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Archives for May 2013

Twinkle’s Garden | Tips For Growing Herbs


Growing your own herbs is one of the easiest and tastiest gardening projects you can undertake.

Stepping out the back door to pick your own fresh basil or rosemary can bring you and your friends and family some sweet and savory satisfaction.

It can also save you a lot of money in the long run, since herbs bought at the grocery tend to be pretty pricey.

Start with some basics, choose your plants and follow these helpful tips.

Happy, happy plants:

Before you even plant a seed, prepare your soil. Organic compost is one of the simplest ways to improve your soil. However, don’t mix garden soil into containers. Instead mix organic hummus and organic potting fertilizer for a loose, well-drained mix.

Let the sunshine in:

Most herbs love, love, love sunshine, so pick a spot where they will get plenty of it. Only a few herbs need shadier areas – like cilantro  and mint.

Although realistically, mint is the Gengis Khan of herbs. Shade or sun, this herb grows like a weed and can take over the entire garden. Plant it separately or in a area where you will want the coverage it can give. It’s a perennial, so make sure to look for it each year when it pops back up  in the spring.

Just a sip:

Only water every few days when the top inch of soil feels dry. Herbs thrive better in a semi-dry environment.

It also helps to plant them in area of the yard or containers that drain well and don’t hold in too much water.

Easy on the fertilizer:

You should only fertilize once a month at the most. Too much fertilizer can make the herbs overproduce and the flavor will be dulled.

Lots of times, just adding garden compost to the top layer of the soil is all the fertilizer your herbs will need throughout the growing season.

Harvest time:

Harvesting your herbs promotes their growth and keeps plants in a growing cycle instead of maturing and going to seed. Snip and clip a little to prep up some delicious meals sprinkled with fresh herbs every night and your herbs will last all through the spring and summer.

On the other hand, don’t go to town and harvest it all, it will take a few weeks for your herbs to replenish.

What’s Twinkle growing?

This year I’ve planted a salsa garden – cilantro, peppers, tomatoes and other herbs. Check back for tips on growing your very own!


Twinkle VanWinkle has over 20 years of professional cooking under her apron strings, feeding thousands of friends, family and other folks. She baked apple pies for the “Oprah Winfrey Show” and has appeared on Food Network’s “The Best Of…” Along with producing dynamic lifestyle content for LIN Media, she is a mother, urban gardener, chef, musician and social media fanatic.

Find out more on or  Foodspotting, Tumblr and Twitter.

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VAA Garden Tour Previews: the Small Garden – Vashon

Friday is the last day for discount tickets for VAA’s garden tour.


Don’t you long, sometimes, for a garden always ready to welcome you home? 

I visited with Miles Small today, enjoying a cappucino on the dining deck overlooking the waterfall pond. “This is a garden to decompress,” this very busy, well-traveled publisher told me. “I didn’t want another hobby… I didn’t want the kind of formal garden I knew back in Cleveland … We wanted something sustainable, all native plants that could take care of themselves … and I wanted this garden to look good in the rain.”

The front garden was once a long construction driveway used by the contractor who started the house. He had to abandon the project: the Smalls picked up the shuttered home and finished the interior before turning to that unlovely driveway four years ago. The big boulder in the waterfall came from underneath the house, bulldozed to the side until Miles found a spectacular use for it.

By starting the garden’s design after living there for some years, Miles knew visitors weren’t clear where, exactly, the entrance began and ended. Now a stout arbor walls off parking from garden, while a sequence of open garden spaces—fire circle, waterfall pond, raised decks—draws visitors through and to the front door. This landscaping was designed by the Smalls, drawn up by Olympic Design, and installed by GroundWork landscapes. 

The couple entertains a lot, sometimes hiring “Loose Change” to play from the upper dining terrace while friends circulate. Sometimes, he said, “this front porch looks like a Latin American house party, with everybody sitting on chairs with beers between their feet” as they keep an eye on the garden. (I counted 15 chairs along that long porch—and told him they’d be welcome rest to you footsore garden tourists.)

