Winter sanctuary ready for the dormant hosta

Moccasin(z9aMobileAL)November 14, 2012

If you all recall, a British display garden which was small and in containers, was featured somewhere. For the life of me, I cannot remember where.

The garden was not big, it was in containers, and the garden was exquisite. Seems that the gardener used his privacy fence to house some of his containers.

That is where I got the inspiration for my latest project, that wore me to a frazzle, of creating a Winter Dormancy Sanctuary for my hosta container garden. I am well on the way to moving hosta into it. As each hosta goes dormant, I'm reassigning it to the shadier and less visible half of our "back forty," the 100 x 25 foot strip of garden space our lovely neighbor sold us a couple of years ago.

Since a wooden privacy fence is not intended to support big pots, as someone pointed out to me, I found an alternate way of dealing with the issues. Cinder blocks support 2x4s and 2x2 treated wood runners, and the pots are TIPPED to prevent at least some rain from entering, and to allow drainage. I finished the structural part of the job yesterday. I bought every last bag of mulch from my local Ace hardware, to their delight, and hauled the bags and spread them myself. The pine bark supplier went out of business, so that was a real bummer.

Stages of work included RoundUp application, wait for things to die, dig up what wouldn't die. Then apply cow manure and cheaper soil to raise low spots. Spread all the supply of newspaper. Cut and place the layers of landscape fabric. Bring home countless car loads of cypress mulch to cover the surface of this portion of the back forty. Spread it out. Lay the 12 x 12 pavers for a pathway through the area. Stack the cinder blocks around the perimeter of the privacy fence. Add the treated lumber to support the tilted pots.

I also discovered that I had squirrel problems, since they enjoyed the softer soil of the pots to digging in the ground. And, I did not want to have a forest of pecan seedlings next spring. I ordered 4 pounds of ground cayenne pepper (AKA red pepper or Chinese pepper) with 90,000 hu (heat units) so it is super hot hot hot. That is expected to arrive today.

A Flickr album of the work and the final result is up now, and can be viewed by clicking on any of the photos herewith attached. If anyone has a thought about tweaking this area, without too much heavy-duty work, speak up. If you notice, there is a chair in the middle of the sanctuary, and that is where I sit and watch the hosta sleep.

and the first use of cayenne pepper, on my Don Rawson hosta pots--will reapply when the hot stuff arrives

What do you think?

And here is the other end of the back forty hosta display area. Waiting to go dormant so they can be snugged in for the winter too.

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what a nice retreat. I see your wiener dog, Dixie, is on squirrel patrol too or admiring the view. This is loads of work and I am sure you will enjoy your results. Can hardly wait for the new spring pictures and fall has only begun but I bet you can see it in your mind already.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2012 at 6:42PM
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True true, I can see it already.

One thing on my mind for next spring is remaking a bed which has mostly broken shade all year long, of course more shade in winter. If I need to put some hosta in the ground, this will be the place. I might even break out of the back garden and put some of the giants out near the street. Don't you just know a big ole Sum And Substance will knock the socks off folks who never saw hosta growing before? Wow.....and mine is going into its third year next spring. Or is it FOURTH year? It arrived in May 2010.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2012 at 11:45PM
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newhostalady Z6 ON, Canada

Moccasinlanding, I am envious! You have done a good job, and have created wonderful container garden. I also grow hostas in pots and have squirrels digging in them---especially in the spring and the fall. I found some old eavestrough covers in my mom's garage (my dad used to use it to put on the grass when he reseeded to deter the squirrels from digging). My husband had some landscape staples. So I cut the plastic netting and pinned it down with the staples. In this picture I had reused thinner strips of the netting. But I figure if I cut semi circles out, I can use and reuse them the next year. I do find though that the squirrels seem to target certain pots, so maybe ALL of the pots do not need to be done. I believe that cayenne pepper needs to be reapplied after rain, so I present to you a reusable alternative to consider.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2012 at 11:00AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

what is this.. wheres waldo??

i looked thru the pix 3 times.. and i dont see any dog.. i even looked IN THE TREES ...

you go girl.. brilliant plan

and newhostalady's screening is brilliant ...

enough brilliance for one day


    Bookmark   November 15, 2012 at 11:15AM
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jan_on zone 5b

Moccasin - What a TON of work you did on this project, and how happy the hostas must be. (You will be able to indulge in lost of Xmas calories and not feel the least bit guilty.)

