About a week and a half ago I felt that familiar itchy feeling, with a slow, red rash appearing on my skin. This time it was on the palm of my hand, at the base of my fingers. A few days later, this itch turned into a full blown poison ivy break-out and culminated in huge, painful welts between my fingers and on my thumbs.
After attempting to cure myself with various remedies (calamine lotion, Gold Bond cream, French green clay, Apisgel*, colloidal oatmeal, hot baths, cold baths, Benadryl, tea tree oil, shea oil – have I forgotten anything?), I went to my doctor and got a prescription for a cortisone ointment. Keenly aware that my agonizing reaction had reached its apex, I applied this cream twice a day and watched as my painful welts started to subside and the redness began to go away.
Honestly, I am doomed to suffer skin reactions like this every year. If its not poison ivy, its giant hogweed or the milky sap from euphorbias. And its not that I can’t identify these plants; no, I can see them in my sleep. They just seem to be hiding in amongst other ones, especially when they see me coming. I hate them, but they have my number :c(
Anyway, I’m almost better now and in celebration was able to start making some summer planters for clients. The trick is to choose carefully — not simply flowers but foliage. Colour, texture, form – they need to mingle in a way that creates a story and a visually pleasing party. This needs to happen right away — no waiting allowed!
The other trick is to go to the nursery with no preconceived ideas of what you’ll choose. First I take a walk around the nursery and see what’s available AND looking good. Then I grab a cart and start creating.
I might be smitten by a blue or a silver and decide to create my container story from there – but you need to know what some plants will end up looking like as they grow. The white and violet Bacopa here are fairly well known dainty trailers but many people aren’t yet familiar with Euphorbia ‘Diamond Frost’, a delicate plant with starry white ‘flowers’ that creates a cloud of sparkling fluff — the perfect foil for flat or grassy leaves and any saturated colour.
For interest, I’ve also included a decorative variety of sorrel, Rumex sanguineus ssp. sanguineus, the sword-shaped foliage plant with red veins in the middle of this planter.
The beautiful blue spikes belong to an ornamental blue sage, Salvia farinacea, that blooms and blooms and blooms, as long as you keep dead-heading its spent flowers.
In order to provide some lightness, I’ve relied on a new variety of variegated Pennisetum alopecuroides, new to me anyway. I’m very excited about this tender grass and hope it performs well.
For height at the rear of the planter (every planter needs the proper scale, especially if it is an entrance container), I’ve used an English ivy (Hedera helix) on a metal obelisk.
And for a surprise later in the season, I’ve popped in two silvery blue ornamental kale. They’ll expand throughout the heat of the summer and become a striking feature by the autumn.
* Just a word about Apisgel (now called Dapisgel). If you haven’t tried it yet, go out and buy some. It is a homeopathic remedy for any or all itching (especially insect bites and stings) and contains Apis mellifica and Ledum palustre in a gel base. I have found this remedy to be amazing and to stop itching almost immediately, so much that I go through multiple tubes of it every summer. This is who makes it.