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annual gardening, annual garden design

STRAWBERRY JAR



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Elisabeth Ginsburg
You need this in your perennial border.

For some reason, I have long been one of those sorry individuals who has never succeeded in buying a strawberry jar. I was going to get one last year, but I got distracted and didn’t get around to it until the time to do so was long past. I take some comfort in the fact that my problem is not unique. Even the most devoted gardener knows what it’s like to covet something for the longest time, yet never get around to actually acquiring it. Besides, the world is full of competing temptations, and there are always too many rose bushes or fancy trowels or "buy 2 get 1 free" perennial plant specials to spend money on.

But now everything is different. I found a lovely cobalt blue strawberry jar at a nearby mega-merchandiser’s store The jar was 20-inches tall, with six generous planting pockets. It was ridiculously cheap, and there was not a competing temptation within 30 feet. The attraction was immediate, as was my reaction. My own personal strawberry jar now sits, empty and expectant, atop my kitchen counter.

Fortunately, spring has not yet sprung, so I have plenty of time to contemplate my new jar. It occurred to me that while strawberries are wonderful, many other plants are also perfectly suited to such a container.

If I were to settle on strawberries, one jar would not provide huge harvests. Still, the fruit would be the freshest available. This is something to consider in June, when I can’t always get to the local farmers’ market, and the local grocery stores are still selling those tasteless, cosmetically perfect strawberries from farms thousands of miles from here.

If I go with strawberries, I am inclined to choose Tristar, an everbearing variety that sets a heavy crop of fruit in the spring, with lighter crops coming along at six week intervals thereafter. Since one of my favorite mail order nurseries sells strawberry plants in lots of 25, I will have to find room in a sunny spot in the garden to accommodate my surplus plants.

Once upon a time I saw a tall terra cotta strawberry jar overflowing with hens and chicks (Sempervivum). The plants were so well suited to the earthenware jar that it almost looked as if the hens and chicks were growing directly from the terra cotta rather than from the soil inside the container. I think hens and chicks would look equally striking in my jar. It’s a possibility.

Herb lovers, of course, would put herbs in a strawberry jar. I can see pockets overflowing with one of the numerous thyme cultivars. You could fill the top with basil, either the large leaf Italian type, or the attractive ‘Osmin’ variety (Ocimum basilicum ‘Osmin’), that sports dark purple foliage and pink blossoms. You could also plant different herbs in each pocket, transforming the strawberry pot into a miniature herb garden. This might be an especially desirable option if you garden on a terrace or on a balcony, or you have a very limited amount of sunny space. As long as you water and fertilize the plants in your strawberry jar, they will be very happy parked in the middle of an asphalt driveway.

Depending on the size of the jar, you could plant a mini rose in the top and fill the pockets with sweet alyssum. Of course alyssum is an annual, so new plants would have to go into the pockets each season. In the winter it might also be wise to store the dormant mini rose and jar somewhere where freezing temperatures would not cause the pot to crack.

If I were to choose a rose for the top of my strawberry jar, I think I would try one of the miniature roses hybridized by Ralph Moore of Sequoia Nursery in Visalia, CA. Mr. Moore is currently 93 years old, and has been hybridizing roses for over sixty years. His "minis" are legendary. Since I am partial to yellow blossoms, I am especially fond of his ‘Cinderella Gold’,

which has double yellow flowers on a compact plant. ‘Charlie Brown’ would be terrific for lovers of striped roses, as it sports double, 1 ¼ red and white striped blossoms. Both cultivars are especially suited to pot (or strawberry jar) culture. You can contact Sequoia Nursery at 559-732-0309 or online at www.miniatureroses.com/sequoia-nursery.

When I consider all the options for my strawberry jar, it occurs to me that after all of the time that I have spent waiting to buy one, I might just as well buy another two or three. You never can tell when this kind of opportunity might knock again.

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