The Q&A Archives: Growing Herbs And Flowers

Question: What kind of herbs and flowers will grow best together in a wine type barrel in my region--Escondido, CA--in Nov/Dec--with fluctuating temp in AM 30-40 lows and highs low 70s on a north facing porch that gets sun from about 9/10am until 1/2pm. I apologize if my question is too difficult to answer due to your inability to observe my specific porch; however, your best shot at answering would certainly be appreciated, AND, be better than mine! Thank-you again for your time.

Answer: We can begin by reviewing the limitations of the site you describe, then listing the possibilities. At best the location gets only 4 hours of direct sunlight, not really enough for most herbs and sun-loving perennials to perform well. If you use good top soil in your container, and amend it with plenty of organic matter, it should provide good drainage. If the container is placed on a porch it should be slightly more protected from really cold temperatures than if you planted directly in the ground in an open area. A final consideration is the natural blooming cycle of plants. November and December bloomers are hard to find!

Ornamental kale and cabbage, pansies and wild ginger (Asarum) will all grow in shady conditions and will flower in late autumn and early winter. For flowers in spring and summer, you can also plant begonia, campanula, dicentra (bleeding heart), sweet woodruff, coral bells (Heuchera), and lamium (dead nettle). Add some salad greens or ferns and you'll have an attractive planter.

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