The Concrete Chronicles, part V: Cultivate

Basic Potting, Step 1: Use small rocks and pebbles to cover the drainage holes in the pot. Photo by Rachel Polaniec

Having amassed a rather large selection of pots and baskets and the like for my balcony garden, I was FINALLY ready to fill them with plants. My idea was to begin with my three railing boxes – set to hold a selection of herbs, lavender, and one rose bush, respectively – then grow climbing nasturtium up one wall and finish with an abundance of pansies.

I excitedly shared my plans with my mother, an avid and experienced gardener herself, only to have her reply, “Pansies are cold weather flowers. The only ones currently in stores aren't looking so well anymore." Alas, it was so! I had believed them to be hardy in both hot and cold, but I was mistaken.

This was an easily avoidable error on my part; a quick Google search would have resolved the issue in an instant. Thus chastened, I turned to my computer for the best type of rose to keep in a pot. But what new woes awaited me! Roses, it would seem, are a particularly fussy bunch, and require extra special care and concern; as such I will be tackling them in a future article. (A quick side note: When using the internet to glean gardening advice, a common source are blogs written by private gardeners, eager to share their experiences with others. I spent about half an hour reading and taking notes from a particularly insightful blog, only to realize that the author was in fact located in California, and much of what she was saying was rendered moot for our climate. A tip for all you would-be web-surfers.)

One of the best parts of creating a garden is shopping for plants to put in it, and our area has such an abundance of garden centers and nurseries the hardest part is choosing which establishments to visit. For sheer size and variety of plants offered, I like the Petitti Garden Center in Avon. There are so many plants, lawn ornaments, and accessories it can be overwhelming. However, I have had success finding more obscure plants there (including my two English lavender plants), and the clearance prices on otherwise pricey flower baskets is excellent.

For most of my flowers I use small, local garden centers; there are quite a few along Detroit Road, plus more on Center Ridge, and even several nice ones in neighboring Lorain County. And if you see a small place on the side of a country road, by all means go in and have a look! These are excellent secrets and may hold a lovely find.

A great secret of mine is where I bought my herbs, soil and mulch: Walmart! The prices are low, and while the selection is nothing compared to what any specialty garden store will have, if you know what it is you want and they happen to have it, there is no shame in getting it for cheap. Sometimes the plants there don’t look very healthy; Walmart isn’t primarily a garden center and plant husbandry can fall by the wayside. In that case it’s best not to buy them, no matter the price (experienced gardeners might welcome the challenge of nursing a half-price, half-dead rose bush back to health, but I haven’t reached that level).

Basic flower potting (or planting) is just that: basic! Your flower pot should have drainage holes in the bottom, you don’t want your plants to drown. Place a flat rock over each hole, then put a small amount of gravel in the bottom. This helps weigh the pot down so it won’t blow over and also keeps dirt in the pot. Put soil in the pot up to the height where your plants peek over the top, then arrange them in the pot.

When removing a plant from its original container, tip it to one side, gently grasp it by the very bottom of its branches, and slowly slide it out. Carefully loosen the root ball at the bottom, then put it in place. Fill the pot, pushing the soil down around each plant, then top with mulch.

I fill mine a little too full, since the soil will settle. Mulch shouldn’t be skipped, either, as it keeps your plants moist, prevents weeds and just looks nice. I’d recommend avoiding the dyed kind; some plants don’t like it. Top it off with stones or other decorations and voila! A lovely flower pot, ready to grace your porch, patio or yard.

Coming up next time: A rose by any other name … is still covered in thorns. I tackle my rose issue, gloves first!

Rachel Polaniec

I live in Westlake with my husband and our two sons. I work part time at Kohl's, and full-time at home. In my free time I like to read, write, and cook. My family and I take part in War of 1812 reenactments throughout the summer. My lofty dreams are of traveling abroad, visiting the great museums, and drinking all the coffee. For now I content myself with antiquing and Keurig sampler packs.

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Volume 5, Issue 12, Posted 10:51 AM, 06.11.2013