Jennifer Rust Botanicals - Springtime Planting

We sure waited a long time for it!

The late winter snow days and surprise nighttime freezes in early April are now gone. While one part of me feels the warmer days and sunshine could not have come soon enough the other side has my might heart racing and feeling frenzied. Everyone wants their new garden NOW! NOW! NOW!

I have pulled into more than a few wholesale and retail nurseries over the last few weeks (sometimes multiples on a given day) where the air is palpable. While I fill the back of my truck (ok – its a s sports mom MDX – but functional for now). I love seeing what the landscapers are throwing, literally – that’s the way it runs right now, in their own trucks.

The just-right-sized trough containers are backordered and available install crews are more elusive than a moonflower. “Might have some time in late May,” responds one of my go-to guys via text. Oy.

Jennifer Rust Botanicals - Springtime Planting

Spring signifies the joy of Easter, opening day for Baseball and long awaited dogwood blossoms. It signifies fresh gardens and visions of lush containers to welcome summer days and nights languishing with friends in the backyard.

I told a friend recently that I am going to sleep right now dreaming of what plants flower best in dry shade. But I also said it is not lost on me that this is 10 times better than going to bed worrying about a PowerPoint presentation to be delivered to a client in a few short hours. The rush is the same – but the flowers and dirt are a ‘helluva lot more fun.

It must be spring.

Back to the garden,


Ok, I have to say the recent waves of hard January freezes here in the American South were no joke (unlike the cancelled school days declared by the county, “In an abundance of caution”). So now that the sun is out, I’m walking the dog again and we are north of 45° F, I like to see what survived and what did not.

Much of my potted lavender clearly did not make it while my camellias and gardenias came through like the strong southern lady I knew my mother to be. My sister in Fairhope, AL told me the leaves on her orange tree withered but her mint seemed to be standing up and waving to her. God love our garden mint – nothing can take it down.

It has not gone unnoticed to me that the lemon cypress and lamium (not surprisingly a member of the mint family) that I planted in many of my clients’ fall garden containers looks just as good as it did in October. Noted, lemon cypress and lamium, you stay on my fall planting list.

So, my caution is this – put your clippers away and resist any temptation to cut the dead back. Don’t touch your roses yet. Leave the slightly burned gardenia leaves, wilted euphorbia and lavender alone. For now, make a note of what survived and what did not. Go ahead and pull out the completely dead annuals that are pasted to the side of your containers (that’s you pansies). But do not clear out the leaves and mulch around bedded plants as that will continue to provide a necessary blanket should we get another snap in February. And in this climate – all bets off as to what can happen between now and Easter.

Drop me a note and let’s talk about what we can do now to create a garden space you will love come spring.

Back to the garden,

The small terra cotta pots of geraniums, marigolds and pansies that my parents placed annually on our deck are etched in my memory of summers spent in the yard as a girl. However, now that I have my own business centered on small space design and container gardening, I find I have some pretty firm opinions about what I recommend for clients and those small pots are not often on my list. Oddly, garden containers are like cars and houses. If you are into them – you can spend your wallet. If you just need a vessel to hold some dirt then the plastic pot that came with your plant from the large hardware garden center will fit the bill just fine.

When I start seeds ingenuity and up-cycling counts. I have experimented with everything from Jiffy pots, coffee cans, glass mustard jars and even plastic strawberry clamshell containers (my preferred form). But for garden containers that you want to have longevity through seasons and years, you need to know what you are after.

Once again, size matters for more reasons than one. Larger containers (think an open mouth of 16″ or greater) enable more plants, thus providing the space for a varied composition of color and texture. The greater the volume the more room for roots to grow and less risk of root rot (often occurring when roots sit in accumulated water). Larger pots have less of a tendency to dry out quickly even with piped irrigation (preferred!). When I look at a space I tend to err on the side of large rather than multiple.

The beauty of a sizable container is that you can create a greater focus in your outdoor space when the rest of the garden may be in transition. Containers create garden spaces wherever you need it and they can pay dividends for years to come. Drop me a note and let’s chat about what I can do to help create a garden that you love.

Back to the garden,

This is an excerpt from an article written by Jennifer Rust and published in the magazine, The East Cobber (October 2017)

Kids, dirt and learning really do go together. If you have ever been with a child outside, or remember your own childhood, it was when your hands got a little dirty that curiosity peaked and the fun began. And admittedly for some of you out there it may also have been a bit of shock and a bit of yuck, “What is this stuff ?”

School gardens are ‘in’ now. Urban farms, raised beds and vertical hydroponic green walls are more than cool. Most schools can boast some form of gardens on their campus. However, there are plenty of examples of school gardens that were planted by well meaning parents or teachers with the absolute best intentions but with little results to show a year or two later. So, what makes a school garden successful?

  • Education leaders – willing to take a calculated risk & a long term view
  • Parent support – PTA funding to seed a program & plenty of volunteers
  • Community Partnerships – to support the expansion of programs

Success lies somewhere between education leaders willing to take learning outside the classroom environment, teachers willing to commit coveted teaching time, and parents (and grandparents) willing to volunteer. School gardens are about more than planting. They are a literal canvas to teach curriculum standards of math (How many square feet are available to plant in a 4×8 foot bed? What about 4 beds of the same size?), science (What role do worms play in soil…remember the book, Everybody Poops?), and even market economics (how does the lettuce grown in a field make it to your dinner plate and who contributed to that process?).

Gardens are not just a fad or a school year committee project. They require educators with the long view and supportive and active parent volunteers. School gardens are dependent on a strong and committed community. It is that same committed community that educates our children so well in Cobb County.

Back to the garden,