Friday, June 19, 2009

Porch Paradise

This morning I said good-bye to my porch.

We have a long porch across the front of our house. The floor is made of wide, stained wood boards. White trim encloses it. Sitting there, I look out at at hardwood trees, pines, and ferns. I have seen a lot of wildlife from the porch -- deer, woodpeckers, wild turkeys, rabbits, hawks, black squirrels, bluebirds, phoebes, even a turtle. For several summers, a doe has used our yard as a safe place to leave her twin fawns while she searches for food. They are wary, but not alarmed, when we watch from our porch. We have a bench, some chairs, a rocker and various tables scattered around so that having "a cuppa" and a chat on the porch is inviting. It's a lovely place, a retreat, but not fussy in any way.

I purchased an assortment of pots on clearance at Home Depot and Lowe's. I filled them with inexpensive perennials and annuals. We had a small wall fountain already. I cleaned it up and set it on some canyon stone tiles next to the rocker. Suddenly, we were enjoying a little piece of paradise. Going to the porch was like taking a mini-vacation.

Last year, my husband built flower boxes that fit on the railings, and I filled them with flowers that added to the sense of being enclosed in a garden. We listen to classical music from a small, portable CD player. In the evenings, I light candles and citronella lamps. We can watch the sun set, enjoy dinner, have dessert, talk about things.

Container gardens are simply arrangements of pots filled with plants. Generally, they are placed around seating areas. You can have an entire "garden" built with these containers. The big idea that most people have about them is that they are labor intensive. I have found the opposite: container gardening on a porch is perfect for the homeschooling mother in the summer. First of all, there is no heavy labor. No rocks to move, no earth to till, no weeds to pull, no edging to build. Just put the dirt and the plants into the pot. Second, there is nearly no maintenance. Weeds do not grow in, deer and rabbits do not harvest, slugs do not devour plants that are up on porches. If you have a problem with bugs, you can buy a general insecticide at Lowes or Home Depot in a spray bottle for a few dollars. Apply it to the plants once a month. I do have some scissors that I use to clip away spent flowers and leaves once a week. But that's relaxing work, not heavy labor. Some people are concerned about the cost of container gardening. Let me be honest, it does cost a little more than buying a packet of seeds or a tray of seedlings. However, that extra cost depends largely upon your shopping. It doesn't have to be expensive. Better Homes and Gardens carries a line of plastic pots at Walmart that are very attractive. I have also found fabulous deals on sale at Home Depot and wonderful terra-cotta, clay pots at Lowes which are made in Italy and are very economical. Once you have bought the pots, you can use them for years. Just refresh them with some new peat in the spring and plant again.

The main thing about the containers is to stick with a theme -- a style or a range of hues that work together. Sage greens and browns, grays and blues, or clay pots are examples. This makes your arrangements look like they have been deliberately designed.

It's important to pick plants that are easy to grow and to keep the pots from drying out. Slightly moist, but not soggy, is the ideal. I water my plants every other day in hot weather, and once a week in rainy or cool weather. Some of my favorites choices for my pots are: petunias, impatients, alyssum, and English ivy. These plants need different amounts of light. When you choose and place your plants, be sure the light is right for the plant. Put shade plants in the shade and sun-lovers in the sun. If a plant seems to be less than exuberant, it could be that you don't have it in the right place. Petunias and alyssum need at least two hours of direct sunshine. The intense colors of the trumpet-shaped petunias contrast nicely with the lacey, delicate sprays of the alyssum. Impatients love a deep shady porch. Their pale colors glow in the shade. All of these flowers will produce an abundance of blooms until frost. I make my own potting mix by using 1 part peat moss to 2 parts of cheap potting soil. I also gleaned some great ideas from library books on container gardens and added a few perennials to my pots for variety. Small seedlings, which are perfect for pots, cost $2-3 each at Lowes.

I have to admit to you that I wasn't very scientific about the placement of my pots. I just kept adding more and moving them around until I felt like I had enough of them in the right places. It took me about a week to do this, but it was a great escape from the pressures of life and very restorative. I have no regrets about undertaking a container garden, and I now happily recommend it to weary mothers.

To the naysayers, I answer "ahem". Don't knock it 'til you've tried it.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, I love a good porch. My mom's porch is a good porch. I have a nice deck and a lovely porch, but it's not "A PORCH," that mini-vacation, slice of heaven. Hmmmm....I wonder what I could do to it to make it so and still keep the Ultimate Frisbee field? Hee hee.


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