Saturday, March 6, 2010

Impatien-tly Waiting for Spring

Oh, hi there, Junebug!

A bit ago, I posted some pictures on "Craving for Color" that included some of the pictures of our impatiens around the farmhouse that were taken last summer. I had questions about them and how we get them to grow so big.

Last spring, we planted white in the center, surrounded by red, then pink for a different look.
I liked it~and was quite surprised that they all rounded themselves off quite nicely. The barrel placed closest to the house was elevated on a couple of patio pavers, to make it sit higher than the big rock that sits just in front of it. It makes it interesting to have the barrels placed at different heights.

We bought our whiskey barrels at Kroger late one spring on clearance for $10 each. They were leftover from the planting season and some of them looked sad: bands were falling off. Mr. Farmhouse easily solved that problem with a few screws and his cordless screwdriver.

Here, there are a couple of barrels snuggled in by the set of front steps, squeezed in between hostas.

This is how the barrels start out looking when the flats are first planted, as Mr. Farmhouse is doing his thing...he's pretty good at it, he started out helping his dad do nursery work (his dad did that at work and as a side job) and learned alot that way.

When we buy our flowers, we plan on one flat per whiskey barrel. That might sound like a lot, but that's how we get them to fill out so well. Some years we buy one color per barrel and stick with a theme, like all pinks, or all purples, one year we did red, white and "blue".

This year, there were all colors of purple, each barrel a different shade.

How did we decide that impatiens were the flower for us?

By process of elimination. It took years to figure out and some help from our friends at the greenhouse. We had tried other flowers, for instance I love the glorious and colorful red geraniums, and mixing them with many kinds of colorful annuals with trailing vines and the whole works. It never worked out for us.

In this year, we chose white, pink and orange with vinca, spike and asparagus fern.

The wind literally beat to death most things we tried. Or they didn't get enough sun so didn't flourish. OR, they were too high maintenance, always needing dead heading and pinching back, impatiens are self-maintaining. You don't have to do much of anything for continuous and colorful blooms!

Last summer was very cool and very wet.
I don't think our impatiens have ever looked better than they did then!

How did we decide that we don't like planting our annuals in the ground and why did we choose whiskey barrels?

The front garden and porch area is under a big maple tree: so very shady and the tree is a water hog, with roots close to the surface of the ground making planting difficult and keeping flowers watered a problem.

In this instance, Mr. Farmhouse used wedges of color for a perfect pie of impatiens.

Because of the surface roots, tilling and weeding is difficult and besides that I HATE WEEDING; with a vegetable garden we just don't have time for it.

The reason we chose whiskey barrels is that we like how they look old, plus they give the roots of the plants a chance to "breathe" and is a natural container with its own drainage if we get a "flood"...the water will not just sit in the barrel. The barrels will last for years if you take care of them and not let water and dirt sit in them and freeze and thaw all fall and winter. Dump them in the fall, store them upside down, and reuse them in the spring.

This spring, we did all colors of orange. In the past, we've added spikes to the center and asparagus ferns on a couple of the edges to hang over the barrel but they got so lost in the impatiens, we stopped doing it, and have decided we like the rounded off look the best.

Here's how we do it:

Oh, look! There's Miss Junebug again!

I think planting a whole flat in the barrel makes the difference because it gives a fuller look and no room for the weeds to get in.

We work the barrels in with our hosta and field rocks and place them here and there if it looks empty in a spot. Hosta (and field rocks!) are another easy to care for shade-loving plant that love to be watered and enjoy and thrive in cooler weather.

We also place a barrel beside steps, and in front of of the massive tree trunk for a pop of color.

I hope that if you are able to try impatiens, you will love these hardy, colorful easy plants!

They are so easy and so good in cool weather, that usually the pumpkins are ready and leaves on the ground before I'm ready to let them be taken to the mulch pile.

(A note about our hanging baskets on the porch: impatiens have never been able to live in our hanging baskets on the porch, they die every time, because of the wind. For our porch which faces north, the only thing that will work to hang is asparagus ferns!)


Mel said...

I cannot even begin to tell you how inspirational this post was for me. If we ever get rid of the 5 inches of snow that covers the ground here, I'm now anxious to replicate some of your ideas.

Thanks so much.

Vicki's Bit-o-earth said...

Great post Joni! Thanks for the tips. I may try your method this summer. We have snails and slugs... that think Impatiens are candy, so putting them up in a barrel with snail bait around the base may work well. I'm going to try it this year. And what a great idea to fill the bottom with plastic bottles! (: xxxVicki

Julie Harward said...

Your flowers are awesome...beautiful! I have always loved these the barrels! Come say hi :D

Donna said...

What an informative and lovely post! Thank you!

mary your sis said...

i never thought of using lightweight plastic bottles from the re-cycle bin so the containers wouldn't be so heavy and to supply drainage. i'll need to remember that tip. i can't wait till spring comes. make sure you post a picture as soon as the crocus pop out of the snow.

Gina said...

Thanks for all the hints! My whiskey barrel never looks that good but I don't think I could do impantiens because it sits in the sun. Makes me even more eager for spring!

Gena said...

I love impatiens! I used to grow them at my old house, around the base of a huge tree in my front yard - it was always shady. I would probably plant at least 75 or 100 around that tree and when they filled out, it was breathtaking. They are one of my all-time favorite flowers.

At this house, I have no shade. None. I have a hard time finding anything that will withstand the heat of an Atlanta summer. I do plant Mexican Heather and Portulaca or moss roses. They seem to do pretty well. I also plant in containers and only put my perennials in the ground. Your whiskey barrels are awesome! I need to look for some of those.

A Romantic Porch said...

Joni, I just love impatients. I plant them every year...sometimes with more success than others. YOu gave really great tips! Isn't it exciting that planting season is just around the corner? ! xo rachel

The Cedar Shingled Barn said...

I just found your site this morning, love it! We plan on planting impatiens next spring. We have tried other flowers for the past few years and are heading back to the beginning. We just love them! Yours are so beautiful!!