All About Gardening and Gardening Q & A by Pernell Gerver

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"Tips for Successful Container Gardening"

Container gardening is a great way to garden, especially for those who have little or no space or time for a garden. Just about any plant can be grown in a container garden. I like to use containers as accents in the garden. Because they’re in containers, the pots can be moved around and placed where color is needed. I also like to group containers of different sizes together for an even better display.

Regardless of the size or shape of the container, the three main design elements in any container garden are upright, mounding, and trailing plants. By combining a plant or two from each category in a container garden, the results will be a beautiful and appealing display that will look good all season long. When it comes to gardening in containers, a full container right away is the desired effect, so don’t be afraid to put in as many plants as possible. You can always come back later as the plants grow and trim back, or remove altogether, if necessary.

Upright plants provide height in a container garden. As a general rule of thumb the tallest plants should be about twice the height of the container. This provides good visual balance to the container garden.

Placement of the upright plants varies, depending on the container. They can be placed in the center of the container and surrounded by mounding and trailing plants or they can be planted towards the back and side of the container with the other plants in front. In a container that is viewed from all sides, the upright plants look best planted in the center. In a container that is viewed from just the front like a windowbox the upright plants should be planted in the back.

Mounding plants are used to fill in the center of a container garden. Not as tall as the upright plants, mounding plants, as their name implies, form an attractive mound of foliage and/or flowers depending on the plant.

There are many different plants with a mounding habit that are good container plants and I like to include at least one in every container I plant. If the container is large enough, I’ll plant several different kinds of mounding plants.

Trailing plants are used in a container to help soften the edge and draw the eye downward. These types of plants have long stems that drape and trail. Many can grow to several feet long or more. Trailing plants are planted right along the edge of the container either in the front in a container that’s viewed from just the front or all around the edge in a container that’s viewed from all sides.

Pernell Gerver's Gardening Q & Aby Pernell Gerver

"Virus May Cause Distorted Delphiniums"

Q. For many years I have grown delphiniums in my garden, but in the past eight years many of them have been plagued with a disease that distorts their leaves and often their blossoms. As soon as this is detected the plant is destroyed and replaced, but soon half the replacements are also victimized. Can this be controlled, or should I just abandon these beauties? They are the backbone of my garden. Thank you.

A. Delphiniums are tall, stately perennials that bloom in summer in a range of colors including pink, blue, violet, and white. Their tall flower spikes rise above the flower bed to provide an elegant vertical accent. Delphiniums range in height from three feet tall to over six feet tall. They are a short-lived perennial, but are easy to start from seed.

From your description, it sounds as if your delphiniums may be infected with a type of virus. There are many viruses that affect delphiniums, including aster yellows, delphinium ring spot, mosaic, and beet curly top. The symptoms of these viruses include stunted or distorted leaves. The foliage may also be yellowed and have spots or streaks. Often the entire plant is stunted and has small flowers.

Viruses can be spread by insects such as aphids. As the insect feeds on the plant it spreads the disease from plant to plant. Treat for aphids to prevent the spread of disease. One of the easiest ways to control aphids is to spray the plants with Neem Oil. Begin spraying early in the season as soon as the plants begin growing in spring and spray regularly, about once a week, throughout the season to control and prevent aphids.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for the viruses that infect delphiniums. The best way to control them is to remove all the affected plants and dispose of them. Do not add the diseased plants to the compost pile. Be sure to disinfect any tools used to remove the plants. Spray the tools with rubbing alcohol or a 25 percent bleach and water solution. Wash your hands thoroughly before touching any other plants.

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