Monday, July 6, 2020

Midwest Gardening: Decorative Plantings in Pots and Planters

AD-Free Blog
If you have been following my Midwest Gardening posts, you know that we started lots of flowers/plants from seeds and bulbs. July 2, I took lots of photos of the yard, pots, and gardens. I'll try and show what's working well in pots, and what isn't. 


The new pots out at the street get the HOT sun and wind all day. So far, they are doing pretty well. I did purchase a grass and the papyrus looking plant (left pot) and some succulent looking fern.  I'm disappointed the dark red spikey Cordyline in the right pot hasn't done much. I expected it to get larger, but it has been very hot. We did use drought resistant potting soil mixed with our compost dirt, in these pots and in the mailbox planter.


I stuck some Zinnia starts from seed in here, and they have been quite happy and a nice pop of color. 


The mailbox planter, I used less plants here this year. The purchased Salvia has done nothing. The small marigolds I chose a shorter version this year, and they are also quite small, though full of blooms. The Vinca vines(transplanted from ground cover) is finally starting to those were free. The wave petunias are stilted also. We are faithfully watering, but the sun has been fierce out here this year with the reduced pollution??? I'm not sure why this planter is slow this year.


Because I used seed start flowers, my garage walkway pots aren't in full bloom yet. They get sun for about 6 hours a day, so I always put Sweet potato vines in here. Bachelor Buttons are the grey spikey plants. I think those are bush sunflowers coming from seed starts. LOL, I can't remember.


There are three pots along the garage walkway. I alternate sweet potato vines (lime or purple) in these pots. The tall plants are tall marigolds from my plant starts.


The West shady side has two pots. Still waiting for their seed starts to begin blossoming. The rose on the trellis has been slow this year after being froze.


This pot is spilling over from the sweet potato vine. Wow, the conditions have been perfect for them early this year, hot and wet. I'm moving this into the flower beds with the perennials, as it was being swallowed by some Giant Hosta. 


This hanging pot with Mandevilla, the rope broke and then fell. In one night the potato vine in front was totally chewed off along with the Caladium. The beauty of pots is you can move them around. This one is safe now in a raised area and after a week, it's recovering! (Ps whatever ate it, didn't touch the Mandevilla) 

This large focal pot has lots going on---and everything is very happy, even in this very hot spot! Mandevilla, lime and purple Potato Vine, and a wave petunia. 

The box planter above is filled with marigolds and zinnias and more purple. I have some giant sunflowers and bush sunflowers growing inside the railing.


I do love the red, lime, and purples....!

Up on the porch a have a pot of Nasturtiums from seed going crazy. I had no idea how large these got as it's my first time growing them. Next year I will start them in small pots in the greenhouse, so I can transplant just a few here and there.

When cleaning the craft room, I donated my baskets, and let Goodwill store them. If I need a basket they are all cheap there. I did take some outside, this one had a florist's liner which I drilled holes in. 
It's filled with Alyssum, Caladiums and Nasturtiums. Again, I had no idea how huge they would get. My Caladiums all grown from bulbs are varied sizes, which I will sort and label for next year. One of the down sides of buying bargain multi-packs, it's hard to tell what you are getting. Considering one Caladium plant is at least $6.99 a bag of bulbs for $6.99 is very cost effective if you have the patience and space to start them in February.

The back yard is spilling with planters and pots of everything. It is cooler back here because of shade trees. A blessing and a curse with all the leaf/wingy dingys falling all the time. Silver Maples are very messy trees.

I bought lots of Impatiens to go with my seed plant starts.  I use railing pots along the vegetable garden to encourage pollinators. We are going to place these into the vegetable garden now, to encourage pollinators. 

 A 'crazy' close neighbor has a beehive now, with no water source or flowers in his yard, totally against our county codes here, so our yard is swarming with honey bees. Since I am deathly allergic, my time outside is limited now. But, I do love my flowers. 
Bees love the marigolds so I will continue do trays of seed starts of those.

Moving the flowers away from our seating areas should help. 
I found some of these tropical Mandevilla (with waxy leaves and red flowers) labeled tropical???quite reasonable for $3.99 and have used them everywhere. I hope to keep some in the house over winter. So far they flower constantly.


These large colorful pots without flowers will be fine around our seating areas. Plus we have pots of peppermint as bee deterrent to place around the deck.

The pots under our roof extension are really taking off. Impatiens and all the Coleus grown from seed are a colorful and total shady happy solution. I have a few Impatiens in there also, but I think the plants are plenty of color. I will try some potted ferns here next year.


