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.


  1. I love container gardens, I love hagging baskets. Unfortunately they don't love our weather and soon scorch to death. The only plants I successfully grow in containers are succulents. But I enjouy seeing all the beautiful containers like the ones in your post.

  2. I share your enthusiasm for containers Jodi. In fact I tend to get completely carried away with them, to the detriment of the rest of the gardens, and the containers themselves!
    How wonderful to have a greenhouse to start them in!
    The ice plant looks gorgeous!
    Do you manage to keep the Helichrysum/Licorice plant from taking over by cutting it back regularly? Any advise to offer on that gorgeous Heliotrope? I know I need to keep it watered.
    Lovely, lovely color in those containers!

  3. I don't know. To me, containers are too much a hastle--just somethign else to pay attention to that'll likely die even faster. That's my grumpy 2 cents.

  4. Jodi, lovely! You really have a way with those containers. Your lack of the extreme heat in summer is surely a good reason your containers do so well, but it may just be your artisic gardening talent!

  5. Hi Jodi
    Great post ! .. I am a container fan too .. but every year hubby "asks" me not to do so many, because he knows I drive myself nuts keeping up with them and the garden too.
    I just can't help myself though .. I found some gorgeous terra cotta rectangle ones at RONA .. in three sizes .. and I fell in love with them .. thus, many of them .. BUT .. one problem that is almost solved, with bare bones terra cotta, .. I do SOAK the pots before I plant them up and .. I line them with a plastic bag .. with some holes so it will drain .. it helps keep them from baking and drying out so quickly ..
    No matter how many times I say "not as many this year ..." it doesn't happen !

  6. I love this post, Jodi! It has inspired me and helped to give me more ideas for our garden. I just started doing containers around the pond last year and really enjoy it. At Disneyland, I saw a stone birdbath outside the Haunted Mansion that had been converted to a container garden with succulents. That idea and yours are going to keep me busy busy busy (after I get done with the concrete).

    Cindy at Rosehaven Cottage

  7. What is a lazy gardener like me to do?. Im too lazy to water all those containers.I guess I will just have to enjoy the pictures of yours.....

  8. Since I have such a small space and my soil is sparse too, I love containers. They also work really well up on the roof so I can expand my gardening space.
    That screen is exactly what I need to put in front of the water tank on the roof. I have been trying to decide what to put, and it never occured to include a sculpture. That is perfect! Thanks for the inspiration.

  9. My "pot garden" does well each year. Many containers have annuals that I grow from seed, but I do buy certain ready started plants from the garden center to give me a head start. Like you I move them around from spot to spot and it feels just like I've created a new garden.

  10. I love containers,too, but am no good at them. Will have to follow your steps!

  11. I am in agreement with you about container gardening. It makes the garden a lot more interesting; moving the containers around is part of the fun. My dilemma is the intense heat of Florida, sometimes I have too water twice a day.

  12. Your container gardens are something for me to aspire to. I just love the way they look so lush and they gush over the edges of their pots.

  13. Containers are must-haves on my patio. With my dry shade most of the color here comes from the containers. They provide many returns for the extra effort it takes to maintain them.

  14. Jodi, What a versatile gardener you are! I admire containers (yes!), and I always have hanging plants. I had a couple of large pots on the front porch last year, but I really would like to get some permanent pots to leave outdoors and re-plant every year! I don't have a greenhouse, so I have to wait until it's "warm enough." It will be fun to read your follow-up posts. :-)

  15. Jodi, very informative! I enjoy container gardening too. I will admit that I use plants that are already blooming or vining. I don't have the patience to wait for them to fill in. I would have more except I know me...spring watering is fun-late summer is not!

  16. I like container gardening as well - as you say it's a nice way of starting the season a little earlier. And I love your clay sculpture - it enhances the foliage beautifully!

  17. I too love container gardening. It provides me with plants that just won't grow in my garden. Not to mention the hundreds of cacti and succulents I keep in containers! Great post.

  18. I like the idea of moving color around the yard, Jodi, and will b e using that more this year. Have you started any plants for the garden yet this spring?

  19. "Port-a-plants"! LOL! Your containers are lovely! I wish I could do such beautiful arrangements too.

  20. Those container gardens are excellent! That's a great idea to start them in your green house early so you can bring them out. Thanks for sharing your pictures!

  21. Your containers are so lush & beautiful! I love the idea of hanging containers on any available vertical surface. I need to get lots of sturdy hooks and a tall column to put a container on to really add height in the garden.

  22. Jodi, I am a fool for containers and container arrangements. Like you - I even put them in the garden along with my planted foliage and flowers- moving them about as needed. Too easy and fun.

    How nice to have the fog to help keep things moist- which is the biggest challenge with containers- especially down here in Florida. I most assuredly spend a great deal of time dragging the hose around to containers all year long.

    Fortunately for me my next door neighbor even waters for me when I go away for the weekend or vacation.

