11 March 2008
Containing yer gardening enthusiasms: Containers, Pt 1.
Long before I can plant annuals out in our gardens, I’m busy in our little greenhouse making up ‘instant gardens’. Gleefully, I select a variety of flowering and foliage plants, usually annuals, and pot them in interesting planters, ranging from old wooden fruit baskets to clay strawberry jars to exciting new metal containers. One day I’ll check these planters and decide it’s time to move them outdoors to the steps, to the deck, to areas needing a burst of colour, and we’ll have extra floral display while the spring perennials die down and the later perennials and planted-out annuals are coming into their own. Container gardening is wonderful!
We often refer to our containers as "Port-a-plants', because I trundle some of them around the yard on a regular basis, moving them into different sunny or shaded areas, spots where perennials or bulbs have finished and I want a little burst of colour, or (ahem) even to disguise something that doesn't look great, like the ripening foliage of bulbs or a floundering perennial or shrub that I'm giving a bit more time to before it joins the great compost heap in the sky. Yes, I have plants that expire, not being a perfect gardener. As I tell others if they lament a lost plant, a dead plant is just a new hole to plant something else in.
Containers are great for people with limited space, and you can really make the most of what you have for gardening areas if you also go vertical. I have a few hanging baskets that I like quite well, (none of them the dreaded white or green plastic variety), but I also mount pots or containers on walls, posts, railings, and anywhere else that I think needs a little brightening up.
This little design was done at the Landscape and Hort program at our local community college a few years ago, and I really, REALLY like it. It's all about the foliage, in this case, with nice textures and colours set off by the terracotta planters, and that whimsical clay sculpture. The lattice work screens off an unsightly area, in this case part of the greenhouse which was actually more displays, but it's a simple and effective structure for a garden, too.
While there are some things that do give me great challenge with gardening, I do containers really, really well. My secrets? One is our weather, which I swear has a lot to do with it--not a lot of scorching heat, some fog to keep things moist, and long, lovely autumns; last year a couple of containers were still blooming when snow arrived on Remembrance Day, November 11, as we'd had a couple of frosts but not enough to dampen the really tough plants. But the other secrets aren't really secrets: choosing the right plants, the right potting medium; watering and fertilizing regularly (I use seaweed fertilizer once weekly during a watering) and deadheading and cutting back faithfully. I'll talk more about that in coming posts, as well as giving some plants that I wouldn't be without in my containers.