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Pot Performers

Norma Evans

Are there any run-away plants in your garden?

Mint is oftimes the first plant that gardeners think to restrict. It really doesnít matter which mint, there are so many. A monk writing during the 9th century said that there were so many mints then that he would rather count the sparks of Vulcanís furnace. And then there is mintís relative, lemon balm. It too might be easier for the gardener if its spreading ways were curtailed. Busy gardeners can appreciate not having to dig out the offspring of many vigorous plants, but still enjoy the attractiveness of green and white ribbon grass or the gorgeous bronze-maroon foliage of Lysimachia ciliata "Firecracker" or its relative gooseneck loosestrife.

Save those big plastic containers, plant up the invaders and sink the pot in the garden. It is not necessary to dig a hole so that the container is level with the garden soil. That is inviting Trouble. An inch or so above the soil will discourage wayward tendrils. Pots must have drainage holes.

If you have ever wished you could grow azaleas, rhodos, or blueberries, but like many of us hereabouts have alkaline soil, well think pot culture. One large pot filled with acidic soil is needed for each plant. Mulch with pine needles and fertilize with a product that is known to leave an acid reaction such as Miracid. You can sink the pot in the ground or grow it as a container.

The nursery trade knows how to tempt keen gardeners, but many of those fascinating, wonderfully coloured plants are listed as zone 6 or even zone 7. Sometimes they survive the winter; sometimes they donít. How much easier it is to have these plants looking "gung-ho" in the spring ready to put out shoots instead of saying to yourself "well it looks like it might live". Pots make it easy. Zone 6 or 7 conditions are just a little less harsh than ours and are frequently easy to provide in an unheated garage or sunroom. In about September, make sure any potted root balls do not get overly wet. You donít want any plants to develop root rot in their winter abode. Avoid the floor of a detached garage, but a table or shelf is great. If you think your area is going to be too cool, wrap the pot in a sheet of bubble wrap for extra insulation. Rarely will it be necessary to water your charges, but do not let the rool ball dry out completely. Costly helleborus or green/white/pink houttuynia will look gorgeous in early spring instead of July. You can have all the tender perennials you have space for. Do inspect your plants periodically. Remove fallen, dry or moldy leaves.

You can have parsley all winter but it must come in as a houseplant. It is almost impossible to transplant a mature parsley plant so this is another instance where pot culture makes it easy to have parsley summer and winter. Parsley is a biennial so you will have to start a new plant each spring as the old one will soon go to seed.

Please donít be tempted to winter Purple fountain grass in an unheated area. It is Zone 9 and must be brought indoors as a houseplant for the winter. Cut it back one-third to a half, place in a sunny window and water sparingly. You can divide it in the spring.

There is one maintenance feature for the invasive variety plants that must be attended to yearly. By spring, it will probably be obvious that the plant has outgrown the pot.

Dig out about a third to a half, depending on how vigorous the plant is, and you have something to give your neighbour or donate to a plant sale. Replace the gap with triple mix, good soil or compost and stand back.

Pot growing plants may experience soil compaction over time and it will be necessary to frequently amend and loosen the soil.

If you have enough sun for one pot on a balcony or porch, you could be eating your own tomatoes. Many apartment dwellers have discovered that there are tomato varieties for every location and just about every size pot. Just think, no weeding. Once the flowers are blooming on the plant, give it a shake from time to time so that the flowers will pollinate themselves and give you a bigger crop.

Keep pots in mindóthey can expand your gardening horizons.