Above: Terraces are a great location for indoor plants to take in the outdoors. You can also create an herb garden or plant annuals in bright containers. Photo: ©annanahabed istock.adobe.com
Whether your nest is a city condo with a terrace or a bucolic property in the woods, the time to green up your surroundings starts now. For ideas on the best flowers and plants for our area, we consulted Terry Condon, plantswoman and co-owner of Eden Farms, and Lenny Scinto, horticulturist and garden center manager at Designs by Lee. Both offered ideas for high-performance gardens, large and small.
Terry Condon and her husband, Marshall, have operated Eden Farms on Stillwater Road for more than twenty-three years, and host a number of family-friendly seasonal events, including an Easter egg hunt, fall hayrides and December visits from Santa.
Lenny Scinto had his own gardening program on local radio for more than twenty years, and has put his horticultural skills to use helping customers at Designs by Lee on Interlaken Road in North Stamford since 1995.
TENDING AN URBAN GARDEN
From pot styles and ideal plantings to watering and lighting—five basic rules for aspiring green thumbs looking to add life to their apartment or condo.
1 SO PRETTY, SO EASY
Apartment dwellers—unless they have a roof garden large enough for a bed or two—normally confine their plantings to containers. But which ones? Condon suggests 6- to 8-inch pots for tabletops, 12- to 14-inch for a patio or terrace. Scinto notes that fiberglass and ceramic planters are susceptible to extreme cold and may crack. An antidote is a sturdy plastic pot, designed to resemble the more vulnerable materials; Marchioro is a well know brand in this category.
2 SOIL SCIENCE
For potting soil, Scinto likes organic products, which contain mycorrhiza, beneficial fungi that live on plant roots and give new houseplants a good start.
3 WATER WORKS
For those gardeners who forget to water regularly, Condon suggests drought-tolerant varieties: lavender, hens and chicks (Sempervivum), lamb’s ear (Stachys) or perennial geraniums.
4 TAKE IT OUTSIDE
Wait until after mid-May to safely plant or put pots outside. Both Scinto and Condon caution local gardeners to plant after the last danger of frost.
5 BRING IT INSIDE
By fall, we all wonder what plantings can make the safe transition back indoors. The good news is that many plants that are perennials in southern climates and annuals in our area can come inside in the colder months with the right solar exposures and good care. Among those plants are “bougainvillea, which comes in many colors; other large container plants that like full sun include jasmine, mandevilla—train this one up a trellis—small lemon or lime plants,” says Scinto.
Scinto and Condon like gardenias for indoors and out, but this fragrant flowering plant can be a bit fussy, liking dry—but not too dry—soil. Both plant pros note that warm-weather-loving plants need to be treated with an insecticide so that any eggs do not hatch after plants are brought inside.
For shadier indoor spaces, ficus or Dracaena can make the move.
BONUS TIP: ABOUT THAT POTTED ORCHID
Many homeowners are stumped about how to keep this frequently bestowed house gift alive.
Three rules from Condon:
1. Water Sparingly
Orchid roots do not like to be wet.
2. Keep It Cool
Place it near an east- or southeast-facing window to give it indirect light.
3. Feed Regularly
For a good food source, try 20-20-20, a popular brand.
CREATING A YARD RETREAT
You don’t need to sport a green thumb to build a lush garden all spring and summer. Our pros offer three tips on how to keep your curb appeal in bloom and deer-free.
1 CONTAINER GARDENING
Long-blooming annuals in outdoor containers can make a difference and function as color highlights after the abundant blooms of late spring and early summer fade, and the heat of July and August turn the woodland landscapes to mostly green. Scinto likes petunias, million bells (Calibrachoa) and Alyssum—available in a vast array of colors. Condon recommends lantana and verbena; both pros like geraniums, which can take the heat of our southwest Connecticut summers.
For shady spots, of which wooded areas have many, impatiens, begonias and the abundance of coleus varieties—with their beautiful leaves—can adorn containers as well as the edges of tree-sheltered perennial beds.
2 BAMBI PROOFING
Resistance to foraging deer has increasingly become a consideration for choosing plants and shrubs. Absent food they like, hungry deer can make a meal of nearly any plant, but some are less appealing to deer than others. To help keep deer out of your garden, plant these:
- Herbs, like sage, salvia and lavender
- Evergreens, such as boxwood, green giant arborvitae, blue point juniper
To avoid converting your outdoor space into a deer buffet, stay away from:
- Rudbeckia (black-eyed Susans)
- Emerald green arborvitae
Scinto also encourages trying deer repellent sprays to discourage deer browsing.
3 SOMETHING NEW
Nursery folk always get the first look at new plant varieties as they come on the market. Scinto is excited to see how a new ever-blooming rose call Oso Easy (he hopes) will perform after trying a sample last season. Condon spotlights a repeat-blooming lilac called Bloomerang, available in white and purple.