The white Caladiums are startling. I will be labeling all the corms when I dig them up for storage this fall by leaf size and color. Downside, the dusty pots sides occur with every rain or when we put the sprinkler on here. I may whitewash these pots next year so it doesn't show. Or we may add pea gravel over the paver base. This is the first year for this 'new area' of total shade and our paver base path--so it is still a project in progress.


These smaller pots seem to keep the leaf size under control, or maybe it was the dirt? 


I even tried a mixture in a hanging pot. Turns out those are Giant Coleus...they were so small when I planted them it was hard to tell.
NOTE TO SELF: Come up with a better labeling solution for seeding trays.

This wall pot is happy here in almost total shade. Ceramic wall pots tend to boil  plants, so I have stayed away from them, but this one is so pretty.


Here an elephant ear(small bulb) and some small Caladiums ended up in a small pot. Again, I will be labeling everything Small bulb Elephant Ear, is still huge!


These are the last pots of Caladiums that are so slow. I have to figure out where to put these and in what...LOL. Maybe on Monday after the holiday. 


Stargazer lilies...getting ready to bloom in these pots. They need to go in the ground along our north fence when it is completed. So many projects, so little time! 

PS, all my Hosta grown from sprig starts last year are thriving in the ground. Definitely worth coddling those assorted bags of starts. 12 assorted Hosta for $5.99 at a big box hardware store, not sure which one.

Happy JULY Gardening! Hope this helps give you some ideas or tips on pots and planters.

Thank you for any and all comments.
Finally I am able to reply to comments by using Chrome. So all you Mac users who have upgraded to Catalina---this might help the glitches on Safari  and Blogger!

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Happy Hollyhocks!



Years ago, I bought two hollyhock plants, they were different colors and had multiple stems. After the blooms came, I crunched the seed pods about the area, and I did this for every year after. Eventually I was down to two plants that were only in white/peachy, with pale pink centers.

I've featured these in my Midwest Gardening posts each year.

Today, two plants had multiple branches and did especially well this year, but still the white and peachy. Perhaps they were jealous 
of the new kids on the block,


I caught them on camera after a hot day, full and fluffy. We have critters chewing on them a bit, like they are chewing on everything.


Last year I planted some new seeds and raised them in the greenhouse when it was spring. My DIL, Richelle, helped me transplant the small plants (12 or so), along the fence. Like all biennials, there were no blooms the first year.
Some didn't make it through our thaw and freeze spring. 

Look at this one full of stems and pods and gorgeous crimson flowers.


We have had so much rain and heat for Chicagoland in June, they are gigantic. I'm 5'7" and here, I raised my hand as high as I could and they are another two feet past that.


Some of the stems are gorgeous BARBIE PINK, lol. All ruffly and hot pink.


I didn't know what colors they would be, so I did multi-color flowers along the fence. It's a fiesta of color. They are swallowing my huge Day Lily plant.


With this heat, they won't last very long, so...enjoy!!!!


Thank you for any and all comments.
Finally I am able to reply to comments by using Chrome. So all you Mac users who have upgraded to Catalina---this might help the glitches on Safari  and Blogger!

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Thoughtful Moments: Live and Let Live.

Ad-free Blog

Besides the squirrel wars we have here, our little plot is pretty peaceful with tons of birds and a few critters. 
Of course under the feeders we have the doves, chippies, and yes---those endless stomachs with feet, squirrels, and late in the evening or early morning a bunny or two.

I'm even happier when the bunnies munch on weeds.
We use animal and child safe products for the good of our little plot's society, and we don't get upset with munchers. 
This little gal was finally cooperative and let me catch a few photos one morning this week.

Usually they dash off the minute the door opens. This is when she saw me...and we had a stare down contest, where I didn't even breathe or move. Then, she allowed me to photograph her yard, her world.

Peacefully convinced I wasn't a threat way up on the porch, 

she groomed and then continued to select some greens through our lattice.

Wouldn't it be great if we could just Live and let Live 
 no matter how different we are.

No matter how big or small or the color of your 'fur',
and the earth below our feet belonged to everyone for the good of all.

Peace to you all!

Thank you for any and all comments.
Finally I am able to reply to comments by using Chrome. So all you Mac users who have upgraded to Catalina---this might help the glitches on Safari  and Blogger!

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Three Months into lockdown, I guess we were ready.

Were you caught with inadequate supplies for the last three months? I'm not talking food, that is another post, but...Cleaning and personal supplies. We all know the tale of TOILET PAPER....!

We are not survivalists, by any means. We know winters can strand us at our age (70's), as well as power outages, as well as localized flooding, we have learned to have certain things on hand. 

Very early during the pandemic (mid-February, I took stock of what we had on hand. Not totally alarmed, I was then aware of what we might need if the situation got worse. And it DID get worse, lots worse.

