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Posted on Fri. Feb. 08, 2013 - 12:01 am EDT

WHAT'S BLOOMIN'

Gardening column: Pair hybrids with unique container

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In spite of the snow on the ground and temperatures ranging from single to slightly double digits, my neighborhood association has chosen to ignore it all and think Spring with a capital S.

At a recent meeting, the group made plans to sponsor a “Unique Container Plant” contest in June. As instigator of this idea, I am hoping contestants will first look at all the possibilities stored away in their garages and basements — things that could be considered unique if used as a planter. Of course, the idea is to think outside the professionally produced container and create one of their own.

In an effort to find plants that do well in containers (and there are many), I've found several that will make the Master Gardener judges' jobs very difficult.

After reading this, you might want to add such a contest to the list of activities being planned in your neighborhood or group — or just create something wonderful at your own doorstep. Here are some plant choices that are being touted as new on the market for 2013 and, if combined with bedding plants that compliment, will make container magic:

•Consider the time of year you will be doing a contest. We are doing one in June, so we have to think about the fact that the weather will be warm — too warm for most plants that like cool days and nights, such as pansies, dianthus and spring bulb plants.

•Also, before picking plants, consider whether the location you will place the container is in sun or shade.

•Always make sure the container drains well and is filled with a special mix of soil just for that purpose. As always, whether in a container or in the ground, the condition of your soil will make all the difference with plant performance.

•Look for “Glamouflage Grape” petunias, which will be new at garden centers. This amazing new variety has variegated foliage that's as eye-catching as the plant's grape-colored flowers. Pack a container full of these boldly colored blooms with lamb's ears and trailing variegated vines and get ready for all the compliments that will come your way. Full sun works best for all these plants.

•Try new “Hot Springs Lobelia.” Normally lobelia doesn't handle the heat well, but this new variety does — so look for this when shopping this spring. There are four colors available, including white, dark blue, lavender-pink and sky blue. You can plant lobelia in sun or part shade.

•“Supercal Artist Rose Petchoa” — you will enjoy this plant. It will give you the best traits of petunia and calibrachoa. This flower works great in containers or the garden and likes sun or part shade.

•“Estrella Pink Star” Verbena likes full sun and has a trailing form that can grow up to 18 inches long with bright pink-and-white blooms covering each plant. The flowers are also popular with butterflies and hummingbirds. This one looks great in hanging baskets or containers.

•If you are into the lime-green-and-white look, here is the one for you — “Lanai Lime Green Verbena.”

These and many more new plants will be in garden centers this year. As with all hybrids, these flowers have been bred to be resistant to disease, pests and difficult weather situations. So, find that unique planter and, with careful planting, watering and regular feeding (especially containers and hanging baskets), you could win the contest hands down.

Jane Ford is an Advanced Master Gardener. Email questions to jaf701@frontier.com. You also can read her What's Bloomin' blog at www.news-sentinel.com. This column is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinion of The News-Sentinel.


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