Appreciation of container gardens continues to soar! A gardener can grow vegetables, lush annuals, seasonal flowers, bushes and trees--all in containers. They increase your growing space options, you can move containers around for different themes during the year, cluster them for specific duties (markers for an entrance or path, patio seating areas, spots of color here and there). And the options for color and beauty in containers are unending.
Now is the time to pick out your pots from the local nurseries or mail order catalogues--when they have their largest selections in stock. Now is also the time to be thinking of what cascading evergreens or bushes or plants you want in your containers, and figure out which of the speciality nurseries carry that variety.
A very new direction this year for container gardens is to basically 'mass' all one type or color of plant in the container, rather than have the usual "thriller, spiller and filler" (high, low and in-between plants). This follows the "less is more" theory, plus one color or mass vision makes a greater impact some feel.
Most plants and bulbs grow just fine in containers, provided you meet their basic light and water requirements. One of the biggest challenges when grouping different plants in one container is to combine plants with growing requirements that are similar~~don't put sun-loving flowers with shade plants; or plants that require a lot of water in the same pot with plants that like it dry. Before you buy that lovely plant you can't live without, check out the details on the label.
When grouping plants in a container, plant them closely together to create a dense, rich look. Experiment with varying heights, color and textures in your containers. Add a trellis (even putting one stabilizing leg in one container and the other in an adjacent container) for height in container arrangements.
Annuals give color all season long, while perennials should come back each year, saving time and money. The larger the container, the better the chance of the plant returning. Containerized bushes and evergreens are a handsome stabilizing backdrop, attractive through the winter. Tender houseplants can be used in the summer to fill in with floral plantings. And one cardinal rule, which I constantly resist: be prepared to replace.
Following are lists of a few plants which do especially well in containers:
- Part Shade: Caladium, Coleus, Impatiens, Potato vine, Hosta, Begonia, Fern.
- Semi-shade Shrubs: Aucuba, Skimmia, Azalea, Mahonia.
- Perennials for sun: Yucca, Hibiscus (hardy), Mums, Knock Out rose, Sedum/Succulents, Clematis, Red Hot Poker (Kniphora) instead of the houseplant Dracena, winter-hardy Gardenias ('Kleim's Hardy'), ornamental grasses, certain bulbs and tubers.
- Annuals for sun: Zinnia, Four o'clocks (Mirabilis jalapa), Sweet Alyssum, Marigold, Morning glory,Sunflower, Geranium, Hibiscus (tropical), Snapdragons, Petunias, some bulbs.
- Wind-tolerant: Holly, red-tip Photinia, Rugarosa rose, needled evergreens, junipers, Cherry Laurel, Dusty Miller, Hydrangea macrophylla, Yew, Bamboo, Sweet Alyssum.
- Vegetables: Tomato, Lettuce, Parsley, Swiss Chard ('Bright Lights').
- Trees: Dogwood (partial shade and mini), Mugo pine, Eastern Redbud, Crepe Myrtle. Best if all trees / bushes / evergreens are dwarf or miniature varieties. Try something new and wild this year--you'll be glad you did!
Nancy Burns is a Certified Master Gardener, Belle Haven Garden Club President for the past six years, co-author of two gardening books and completely obsessed with gardening.