
to your best advantage (so you can be lazy too)
And then we'll have the big reveal.
As a refresher, I'm using a recent weekend project for my church as the example.

Before picture....
There's a lot of preparation and planning that goes into a successful container garden.
At this point, I know you want to get on with the planting
but I have a couple last things to plug.
Proper drainage and soil.
It is so easy to slam some dirt into a pot and then walk away.

By mid-summer, you're wondering what the heck happened-
why that pot is not draining or why your soil is hard as a rock.
If you've invested in big pots, then you will have a really hard time excavating 
in the middle of the season to figure out what is wrong.
So...we're back to boring old prep work again for a while.


Drainage is not a sexy word.
But in the container gardening world, it's important to understand.
Plants need watering-remember goldilocks?
Not too much, not too little...just the right amount.
That means the pot will have to hold water-but not too much.
Never use a pot that doesn't have holes in the bottom.
Pots without holes in the bottom are for decoration.
They need you to place a pot that will drain inside of them
and remove that inside pot to water.
Every time you water.

Your BIG pots should have holes in the bottom.
Sometimes they have a hole provided by 
the manufacturer but it will prove insufficient.
We drilled extra holes in the bottom of the large beige pots
used in this project so they would be sure to drain out.
It's a BIG plus if you can find one with self watering or 
extra drainage like the tall black one below.

Even when your pot has enough drainage holes at the bottom,
it's a good idea to add a layer of gravel.
I have skipped this step a few times and regretted it.
The plants go hog wild and before you know it, 
there's something clogging the holes at the bottom.  
Then they can't drain and it's a mud-pot.
Just bite the bullet, buy a $3 bag of gravel and put it in there.
Each of the beige pots have a bag of gravel in the bottom.

We used mixed river rock in the bottom because it was cheapest...any medium size gravel will do

Stage It

Before you plant....stage the pots where you want them to go.
This is especially important if you are the size of a hobbit (like me).
When you fill these pots with gravel, then dirt, then plants...
then won't be able to budge them.
If you stage them beforehand, you have one last opportunity
to make adjustments before you're committed.

The Dirt

Fill with a potting mix that is made for containers.
There are lots of ways to mess this step up.
I know that there are people who want us to use soil and compost and everything
...and you can do that too...
so long as you have a degree in soil science.
Most everyone else should just buy the Miracle-Gro 
or the extra special potting mix from the big box home improvement store.
You need to fill the soil to within two inches of the top.
This project took 8 bags.
Do not skimp.
If you skimp, your plants will be fighting to be seen over the rims of the planter.
They might also be sitting in water more than they need to be.
They won't get the proper access to sunlight and it will take a while for them to start growing.
They might end up weirdly tall and leggy.
Don't over fill.
If you overfill, your water is likely to run OUT of the pot 
instead of staying inside the pot-where the roots are.


Now we get to the planting part.  This is often the most exciting part but is...
sadly, an easy place for things to go wrong again.
Some plants you're planting will be brand new babies.
These need to be handled gently when taken out of
 the plastic store bought pots.
Gently....flip the plant upside down and squeeze the bottom
 of the plants while holding your hand over the soil line.
The little baby plant should fall out into your hand.
Stems between your first two fingers, soil keeping it from falling through.

Place the plants in the pot in the relative space that you want to put them.
You're trying to be gentle to these little babies.
Once you're happy with placement, then bury the roots so that the line of soil
is even with the depth of the soil in the pot..
If your soil didn't have an added fertilizer
then add some now.  
Osmocote is a slow release option or you can 
use more natural ones like blood meal and bone meal.
(yes, that is really what they are-blood and bone concentrated down)'re almost done.
Water that pot until water runs out of the bottom.  
It needs to be thoroughly soaked.

Demo Project?



Here's what our final project looked like on day one.
It will look very different in two weeks.
The tallest plants get 4-6' high so should stretch to the top of the brick.
The vines that drape over the side get 2-4' long.
I pinched the red tops off of the salvia in the auxillary pot...I may end up going back to pull them out altogether but didn't want to do that right away.
We have almost no repeats in these pots...there is one of everything EXCEPT deep purple petunias. There are repeats across the pots that tie them together (petunias, coleus, gomphrena, dahlias).
We used lots of foliage for color since it shows up better from a distance than flowers.  

Purple and lime green!  the best combo ever!

Side view

Sweet potato vine, dahlia , ornamental pepper, sage and canna lily in the back...