A treat unique to garden tour is that you will be welcome INSIDE the house—the only way to the back porch overlooking the forest beyond is through the welcoming double doors, past the sunken living room, and out the kitchen door. The massive wood columns holding up the second floor are peeled doug fir logs from the property; don’t miss the rustic balcony railing, its spindles likewise made of peeled branches.

So when you need a little respite during garden tour, peel out for Maury and the Small’s relaxation/decompression garden.

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Tips to design a garden you’ll love

Now for the plants

When the stage is finally set, the plants are the players. Design work is not done, however.

A few plants will have full-time jobs providing the skeletal structure of your garden, sometimes by themselves and sometimes in relationships with solid “hardscape” features. Plan the tall hardscape pieces in conjunction with the choice of largest plants because they have the same jobs: vertical interest, focal points, support for vines, shade or backdrop for smaller plants.

Too many tall things – trellises, trees, giant grasses – makes a space look cluttered, whereas one tall thing draws attention and pleases the eye. Choose your tall feature early, and if you already have the heirloom gas street lamp or Grecian urn selected, you may not need a tree.

If your garden design does call for a tree or large shrub, or several if the scale is larger, an important caveat is in order: Do not fall in love with and choose a tree at a nursery based on what you see before you. How tall and wide will that plant become when it is mature?

Of all the landscape design mistakes that professionals see every day, failure to ask this question is the worse because the consequences are most expensive and disruptive. How many times must we pull out an arborvitae or juniper placed 3 feet from a front door or remove a gorgeous, 20-foot Japanese maple that was put 4 feet from the corner of a house and now blocks half the living room window?

Evergreens and small trees including Japanese maples are now available that actually will remain the size that will suit smaller landscape spaces, but you can’t make a large plant into a small one by chopping it back continually. For your garden bones and focal points, good nurseries do have beautiful specimens that will remain 22 feet tall, but you must read, communicate and understand.

Nearly as important as focal point plants or bones, front-edge or border plants greatly define or frame a garden. A uniform front-edge planting ties a garden together and suggests a plan; it provides comforting uniformity.

The front edge of the bed can be all one kind of plant – a bright coleus, begonias, lamium or sedum. It can be several swaths of different species with the same color foliage or flowers – gray lamb’s ears, dusty miller and snow-in-summer. Or it can be long sweeps of several different kinds of plants, preferably repeating at least one of the groups for continuity. What does not work: one of everything you like that is short, or a dotty every-other-one alternating pattern.

It’s fun to choose upfront plants these days, as garden centers offer so many flowering annuals that you can change every season and low-growing perennials that quickly cover the soil and block weeds. More than in any other part of the garden, choose more plants for the front border than you think you’ll need and put them closer together than you normally would. The front edge makes a strong first impression and makes a garden look finished much quicker than any plants you place within the garden bed.

Rules aren’t really made to be broken; most garden design principles will serve you well. But it’s your garden, and the most important rule should be that your garden should give you joy. Go make a design, and find the joy.

Sally Cunningham is a garden writer, lecturer and consultant.

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Have your say on traffic plan

May 29 2013
By Kaiya Marjoribanks

Plans to create a partial one-way traffic system around much of Stirling’s city centre are being put out to consultation.

Stirling Council roads officials are seeking views on their proposals for Murray Place, Maxwell Place, Station Road, Goosecroft Road and Barnton Street.

The plans are aimed at making the city centre more attractive to walkers and cyclists and include taking over the front of the railway station from Network Rail to transform it into more of a `gateway’ for visitors to Stirling.

And Maxwell Place would also be opened up to one-way traffic which would then merge with one-way traffic coming along Barnton Street and Murray Place and heading towards the city centre.


Roads improvement manager Brian Roberts said: “We would be looking to take out one of the flows of traffic in Murray Place. There, all the bus stops would be along the front of businesses on the side where the Red Cross shop is, while on the other side where Oxfam is there would be a taxi rank.

“Footways would be widened and there would be the opportunity of further parking spaces in the evening.”

