Six Tips to Create a Unique Container Garden

April 22, 2014

Garden time is upon us and whether you’re a homeowner or a city apartment dweller you will probably be thinking about creating a container of flowers to brighten up your patio, porch, or landscape.640_shop1 To get some tips on how to create a unique container garden, Eco News Network caught up with the experts at Great Scapes, a family owned and operated nursery and greenhouse in Mattapoisett, Mass.

1. Find a good container. Commercially available pots and boxes will work or for something a little different look for old pails, boxes, buckets…anything that will hold enough soil and provide adequate drainage. What the container is made of is not important. What is important is drainage. If there are several 1/2″ holes to allow water to run out.

2. Next you need potting soil. Choose a light, well drained potting mix and avoid bargain brands as they tend to be heavy and drain poorly. Place about an inch of small stones at the bottom of your container or you can break 97_angeloniapotup an old terra cotta pot into small pieces and use these. Next fill it with potting mix to about 3″ below the rim. Do not pack or compress the potting mix. Then add a time release fertilizer such as Osmocote or choose a natural fertilizer, even if you plan to use a liquid fertilizer you should still add some time release fertilizer. Add about 1 rounded tablespoon of Osmocote for every square foot of surface area. For a 12″ pot that would equal 1 rounded tablespoon. Simply mix the fertilizer into the top 2-3″ of your potting mix.

3. Create your design. The first consideration is where the container is to be placed. Is it exposed to full 97_hanger2sun or is it a shady spot? Is it exposed to a lot of wind? How much do you plan to water? What colors do you like? Your local nursery can help you choose plants based upon your conditions. Most plants will also have labels describing what conditions they like and even recommending companion plants and colors. Only a few years back selections were limited to seed grown petunias, marigolds, impatiens, geraniums and of course vinca vine. While these plants still have their place in the garden there is much more variety and a greater color palette available now. No matter what conditions you are trying to achieve… there are always plants that will fit the bill.

4. Get creative. Once you have identified what plants will work for your container it is time to get creative. Try new plants or new combinations of plants…there are no hard and fast rules. The best way to learn what works is by experimenting. Gardening is a continual learning process. Every container will inspire you to try something different on the next one!

5. Consider the THRILLER, FILLER. and SPILLER method. Simply put this means that your container needs to have three major components. Firstly, the ‘thriller’ will be a plant or plants that will make the major impact. It will usually add height and an architectural ele117_greenhouse2ment to your container. Traditionally plants such as dracaena spikes, geraniums, marguerite daisys or annual salvias have served as ‘thriller’ plants. These plants can still be used but consider trying other deserving plants. Fountain grasses or ornamental millet work well. Many perennial plants such as sedums or penstemon can be used. Consider using foliage plants such as coleus or artichoke. There are no rules!

Next you will want to to choose some ‘filler’ plants. These will be flowering and/or foliage plants that will fill out the body of your container. Choose complimentary colors.. pastels or bold colors. Choose plants that will grow at similar rates so one plant does not overrun another.
For ‘spiller’ plants choose trailing varieties. You want these plants to spill and cascade over the side of your container. There are lots of flowering and foliage plants available. For folige try ivies, licorice plant or some of the new vinca vine varieties that are available. Some flowering choices are bacopa, trailing verbena, trailing calibrachoa or scaevola.

These three elements will create a basic framework for your container. The rest is up to you. Try plants with bold and colorful foliage. Use untraditional plants such as spider plants and succulents. Herbs often work well in containers also. The most important thing is to HAVE FUN!!!!

6. Maintenance to keep it beautiful. Your finished container is not static. It will grow and change everyday. Some maintenance will be necessary. Picking off spent blooms as often is possible will encourage more flowers and bushier plants. Occasionally trim back more vigorous plants to prevent the container from becoming too lanky. Sometimes the best thing is to shear back the whole container. After a week or two of recovery time it will look better than ever! Water regularly but do not keep the soil overly wet especially before the plants have become established in the pot.

For more ideas visit the Great Scapes website or your local garden center.

Have fun playing in the dirt!

Photos courtesy of Great Scapes.

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