The Concrete Chronicles, part VI: Crucible

As first planted in a shared box, the aggressive mint plant, bottom right, began to encroach on the boxwood basil to its left. It had to be moved to its own planter.

Photo by Rachel Polaniec

This past week, my mom came over to visit and I took the opportunity to show off my garden. I highly recommend you show yours off as often as possible, preferably with someone who knows a thing or two about gardening.

I was proudly giving the tour, displaying my box of herbs, my box of lavender, talking about my plans for the rose box, and happily gesturing around while prattling about other ideas. My mom was still looking at the herb box, obviously admiring how quickly they were growing, especially the peppermint.

“The mint is growing so fast,” I enthused. My mom looked skeptical. “Mint is an aggressive plant,” she said, “It will try to take over the entire box. You should put it in its own pot.” She moved the branches back, exposing the tendrils it was craftily sending out to encroach on the basil. Needless to say, the mint was quickly placed in a pot of its very own, which it merrily proceeded to overrun.

With my herb box remedied and the English lavender thriving, I turned my attention to the crucible: my rose box. Roses can be grown in pots, but they prefer being in the ground, mainly because they are very demanding. They need good drainage, and are a bit greedy with the nutrients in soil. Most websites recommended putting them in fairly large pots, but mine weren’t anywhere near as deep as were suggested. Fortunately, roses come in miniature sizes; unfortunately, the plants sold at Petitti’s were way too big, and I was having a hard time finding something small enough.

Two words: Trader Joe’s. I recalled seeing potted plants out in front of the store the last time I was there, so I decided to have a look. And lo and behold, there they were, small plants with pretty flowers, a variety of colors, and they were healthy too. I am somewhat surprised by the great deals and all around good plants that are available at grocery stores. For example, I purchased a hydrangea at Aldi’s for $10; and I had a pretty little purple rose bush from Giant Eagle until I killed – I mean, tragically lost – it. Perhaps it was unwise to buy a notoriously fussy plant from a grocery store over an actual plant nursery, but I decided to risk it (again) because I think I can make it work (this time).

I set up my last pot like all the others, with the rocks covering the drainage holes plus a bit of gravel in the bottom. Then I added a mix of new potting soil and older soil I had in an empty pot from last year (whose previous inhabitant I killed – ahem, tragically lost – over the winter). The older soil had small rocks, twigs, mulch, etc. in it, so I thought it might better mimic actual earth and provide better drainage for my fussy, fussy roses.

Finally, I purchased rose fertilizer from Walmart and mixed the appropriate amount in with the two soils. I used gloves while lovingly placing the plants in their respective new homes, then spread a little more fertilizer on top of the soil, and covered the lot of it with a generous layer of mulch. Water until it comes out of the drainage holes, and ta da! A lovely display of roses.

In order to keep them lovely (and alive), they will need to be checked on every day. Roses are prone to disease, aphids like to feed off of them (ants protect aphids, so keep a look out for them too), and the soil moisture and nutrients need monitoring. With a lot of effort and a little bit of luck, I think my potted rose venture will be a success. Not like last time.

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 13, Posted 10:43 AM, 06.25.2013