He added: “It is about improving the management of the bus and taxi provision and loading bays and the pay and display.

“At the moment there is a lot of conflict between the different type of users and we hope these proposals will help deal with some of the confusion.

The main changes under consideration are:

Barnton Street: One-way traffic with parking maintained on both sides; footway improvements to create more pedestrian space with less clutter; reduced traffic congestion and a more pedestrian friendly layout.

Goosecroft Road: continuous footway link alongside Goosecroft Road; new bus stances with shelters for passengers waiting to board outbound journeys (site boundaries have been established with developer to accommodate wide footways); two-way traffic maintained but lane widths reduced on approach to the Station Road roundabout.

Maxwell Place: Open access from Goosecroft Road to allow one-way travel towards Murray Place; revised parking layout to consider deliveries and customer needs.

Murray Place: One-way traffic towards Station Road with simplified road layout; improved bus stops mainly catering for passengers drop off; new larger taxi rank in central location; wider footways for improved pedestrian access; removal of as much clutter and signage as possible; revised traffic orders giving improved arrangements for buses, taxis and loading; high quality materials and street furniture incorporating trees and soft landscaping where possible.

Station Road: `Boulevard-style’ wide pavements and trees; new development is likely to have loading requirements – loading bay accommodated on-street; dedicated contra-flow cycle lane.

Railway station forecourt: Enhanced pedestrian route linking the station entrance with repositioned pedestrian crossing on Goosecroft Road; relocation of the taxi rank to the station building side of the forecourt.

Mr Roberts added: “Yes, we are trying to address some of the traffic and conflict issues but this is really also an opportunity to enhance the area and make it more attractive to pedestrians.

“I think we can mitigate against the increased speeds that sometimes occur in a one-way system.

“There would be some sort of traffic calming and enhancement to the junction of Maxwell Place with Barnton Street. Goosecroft remains two-way.

“This is a masterplan that allows people to start the debate and look at the potential.

“It is important we get in there and get the ideas down and that people see this as a platform for discussion and traders and residents see it as an opportunity for change.

“It would be done in several phases, probably over a number of years.

“But we are not doing things in isolation. This will complement the plans already announced for King Street and further along Murray Place and vice versa.

“It is part of the City Transport Plan which is really about how we deal with transport in the wider sense so people can walk and cycle and not just drive. It is ‘joined up thinking’.”

For more details of the plans go to and search for “Proposed roads improvement schemes consultations”.

What’s your view of the proposed traffic changes: email

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Ideas presented for Old Courthouse Road corridor


Staff Writer

Preliminary design work of what the Old Courthouse Road corridor could become was presented to the Appomattox Town Council recently.

Officials want to make the one-mile of corridor from Farmer’s Bank at the intersection of Confederate Boulevard to property just before the Surrender Grounds bicycle and pedestrian friendly.

Also, they want to provide alternative ways for people to come into town.

Transportation engineer Bill Wuensch and architect Richard Price, who conducted a one-mile stretch of the road, explained that they compiled ideas for the corridor after soliciting suggests from the public.

Wuensch said that stakeholder meetings attracted 45 people and has received positive feedback.

“This is a rare occasion that everyone was behind it,” he said.

County planner Johnny Roark mentioned a comment of someone who described the setting of how Old Courthouse Road is now.

“Coming into town into 24 feels like you are coming into the back door of the community,” said Roark.

Roark added that he wanted that back door of the community to become the front.

In February and March, there were stakeholder meetings in which the public were invited to attend.

During the meetings, some of the ideas included creating bike lanes and landscaping along the corridor.

Previous suggestions for the area include installing light posts, benches and landscaping along the corridor.

The two presenters described the designs as a starting point.

Price explained that they have been working on the project for months. The initial work began in January when traffic counts were made to determine the travel patterns of those entering in and out of the corridor.

Three themes were developed referred to as gateways, neighborhood greens, and historic villages.

In terms of beautifying the area, Price said that they want to come up with a unified theme of landscaping.

Price recommended that placing nodes in the area so that it would not be a long corridor.