Our only purchases early on was 2 bundles toilet paper, paper towels, and one bottle of basic disinfectant cleaner.  We had two spray disinfectant cans, one of which we placed in the car, and one at the front door to spray ourselves/clothing and purchases.

By March 1st, I knew we had to have enough cleaning and medical supplies  to last for at least two months. (But, I was surprised at the amount of products I already had on hand.)


Make a list from these suggestions:

Medical supplies and prescriptions: We are fortunate that our insurance allows us to buy 3 months supply of all prescriptions. Work with your doctor and pharmacist to be able to have extras or refills available without an additional doctor visit. I was able to do a conference call doctor visit mid-April to up one prescription change after bloodwork. Many pharmacies have car pick-up or mail options, also.

Personal Health supplies, vitamins, and supplements---can you live without them? If not, I recommend a 2-3 month supply on hand. We were fortunate to be able to get what we ran short of through our eye doctor, and doctor's office. Ordering online is an option also! Many items did have long waits or out of stock during the first two months of the shutdown, though. So plan ahead, now!
Toothpaste, brush heads, batteries, mouthwash need to have back ups.

If you don't like hubby looking like a lumberjack, make sure there are extra razorblades on hand, same for your own legs...LOL.

Over the counter medications. This can be daunting, make a list of what you take for which season for each person. I can't take the same over the counters as my husband, so we need two versions. Do watch the out of date labels on these. Using old products can be more harmful than doing without. No one in Chicagoland was worried about having their Spring allergy medicines in February, we should have, and kept some on hand.

First Aid: Every home should have an adequate first aid kit! Keep it filled. Especially an extra bottle or two of alcohol, and what I call hospital soap. I keep small box in the kitchen with the basics, I eliminate boxes by using old pill bottles to store different sized bandaids.  Large bandages/pads/bottles/elastic bandages are kept in a plastic bin in the linen closet for serious injuries.

Home Chemicals...yes you have chemicals in your home!

Alcohol, lemon juice, salt, vinegar, ammonia, dish soap, baking soda are all useful in making concoctions of cleaners. We had all of these on hand. I buy white vinegar by the gallon, everything else, a quart should do. I stabilize baking soda in a glass jar with a rubber seal. Old baking soda is used for cleaning, fresh for baking.


Here: you are looking at our Great grandmothers's cleaning supplies. Really these are all household chemicals that can be used to make cleaning solutions.

Lemon juice
Baking soda, 
Epsom salts,

On the right is my homemade cleaner.


Alcohol will clean anything that has a hard surface, it will also harm wood furniture finishes, so don't use it on that. Salt kills bacteria and is an excellent abrasive added to lemon juice you can clean toilet bowls to silver.

Borax is another Super Cleaner and great recipes and source information: 


Sprinkle baking soda on burnt food in a pot or pan, add vinegar, bubble fizz and your burnt crust will lift off. Use a brush on stubborn spots or reapply. A must for removing burnt popcorn in a pot.

Ammonia, diluted is actually an excellent cleaner, use gloves. Straight out of the bottle on a rag will make windows sparkle.


My kitchen cleaners, this my under sink cabinet now. The basics for keeping my kitchen clean.


Other commercial cleaning supplies we already had on hand: (FOR 2 people)

    Disinfectant/Cleaning wipes: We had 3 huge and 3 regular containers of Clorox wipes on hand. Why, because I use them in each bathroom, 1 in the shipping room, 1 in the kitchen, 1 in the garage and apparently 1 extra for the outdoors sink located on the porch. If these dry out you can revitalize with boiled water.  Or make your own wipes here, I used anti-bacterial dish soap and cut down paper towels. Gentler on the hands for daily use then constant bleach or hand sanitizer, excellent for my wood counter tops. I just made another batch of cleaner from the same recipe 

  I also made this as a generic spray cleaner, which I actually like better for cleaning the stove and the wood countertops from the same recipe, I found online:
For wipes or spray cleaner.
1/2 cup of vinegar
1/2 cup of Alcohol (70-80%)
12 pump squirts anti-bacterial dish soap
1/4 cup of water.  
Pour over rolled up paper toweling in plastic container. (I used an empty wipes can)or use in spray bottle.


Alcohol evaporates so use tight containers and turn the spray nozzle to off when not in use. You can always refresh by adding a bit more alcohol to your spray.
I've used the homemade cleaner on the wood counter tops, stove, refrigerator, and my stainless steel sink. 

We had two empty spray bottles (2 for $3.00) on hand. A GREEN thing to do as we purchase various cleaners in 1/2 gallons or larger and now making our own spray cleaner. I reuse bottles all the time. 

