A great BIG Thank You to everyone that came out to support East Cooper Meals on Wheels in April!
We were very excited about the donation we were able to make to them this year.
Meals on Wheels provides daily meals to those in need and shut-ins in our community.

TSF's of Container Planting

Thrillers, Spillers and Fillers


Now that spring has sprung, those empty containers on your porches and decks are begging for beautiful blooms!  It is much easier to fill those pots with magazine worthy arrangements than you might think.


There are some things to consider before your trip to the garden center.  The placement of the container will determine the type of flowers you will need and the style of planting you want.  Sun conditions will dictate the plants.  You have to know the amount of sun you will receive everyday to choose plants that will thrive in the conditions you have.  If you are planning to put your container in a shady spot, it's okay, some of the most interesting plants are shade lovers. 

Mystic Dahlia

 Some flowers that do well in the shade, but in most cases shade plants have colorful and textured foliage.  Also, decide if you want a 'round' planting or a 'flat' planting.  Just in case you are wondering, those are not technical terms, but the best I have come up with to describe the difference.  Round would have the thriller in the center and the fillers and spillers planted around the center.  A flat planting would have the thriller in the back with the fillers and spillers planted in the forefront, this works well for containers placed against a wall.


The rule of thumb is spillers, thrillers and fillers.  So what that means is, you choose a plant that will spill over the container like a potato vine, asparagus fern, or maybe a blooming plant like scaevola.  Thrillers would be the plant that makes you stop in your tracks and back up for a second look.  Some of the new sun tolerant coleus make gre

Persian Shield

Shade Plant

at thrillers, the variegation of the leaves and the height they will attain make them a great choice.  Angelonia is a faithful bloomer all summer and tolerates the heat.  The new series of mystic dahlias also come to mind when I think thriller, blooming intense colors all summer.  The fillers are the complimentary plants to that thriller plant.  Vinca, profusion zinnias, begonia and dusty miller are all good examples of filler flowers.  You can find them in many different colors to coordinate with your thriller. 


Don't be afraid to pack the pot with those fillers!  This is the time when you choose color.  If  your thriller plant has purple blooms, choose pinks, purples and whites for your fillers, but wait, you need that POP!  So add a splash of yellow!  Also be mindful of the leaf size, texture and shape when choosing your fillers.  Dusty miller has a fuzzy silver leaf that adds just a little more interest and depth to your container.  Try adding a grass or liriope to the pot, it gives one more layer of texture. 


And if you think you have enough flowers and plants to fill your pot, add just a few more.  In most cases, you are planting annuals, meaning they are only going to last for the season.  They give their best and then they give up!  It's okay to ask a lot out of them.  Remove some of the dirt to fit them all in, then push them up close to their neighbor.  As long as you keep them watered, they will do just fine for the season.  You can add a bloom booster fertilizer if you want, but in most cases  it is not necessary.


Okay, I know that I just said you are probably going to be using annuals, but in some cases you will use a perennial like asparagus fern, salvia or even an evergreen like giant liriope.  It's okay to abuse those plants, they are tough and will still perform beautifully, even if you remove part of the root system.  Just about every two years I will take a large knife to the root system of my asparagus ferns that faithfully return every year to fill my pots.  I will cut away more than half of the roots in an effort to make more room for the fillers!


It's easy, give it a try!  But if you're not convinced you can do this, measure your pot and tell us about your sun situation and your favorite color and we will be glad to help you in choosing the perfect plants.  Now that you have done all of the hard work, sit back and enjoy your creation!






The Birds, the Bees and The Sagos?
Did your parents tell you about the sagos?

Cycas revoluta, one of the most primitive living seed plants, are very unusual and popular ornamentals. A rugged trunk, topped with whorled feathery leaves has lead to the common name "Sago Palm".  However, it is actually related to conifer and Ginko trees - all cone bearing plants which trace their origins back to the ancient flora of the early Mesozoic era. Often called "living fossils".

SO ... you've had a nice pretty Sago Palm in your yard for years, and suddenly, one spring, it has a very weird "thing" growing in the middle of it!  What's happening?  It's Mother Nature's way of producing more of these beauties.  However, Sagos are like people... reproduction takes two - a male and a female. 


In late spring, a mature male Sago produces a golden cone, shaped like a giant pine cone which may grow over 2' tall.  A female produces a huge golden flower which slowly opens when it is fertile, then closes, and begins to produce viable seed if pollination from a male sago was successful. 


How can you tell if a Sago is male or female when you are purchasing?  You can't.  Most Sagos must be at least 15 -20 years old before they are mature enough to bloom, and they also must be well established in your garden or landscape.  If you are lucky enough to have a fertile sago in your yard and want to try your hand at producing viable seeds, it's easy. 

The female flower will open when it's ready for pollination and the male cone's 'scales' will open to reveal pollen and have a sweet perfume odor.  At that point, just snap or saw the male cone from the center of the plant(ouch!) and shake it over the female.  A cone has plenty of pollen and can be used on several females at a time, or on one, several days in a row.   Male cones will st ay viable for a few days if kept in a cool place.  Store in a plastic bag when you are not using them to pollinate females.  Be aware though, that they can turn from smelling quite wonderful and sweet into something quite rancid and awful when they are "past their prime"!  Removal of the cone will not damage the plant in any way.