After Price and Wuensch’s presentation, Council members voiced their opinion about the design work.

“It is impressive. I think we need a new look,” said councilwoman Claudia Puckette, adding that a changed appearance is the way to go if the town is focusing on tourism.

Councilwoman Mary Lou Spiggle agreed.

“I think that it is a wonderful beginning to future expansion,” she said.

Mayor Paul Harvey said that he liked that a lot of ideas from the public were incorporated in the designs.

Final designs will be released in June.

At the end of the process, local officials will receive information on what grants are available to implement the ideas presented.

Previously, during meetings the two presenters used such locations as Historic Williamsburg to show how it is an attractive place for walking and bicycling.

During the examination of the corridor, Wuensch and Price incorporated previous studies. Those studies included the Appomattox Heritage and Recreational Trail Plan, Region 2000 Greenways, and the Virginia Outdoor Plan.

The study was funded by VDOT and managed through the Local Government Council.

About a year ago, the study was initiated after developers expressed interest in developing the area after the museum opened in March 2012.

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NJ Landscaping Ideas Launches a Cutting Edge Informational Blog

Dana Winters
Email | Web

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Good Landscaping Can Add 10-15% to the Value of Your Home

landscapingWouldn’t you pay more for a home with a lush lawn, flowering trees, a deck and patio?  You’re not alone.  Studies show that landscaping can add 12 to 15 percent to the value of your home.  All you need is a green thumb to put some extra green in your pocket.

Landscaping is more than flowers and shrubs.  Upgrades can involve things like patios and decks, flowerbeds, barbecue pits, watering systems and plants of all sorts. As you enter into a landscaping project, you have plenty of choices about what kinds of upgrades to make.   The trick is to make improvements that prospective buyers want.  If you do, then your property value will rise.

Though experts agree that landscaping improvements usually raise a property’s value, it can be extremely difficult to predict exactly what kind of gains a specific homeowner will see in her individual circumstances. Estimates vary by home and notes that the lasting effect of landscaping requires ongoing maintenance. Virginia Tech horticulturist Alex Niemiera concluded that landscaping can add 12.7 percent to the value of a home — in his research six years ago. That translates into an extra $16,500 to $38,100 in value on a $300,000 home. In extreme cases, property values can more than double, and conversely, they can actually decrease if the landscaping contains undesired features that the local market doesn’t support.

The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) recommends that homeowners invest 10 percent of the home’s value in landscaping. Landscape architecture goes beyond plantings, or softscaping, to include structural features like lighting, fences, garden paths, fire pits, swimming pools, and ponds. Outdoor rooms, terraces, and decks are also high-yield structural or hardscaping investments. A landscape architect can work with the client to generate a detailed plan. Typically, the homeowner then hires a general contractor, landscape contractor, or subcontractor to perform the installation.

Of course, it’s quite easy to spend more on installation and ongoing maintenance than the landscaping benefits the value of your home.   A professional landscaper might seem like an extravagance, but they can help you gain equity in your home and save money by recommending features and plantings that will appeal to buyers and are cheap to maintain.  For example, perennials and bulbs can add color and style to your property all year long. Other cost-effective improvements include aesthetically pleasing architectural improvements, such as stone walkways and terracing that require little or no maintenance.

Another important factor to consider is the contractors who do your landscaping upgrades. Many companies vie for this kind of business, and choosing the right contractor can make a lot of difference. Find a contractor with whom you are comfortable, who is honest and patient, and who can show you a good track record. Lastly, pay attention to the details.  A subtle, small change, such as curving the edges of your flowerbeds, can by itself increase your home value by 1 percent.

There is no doubt that appealing landscaping can measurably increase the appraised value of your property.  “If a landscaping change is positive, it can often enhance price and reduce a home’s time on the market,” says Appraisal Institute President Richard L. Borges. “But if the change is negative, it can lower the price and lengthen the time a home remains for sale.”