The article re. the British garden you referred to is in the latest AHS journal.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2012 at 2:18PM
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Well well well, I am pleased as punch (to coin a new phrase) that I have a new option for squirrel deter and found out where I read about my inspiration source. Plus, I get a "brilliant" vote from Ken.....or was it NewHostaLady who got that cudo.....but we'll share and let it go.

Plus, Ken, I looked to see if I'd put the doxie girl in the frames, then realized that I'd created another Flickr album at the same time, and it was called A DOG'S Hooked looked at that betcha.

Speaking of my squirrel dog, probably the weekend following Thanksgiving will see the arrival of the new baby girl doxie, tentatively named Dolly. Our Dixie is not content being alone in her dogdom, she misses her older brother MoonPie, and won't leave me in peace. All my work outside being mostly complete, she demands my presence in the garden with her. First time she has shown this neediness. So we decided to find her a baby that she can identify with, looks just like her--she mothered my black and tan chicks too, instead of harming them. I expect the mother instinct to appear again with her baby Dolly.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2012 at 3:41PM
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bkay2000(8a TX)

Mocc, is that (the one in the hosta journal with the pots on the wall) the container garden you've been talking about?


    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 10:32AM
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moccasinlanding maybe what you are thinking of is Jeroen Linneman Zwolle, Netherlands, Europe. His nursery and web site is:

His plants and photos are top notch. I see he's just started adding more Hostas of the Day which is exciting. When you talked of many potted hostas in a small garden beautifully arranged I immediately thought of his garden. Check out the link below and follow it to other parts of his site.


I hope the link works. If not follow the menu on hostavalley site to Hosta pictures and below that to "more garden pictures"

Be sure and make each picture maximum size and follow the Verder at the bottom right to see more.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 11:28AM
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Sorry for confusing Ken but it kept him busy for a while checking out for Dixie. I just double clicked on one picture and up came a bunch more on flicker site so "snooped " though. Will be nice for her to have a friend of her own too. Ours have so much fun together hunting for the waldo(squirrel)

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 12:45PM
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moccasin, get going on this add walls along your paths and buy a few hundred more hosta and pots.


Here is a link that might be useful: Walls of hosta in Hampshire

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 2:30PM
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gogirlterri(5 IL)

Moc-what a brilleant use of the concrete blocks and runners. Nothing could be simpler, as effective and easy to put up: Great job girl.

I'm newly into containers and as mine were going dormant they sat on the ground and the squirrels were tearing up the plantings. I read they are attracted to freshly turned soil. In the fall they raid where other squirrels have "planted" their walnuts to claim them for themselves. Les just harvested horseradish and replanted 12 crowns. In two days there were squirrel digs all around in the freshly turned dirt-but not by the crowns themselves.

It makes me wonder if a piece of horseradish in a hosta pot would keep the squirrels from digging. Wouldn't it be cool if it worked. In spring, repot the hostas and plant the sprouting horseradish in the horseradish bed.
The screen, NHL, is a very neat idea. Since I have taken the pots off of the ground it seems the squirrels are less interested. My pots are sitting for the time being on some concrete blocks in a large coldframe.

Off I go to get some treated lumber for runners, moc!

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 2:34PM
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BKay, yes, that is the one I'm talking about. Since I saw no pictures of how he wintered over the pots, I made up a scenario for it. And voila, cinder blocks and timbers as runners, to keep from tearing down the wooden fence not intended to bear such weight as heavy flower pots.

Cheerio, Theresa. Wear some latex gloves when you handle the treated wood. The ones I got were freshly received and very heavy and wet, so I had to wear gloves dealing with them.

JonnyB, that Walls of Hampshire is exquisite and I suppose whether I like it or not, I'll keep expanding more room to spread OUT....except convert existing shaded beds to real soil planting space for the best of my hosta.