    Great post- look forward to more to come.
    meems @ hoe&shovel

  23. Great post! Containers and hanging baskets are a good combination with the borders. I love your pictures, wonderful plants! I need Spring! It's so stormy here, bad for pots.
    Have a nice day Wurzerl

  24. Great post....look forward to the next one. Not my area of expertise, but I'm learning.

  25. Nice pictures! I too am enjoying planters. I have a blue pot collection that I place near my side door and fill each year. Hadn't thought of the Port-a-plant terminology. That is a good one!!

  26. Wow, moving containers around? You must be an Amazon!

  27. Excellent post, Jodi! I guess your cooler summer temperatures do help, but I think your eye for design and dedication to their care are just as important in the success of your beautiful containers. I'll make sure to add a link to this post (and the follow-ups, too) in the GGW Design Workshop wrap-up!

  28. I use a lot of containers as well. Since I live in East Texas (Piney Woods country), I sometimes take the many pinecones scattered on my lawn and use them in the bottom of the containers along with gravel or shards of terra cotta. Makes the plant lighter to carry, and I'm utilizing those pine cones!

  29. It's difficult to keep containers in this hot Alabama heat. Last year I gave away everyone of mine except for Jamie's hanging Petunia baskets. I hope we don't have another summer like we did last year.

  30. Hi, Jodi! This is, indeed, an inspiring post. I always have an ongoing bevy of container plants on the front steps that rather interface with the community. (Lots of people walk by here everyday!) I'm certain there are folks who pay attention to the changing scene (as well as those who are oblivious, but, hey...). After reading this I will try my hand this year at bringing more of this into the private back area, where we sit and share time. Thank you!

  31. Containers are my passion. I have a big yard so I don't need the space saving aspects of containers but I like them alot because they are portable like you said and can be planted densely for instant color and texture.

  32. Another gift you do so well, jodi. With mainly perennial gardens, I rely on 'portable pots' (that begin the season as 'show stoppers' on the patio) to guide my eye away from sleeping plants and fill a void, especially in late summer.

  33. Hi all and welcome!
    Gintoino, I love succulents in containers too. I can see how the heat would deter using other plants.
    Kerri, we can never get too carried away, can we? I don't have too much trouble with the helichrysum, probably the weather deters it from getting too vigourous. Heliotrope isn't forgiving of getting chilled or wilting, as you know.
    Benjamin, you can be grumpy, it's okay. I don't find containers a hassle, but we have different climates and lifestyles.
    Frances, yes, the lack of extreme heat does me favours, I am sure.
    Joy, terracotta is just so handsome, isn't it? We have quite a few containers...and every year a couple more follow me home.
    Cindy, I love the birdbath with succulents idea!
    Anony, feel free to enjoy our containers, anytime.
    Theresa, I can 'see' the screen in my head by your water tank. Glad to be able to inspire.
    Crafty, It's fun to move the containers, isn't it--if they're not too big, that is!
    TopVeg, I bet you'll do just fine with containers, better than I do with veggies.
    Rusty, does grouping your containers help reduce watering? Mulching the tops?
    Lisa, you'll do great with your containers this year--you're a natural gardener, that's for sure.
    Lintys, you've got it exactly right--the returns of the containers outweighs the efforts to maintain them.
    Shady, I'm a compulsive gardener...no getting around it!
    Beckie, I hear you on the late-summer watering.
    Katarina, I'll look forward to seeing what you do with your containers.
    Aiyana, yes, you've got a succulent and cacti collection that I long to have!
    Sandy, I don't start a whole lot of plants myself, because April and May are very busy work-wise, and as you know, seedlings don't take kindly to being neglected.
    Rosengeranium, you CAN do such arrangements. Try it this year.
    Dave, glad you enjoy the photos--come back any time.
    Ki, I LOVE that expression. Perfect. I may have to poach it.
    MMD, I have some nice wrought iron hooks from a local artist for some of my containers.
    Meems, I would share our cool, moist weather with you if I could! Glad to hear you have such nice neighbours to care for your containers when you're away.
    Wurzerl: I need spring too. Shall we start a petition?
    Connie, containers are pretty eay with a few basic dos and don'ts.
    Cabs, a gardener after my own heart--blue planters are my favourite, along with terracotta.
    Chookie: Some of our containers aren't that heavy--I don't fill them completely with soil (see next container post for more info.)
    Na, thanks, I don't think of myself as a designer--just a plant crazy gardener who likes to try something different every year with my containers.
    Brenda, what a great idea that is for using pine cones! We only have spruces here and their cones are much smaller--I use them in my woodland garden as part of the mulch-compost.
    Randy and Jamie, you deserve some nice weather this summer after the winter you've had. Maybe something like lantana in the containers?
    Kathryn, yes, the garden is for us as well as for those who go by, so do try some out back and see how you love them!
    Curtis, I look forward to seeing your containers this spring and summer.
    Joey, exactly so--portaplants are great showstarters and stoppers, plus they do fill that bloom lull really well.

  34. I have neglected my pots last year i.e. they just had all the agapanthus and hosta plants and some roses only. This year I also want to have some various flowers in them....Your posts gives good ideas! Thank you, Jodi!

  35. Lovely Jodi! I want to do more containers at home, but I have trouble keeping up with the watering. I do plant up a lot of containers for my clients, though - they all have automatic drip systems so the water is no problem!


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