Curb appeal is essential when selling a home, Borges says, noting it’s the homeowner’s opportunity to make a great first impression. A home with lackluster landscaping or an exterior in desperate need of a fresh coat of paint will likely be unappealing to prospective buyers and ultimately could affect the home’s potential resale value, he said.

Borges says homeowners should ask themselves the following questions when it comes to the quality of their home’s green space:

• Is the landscaping attractive enough to make the prospective buyer walk through the front door?  Keep the design contemporary and in line with comparable properties in the area.

• Could the landscaping provide cost savings? Landscaping that requires little or no water to maintain could be desirable depending on the geographic area.

• Is the landscaping energy-efficient for the home overall? For example, it’s a good idea to plant trees in a place where they block the sun in locations with year-round hot climates.

• Are the trees planted at a safe distance from the home and are they healthy and well maintained? Weak, old or damaged trees planted too close to a home or building could pose dangers to the home’s structure and will need to be removed. Consumers should also be sure that mulching or beds don’t get too close to wood around foundations to avoid wood-destroying organisms.

Home renovation guru Bob Vila counsels that perhaps the biggest mistake homeowners make is a piecemeal approach to landscaping.  “Homeowners begin projects, start to clear areas, put in a mix of plants, and proceed without a plan. The result is a hodgepodge of plantings and gardens that give the property a disorganized feel. An implemented professional landscape design provides a polished look. Following a professionally prepared plan will lead the homeowner to a beautiful property while remaining within a pre-established budget.”

Vila cautions homeowners to remember that everything doesn’t have to happen at once. Consider a five-year plan that has plantings maturing at varying rates and adds various features each year. This way you can remain within your budget—time-wise and cost-wise—while still progressing toward a complete landscape renovation.

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Good time to prune, aerate and fertilize

If those are on your to-do list, here are a few tips to consider:

Azaleas and heathers: This is a good time to shear azaleas and heathers back by a few inches all over the plant to encourage branching and more flowers.

Rhodies: You can control overgrown rhododendrons by removing one third of the tallest branches or shortening the entire shrub right after the plant finishes blooming.

And after you’re done with that, get to work on your lawn.

The end of May is a good time to aerate, fertilize and add lime to your lawn if you haven’t done so yet this spring. Leave grass clippings on the lawn to return valuable nitrogen to the soil and help shade out weed seeds. The secret to having a tidy yard and not collecting the clippings is to mow more often and use a mulching mower that will chop those grass blades into tiny pieces that can fall back into the soil.


There is good eating ahead for anyone who visits a nursery this month. New plants are available that will make you rethink how you enjoy your landscape – and eat your meals. Take a look at these:

Raspberry Shortcake: This compact plant is perfect for containers. This new raspberry plant does not need a pollinator, will not sprout wild vines that need supports and is happy contained in a pot. The berries are full-size and ready to harvest the first summer. Even apartment dwellers with just a bit of a sunny deck or patio can enjoy the fruits of very little labor.

Blueberries: These also are perfect for urban farmers. New blueberry varieties are available in dwarf and compact forms as well as unusual colors such as blueberry “Pink Lemonade.” Blueberry plants can thrive in container gardens if you remember that they love moist, acid soil. Keep them well watered and fertilize with a plant food made for rhododendrons, camellias and azaleas. Blueberry plants do not like lime near their roots.


Q: My new house sits on an empty lot and I am overwhelmed about where to start landscaping. What one piece of advice would you give to someone new to the area – or new to gardening? N.M., Woodinville

A: Start at the front door and work your way all around the house. By breaking a landscaping project up into smaller chunks, you can slowly envision and design separate areas as smaller gardens.

Once you add pots of color near the front door, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment. Then choose small and compact evergreens to spread around the property. Evergreens will make up the winter skeleton of the landscape. Fill in with flowering shrubs and small trees arranged in layers around the house. Finally, add groundcovers and splashes of color.

To learn more about what to plant where, pay attention to the plants that do well in your neighbor’s landscape, visit public gardens and go on a lot of garden tours this summer.

Tip: The Enumclaw Garden Tour is June 22.

