Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Judy Walker
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

The verdict is in ...

Master Gardener Intern


Judy Walker

... and it's unanimous: the flower pots at the courthouse in Carlton are stunning, beyond a doubt!

This is the third summer of the beautification project initiated by the Carlton County Extension Office and local master gardeners. Year one of the project involved just two pots on the south side of the building. The response was so positive that the group was asked to expand the project to eight pots and the flag pole area. "Each summer we try to incorporate something different," explained Ann Rust, Carlton County Extension Volunteer Coordinator and Horticulture Assistant. Combinations of red, white and blue are the constants.

Local Master Gardeners Gladys Bergstedt, Karen Johnson and Chris Carlson worked with the Carlton Greenhouse on this year's arrangements. Master gardener volunteers planted the pots in early June and maintain them throughout the summer months.

Making your way around the courthouse, you will find dramatic spikes and red canna, brilliant blue salvia, red and white geraniums, and dichondra; pots brimming with cyperus, limon, and luscious red coleus; gorgeous pink SunPatiens, and trailers of vinca and wire vine. The assortment of perennials around the flagpole will fill in as the years pass.

There are countless uniquely beautiful combinations - like those at the courthouse - that display gardeners' artistry and virtuosity. It definitely takes talent to put the right plants together in the right pots and in just the right locations, right? But then ... to keep them looking great all summer ... that is a challenge of a different order.

The pots at the courthouse are very large, but they are pots nonetheless, with demands for fertilization and water - two key ongoing maintenance issues for container gardens. A slow release fertilizer was added to the courthouse pots before topping them off with good potting soil when they were planted in June. Regarding ongoing fertilizer needs, note this timely advice on the University of Minnesota Extension website:

"Now that summer is in full swing, you'll likely need to fertilize container plants to maintain optimum growth ... If a controlled-release fertilizer was mixed in at planting, you may not need to fertilize for eight to ten weeks. Once that time has passed, however, you may start to notice slowed growth, yellowing of foliage, or other signs of plant decline if you haven't applied additional fertilizer. Nutrients in containers decline quickly as a result of rapid plant growth and frequent watering, which can leach nutrients from the potting media."

The article goes on to provide helpful information for fertilizer options.

Judy Walker

Regarding watering - a second key maintenance challenge - soil moist was added to the courthouse pots to enhance water retention, and they are cared for weekly. But depending on the size and location of your flowerpots, and the weather, you may need to water yours as frequently as daily. Keep a watchful eye out for wilting and stick your thumb in the dirt to check for moisture. Leaving town for a few days? Gladys Bergstedt passed along a brilliant suggestion: "I use wine bottles that a friend gave me or I have found at estate sales, water the containers then fill the bottles and turn them upside down in the container. They will get watered slowly and give you a few days reprieve from watering. Depending on the weather of course... [T]hey add a decorative touch if the bottle happens to be a nice color."

It is a perfect time of year to spend a few moments admiring the beauty of summer. I think you would not be disappointed in a trip to the Carlton courthouse. But ... you be the judge!


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