Gardening, city containers and the thugs that live there

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Stephanie Hudak

Stephanie Hudak

By Stephanie Hudak

Well, did that get your attention? What I really meant was that some of the plants that I put in the containers I “thought” were the good guys have become “thugs.” Last week, Jack Meyer and I were grooming the containers – by the way, if you don’t know Jack Meyer you need to meet him – he is what we all want our kids to grow up to be – a responsible, intelligent and resourceful young man. But back to the containers. Folks have been saying how great the containers look, and for the most part I agree. Again, by the way… there are 52 containers in the town, so I have to agree that “most” of them look great. But ya know, when you get up close and personal, you will see what others don’t see when zipping by at 35 miles an hour.

So this is the basis of the story – the thugs of the containers. Be careful using them! At the end of last year I raved about a coleus called ‘Wasabi’ – a solid lime green plant that stood up to all abuse. Good grief, that thing is tougher than kudzu. It is in containers that are in full sun and full shade – nothing stops it. I cut it back and it only gets bigger. So, you are saying, why is that so bad. It isn’t if you want a plant that grows as big as a tree, but in the city containers it is nearly scary – and a lot of work to control it. But that said, ‘Wasabi’ is a great coleus. Sun or shade – water or not – it will perform. Don’t believe I will use it again just because it was so vigorous that it crowded out anything else in the pot – poor ‘Dipt in Wine’ coleus never had a chance against it, and I love that coleus.

What were the other thugs? While I really can’t complain about Cleome ‘Senorita Blanca’ because it has performed well in its containers – yikes – it has taken over the pot (No. 23). Yes, I knew this from another year, but I thought the new cultivar would behave better with its friends. Nope. It took over everything else in the pot. Looks good if you only wanted one thing but the other two plants are probably not happy about being pressed out.

Now this isn’t really a thug for me this year since I didn’t plant it this time but, let’s talk about sweet potato vines. It will come back to haunt you! Last year I did put some in the container in front of Perk Avenue Café (No. 20). Thought I pulled it all out. Well, apparently I left an “eye” in the pot because that thing is coming up everywhere. Turns out to be OK cause it is the bronze variety and it looks good with the ‘Rustic Orange’ coleus but, word to the wise on that one, make sure you get the whole “potato” out of the soil if you don’t want it back the next time.

But there are good thugs! Check out the container on Washington (No. 42). That is Alocasia ‘Portadora.’ Is that a “wow” factor or what. I knew when I put it in that it would be “big” but every time I groom the plants I stand there amazed. Bigger than needed for a container but it definitely makes you stop and stare. Check it out. Wouldn’t it be great near a pond or pool?

While I am talking about coleus thugs I need to tell you about the good guys. Coleus ‘Rustic Orange’ is an absolute winner. It is in a couple containers (No. 5 and No. 20). So well behaved and has not drooped once even in the heat and lack of water. And I really like Coleus ‘Oxblood’ too (No. 19). Well, it sorta took over that container and the petunia got lost but I’m not sure it is the fault of the coleus. Bad year for petunias.

So that is what the city containers are all about. Trying new things, seeing how they thrive and survive so that you can see how the plants do in a very challenging environment. After complaining about these thugs I do have to say that they are wonderful plants that would do well in your garden and even in containers – just be aware how vigorous they are. Walk around town and check out the containers to see how the plants look after five months. It’s almost time to do the change out for the fall color. Yes, believe it or not, fall is just around the corner… and then “Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells.” Sorry to remind you of that, but the stores already have reminded me. Speaking of reminding… hug someone.

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