Last summer, I was so pleased with a pot of pink zonal geraniums and Dusty Miller that I decided I would use a pink and gray theme for my entire back deck this year. This was my inspiration:This spring I set about designing the deck railing boxes in this pink and gray theme. Confectionery visions of pink, frothy and sweet, danced in my head.
My results and reviews are mixed.
Late spring and early summer brought cool, rainy weather. The geraniums and Vinca (Caranthus rosea) suffered from all of this water. They demonstrated their displeasure with yellowed leaves. The geraniums took things a step farther and dropped many of their leaves. Some have recovered; others gave up the ghost completely.I purposely planted the Vinca and geraniums in the same box since both prefer dry conditions! While I can control how much water I give the boxes, it is not so for the rain!
After the cool, wet weather, we had a prolonged period of high heat and humidity, and little rain. I kept the boxes watered, and things seemed to be turning the right direction. However, it was not, after all, enough. The Calibrachoa Superbells ‘Sweet Tart’ started to turn brown, as did the foliage on some of the petunias. Interestingly, the Calibrachoa at the other end of this box has suffered far less:Even though the foliage is brown and withered, these ‘Cherry Frost’ petunias continue to put forth flowers. Their frilly blossoms deteriorate fairly quickly after opening, though, and the deadheading becomes a chore! They also seemed to attract Japanese beetles more than the other flowers on the deck.This is decidedly not the scene I had hoped to bring you!
There are a few bright spots, though.
The snapdragons, ‘Arrow Pink’ and ‘Floral Showers Mix,’ have come through the vagaries of the weather seemingly unscathed. Yes, I did recently pass rather harsh judgment on the snapdragons in containers elsewhere in my gardens. No, the irony that they are my favorite plants in this location has not escaped me! While I still do wish they didn’t have such a long “dead air” period between bloom flushes, I do notice that since I’ve clipped off the initial bloom stalk (after it went to seed), the side shoots are starting to bloom now and the plants are becoming bushier.
As you can see in several of the previous pictures, the Dusty Miller also seems unfazed by the weather patterns this summer. I’m going to start calling it “Old Reliable!”
Two baskets of Petunias ‘Sophistica Antique Shades’ flank the stairs leading to the deck. My daughter spotted them at a local farm market in late May and insisted that we had to have them. I was so shocked that SHE chose pink, her least favorite color (go figure, an almost 13-year-old doesn’t share her mother’s tastes!), that I had to get them! They came in very small pots that I would never be able to keep moist enough, so the first thing I did was re-pot them into bigger digs. Once in a while, they wilt a bit, but they recover quickly after watering.
These plants are growing too tall and gangly at this point. Though I did it earlier in the summer, I again need to cut some of the stems on these plants down by two-thirds of their length. I will sacrifice some blooms for a couple of weeks, but it will be worth it to have a well filled out, bushy plant.
While my boxes are not a resounding success this year, I have learned several things and will probably try again next year to fulfill my vision. I may use more snapdragons, but make sure I pinch them back quite early in the season to encourage branching and more consistent blooms. I will still use petunias, but fewer of them so I don’t come to resent all the deadheading! I’ll continue to use Vinca because when the weather is right, it is stunning. Perhaps I’ll restrict my use of it to one box that can be removed from the railing if the plants should fail. Finally, Dusty Miller deserves a place in every box!
Just listen to me now; only early August, and I’m already making plans for next year! It is the gardener’s curse, I suppose!