Sunday, March 13, 2016

You've Got Mail: A Spring Mailbox Makeover


For too long, my mailbox had looked forlorn and forgotten, as if no one lived in the house on the hill. To be sure, I had never given my previous box a second thought, other than to be thankful that rural teenagers hadn't whacked it to pieces with baseball bats. The old road had been dangerous and busy, an unpleasant spot. But the new house-in-the-suburbs was situated on a quiet street, a place where people walked their dogs. The yards were well-tended and well-loved. In the middle of this sat our neglected mailbox. If you're wondering why it was in such a state, let me explain. It was the most unusual box I'd ever seen, formal and elegant, with three separate planters. Built of Tennessee limestone, the structure was complicated yet symmetrical, shaped like an upside-down "T." The mail box was located in the center column. On the top sat a large concrete planter, bowl-shaped and rather shallow. Way below, at ground level, two planters hugged the center column on either side.


Indeed, the boxes seemed to give a preview of the homeowners--Attention, slackers live here! But in my heart, I was planting. All winter, the weeds had stayed green, as if desperately trying to cover the naked soil. And all winter, I'd imagined myself gently setting flowers into that soil. True, it was the tail end of winter, not the optimal time to plant in zone 7a, but I just couldn't wait. Each time I gathered mail, the boxes seemed to make tsking sounds. "There she goes," said a planter. "Miss Lazy Pants. Everything a Master Gardener shouldn't be." Another planter sniffed. "I bet she won't pass the exam."

During a recent Master Gardening class, our instructor, Justin, said it was possible to have year-round blooms in middle Tennessee gardens. What could a homeowner buy now (a homeowner with scruffy mailbox planters)? "Don't get pansies," Justin advised. Here's why: They look great for a few weeks and just peter out. Instead, he recommended that we plant violas, but with a caveat. Despite the balmy weather, no one should plant until April 15th. For a plant to die, temps don't have to drop to freezing. But violas should stand up to the cold.
Will we get another freeze? Who knows? So far, March has been so lovely, and it's tempting to go hog wild. "I guarantee you," Justin said, "someone somewhere is planting tomatoes." He shook his head. As a UT extension agent, he has seen it all and then some. 
Armed with this knowledge, I drove to a large package store. When I saw tubs of daffodils, all interspersed with tulips and hyacinths, I felt my knees weaken. They began to shake when I saw smaller pots of violas. I promptly forgot everything I'd learned. "Oh, honey, no," my husband said as I placed pots into our cart. "Your eyes are bigger than your planters," he warned, even though he was buying plants like a mad gardener. :-)

It was late when we got home. My husband went to his garden, and I hiked down to the mailbox. I dug out quite a bit of dirt from each planter, dumping it in empty tubs. Fortunately, I didn't have to amend the soil. It was very dark and rich. (Just two years ago, the previous owner had planted beautiful flowers here.) Still, I worked in a little time-released fertilizer. All of the plants were root bound; not terribly so, just winding around in circles. But if you're a root, that's not a good thing. [As a side note, I should add that the roots were white and healthy. Another instructor had told us to "always look at the roots," and he'd encouraged us to actually lift the plant out of the pot and examine the roots, so we'd know exactly what we were buying.]


This past Saturday, you see, I'd learned about roots. "They're lazy," Justin told us. Even if you "rough up" the bottom of a plant, the roots will continue to grown in circles rather than expanding into the soil. Obviously, you'd have to worry less with annuals, since they have such a short growing cycle, but almost all plants benefit from having their roots "fluffed up" a bit. This involves brushing your fingertips over the sides and bottom of the root ball--gently but firmly, move your fingers in circles, teasing the roots away from the circles.



No water source meant I would have to bring water to the plants. Another Master Gardener instructor told us to use old Kitty Litter jugs, the large plastic kind with handles. Save the screw-top lids, fill with water, and tote them in your car or wheelbarrow to far-off flower beds. It will be interesting to see if the tulips and hyacinths bloom. And if so, will they have pink, red, or yellow blooms? I believe the violas will last a while (if I don't kill them).
UPDATE: The tulips were pink--yay!

After the daffodils stop blooming, I'll dig them up and find a spot in the garden. In the boxes, I'll need to find plants that like sun and dry conditions.

Tomorrow, we're expecting a high of 72 and a low of 52. And more rain is on the way. Fingers crossed that I have not planted too soon. 

But even if I did, it was worth it.


Shared at:
Metamorphosis Monday
Tweak It Tuesday
The Scoop
Inspire Me Tuesday

32 comments:

  1. Oh what a beautiful combination you have chosen for your mailbox! Such a pretty "hello" on the street! Yellow is my happy color and the purple violas/pansies are just perfect with the daffodils. I'm just itching to get out in my garden to plant annuals but know I have to wait a few more weeks. Happy Gardening!

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  2. Beautiful planting. Someone worked really hard to build that stone mailbox and you did a great job with the gardening.

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  3. What an attractive mail box you have! It turned out real cute with the daffodils and violas. I love violas (take something with you when you go to collect the mail to nip the stems as the violas die off so they'll keep blooming). Though they looked like weeds I think the plant that was in the base was Cranesbill- Perennial Geranium. We are enjoying the warmer weather and no snow and I'd love to plant something but I don't trust it. I did go out and put some of my fairy garden together- it's a fun start for me! That is one long driveway you have there!

