The warm, sunny Mother’s Day weekend we’re set to have in the Northeast gave gardening guy Henry Homeyer an idea: plants as Mother’s Day gifts.
Of course, he might be predisposed to think of plants as great gifts. Henry Homeyer has written a number of books on gardening, including the recently released Second Edition of The New Hampshire Gardener’s Companion. He joined Weekend Edition with a few tips for a do-it-yourself Mother’s Day presents in New Hampshire.
What makes annual flowers a good gift - especially when it comes to Mothers Day?
They bloom all summer. Perennials are nice, but they have a three week, or two week, or four week, bloom period, whereas annuals, if you keep them watered and put them in the sun if they want sun or put them in the shade if they want shade, will keep on producing from now until frost.
Which particular annuals are you looking at this year?
It really depends on the location where you'll be placing the planter. Is it full sun, or is it going to be on a shady porch?
There are a couple of trademarked hybrids that I like. One is called the super-tunia, which is like a petuna but it's been hybridized and grown so it'll have many more flowers. There's also one called a superbena, which is a verbena which has been hybridized, again, for large numbers of flowers. Those are great sun plants. Depending on the particular subspecies that you get, they may cascade out of their pots, or they may stand upright. Angelonia is another nice sun plant; that's a 16 to 20 inch tall plant that comes in a variety of colors, pink being the most common one. Those are some nice annuals, but there are dozens and dozens of them.
Super-petunia reminds me that you said you used to give your mother petunias each year when you were a kid.
I did. But with the old-fashioned petunias, you have to pick off the dead blossoms, and you have to be careful when you water that you don't get water on the blossoms, because you can leave water spots. Nowadays plants have been bred so that anybody can grow them and look like you really know what you're doing.
When I first thought about a plant, or a group of plants, as a Mothers Day gift, I thought maybe that's just another thing Mom would have to be responsible for. But then you pointed out that even planters can have self-watering capability. These plants can, in many ways, take care of themselves without a lot of maintenance required.
That's right. The self-watering planters have a platform in the bottom, about three inches in the bottom of the outer pot, that the soil sits on. So you have three inches that can hold water and they have a wicking system that allows the water to get up into the main compartment of the planter, that's got a tube that goes down the side. You pour water in there, you fill it up once a week, you don't have to worry about it again. In the old days, if you had an old clay pot and it was sitting in the sun, it could dry out, so you had to water every day.
Speaking of pots, you've recommended, if possible, a bigger pot. When I've done that I've ended up putting in so many plants that they basically wound up fighting each other. How do you avoid that?
You have to be careful not to pack in so many plants at the beginning of the season before they start to grow and come to full size. But if you've got a 12 to 16 inch diameter pot, I recommend one tall thing in the middle, then put maybe three medium-sized plants around it on the outside, and between them you might have some trailing or cascading plants that'll hang down over the edges. You can put three to five, even seven plants in a pot, and they'll do fine.
In a lot of circumstances people might just grab a bunch of flowers from a shop - not that there's anything wrong with that, but what you're describing could end up being a personal and meaningful living present.
That's true, especially if you've never done it before, because your mom knows what your capabilities are. If you go out and actually buy some potting soil, buy some compost, buy a bag of each, mix up a blend, 50-50, fill up a pot, select some plants that look nice to your eye, plant them and present it to Mom, she's going to say, oh my goodness, he really tried, he deserves a rhubarb pie.