    Bleach we had 3 gallons and 1 quart. Again 1 basement, 1 garage, 1 in the laundry closet. This was actually enough for  three months. (We purchased an extra bottle in late May to clean the ponds). I will continue to maintain 4 gallons.

Liquid soap and a large jug of (orange) Go-Jo is an industrial type cleaner for grease, paint, or gardening hands. It's full of lanolin and that is very easy on the hands and easily soaps off. That is probably a five year
We also keep Lava soap handy gritty dirty dirty hands.

Personal bar soaps: Our brand comes in a multipack of 8, so we always  have these on hand. Also, include any shower gels, you may use. Don't forget Shampoos and conditioners. An extra bottle of each was enough for us. I will continue to keep an extra on hand. Don't forget Hair color!!!

PET SOAPS---pets' skin is a different PH than humans, keep extra pet soap on hand. It's not recommended to use human products on pets.

 Extra bathroom supplies. We have very limey hard, iron filled water, so lime remover products and toilet bowl additives are really a necessity.

    Spray disinfectants-we had two spray cans on hand. I will increase this to 4 cans, when I can find some (3 months in, and I haven't seen any). Anything that comes into the house is wiped down with disinfectant sheets, or sprayed. And, the sprays are very convenient.

    Hand disinfectant. Surprisingly, I had 4 sink-size on hand, and 1 in each car for two people. Why, I'm not sure--but these lasted---for two people, almost the three months of lock-down. Mostly because we rarely went out.  I just purchased 3 larger size (8 oz.) (June 1) for refilling our containers. I will make sure I have a large jug for the future.


More Bathroom supplies!
    Flushable wipes are handy. I always have those on hand. We also had some single use Alcohol wipes-we had two large boxes on hand for first-aid. Actually great for cleaning glasses and throwing in your purse for emergency cleanups. These also come as personal soap cleaning pads with added alcohol, I would love to find some of those to keep on hand, too.

    General Cleaning Products: I keep an extra bottle of everything on hand for each room it is used in. So, double the amount of bathroom products used for each room. Cleansers, toilet cleaner, lime away cleaner, glass cleaners, personal cleaners.


 One of my two laundry shelves.

Laundry products, I always keep two of the largest containers of laundry soap (64 or more loads in each). I'm not recommending liquid laundry soaps...but we have well water, and these unfortunately work the best for us, we recycle the containers. Whatever brand works best in your water and is allergy free for your family.

You know how many loads you do a week, multiply that by 12 weeks, and you will have a three months supply. Don't forget your additives or specialized soaps, bleach, softeners and do the same. We found, we did more laundry in lockdown as we had a hard time getting paper toweling,  and all bath towels are washed and bleached after one use. 


Plastic disposable gloves. Honestly we really aren't survivalists, but we had 1 small box of 12 sets, and a large box of 50 sets. Why, because we are REDO people, DIY-ing furniture, painting, gardening, any dirty job gloves are very handy. They are inexpensive and we reuse them on projects until they are no good. We also have at least 3 pair of long heavy duty rubber gloves for nasty projects, cleaning ponds, or working with any heavy chemicals, finishes, or cleaning products. (Note: We have both had Mersa or staph from scratches/nicks while working in the garden. Highly contagious--Mersa is on the ground, in dirt, and transferred easily to surfaces.) So we use gloves when doing dirty work outside. I have a pair in the car which I leave on the dashboard in the sun!

Masks: We actually had several heavy duty masks (for workshop use) and a couple of packages of 3 of medium weight masks. We did eventually purchase a box of 100 of disposables in late May, to leave in the car.

We had 4 different containers of alcohol, in different locations. (I regularly use alcohol to clean plastics for paint preparation and for removing marker paint, sometimes stickers.) Goo-Gone is a must for anyone with children in the house. An orange oil (safe) product it will remove LOTS of stuff besides stickers, lipstick, markers, crayons, grease marks, shoe marks. It easily washes up with a soapy rag.

Floor cleaners and window cleaners we always purchase in large containers for economy and disperse to smaller ones where we use them. Don't forget paper towels. I know I had to designate extra rags for cleaning...the old fashioned way of cleaning and launder them for reuse. A GREEN thing to do.

And newspaper (we get our news online with subscriptions, now so we have none) or paper bags can be used to clean windows. Mine, just went dirty until paper towels were easily available. (We are waiting for cottonwood to be done, to do our final super window clean!)

We are far from clean freaks, but I was reassured we did not have to search for these essentials. This saved many unsafe trips out into the Covid-19 world.

Thank you for any and all comments.
Finally I am able to reply to comments by using Chrome. So all you Mac users who have upgraded to Catalina---this might help the glitches on Safari  and Blogger!