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  4. So pretty, that's my favorite spring combo!

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  5. Wow, I didn't realize you were so far off the road. Who cuts your grass?! :)

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  6. I think that is the most beautiful mailbox I have ever seen and you added a special touch. Bravo. I know it will make the mailman smile. How lucky you are that you can plant so early. I live an hour and a half due south of .buffalo and we can't plant until June first. But we really enjoy our flowers when we have them.

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  7. Absolutely stunning combination of colors for your entrance drive ML. I'm so glad you are enjoying the Master Gardeners. They really know their stuff.
    Sam

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  8. Hi Michael Lee! Oh, what an unusual mail box but how pretty you've made it with the flowers. I would like to take a Master Gardening class since this area is so different than what I'm used to. Everything looks beautiful with your house sitting on the hill! Be a sweetie,
    Shelia ;)

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  9. Beautiful, Michael Lee! I am very envious of your weather as where I live, the skiers are still enjoying their time on the slopes. -Brenda-

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  10. I love the combination of plants and color that you have chosen. It screams WELCOME SPRING! What a very unique way to jazz up the "necessary" mailbox! Wonderful job!
    Thanks so much for sharing your touch of Spring with us!
    Kathleen

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  11. Oh to live in Tennessee! I just love it there! Your mailbox looks so lovely now. The colors really bring out the colors of the limestone. I can't wait to redo our mailbox. It is so neglected looking. I love the planters on the sides. Now you got me thinking of what to do with mine now.

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  12. That is the prettiest mailbox I've ever seen. Love your flower selection and the stone work. You have one lucky mailman!!

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  13. How lovely, what a welcoming view to the house as well, good job!!!!!!! Sylvia marie

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  14. Simply gorgeous and it screams Spring. I think your violas and daffodils will be fine. Here in N FL we are having temps in the mid 80's but going down into the 60's in the evening. This is very warm for us this time of year also. I have heirloom daffodils planted all around my garden and they are in full bloom. Enjoy the beauty of your newly planted entrance.

    Carolyn

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  15. Very pretty. I think they will do just fine. Scenic view from your house on the hill.

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  16. Oh, you did great! So beautiful, and then up the hill your gorgeous home. What lovely scenery you have to gaze at.
    Brenda

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  17. I love it, I love it! If the temperature dips too low, hike down and cover them with sheets. I'm sure you've used newspapers too, but sheets stay put better. I also love the shape of the planter sitting atop the column.

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  18. That is the prettiest mailbox I have ever seen! Those violas are hardy, they cover the mountainside behind my house and bloom every spring. Love the yellow daffodils.

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  19. Beautiful, Michael! I've been good this year so far. Just pansies for now until the frost is gone for good. I would have gone for violas, but there were none to be found yet.

    xo,
    rue

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  20. Your mailbox looks so happy. (I bet you just get good news - no bills...) I would love to live on your street.

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  21. Absolutely gorgeous!!!!! And I am two zones colder than you and did a little planting this weekend as well - it's hard not to with this crazy weather!!

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  22. Oh that looks so pretty!! Alas, I will never be a gardener, I won't touch dirt much less fluff up roots, but I love flowers and I admire your skills and love of gardening!
    Jenna

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  23. What a beautiful makeover of your mailbox, Michael Lee! It just looks so cheerful now and full of life. I will remember to next year, plant violas instead of pansies, here in Texas, in the Fall. My pansies always look leggy and unkempt through the Winter time. Thanks for sharing your this from your class with us.

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  24. It WAS so worth it!!!! I love the mailbox. You sure live WAY off the road but that is a good thing too! I didn't know about the violas, I may have to get some today! I want to plant too!!!!!It looks beautiful!!!!

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  25. Beautiful!!...I love it...I had a similar mailbox with planters in Florida...but when we move to NC, all of the mailboxes in the community had to be the same....I miss my planter mailbox....Such a great mailbox dressed for Spring!!!

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  26. Pretty!! I knew our last frost free date was April 16th. So, I never plant anything tender before that, though sometimes I get my basil out there a little early and have to run out and cover it up. Your flowers look great! Thanks for the tips on violas!

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  27. Your mailbox looks so happy with the colorful flowers. We've had daffodils for several weeks.

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  28. What a welcome sight! Maybe some violas will reseed and you won't have to replant as much! I planted (in the ground) Russian sage around our mailbox, due to the extreme conditions where we live. I too, did not know if the planting would attract the local teens to baseball smashing our box. Though I received a note from the carrier that it was attracting too many bees !!! Did not want anyone to be stung and apparently a sub did have an allergy. Very sad. Have not figured out what else to beautify the space with yet. Good work!! Making it so welcome!!! Always more energy in the spring !!!

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  29. looks beautiful! and i've never seen a mailbox like that, what a great entrance to your home.
    b

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  30. So worth it!! The planters are lovely and filled with favorite spring blooms. I went out and bought some daffodils and hyacinths after seeing your photo. '-) I'm impressed that you are taking Master Gardener classes. That's a big commitment!

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