Marianne Binetti is the author of “Easy Answers for Great Gardens” and eight other gardening books. She has a degree in horticulture from WSU and will answer questions at

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Meet Your Tahoe Merchant: ‘Growing’ business at High Sierra Gardens

The love for plants, flowers, gardens and the lake brought Dan Yori in 1970 to Tahoe, where he worked for years doing landscaping for different yards along Lakeshore Boulevard.

But even before that, High Sierra Gardens’ owner was shaped and pruned to be in the plant business.

“At age 11, my grandfather made me cut grass and work in the garden,” Yori said.

Yori was raised for the most part by his grandparents, and spent a lot of his childhood in their garden in Sparks. He helped his grandfather with planting and weeding, harvesting vegetables — he was a kid getting his hands dirty.

He said his grandparents asked him to complete his chores in the garden, “before tossing (him) ten cents to play the pinball machines.”

After more than a decade working in landscaping in Inline, Yori bought Ponderosa Nursery and made it his own High Sierra Gardens. Today, his business has expanded into a nursery, florist, gift shop and design landscaping.

Most of Yori’s clients have come from word of mouth, or by people simply liking what they see.

“The next person looked over the fence and saw my work,” he said of the early day marketing.

Design landscape became Yori’s specialty over the years in Incline and he is proud to say that many houses in the North Tahoe area (and nearly half along Lakeshore) are the work of he and his team.

Working with texture and colors, as well as keeping up with the constant changing of yards, keeps Yori intrigued and excited.

“It’s where my creative juices are — it’s what I like to do,” he said of landscape design. “I always had a creative eye with landscape, I can see a yard and see it three different ways or five different ways.”

He often uses large granite, perennials, trees and water features to create a feeling of serenity in a space. Aspens are his favorite for “the way they quake.”

Like many businesses in Tahoe, Yori must work closely with the seasons — not for tourism, but for weather itself.

“Mother Nature is a huge influence on us,” he said. “Having a nursery in the mountains means you have to really pay attention.”

The business owner is thankful for this year’s early spring, as some years he hasn’t been able to open the nursery until as late as mid-June.

“The sunshine comes out and the phone starts ringing and I’m scrambling,” he said.

Although with its flowers and wind chimes, tall trees and greenery, the scrambling he may feel is never felt by customers.

Through the back of the business runs Wood Creek, a small stream which starts in the Sierra and empties into the lake.

Small wood bridges and benches create a feeling of serenity among the potted plants for sale and the native plants all around.

For the volume High Sierra Gardens caters to, the business is relatively small.

“It feels serene now,” Yori said, “but wait until a truck comes in, we get cleaned out quite quickly.”

In his off time, Yori is at home, on his knees in the soil, getting his hands dirty.

“Don’t you ever stop?!” yells a neighbor over the fence as he digs and plants, picks and (as he says) “putzes.”

“Gardening is my stress relief,” Yori said.

Happy birds and the distant sound of passing cars on the highway are the only sounds in Old Brockway as Yori works in his vegetable garden, bringing in his heirloom tomatoes for a salad, picking herbs to cook with.

Like anyone who can make a living doing what they love to do, Yori agrees he is a lucky man.

Working with plants and soil, flowers and yards is what the man has known since a boy and has transformed and brought the love to others through high Sierra Gardens.

“It grew in me where I had this passion for it, now there’s a science to it,” he said.

“It’s where my creative juices are — it’s what I like to do.”n

Dan Yorin

Owner, High Sierra Gardens

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Container gardening: Local Master Gardeners offer advice

From traditional window boxes to repurposed containers, gardeners everywhere are potting up their plants. It seems no matter how long I work on it, finding the perfect container combinations and keeping them looking great seem to take constant inspiration.

So I asked Clemson Extension Master Gardeners to share their favorite tips and plant combinations for beautiful, low-maintenance container gardens.

Heather Powers says, “You can grow almost everything in a container, and almost anything can be a container.”

She proved it by “up-cycling” a set of old dresser drawers into a creative planter.

