Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Container Gardening in the Round, Square, Oval, or Other Shape of Your Choosing!

Why gardening in a container?

It’s easy, fun, economical, and, did I say ‘easy’ oh, and I can’t forget ‘fun’. A way to add color and blooms throughout the season. Consider your containers, planters and window boxes the accessories of your landscape wardrobe. Attributes of container gardening?
Possibilities are almost endless; opens up a whole world of new plants since the plants need not adapt to your landscapes soil, lighting and water requirements. You are ‘mother nature’. Let your imagination be your guide.

Not convinced yet?

Other benefits?

No yard, no problem.

Short on space but long on desire-gardens in miniature are the cure. If you want to grow it chances are it will thrive in a container.

Serves as a screen for privacy.


Change seasonally or to match a theme

Easier on the knees and back than traditional beds.

Where to begin?

Which comes first, the container or the plant? Either. Often I have fallen in love with an annual, succulent or even tropical plant that would not work in the planting bed so what better way to showcase than giving it its own space. Other times the shape, color or sheer delightfulness of a container filled my heart so why not return the love by filling it! Think of these gardens in miniature as the Finishing Touches to your landscape design.

Think outside the box. Almost anything can be used as a container.

Tea Kettles; colanders; old shoes, gardening Wellies, or LL Bean boots are often used. Thrift store baskets, old tea cups, vintage Fiesta ware, cigar boxes, wine casks, milk crates. In other words if you can fill it chances are you can plant in it. Some things to consider however



o Containers made of resin and/or fiber glass are the most versatile.

Lighter weight than their look-alike counterpart; poured concrete, ceramics or metal.

Can take the elements that a Maine Winter can offer.


No need to store for the season.


o Cheep plastic may fade or deteriorate from UV rays.

o Terracotta and clay are porous and dry out too quickly

o Wooden containers are susceptible to rot.

o Avoid those treated with creosote, other toxic compounds.

o Ceramic and or Glazed pots will crack and/or if left out in the winter.

Display after and before all threat of a deep freeze has passed.

Other consideration:

Choose containers that complement existing architecture in used in close proximity to structure.

o Take into account size and scale in connection to surroundings

Allow for proper drainage

o Drainage holes at least ½ inch.

o line w/newspaper, coffee filters or old screening to avoid soil loss

o Use Perlite or Vermiculite

Set on brick or ‘pot feet’ to allow for air circulation and avoid staining on wooded decks.

Refrain from using containers that are too narrow or shallow


New Container or using a recycled item:

o Wash with mild bleach solution

o Allow to dry thoroughly

Use Potting Soil or Mixes only

o Do not use soil from your garden

No need to replace all soil each year.

o Reuse ½ of existing potting mix.

o Add organic matter such as ‘worm castings’.

No need to plant directly in container.

o Purchase inexpensive plastic pots sold at all nurseries.

Use as ‘container’ then place within decorative container.

Avoid creating a ‘too heavy’ pot

o Invert plastic pot to take up space

o Line bottom with packing peanuts.

Separate from soil w/material from an old screen.

o Purchase plastic ‘shelves’ designed for containers


Right plant/right place

Combine plants with like light/watering needs.

For drama remember these 3 words:

Thrill, Fill & Spill


Tall plant as focal point.

o Ornamental Grasses

o Snap dragons

o Angelonia

o Heuchera (also serves as fill) shade

o Nicotiana

o Salvias

Many varieties, annuals & perennials

o Persian Shield

o Dracaena

o Cala or Cana lilies

o Guara


Any plant that will surround the focal point

o Lantana

o Heuchera shade

o Petunia (also a spill)

o Million Bells (ditto)

o Alyssum

o Hosta shade

o Geraniums

Look for variegated varieties

For bushier and more interesting foliage pinch off blooms

o Scaevola (also a spill)

o Osteospermum

o Impatiens shade

o New Guinea impatiens shade

o Begonias

o Coleus shade

o Sedum Perfect for hot dry conditions

o Portulaca Perfect for hot dry conditions


Cascading plant.

o Ivy Geranium


o Sweet Potato vine

o Supertunias

o Million Bells

o Nasturtiums

o Lobelia (annual)

Not just for annuals:

Many perennials make excellent container plants.

o Heuchera, small hostas, Astilbe, Dwarf shrubs.

Avoid plants with tap roots other than that use your imagination!

o At the end of the season can be planted in garden.

o Some will over winter in the container:

Sedums, Dianthus, Chives, Day Lilies,

Beyond Color:

Incorporate texture


o Grasses, Perennial Flax, Heuchera (all are ‘thrills’)

Coordinate scale of plant with container

o The size of the ‘Thrill’ to be in balance with the container.

Plants shouldn’t be more than twice the height of the pot or 1 ½ times as wide

o Simple plants show off an ornate pot

o Showy plants will complement a simple pot

Create themes:

o Desert theme using succulents

o Fairy Garden

o Woodland

Use mini hosta, ferns, & moss.

Color Crazy:   See this post for some more illustration of color!

Monochromatic is elegant and soothing

o Lightness or darkness or strength of the color may vary, but only one color is used

Analogous   calming
o Colors closely related to one another (next to each other) on the color wheel

o More dramatic than monochromatic

Complementary  demands attention

o Colors opposite one another on the color wheel

Neutral   makes other colors look deeper and brighter
o Add depth to the composition; divide colors that clash or are too strong; tone down complementary color schemes in daylight; and glow in the dark

o Black, gray, and white

Polychromeworks (most of the time) flowers naturally blend together

o Mixture of many colors



Fill container ¾ full with potting soil mix

Place ‘Thrill’ plant in center of the container

Add more soil around plant

Alternate fill/spill plants and place as close to the inside.

Add & push-in more soil around plants to avoid air pockets

Water in.

Add more soil if needed.


Add whimsy

Include decorative elements


Have fun!


Keep watered & fed

Turn and reposition when possible.

Lazy Susan plant stands

A large dish filled with marbles.

Remove spent blooms.

Change and recreate if necessary or if mood dictates.

So, go ahead, dress up your front walk, steps, entryway or window; give your deck, porch or balcony the feel of a botanical garden. If you miss the taste of homegrown tomatoes, grow some on your patio. Don’t be afraid to put a splash of color in that full shade area or level and plant that sunny slope. The possibilities are truly endless. Just pick an area that you would like to change and get started! Once you get going and discover how easy and fun container gardening is, don’t be surprised to discover that you’re hooked for good.

Think of these gardens in miniature as the
Finishing Touches to your landscape design

KCB is a professional gardener and friend who does wonderful work in the Greater Portland area. KCB is also an accredited Master Gardener by the Cooperative Extension Service and we are honored to have KCB as part of our Skillin's Garden Log family. KCB can also be found at the awesome Finishing Touches website

KCB for Skillin's Greenhouses

April 17, 2012

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