My "allee" will be called to duty later this winter when I make sure the fire ants are gone. They aerated several pots and the hosta roots dried out. Perhaps they will revive next spring, but those became dormant quickly.

Hooked, yes, Dixie will be happy to have another huntress to double-team those squirrels with her. At one time, I had three dachshunds; hilarious to watch them play together. They team hunted for rabbits successfully. And the male had a system for catching birds which came to his food bowl outdoors....he never ate them, just hid them in his bed where I smelled them after a couple of days. His treasures.
He was a throw-back to standard dachshund size, a real large hunting dog, but his favorite food was....ICE CREAM. The two girls liked liver and fish. Wonderful to have more than one, to see how they interact and relate to one another. I'm looking forward to Dolly's arrival. Hello, Dolly!....It's so great to have you back where you belong.
Her breeder sent this picture. Maybe the weekend after Thanksgiving, she will be eating entirely on her own and she can come live with sister Dixie.

BTW, the breeder has a stable and is bringing some bags of HORSE MANURE when she comes with Dolly. How nice. :)

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 3:06PM
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Babka NorCal 9b

very old photo, back from 2002 perhaps. Here is how I deal with squirrels during the winter.


    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 3:15PM
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Moc, I priced out some bamboo and it is rediculously expensive. PVC piping with fittings would be my choice. Painted green to make them look more natural. (???)

...or for the long term, grow some bamboo, but watch out the non-clumping stuff is very invasive......or if you know someone who has bamboo growing in their backyard....or....


    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 3:32PM
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Babka, that roll of hardware cloth is simple and straightforward, and where there is a covered area to eliminate "tipping" then this is a great solution. Methinks I have the hardware cloth already. So my larger pots that cannot easily tip will be housed elsewhere. We'll see where later. Fiddlededee, I'll worry about that tomorrow.

JonnyB, I have a stand of mature clumping bamboo at our river property, where our house was destroyed by Katrina. And, I have two young clumps here at White Dove.

My DH has some lengths of PVC about 2 or 3 inch diameter. If he has no use for it, I might find a way to utilize it with some shade cloth

No, McTavish, that wasn't the garden I referred to. It was a British garden, very small, selected this year as an official display garden, containers, and he used his fences for more growing space. It wasn't the Hampshire couple with the exploding garden. Or I don't think so anyway. I have gained inspiration from both sources though.

I do wish they'd show the display garden during winter dormancy though. MOST helpful to the increasing number of us growing hosta in containers.

Myrle, I love the way you and your sister mix ground plantings with containers. It serves to vary the heights of the garden, draw attention to special plants, makes garden ornamentation have functionality.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 3:56PM
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gogirlterri(5 IL)

Moc, Dolly is adorable. I am so happy for you and Dixie. Last Sunday at church my girlfriend Kerry told me she had to put her dog-girl friend down. She was 12 years old. She said she didn't think it fair that parrots live to be 100 and dogs only 15 at best. You understand my personal reaction!
I fully relate to her loss, and your and Dixies gain. Enjoy!

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 8:17PM
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Looking at babka's setup makes me think that if you set a couple of 4x4 pressure treated posts into the ground nice and level, then add a riser at the top of the posts...then screw in (3) precut pressure treated stringers (step supports, available at Home Depot....) then you can add either composite or PT stair treads to support the pots.

3-4 "steps" and you could hold a lot of pots. You don't need risers (back of step) as it is not going to be used as steps. A standard tread is about 10 inches wide which would hold a 10 diameter pot. You could make larger custom width stringers and put a standard composite tread in the middle of the space...or make stringers for shallower steps to handle smaller pots and save space or if you want to be real clever make the 'steps' larger and higher at the bottom to hold large pots and narrower and shorter towards the top for smaller pots.

In the middle of an area you could make steps that would be a pyramid shape with steps coming up both sides...or be absolutely clever and have the 'steps' coming up all four sides and have a sort of Machu Picchu hosta pyramid which would be a true centerpiece. Make a flat space on top for a nice plastic urn with Praying Hands or something on the top of the pyramid.

Oh man that would look so nice. Machu Picchu in the middle of the space and stands surrounding it all around the perimeter.


    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 8:41PM
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