Seeds slowly develop during the summer, become walnut-sized, turn from yellow to bright orange in the winter, and are ready to be removed from the "mama" sago in January through March of the following year.  Seeds that are ready to harvest will easily pull off the plant and be about the size of a walnut. 

 If a seed is tiny, or floats when placed in water, then it wasn't pollinated and won't sprout.   Remove the orange skin by soaking in water for a few days, changing the water every day, then peel off the skin.   Once the seeds  have been cleaned, and allowed to dry a day or two, you are ready to plant them.  If the skin won't come off, then you probably didn't leave them on the momma plant long enough to dry the seedcoat.  Just plant them skin on, on their side. 


Choose a shady, protected area to sprout your seeds since "first leaves" can be tender.  Congratulations on your new baby!



Squeeze This!
Get Into The Citrus  Craze

Every Spring, visions of flowering gardens and dreams of picking fresh vegetables from our own backyard gardens fill our heads as we work tirelessly amending soil,  planning and planting the garden and caring for our plants.  As the cool, breezy spring days give way to hot and humid summers and we reap the bounties from the garden and enjoy the vibrant colors from our perennials, citrus trees are like the little engine that could.  For three seasons of the year, these evergreen trees work hard at producing winter fruits with vibrant color when most other color has faded and vegetable gardens have diminished in production.


It seems every year more people are jumping into the citrus growing world that thrives outside of Florida, most envisioning beautiful fruit covering their trees come fall.   Citrus trees can successfully be grown here in the Charleston area but they take some work and the recognition of limitations within our climate.


While the Charleston area is in Zone 8, some areas tend to be warmer than others and a few degrees can make a difference when it comes to certain citrus trees. Key Lime and Ruby Red Grapefruit trees are extremely cold sensitive and if the temps dip anywhere near 32 degrees, they need to be covered with a frost proof blanket, brought inside if they are planted in pots, or covered in Christmas lights, turned on to create a heat source. 


Last winter, many citrus plants took a hit because the cold was so extreme and for those that followed all the rules, that's Mother Nature reminding you she's in control.  However, if you don't want to go to those preventative extremes, there are cold hardy citrus trees available.  Satsuma orange trees can withstand temps to mid 20 degrees and not need to be covered or brought inside.  Satsuma oranges bear a small sweet Clementine like fruit.  There are hundreds of varieties but we currently carry Brown's Select, Armstrong and Owari.  Additionally, the Improved Meyer Lemon tree, is a good choice for this climate because it too can handle temperatures that dip below freezing.  Improved Meyer Lemon is actually a cross between a lemon and an orange and thus has some characteristics of an orange tree giving it greater tolerance for cold weather.


Growing conditions for Meyer Lemon, Key Lime, Ruby Red Grapefruit and Satsuma oranges are essentially the same.  At least six hours of sunlight is required and they should be planted or placed in an area where they can be protected from high winds.  

The soil should be sandy and well drained as citrus trees do not like wet feet.  If planted in pots, let the top 3 inches of the soil dry out before watering again and make sure the container has drainage holes in the bottom.


Fertilizing is also a must and should be done often.  In the spring and early fall, if the trees are planted in the ground, citrus fertilizer stakes should be used   Do not use fertilizer stakes in potted plants.  All plants, potted, or in the ground, will benefit greatly from a fish emulsion fertilizer, such as Neptune's Harvest every two weeks from mid April through Labor Day.   Fish emulsion has a high nitrogen count and citrus trees require extra nitrogren.  The best way to apply fish emulsion is to spray it on the leaves but it can also be added to the soil.   An added benefit of fish emulsion is that it acts as a bug deterrent, possibly because of the rather fishy smell. 


Trees typically begin flowering in mid-May with the blossoms being incredibly fragrant.  Citrus trees are self fertile so, with the help of bees, these flowers will pollinate and fruit will be produced   If you continue to fertilize through the summer, mid-summer may produce another burst of flowers that will yield some additional fruit.   Not all blooms will ripen.  A plant will only carry what it can ripen.  Additionally, your tree may have a large bounty of fruit one year and the next it may produce nothing.  As long as you are continuing to fertilize, water and treat for damaging insects and the tree is healthy, consider this a recovery year while it rests from the hard work the year before.


Citrus fruit will not continue to ripen once picked so be sure to choose fruit that has a soft feel on the outside.  Also, use scissors or shears to cut the fruit so that you do not damage the tree when pulling off the fruit.


Citrus Tree Information:


Thornless Key Lime:  Can reach 12-15 feet tall but will be much smaller in a container: in winter, move indoors to a sunny window


Improved Meyer Lemon: Can reach 8-10 feet tall and 12 ft wide but will be smaller when potted, depending on size of pot


Satsuma:  10-12 feet tall and wide; Owari is one of the most popular varieties of this fruit


Ruby Red Grapefruit:  10-12 feet tall and wide but can be pruned to 3-4 feet for inside use