Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Garden Designers Roundtable: Containers

How do I love thee…?

Container gardening is righteously popular because it is adaptable to almost any size of space, microclimate, and plant material. I love using container gardens in my own yard because they’re so versatile. They are the one thing in my garden that I get to experiment with and change every year. I also love the pots themselves. The variety of colors, sizes, textures, and finishes are amazing and, I’ll admit, a bit addictive to collect.

Today I’d like to show you a few ideas how flower pots – containers made specifically for plants – can be put to work in your landscape for gardening and much more.

Let me count the ways…!

Pots as the focal point:

Set as an accent amongst lush garden foliage and filled with plants for vertical oomph!
Enchanted Gardens Tour, 2009

A series of pots to guide the eye through the garden:

Pots set the color and style standard here:

A bold color statement echoed by silver plant foliage:
design by Carol Olivera

Here, pots are the focal point and the garden!

Even when empty, the positive/negative spaces and light/shadow effects created by pots can be intriguing:

Pots for security or traffic control:

These large, heavy containers are a beautiful and welcoming entry garden to this commercial building. They also serve as bollards:
Notice how the color of the containers matches a color band on the building? The flowers and foliage follow the cool color theme with just a hint of yellow-green to jazz it up.

Pots that simulate a natural growing environment:

Containers made of mock tufa are ideal for succulents and other rock garden plants. They mimic the natural stone (tufa) tubs and troughs that were had carved.
Timberline Gardens, Arvada, CO

Denver Botanic Gardens has an extensive collection of trough gardens to showcase some of their extensive alpine plant collection.

Denver Botanic Gardens

Pots as water features:

As reflecting pools:

Or simple fountains:

Pots as furniture:

Top a container with a slab of stone and, voila!, the perfect garden end table (or stool, or table, or plinth, etc!)

Pots for storage:

The drainage hole in the bottom of this container makes outdoor storage more practical.

Pots for vermiculture:

Yep, three of these giant nursery pots are where my worms live. Worm castings are my "compost" of choice. Garden waste and kitchen scraps get rotated through the containers before being sieved and spread throughout the gardens. My worms survive year-round in these large pots (they get afternoon shade in the summer).

Tips for successful container gardens in our region:

1. Use large containers, at least 18” in diameter. Larger soil volumes mean more stable soil temperatures and moisture levels for happier root systems.

2. Use glazed or ceramic pots for improved moisture retention.

Echter's Garden Center, Arvada, CO

3. Go with a soil-less potting mix formulated specifically for outdoor containers. (Good drainage is critical.)

Plant choices can be overwhelming - but exciting!

Timberline Garden Center

4. For each pot, select plants that have the same cultural requirements and match them to the environment where the pot will be located.

5. Use this classic plant combo, it works!

One or two tall, showy plants (thrillers)

A few trailing plants (spillers)

A few mounding plants (fillers)

6. Choose plants with a color theme in mind and a variety of foliage types.

Warm colors at Echter's

7. Ignore the spacing recommendations on the plant labels and set the root balls close together.

8. Use a slow release fertilizer or plan to fertilize your container gardens weekly.

Cool colors at Echter's

9. Plan to water your pots daily, especially if they are in full sun, exposed to the wind, or hanging.

Have fun, and enjoy the creative opportunities that playing with containers and plants can offer!

Please join my fellow members of the Garden Designers Roundtable who are also writing on the topic of containers today:

Christina Salwitz : Personal Garden Coach : Renton, WA

Debbie Roberts : A Garden of Possibilities : Stamford, CT

Jenny Petersen: J Petersen Garden Design : Austin TX

Laura Livengood Schaub : Interleafings : San Jose, CA

Rebecca Sweet : Gossip In the Garden : Los Altos, CA

Rochelle Greayer : Studio “G” : Boston, MA

Lesley Hegarty & Robert Webber : Hegarty Webber Partnership : Bristol, UK

Scott Hokunson : Blue Heron Landscapes : Granby, CT

Shirley Bovshow : Eden Makers : Los Angeles, CA


Debra Lee Baldwin said...

Oh, those talavera pots are to die for! Such great colors. I love the tufa pots at Timberline, too. Say hi to Karen Haataja for me (her designs are in my book, Succulent Container Gardens).

Laura Livengood said...

Great post! Was hoping someone would bring up thrillers, fillers & spillers! Great examples, and the 'how-to' tutorial at the end is a nice touch. Thanks!

Katie said...

Enjoyed the tip about using containers as "reflecting pools." I had not thought about that.

Also, the empty containers. Cool post!

Anonymous said...

Your the first person I have read who has done a real container masterclass!
Brilliant stuff!
Best Wishes

Pam/Digging said...

What a thorough post, Jocelyn. I love how you showed different ways to use containers (I like to use them as water gardens and as unplanted accents) AND gave a tutorial on how to plant them up. Great advice!

Debbie/GardenofPossibilities said...

Jocelyn, I really enjoyed your post, it covered virtually every aspect of containers. I'm definitely 'borrowing' the container table idea for my garden.

Jocelyn H. Chilvers said...

Debra, thank you---I will say "hi" to Karen!

Laura, the planting/care tips are in response to questions I'm asked regularly. Glad to pass them on!

Katie, welcome! Reflecting pools - of any size - are unsung garden treasures. I hope you'll try one.

Robert and Pam, I got carried away. Thanks to you and everyone else for reading through to the end ;-)

Debbie, once you run out of storage space you get creative! Ha!

rebecca Sweet said...

Another creative 'outside the box' post - bravo! I love that you mentioned other uses for containers...fountains, storage, topping them with stone, or filling them with worms! Well done!

Have you written a 'how-to' post about your worms? I'd love to read it!

Susan aka Miss R said...

So many pots...so many ideas...so many things to try out!

JennyP said...

I'm with you; I LOVE using beautiful empty containers as artwork in the garden! And pots as water features is a great way to add water to a small garden when you don't have room for a pond or waterfall. Thanks for a great post!

shirley Bovshow "EdenMaker" said...

Great tutorial on "garden container appreciation!" I enjoyed your expository on the different functions served by container gardens.

SHirley Bovshow

Jocelyn H. Chilvers said...

Rebecca, thank you for your kid words. I have not done a post on my adventures in vermiculture, but that's a great idea-thanks!

Susan, thanks for stopping by and supporting the GDRT writers on your your month "off"!

Jenny, I often recommend a water pot as a trial run for folks yearning for a water feature. They're low-care and versatile; perfect for getting your "toes wet"!

Thanks, Shirley---yes, many ways to share the container love!

Germi said...

Thanks for the comprehensive post, Jocelyn! You said it ALL!
Loved the "reflecting pot"


susan morrison said...

Great take on the topic. Throughout this series, I have particularly enjoyed the posts that really explore a design concept...oh, and have some gorgeous plant photos!

ScottHokunson said...

Great post Jocelyn! I have found pots in the past, that I loved and did not want to spoil their look with plants. Now I won't hesitate to use them alone!

I second Rebecca's comment on vermicomposting in those large containers. I have several in the back and am interested in your technique!

Jocelyn H. Chilvers said...

Germi, thanks for stopping by! I've decided to add reflecting pools/pots to my search list next time I'm on photo safari. I'm curious to see how other gardeners use them.

Susan, thank you for your comments---this whole series of posts was more comprehensive than I imagined it would be!

Scott, glad to offer some inspiration! Stay tuned for that vermiculture post...