Beth McCandless finds that even traditional garden features such as birdbaths take on new life when planted with fragrant herbs such as lemon thyme.

Sue Lawley found the bottom of an old sea buoy on a neighbor’s trash pile. A few drainage holes in the bottom and a coat of paint to enhance its hammered metal finish turned trash into treasure. Lawley’s favorite three-season flowering combination consists of pansies, snapdragons, stock, licorice plant (Helichrysum petiolare), alyssum and the prolific blooming hybrid Supertunia.

Filling large containers with high-quality potting media containing slow-release fertilizer can become cost prohibitive and make pots too heavy to move.

Karen Smelter says, “You don’t need to fill a large pot with all soil.”

Adding lightweight packing materials such as Styrofoam peanuts to the bottom of a pot not only lessens its weight, but saves money.

Smelter’s large-scale pots contain topiary hibiscus, combined with sun coleus Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia), and Diamond Frost Euphorbia (Euphorbia graminea).

John Pienadz suggests gardeners try adding a bag of soil, then placing several empty 2 or 3 liter soda bottles with caps on, and adding more soil to fill the pot. Pienadz’s pots pack a tropical punch, combining Kimberly Queen ferns (Nephrolepis obliterata), plumeria, tropical hibiscus and chenille plant (Acalypha hispida).

Yvette Guy uses drill bits made for ceramic and glass to drill drainage holes into clay and concrete vessels. An avid herb gardener, she advises, “Always plant with good drainage in mind … especially for herbs, because wet feet will kill most of them.”

Guy also cautions that plant roots in pots left on patios or in other sunny locations are vulnerable to overheating and “cooking,” so choose heavy clay pots to protect plant roots. Her favorite long-lasting container is a large glazed bowl filled with blooming chives and edible flowering dianthus.

From colorful exuberance to quiet understatement, creative expression draws gardeners to containers.

Cathy Damron prefers the ease of grouping single plants in individual pots to create cohesion. Eve Brown masses glazed blue pots filled with red and white impatiens as a memorial to her son, Gene, who loved gardening and once served in the Navy.

She says she has spent a small fortune on blue pots, but designing a garden in her son’s memory has been great therapy.

Planting in containers allows gardeners to use every inch of space available to them. Master Gardeners grow fruit trees, vegetables, edible flowers and herbs, along with ornamentals, to maximize space. Donna Powell incorporates strawberries, rosemary, lavender, sage, thyme and tarragon into pots. She adds nasturtiums, purple basil and Japanese eggplant for edible elegance.

A drip irrigation system makes watering easier; without it, frequent hand watering is necessary to keep most container gardens thriving during the heat of summer. The Master Gardeners say that while automatic watering with timers and drip systems is great, they also offer the following tips for reducing water use:

Choose light-colored containers to reflect heat.

Edge containers into shadier areas during the summer.

Place pots directly on soil instead of paved surfaces to reduce water loss.

Mulch containers with moss, compost or pine straw.

Choose “garden soil” over “potting soil” so pots don’t dry out too quickly.

After watering, fertilize with water-soluble fertilizer every few weeks or as needed to meet the needs of the plant.

You can find inspiration at local garden centers, magazines and websites such as Pinterest. Stubbs says, “Remember this rule: You will need a “thriller, filler and spiller,” but you don’t have to replace every plant in the container each season.

Susan Seabrook uses evergreens and tall perennials as thrillers and spillers in her combinations, and changes out the filler to match the season. Seabrook recommends canna lilies, coleus, globe amaranth (Gomphrena globosa), wire vine (Muehlenbeckia axillaris), and purple-heart vine for part-sun gardens.

The last bit of advice from the Master Gardeners is to group plants with similar needs for easier maintenance, keeping in mind these “mini-landscapes” are only temporary. To revamp tired planters, dismantle them, add fresh potting media, divide and re-plant perennials, pop in new annual color and enjoy.

Amy L. Dabbs is the urban horticulture extension agent and Tri-County Master Gardener coordinator for the Clemson University Cooperative Extension. Send questions to

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