Colors to Boost Your Backyard BBQ

11/23/2012 | Ken Lain, mountain gardener Outdoor Living, Uncategorized

The most festive outdoor American holiday is this weekend! It’s a time spent with a backyard BBQ, friends, family, fireworks, parades, and more. The backyard needs to look its best, yet getting it ready for a special occasion can be stressful. Here’s some preparation advice that’s so easy it’s almost like throwing the dirty clothes under the studio bed before friends came over when we were in college.

The guys’ tasks are easy; clean up the grill, top off the propane, and weed whack the horseshoe pit . . . done! Women appreciate detail, so their to-dos require more finesse. My wife will determine the paper plates’ design, the clear plastic flatware, the pins used to mark the plastic cups, even the skewers used on the grill.

Touches of color add to the festive air of a backyard party. Start by replacing the faded cushions on the chairs, and then maybe a new doormat leading to the porch. For only a few bucks, these details make a big impression. It seems that everyone notices a brightly colored outdoor umbrella, and gathers under it, rain or shine. Then comes my favorite color contribution to a backyard scene. . .all things blooming. That’s why this column is dedicated to eye-catching container gardens bursting with color.

Rocket science this is not, and it can be as easy as 1-2-3. Here’s a good lazy man’s idea for instant large containers of blooms. First, from your favorite garden center buy a pre-planted container full of color. These are usually planted in flimsy plastic pots, but a small, hanging basket full of flowers also works well for this idea. Buy a bag of potting soil at the same time. Use the soil to fill the container until the level is right to simply plop in your newly purchase color bowl. It will look as though it was planted last spring. It takes only minutes for this stunning accent that will generate party-long comments of appreciation.

I’ve used the same quick fix by digging old tired plants out of a flowerbed and dropping in a new pre-planted bowl in its place. “Brilliant!” will be the reaction from guests who recognize the shortcut. Later you can plant it permanently, or enjoy it the way it is for the rest of the growing season.

If you prefer to design container show pieces from scratch, think “thrill, fill, & spill”. First, start with a big bold plant. Find a plant that is a thriller, one that gives you a thrill. This plant will call to you at the garden center because it looks so good. Any plant is fair game for this stun factor, the stranger or bolder the better. Clematis, red sedge grass, roses, tall geraniums, and topiary boxwood all make thrilling plants. A container garden only needs one outstanding plant. Place the thrill plant to the back side of the container.
Next, your design will need some plant fillers. Use your favorite color of petunia, marigold, alyssum or any colorful plant that will grow quickly to fill the rest of the container.

Florists know that three levels in an arrangement have the best effect; so one more addition is needed to complete the design. Why not show off your skills as a container gardener with plants so happy they are spilling out of the pot? To a tall plant thriller and the bevy of fillers, a container calls for some “spilling over the edge beauty”. Use million bells petunias, ivy, vinca, wave petunias, or any low spreading plants. Plant them at the front edge of the container and you’ll have colors growing right to the ground.
And there you have it . . . thrill, fill & spill.

It is not desirable to have patches of soil visible in a container garden so have foliage touching foliage when fully planted. Container plants should be touching foliage to foliage, it not flower to flower. A container garden should look as though the plants have been growing harmoniously together all season, even if they only were planted last week.

In the summer heat plants struggle if they have root balls like those of plants in 6-packs. Plants with bigger roots take longer to dry out and are less apt to show stress. Use 1-gallon sizes and plants will transition easily into their new containers. As temps climb higher, bigger plants are better.

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Garden alert – Any weakness in an irrigation system can be devastating during summer heat. Run the network through a double cycle to accentuate the wet spots in the yard. This will make it easier to spot which irrigation heads are working and which are clogged with to bugs, silt, or sand running through the system. This is the best time to check your timers, as well. Keep in mind that plants appreciate a double dose of water during the hottest part of summer.

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The ‘Grapes for Grades’ garden party starts July 10 @ 5:30pm. This event, hosted by Watters Garden Center, raises money for the Math & Reading Clinic. Tickets are $45 each and are available at the garden center. The entire ticket price is a donation to the clinic. There will be 18 different wines to sample and enjoy with hors d’oeuvres provided by the Firehouse Kitchen. Come enjoy the evening with us or simply buy a ticket in support of the clinic.

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This Saturday’s gardening class, entitled ‘Containers Sure to Please’, starts at 9:30 a.m. Next week’s class, on July 10th, is ‘Sweeter Fruits, Grapes, and Berries; What grows best and where’. Classes are free, fun, informative, and this week I promise you’ll finish in time to catch the downtown parade.
Until next week, I’ll see you in the garden center.
Ken Lain, “my personal mission is to help local homeowners garden smarter and get our local garden timing right.” Throughout the week Ken can be found at Watters Garden Center located at 1815 W. Iron Springs Rd, Prescott, or may be contacted through his web site at

Until next week, I’ll see you in the garden center.