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Hot Gardens Newsletter: Summer 2009

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Descanso Gardens pots on patioThese two-level pots overflowing with colorful flowers create a fountain-like structure on a patio at the Descanso Gardens in La Canada, California.

Patio Pots for Summer. This year instead of colorful pots scattered around your patio, consider the vertical arrangement of pots with cascading flower as shown at Descanso Gardens, our favorite botanic garden in California.

The lower dominant pot is heavy enough to give stability.
The upper pot is, in fact, a wire planter lined with moss, then filled with potting soil. You might ordinarily see it as a hanging planter. The open construction of the planter can lead to faster water evaporation, so use some polymer water-retaining crystals in the potting soil mix. Then plant Lantana to cascade over the sides. The pansies shown in the pots will not survive in hot, dry climates, but you can find colorful substitutes.

A Grass Fountain. Another idea is to plant colorful grasses in the pots at all levels and they will droop and sway in the breeze, giving an impression of a “grass fountain.”

Shallow Pots. We advise against using the flat, shallow terra cotta pots so often sold in garden centers. In a hot, dry climate patio pots should be deep enough to give roots space to grow and help keep the roots cool. Also avoid metal tins for planting. They heat the soil, dry out the roots and increase summer evaporation.

Nesting Pots. We recommend nesting smaller plastic pot inside a larger plastic pot, then filling the space between the two pots with soil or moss as insulation will also help keep plant roots in the inner pot cool and prevent evaporation.

And remember to fertilize your patio plants. The frequent watering so necessary in summer will wash away nutrients in even the best potting soils.

espaliered apple tree descanso gardenEspaliered Apples. This fence is, in fact, a series of Crabapple trees (Malus) that have been woven into a criss-cross  pattern–blooming pink in Spring.  Soon they will become a leafy green hedge.  Then in Fall the crabapple leaves turn brilliant red-orange.  In winter, the bare branches still create an interesting pattern.  Crabapples do well in a hot climate, although they need regular deep watering.

Descanso Gardens is famous for its two plant collections: camellias which bloom from December through April. And an international rose garden which blooms from April through to October. There is also a lilac collection of hybrids that bloom in warm climates. If you are planning a trip to Southern California, be sure to include Descanso Gardens on your list of places to visit.

roses descanso gardens 300
In the Descanso International Rose Garden roses are planted by country and in some cases by grower.  Nearby the rose garden is the iris collection which blooms in April and early May. This rose, left, is in the Japanese section of the Rose Garden.  There is also a Japanese Tea House at Descanso.  There is a fee for entry.

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