Yard that Celebrates Summer

Paula and Dan Hicks have generated a yard that celebrates summer. Flowers turn heads from spring to fall. Many visited their yard on the Missouri Valley Master Gardener Yard and Garden Tour in June.

Salmon blossoms and bright green foliage against their white-washed red brick house, red and purple petunias cascading from a décor cart, large planters of red geraniums, beds of yellow and orange lilies, white hydrangeas and red wood mulch—their entrance courtyard declares celebration of summer.


How does Paula (who leads their home yard beautification) achieve her personalized affect, manage all the plants and still enjoy this effort? Thanks to Paula for her interview to share how she does this.

 Not Lots of Free Time

Dr. Paula Hicks, ophthalmologist, started a cosmetic clinic ten years ago. She retired from Willcockson Eye Associates two years ago, and now she works three days a week at her Ave’ Medical Laser Spa in Sioux City. She’s a flower fundraiser organizer and was a chaperone for local Catholic youth to attend the Steubenville Ohio Youth Conference this spring. She began planting her yard the weekend before Mother’s Day.

“You plant for three weeks straight and then enjoy it,” she said. “I think starting with good plants is the key.” In her free time, she gathers plants that she buys from the fundraiser and then scouts all the local and area greenhouses for their specialties and usually buys something from every greenhouse. She loves the geraniums that grow from cuttings at Mensch Greenhouse, supertunias from Yankton Nurseries, perennials from Diane’s Greenhouse, hibiscus from The Front Porch, and Mandevillas from Sioux Falls.

What to Plant

“Start small,” she suggests to those who might try this. “I like pops of color in the landscape.” While her front courtyard entrance is full of color, it has several areas of highlight. For each area, she considers what plants she needs and how annuals will be arranged. She makes sure enough plants of that color are planted, so that the color looks intentional.

“Vintage eclectic” is a theme Paula might call the courtyard of flowers. This bench displays Red Wing crocks of hydrangeas and petunias and moss on its surface adds authenticity.


“Sometimes I won’t plant a full planter at once because I haven’t found what I want yet. Four planters have red geraniums because they were my mom’s favorite.”

She collects Red Wing crocks and uses the large antique pottery for planters.

“Newer Red Wing crocks are zinc-glazed; a light gray color. The earlier crocks have a salt-glazed finish. These crocks are yellow-brown,” she said. She usually selects yellow and orange blooms for the color of the older crocks. Paula pairs the slight yellow glaze finish of this Red Wing crock with yellow and orange petunias.


She decorates a large décor cart each year.

“I want petunias that cascade down. The supertunias from Proven Winners stay compact. I always buy geraniums and petunias. They’re showy and maintenance is low.” She also likes to try new plants that seem to fit one of the areas she is arranging. She’s ready to plant annuals outdoors before Mother’s Day.


“I have to cover plants for late frost. The season is so short here. You have to make up for all the months of snow!” she said. She waits to plant impatiens that are cold-sensitive.

Are Plants Healthy?

Plants in her container gardens look robust on a 90-degree day. She checks her plants often to make sure they are getting adequate water and she looks for pests. In spring, she adds new potting soil to the planters, about as deep as the roots grow. She uses Bloom Booster pellets by Miracle-Gro as fertilizer.

“I add a layer of cocoa bean shell mulch to the planters. It keeps the soil from getting so dried out. By the next year the shells have mostly decomposed,” she said.

Some plants are challenged to grow well because of sun and wind exposure.

“On my front driveway I couldn’t get anything to grow well in a planter until Mandevilla vines. They flourish there. It is so hot from all the cement around it,” she said.

Leggy and overgrown annuals are a common sight in planters by August. Paula usually trims plants beginning in late June. For one of her planters, she trims the back of the potted plants and turns them around once they grow out, to trim the other side.

About now, Paula looks for some replacement plants to end the season. She notices that some plants that droop in August do revive in September.

Later in fall, she removes the spent annuals with root soil and adds it to her raised bed vegetable garden for organic matter.

Personalizes her Yard

When asked,Paula calls the theme of her entrance yard area “vintage eclectic”. For plant stands and planters, we see wooden benches with moss, several Red Wing crocks as planters and garden art plant containers from Riverboat Days artisans.

“Just because there are crocks, doesn’t mean that I don’t put something modern there,” she said. “In July it’s a bit Americana to celebrate 4thof July.”

By the front door, she chooses fuchsia impatiens and bright green foliage with her Americana figure from Riverboat Days.


“My mom loved crocks of any kind,” she said. “My mom taught school in a one-room school and she remembered having water from a crock with a spigot. I always like going to antique stores but am more selective now.” The crocks she uses as planters had to be modified.

“I drilled holes in the bottom of the crocks. I add a plastic container the same size as the crock rim as a planter insert.” The plant container also rests on something she puts in the bottom of the crock. “I tried it without drilling holes, but plants wouldn’t make it through the season.” She needed a drain for excess water.

Paula’s attention to detail is evident in this “stars” display with an Americana garden star in the Red Wing crock holding star petunias.


While her annuals in the entrance courtyard are eye-catching and last most of the season, the boundary beds around her house have perennials that display flowers in their summer moments. These include blue bells, yellow and orange lilies, white and blue hydrangeas and hardy hibiscus.

“I love perennials,” she said, “but the flowers don’t last long. I try to add a new perennial every year. They give a splash of color at different times of the season.”

No Slave to the Yard

 In the heat of the season, Paula relies on the irrigation drip system to supply enough moisture consistently to planters. Considering full sun exposure of most of the planters, automatic watering removes a time-consuming but necessary daily chore in summer.

“We put in the drip system about 15 years ago. Planters and our raised bed vegetable gardens are on their own stations on the automatic sprinkler. I can water them separately. It’s a bit of work to install the hose but adding individual lines to planters to be watered is easy,” she said. She makes sure a bit of extra tubing is provided for each line so she can move a planter or repair the line as needed. “You can put a plug in the line if you don’t want a planter watered at a site and the tubing can be used elsewhere.” She notices improvement of the blooming flowers when she adds a second water tube to a longer planter. “The drip system makes life easier.”

She deadheads blooms and weeds and harvests vegetables and tomatoes from the garden; all part of the activity of gardening.

“It would be nice to enjoy plants longer, but once I get done planting, I breathe a sigh of relief. It’s like after Christmas –for a while you don’t want to think about it again until next year,” she said.

“I’m lucky to have the courtyard space to put all kinds of plants and crocks and garden art in it,” Paula said. “I love to see what others do with plants and landscaping, so I hope others get joy from seeing my flowers too.”

Thanks for joining us to celebrate summer at Plant Exchange Blog. We appreciate your “Likes” and repeat visits of loyal “Followers.” Do keep us in mind as you find flowers to enjoy around you.





One thought on “Yard that Celebrates Summer

  1. I could not bear to use crocks as planters. However, two from the kitchen of my great grandmother have been cracked for as long as I can remember. They are not useful for picking. They are nice for storing potatoes and onions, but could eventually become planters for houseplants. I would just put pots with saucers into them though.

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