Whether you are the most novice gardener, or have been blessed with the greenest thumb around, container planting can be - and is - for you.
In its simplest form, container planting is just that – the planting of flowers, shrubs and other foliage within a container. However, it can quickly become a great way to nurture your creative side.
The first step in creating that perfect container planting is location, location, location.
“Look and see what the views are from your home, from your walkways and so forth. See what you can accent with a container arrangement,” says Corinne Hannah, horticulturist at the Calgary Zoo.
Corinne says there are many factures to consider when deciding which pots and what flowers will best accent your home or garden, but says it does not have to be a daunting task.
It is in the little things like remembering the surface you will be placing the pot on, the walls that backdrop your pot, and the existing plants surrounding your pot all play into the look and feel of the container arrangement.
So before heading to the nearest garden centre, take a look around and discover your environment. What colors are your house? What colors are most predominate in your garden? What style of house do you have? Is it more modern and mid-century, or is it older with more character?
With these questions out of the way, it is now time to tap into your creative side. However, Corinne says there are a few things first-time container planters should keep in mind.
Early spring containers, so roughly the beginning of April, should have frost tolerant plants like pansies, ornamental cabbages or kales, pinks, or heaths and heathers.
Do not be afraid to think outside the annual departments as well. Look within the perennial department for things like ladies mantle, coral bells, but also look in the vegetable department for lettuce and herbs that could give your container that extra ‘pop.’
“I am sort of an equal opportunity shopper when it comes to my containers. I look all over the garden centre for things I think look interesting,” says Corinne.
When buying the pots, Corinne cautions to “go big or go home” for first-time container planters. Forget about the smaller pots and buy larger ones, even if it means fewer pots. Ultimately, this will create more of a statement.
And remember the number one rule when buying a container, big or small, is, it must have drainage holes.
“You cannot have a container planting that doesn’t have drainage holes because as it gets rained on it just becomes a swamp in there, so it has to have drainage,” says Corinne.
Another way to help maintain proper drainage is to remember regular garden soil does not work in the container plantings. The nature of having walls and a bottom leaves poor drainage and, therefore, the soil used in the container planting must be a soilest mix, says Corinne.
Once the container, plants and soil are purchased, the arrangement is now completely up to the gardener. If you do not know where to begin, perhaps start with the simple “thrillers, fillers and spillers” arrangement.
This fail-safe motto, by container designer Steve Silk, begins with placing the taller plants in the centre of the container. Volume is then created by adding fuller plants around its base, with enough room to allow some cascading plants to flow down the side finishing off the container.
Don’t be afraid to go ahead and position the plants really close together in the pots. Calgary has a short growing season so placing them closer to each other will give a look of abundance early on, says Corinne.
“Be creative, have fun with it, and totally rip off ideas from other people,” says Corinne.
Container planting can be as simple or as complex as you choose to make it and each container planting has its own arrangement, personality and character. So why not set some time aside today and indulge your creative side with a container planting as unique as you are?
Recipes for beautiful containers
Corinne Hannah shares the recipes she used to create the beautiful containers:
A Shade arrangement (uses multiple containers to create the arrangement)
• Cedar (Thuja occidentalis) with coleus (Solenostemon) ‘Fishnet Stockings’
• Lysimachia congestiflora ‘Outback Sunset’
• 2 cultivars of Begonia rex-cultorum• Strawberry saxifrage (Saxifraga stolonifera)
• False cypress (Chamaecyparis)
A Phormium arrangement
• Variegated New Zealand flax (Phormium) is the tall element.
• The tender shrub Coprosma ‘Rainbow Surprise’ echoes the colours in the flax in its dainty leaves.
• Broad texture is added to the arrangement with the coral bell Heuchera ‘Green Spice’. With all the fine texture in this arrangement you need a bold leaf as contrast.
• The ethereal grey-green lotus vine (Lotus berthelotii) spills over the sides of the container. In our climate there usually isn’t sufficient heat to encourage this vine to flower. That’s OK with me, I like the texture of the foliage.
• Apricot coloured twinspur (Diascia) dots the arrangement, reinforcing the coral colours that accent the muted greens of this design.
A Pelargonium arrangement
• Geranium (Pelargonium) ‘Crystal Palace Gem’ - one of my favorite Pelargoniums
• Euphorbia ‘Diamond Frost’
• Lawson cedar (Chamaecyparis lawsoniana ‘Elwoodii’)
• Ivy (Hedera helix)
A Solanum arrangement
• Potato vine (Solanum jasminoides), a tender woody vine, trained to standard form. This is the tall central element.
• Swan river daisy (Brachycombe iberidiflora), has elegant fine textured foliage and dainty mauve flowers. This fills the base of the container.
• Variegated ground ivy (Glechoma hederacea ‘Variegata’) spills down the sides of the container.
• This tall narrow arrangement reflects the tall narrow nature of the container and will do well in full sun if kept evenly moist.
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