Sunday, December 14, 2014

Recipe for Trough Planting

This square trough lives on our deck, outside the sliding glass door of the dining room.  We have a group of troughs on the deck that are a kind of living painting that we enjoy all year round.  I'm always drawn to this trough...I think because of the mix of evergreen textures.  There's a dwarf golden chamaecyparis, purple rockcress aubrieta x cultorum 'Joy', woodruff asperula gussonei, an abused weigela 'Wine & Roses', a self-seeded sedum cauticola, a self-seeded pasqueflower, and a couple kinds of sempervivums.  There are also some species tulips that come up right behind the cress.  We've got a lot going on, maybe too much, in the couple square feet of the trough.

The chamaecyparis seems to like the living mulch of the semps.

The asperula (left) is quite delicate-looking, but don't be fooled.  Last winter was tough on it, but it came back strong this summer.

These plants are all tough customers.  They tolerate full sun, an exposed site, no protection from snow, and still they flower reliably.  What more could I ask from a living painting?

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Final New Troughs of the Year

I've had the last three new hypertufa troughs that I cast on November 2nd sealed in plastic, curing in the basement for a month.  I took them into the basement to keep the temperature steady, but I usually cure them under the deck.  The two rectangular footed troughs are part of an order of four that I'll deliver in early December.  The troughs behind are the rotating display of troughs, my little still life, in front of the garage, where I can see them from the kitchen and the second floor.  

This last trough, a footed round one, I cast for myself.  I made a few of this style earlier this year, but have sold all of them.  I wanted one for myself, so I used up the last of the Portland cement (it goes bad if it sits) to make one.

(Yes, that's a plastic bucket covering a new dwarf conifer in the trough in the background.  It's the first winter that I've had this one and I'm worried about snow load on its upright branches.)

I picked up an ilex verticillata 'Red Sprite' at an end-of-the-season sale at Terrain last month.  It's destined for a life in a container, at least for a few years.  I already grow the female 'Spriber' and the male 'Jim Dandy' in large hypertufa troughs in the driveway.  'Red Sprite' is also pollinated by 'Jim Dandy', so I'll keep her nearby.  Even though this shrub is a dwarf, this trough is probably too small to last a year.  At the very least, the hypertufa will help protect it during the coming winter.

It's too cold now to cast any more troughs in the garage.  I'm taking a break for the winter.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Out Front

Our front yard is a mix of small and medium-sized perennials. Since the erica got demolished last winter, not much is blooming in December.  Two things out front look great though.  The first is the tiny trough between the front door and the railing.  The mum's still in bloom, and the chamaecyparis obtusa 'Verdoni' always looks classy.  Blue spruce sedum spills at their feet.  If the squirrels didn't find the species tulip bulbs, the trough may have some spring interest too.

The second thing that looks great right now is miscanthus sinensis 'Gracimillus' going to seed.  I love how feathery and almost blurry it looks at this late stage.  It borders my neighbors' driveway and tends to drop over the driveway a bit.  I hope it's not driving them nuts.  I imagine them both going to work with grass seed stuck to their shoulders.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Autumn in a Trough

The trough plants as a whole are such spring bloomers that their fall colors always seem to surprise me.  This trough holds a dwarf chamaecyparis, a dwarf iris, a dianthus, a variegated sedum, geranium 'Ballerina', and a dracocephalum.  Yes, it sits directly on the drainage grate at the bottom of my driveway, right in front of the garage.  Why not put a trough on top, right?

That's sedum cauticola in the square planter behind the center trough.  It happily shares space with a large quince.  The trough on the right holds a lot of lewisias and is probably the leanest planting mixture that I've tried.  The plants seem to love it though.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Swan Song

Sedum sieboldii seems like the last one to bloom this year.  I love the combo of blue and pink against the grey of the trough.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Trough Gratitude

I asked my neighbor Ray last spring how I could pay him for all of the wonderful alpines from Oliver's that find their way into my troughs each year.  I offered to let him have any of the new, empty troughs for sale in my driveway.

He had something grander in mind, and told me which planters he REALLY wanted. We busted a couple of my older molds out of storage, and in July made the planters pictured above and below.  He paid for the materials, and we spent a humid Saturday afternoon casting them together.

I'll post more photos (I hope) once he plants them.

Friday, October 3, 2014

New Trough this Year

I cast this rectangular trough last summer in a heat wave.  I had plans to sell it, then plans to use it at my garden at work, and finally admitted that, yes, I DID in fact need another planted trough in my driveway.  We gardeners all know how that goes.

L-R  back row: thuja occidentalis 'Teddy', phyteuma scheuchzeri (horned rampion), tsuga canadensis 'Jervis'.  Front row: dianthus gratianopolitanus 'Tiny Rubies', daphne cneorum 'Blackthorn Triumph', androsace sarmentosa, and globularia cordifolia 'Julian Alps'

I planted them in a mix of roughly 25% topsoil, 50% granite grit, with sand and Turface making up the last 25%.  It's mulched with a small gravel.  The trough gets good sun until midday, then is mostly shaded by the slatted fence and my neighbor's house.

I have high hopes for this group.  These are good plants.