Category Archives: Patio Gardening

Patio Gardening – Geraniums

I love coming home to cheery flowers on my patio or front step. Geraniums are great easy perennial plants for patio gardening. When I say geraniums are great for a patio garden, I don’t mean actual Geraniums, although they might be nice as well, I mean pelergoniums. What’s the difference?

Geranium Nimbus
Creative Commons License photo credit: Mommy of Five

Here’s an actual geranium. It’s a member of the genus Geranium, sometimes also called “cranesbill.” Geraniums are a great plant for the front of a perennial border, but they aren’t what most people think of when one says “geranium.”

Geranium / Regal pelargonium 'Viola' / ?????
Creative Commons License photo credit: TANAKA Juuyoh (????)

Here’s what most people think of as geraniums. This plant is a member of the genus “Pelargonium.” It is a great plant to grow in pots on a sunny patio because it tolerates hot, dry conditions well. Pelargoniums also bloom over a long period, brightening up your patio all summer.

The common pelargoniums found at your local nursery will most likely come in bright colors such as hot pink, orange, or fire engine red. If very brightly colored flowers aren’t your style, you might consider planting “scented geraniums” on your patio instead. Scent geraniums are pelargoniums bred so that their leaves give off familiar scents. My favorite is “rose geranium” which has a wonderful scent of roses, soft fuzzy leaves, and lovely light pink flowers. Scented geraniums can actually be used as an herb to a their scent to sugar or baked goods. Once you discover how easy to grow and beautiful pelargoniums are you might even start collecting different varieties for your patio garden.

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Creative Commons License photo credit: shimgray

Patio Gardening – Succulents

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Creative Commons License photo credit: themissiah
One of the most difficult things about getting settled in a new home, is getting your garden restarted. I like to start with areas near the house, like patio gardens. Patio gardening can be very different than gardening in larger spaces because you need to be very conscious of the microclimate of your garden. One of my favorite things to grow on my patio is succulents, like the jade plant pictured above.

Plants in pots are much more sensitive to variations in temperature and moisture than plants whose roots have room to spread and find the nutrients and water they need. Because of this you have to plant your patio garden carefully, paying attention to sun and shade, wind and water.

Succulents such as jade plant, aloe, and hens and chicks seem to prefer to be neglected. (Whenever I pay too much attention to a succulent plant I manage to kill it with over watering.) They tolerate hot dry conditions extremely well, which is exactly the type of microclimate that tends to prevail on most people’s patios. I have also grown succulents well in partial shade, so don’t worry if you don’t have a super sunny spot.

The important thing is not to overwater your patio succulents! Water about every two weeks. I’m sure I have let my plants go longer without water and I have never killed them from lack of water. If you live in a colder climate, you will have to take your succulents inside when the weather turns cold, but they make fabulous easy care houseplants in a sunny spot.

Succulents are also traditionally associated with positive qualities. Most people know that aloe is a great remedy for burns and skin irritations. Jade plant is also called “money plant” because growing it is suppose to attract wealth to your home. Hens and chicks is a plant that was grown by the ancient romans to ward off lightening strikes. Including these lucky plants in your patio garden can’t hurt. Growing such easy plants will make you feel lucky to have discovered them.

Tree Care at Aurora House

Below are some horrible pictures of tree torture, so sensitive readers may not want to read any further. I don’t know why people engage in tree torture, but I think it’s simple ignorance. Many people just don’t understand the basics of how trees grow and what kinds of care they need. People also don’t think about how the tree might grow and change in the future.

When this Bradford Pear was planted in the 70s (?) it had plenty of room. Now it’s almost outgrown it’s tiny square of soil, making it difficult to water. Since it’s planted next to our sloped driveway it’s basically only getting water from the soaker hose on the other side.

tree trunk

Frankly, it looks kind of sickly. Now maybe it’s just the fact that it’s an older Bradford Pear. Bradford Pears have some problems, such as weak branches that break easily in stormy weather. Our tree, in fact, has a broken branch hanging off of it right now. We need to figure out how to get it down without hurting ourselves or the tree or just hire an arborist.

Below is my roommate Kym, attempting doing surgery on the japanese maple in our back patio. For some reason a previous resident of Aurora house tied a piece of thick black plastic rope around the trunk of this little tree. If you look closely you can see that the tree trunk had started to grow around the rope.

Kym and the Japanese maple

I have seen trees grow to incorporate lots of foreign materials, but this situation is dangerous for the tree because if the tree trunk became completely girdled, the rope could cut the tree’s circulation systems, making it impossible for the tree to pass nutrients and water back and forth from its roots and branches. I’m hoping that by cutting off the rope we have saved this little tree, although we couldn’t fully remove the rope since the tree had already grown over most of it.

Japanese maple damage

I’m not sure if the damage to it’s canopy was caused by the rope. It might be sun burn or frost damage. Most of the tree is sheltered by the walls of the house. I’m going to try to get up there and cut out the damaged areas before I leave in the fall.