Creative Container Gardening
Container gardening is exciting and rewarding, and is now an essential aspect of garden enhancement. Containers make good use of space, can brighten the dullest garden and provide colourful focal points. And by planting up containers creatively you can turn your patio into a dazzling cottage garden, a peaceful Zen retreat or a tropical oasis. The key to success is to choose your containers with care and plant them up appropriately.
Select a container
A plethora of containers is available, in various sizes, shapes, designs and materials. Choose from simple clay pots and basket-ware to imported pottery, terracotta, fibrecrete and reproductions of classical stone urns. Metal containers are striking in modern landscapes. In fact some containers are so stunning and make such a bold statement in a garden that you don’t even really have fill them plants! One large container, whether left empty or planted up, is more eye-catching and requires less watering than a collection of small pots. A large container also has more space for roots. If the container is very large it can be half filed with Styrofoam chips before potting soil is added. A combination of pots also has more impact than a single medium-sized container, and is much easier to water than individuals containers randomly positioned. A flawless combination is a container grouping contains a tall, a medium-sized and a wide shallow container all made of the same material and in the same style, for example, terracotta.
What to plant
Almost anything can be grown in containers, from vegetables and herbs, to annuals, bulbs, succulents and shrubs. Planted with lush greenery, they will add a touch of the tropics to a courtyard or turn a rooftop balcony into a lush green oasis.
Use containers of brightly coloured flowers to brighten a window ledge, a dull balcony, a patio, a paved area, or a sun-baked pool surround. For the enthusiastic cook, what could be more practical than pots of herbs and edible flowers near the kitchen door? Pots can also be used to confine plants like bamboos and mints that tend to spread too much, or plants that require a specific soil, like hydrangeas and azaleas.
Think of containers as being gardens in miniature. Typically the more generous the plantings, the more successful the effect.
When planting up a container achieve a good balance by planting taller plants in the centre, medium height mound-shaped plants next, and trailing plants next to the rim to soften edges. Use smaller plants in the left over spaces.
Why not make the romance of Valentine’s Day the theme for a February container, with beautiful floral plantings in shades of red or pink. Here are some ideas:
- Tall upright pinks: gaura, pentas, angelonia, pink hebe.
- Mound-shaped pinks: miniature roses, Argyranthemum ‘Summer Stars’.
- Trailing pinks: lobelia, alyssum, verbena, pink ‘Million Bells’ petunia, pink ivy-leafed pelargoniums.
- Filler pinks: bacoba, dianthus, diascia, nicotiana, gypsophila.
Even the kitchen courtyard can be included in this February colour scheme with pots of red strawberries, mini tomatoes, ruby lettuce and thyme, parsley, basil and coriander.
- Tall upright reds: Canna, pentas.
- Mound-shaped reds: miniature roses, Argyranthemum ‘Crazy Daisy Starlight Red’, red pelargoniums, New Guinea impatiens.
- Trailing reds: verbena, cascading pelargoniums, pink petunia ‘Million Bells’.
- Filler reds: red salvia, red bedding begonia, dianthus.
Red and green for shade
- Upright plants: Begonia ‘Dragon Wings’, Philodendron ‘Xanadu’, red fuchsia.
- Mound-shaped plants: New Guinea impatiens, red and green leafed coleus, impatiens.
- Trailing plants: green plectranthus, sutera, asparagus fern. Fillers: Liriope ‘Variegata’
- Make sure there are sufficient holes in the base of pots to ensure good drainage, and put a layer of pebbles, broken brick, or pieces of broken clay pots over the holes to prevent soil washing out.
- Use a commercial potting mix rather than garden soil that may contain weed seeds. Also add moisture retaining granules as per instructions to help hold moisture in the soil.
- In containers with multi-plantings combine only those plants that have similar requirements of sun, shade and moisture.
- Daily watering may be necessary on hot days. Placing containers in a shallow tray half filled with water helps to keep the soil moist and the humidity high. A layer of mulch on top of the soil helps conserve soil moisture. If you are concerned about whether to water or not, invest in a moisture meter measured the level of moisture in the soil.
- Fertilise fortnightly with a liquid fertiliser.
Keep containers looking good by regularly deadheading flowers.