Planters sow seeds of excitement
August 4, 2006
New planters: The gift of opportunity, the chance to expand my garden, the prospect of many happy hours contemplating my choices before making the most delicious of decisions. Oh, what should I plant?There is a big second-floor deck opening off our kitchen and bedroom, as lived-in and gemütlich as our living room. It was the yard until our unimproved lot was slowly made habitable for a couple of kids. An awning for shade was put up, a picnic table for meals added, vines were planted, and rolls of willow-stake fencing were tied to the railing for privacy. It was furnished with a motley assortment of chairs, benches, stools and tables, wagons, tricycles and chew toys. There is a small table-size grill for cooking fish so it doesn’t stink up the house, since yours truly would rather smell basil or tomato leaves than salmon. All of this accreted over a span of many years, you understand.I have always liked the European habit of planting flowers to cascade over balconies, and the idea of a roof garden is appealing too. I’d been lobbying for a deck garden for some time but always came up against one incontrovertible argument against it: no faucet. Lugging water from the kitchen takes lots of time, and water in pots seems to evaporate almost as soon as it hits the soil.The deck faces the sun head on, and even with an awning and the vines that are finally taking the big leap up and over the railing, it is too hot to walk on at midday in July. The redwood boards we chose originally in the early ’80s were extremely high-maintenance. They were not happy. When they were replaced recently with a material that didn’t care – recycled plastic bottles or something – I got my chance. There was now a large pile of precious redwood lumber just begging to be reincarnated. Gerry asked me if I would like some planters for the deck. Would I!I wanted pots big enough to grow small trees or large shrubs: to screen out the street, moderate the noise from an increasingly urban Basalt, shade the living room and break up the reflection of sky and trees on our plate-glass windows that are so deadly to songbirds when they fly into them. Gerry designed and built three planters out of salvaged redwood about 22 feet a side, roughly the volume of a whiskey barrel. He added casters so they can be moved around easily, although their weight when filled with soil – even purchased lightweight potting mix – pretty much guarantees that they will never leave the deck. They are beautiful; perfectly proportioned cubes, yet comfortable on our informal deck, elegant forms made with a humble material. Not that redwood is humble; it is so valuable that every scrap of the old deck has been recycled. It is the warped, weathered and worn condition it is in that is friendly and unassuming. The water problem was solved by running polyvinyl tubing up from the irrigation zone, supplying water to hanging plants on the porch. All last summer, winter and into spring I consulted my gardening books and pored over catalog descriptions, happily making lists. I couldn’t make up my mind: Should I plant three identical trees or shrubs? That would be a strong design element seen both from indoors and from the street. A different species for each container? There are so many wonderful trees and shrubs I am yearning to try, and here’s a chance to grow three of them. Native trees? Only a limited number of species are available in area nurseries, so I might have to start the ones I want from seed. But for once I’m not limited by the size of the hole that can be dug in the rocky, steep ground or by the weight that needs to be lugged and I was hoping to buy good size trees. Flowering trees? There are all kinds of exotic unusual fruits that would be fun to try, like pawpaws and olives, and they would have lovely flowers in spring. A simple row of white crabapples would be a spectacular in bloom and in fruit. The last possible date for ordering trees and shrubs came and went, and I still couldn’t decide what I wanted. So many exciting plants, so few containers! Oh, what shall I plant?The new containers are thriving, and next week Anna would like to tell you about them. She’d love to hear from you at email@example.com.
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