There's almost nothing better in the spring than sitting down with a few bags of potting soil, some time-release fertilizer, a slew of pots and a bounty of colorful plants to create a container garden.
It's one of the most creative ways to express your individuality - and if you're anything like me, your personality seems a bit different every spring. One year it may be all about the tropics, with hot colors and broad leaves like those found on cannas and caladiums; and the next season, dainty, delicate, old-fashioned arrangements may be beckoning with baby's breath and trailing petunias. Or maybe you've got the flavor for basils, nasturtiums and peppers.
The world of flora is truly your oyster when it comes to creating the perfect pot.
One of the more appealing attributes of container gardening is that it gives the planter the ability to add color and texture where it didn't exist before. A window that was formerly square and bare can be transformed with a window box into a rainbow of delights. A drab patio, porch or deck suddenly can come alive with the clever placement of lush, overflowing containers.
Fashioning gorgeous pots is a must for people who have no garden space to speak of. Suddenly they can load up the balcony or get their rooftop looking like a portable Garden of Eden.
Pam Hamill, container-creator extraordinaire and owner of Hamill's Country Gardens, 1236 N. 100 Road, says creating colorful pots is an easy way to express yourself.
"The type of container you choose and the type of plants all say something about your personality," she says. "Container gardening is popular with those people who are less mobile or simply do not have the space or time for plants in a garden.
"They don't need to be weeded. You can create new ideas every year, it is a great way to experiment with unknown plants, and it allows you to personalize your outdoor living space with color."
Pots and color
Starting from the ground up, find a good pot. If you use simple terra-cotta pots, you may opt for more elaborate plants with frilly edges and trailing habits. If your pots are vivid and exciting, you might want to take a simpler approach, steering clear of viny, trailing plants that will only cover the stunning container.
Also keep in mind that small vegetation may get lost in large containers and large plants might not grow to their full potential in smaller spaces. Plants should be sized correctly to the pot. A good rule of thumb: A plant should be more than twice the height of the pot and 1 1/2 times the width.
Hamill thinks the pot says a lot about the inhabitant of the home.
"Some people want to create certain looks, such as modern, country, Asian, or use a color of container that matches the exterior of their home," she says. "Whatever you choose should have good drainage. The plants do not want to stand in water.
"Containers should be an expression of who you are as much as the plants are."
Good container gardens can ensure that color infuses a space all season long. It is said that no two people see color the same, but if you're trying to illicit drama, you might plant opposing hues together.
"Constant color gives us beauty every day," Hamill says. "For me, it is calming to sit down and enjoy the colors, scents of plants. It gives a dramatic presentation and a sense of style."
But don't overlook foliage as a main color source. It often can supply the most interesting color and texture schemes.
Tricks of the trade
When planning a container garden, consider how much sun if will receive each day, Hamill says. What are the moisture requirements of the plants.
"You wouldn't want to plant sun-lovers with shade-lovers, or plants that like to stay wet with those that need less water," she says.
Hamill suggests a good, soilless potting mix. Dirt from your garden should not be used in a pot because it will become too hard and hinder root development. Fertilize weekly, she says, or use a time-release fertilizer.
"Plants in containers are very hungry and need to be fertilized often to keep constant blooms," Hamill advises. "You also need to consider the size of your container. If you have a short pot, you would not want to plant something that would trail three feet beside a walkway or someplace you couldn't walk around it."
There's one nearly sure-fire rule to creating eye-catching pots: rooting one tall plant, one filler plant and one trailing plant in each container. The eye will move upward over the tall plant, linger in the middle section, which will become lush and full, and then follow the trailing vine downward, giving the viewer the complete container experience.
You'll find some suggestions for tall flora, filler plants and trailing vegetation elsewhere on this page. Happy planting!
You can use combinations of the following plants to create eye-catching container gardens:
Tall: ¢ Agave ¢ Amaranthus ¢ Bamboo ¢ Canna ¢ Dracena ¢ Dwarf Alberta spruce ¢ Elephant ear ¢ Feather reed grass ¢ Fountain grass ¢ Hibiscus ¢ Yucca
Filler: ¢ Basil ¢ Caladium ¢ Celosia ¢ Coleus ¢ Fuchsia ¢ Lantana ¢ Ornamental kale and cabbage ¢ Persian shield
Trailers: ¢ Alyssum ¢ Sweet potato vine ¢ Creeping Jenny ¢ Ivy ¢ Vinca ¢ Wave petunia ¢ Verbena ¢ Nasturtium