Notes from Herb:

Inspired by watching maybe a few too many HGTV garden shows last winter, I began to take a look around my own humble abode to see what new spin I could put on the exterior. It is a fact of life that you can walk by something that is ugly as sin everyday in your own yard, something so bad that if you saw it in someone else's yard you would shrink back in horror and wonder how on earth they could tolerate that monstrosity day after day. I don't know which part of the brain allows us to be numb to our own atrocities and yet keep extremely keen on those of others, but it is there. For me, one such annoyance is our electric meter. When we were building our house, some Einstein decided that the electric meter box with all of its delightful pipes and cubicles which extend all the way from the ground to the roof and have seemingly endless wires that trail off overhead belonged on the front wall of our house. 

I have tried several things over the years to disguise this protruding beast. The first effort included building a two foot tall brick planter box at the bottom into which we anchored a seven-foot fan trellis and filled with potting soil. Having come from coastal California, we planted that area's vine of choice, Jasmine.  This was not a great idea because the Jasmine didn't care for the dry sunny condition we thrust it into and the trellis was really too big for the space. So, out came the trellis and Jasmine and into the planter box went Cat Thyme and Magic Carrousel miniature roses. I thought I would draw the eye downward and away from the octopus glommed onto the wall. This was really attractive for about two years until a gopher took down the miniature rose and we had to dig up the at Cat Thyme on one side to put in some more "wonderful" wires. I hate to admit that we lived with that half a box of Cat Thyme for almost 10 years. I would just walk by it and mumble until eventually I became numb to the situation. Now remember this in the front of my house. You have to walk by this to get to our front door. And, remember too that I am Herb Gardener, master of beautiful plants--"everywhere" but in this one spot.

Well, not anymore. I was so inspired by all those makeover shows that I thought, "If they can do it, so can I." Since I had already tried several remedies, I knew I had to think outside the box (no pun intended). The space being only 4 feet long by 12 inches deep and 8 feet high compounded the problem.  I spent several hours looking through magazines and  catalogs and another few hours in the garden section of several nurseries. At first, I thought I would anchor some very fancy, tall wrought iron shepherd's crooks in the space and hang baskets from them. But, short of filling the box with concrete, the space was too shallow to allow for a solid footing for the hooks. Finally, I decided I would hang baskets. I knew the big problem with this would be the watering. This is a very sunny spot and for plants to make it in these baskets, I knew they would need water every day in the summer. I took one of our patio drip kits and ran it from an existing lawn system. This had the big advantage of allowing me to tie into the automatic lawn timer box.  But, I could have used a manual timer as well. The important thing was that the baskets didn't rely on me to remember to water them. The spaghetti tubing was fastened around the edge of each basket with zip ties and two emitters were poked in aimed at the center of the basket.  Since my house has wood siding I was able to staple the tubing to the wall. After all my tubing was in place, I painted it all to match the house. I also gave all the pipes and boxes a fresh coat of house paint.

Cinderella Mini Rose After all my tubing was in place, I painted it all to match the house. I also gave all the pipes and boxes a fresh coat of house paint.

With that done, I decided to plant micro-mini roses, like Cinderella, in the base of my petit planter box.

To help fill in, I planted the quick growing Santa Barbara Daisy. Both are dainty plants that fit the scale of the brick planter box. By keeping the plants small in small spaces, it gives the illusion of space. (See, what you learn from those dang design shows!) Santa Barbara Daisy

The Hanging Baskets I chose came pre-lined with sphagnum moss so all I did was grab some of our Organic Gro Container Mix and head down to the nursery to select the right plants. Since we grow mostly perennials, I also added some annual pansies for quick color.  Now when you walk by this area your eye is drawn to the lovely plantings of spiky Statice, grassy Society Garlic, hanging Caraway Thyme, small fragrant Nutmeg Geraniums and bits of soft grey  Lamb's Ears.

As winter shifts toward summer, I am filling any spaces left by the declining pansies with colorful, small Amaranths as I wait for the perennials to make their contribution. I am amazed at how much happier I am now that I don't "see" that ugly concoction of metal and wire sucked to the edge of the house anymore. I know that to keep the baskets looking good, I will have to feed them with a liquid fertilizer throughout the season, but it will be a joyful task performed with gratitude for the miracle these humble plants have given me.

TIL' NEXT TIME,

HERB