On May 8, 2024
Arts, Dining & Entertainment

Container gardening

By Bonnie Kirn Donahue—Gardening container- For spaces that are too small to have a full garden, consider adding a pot or container with colorful flowers or vegetables to your outdoor space.

By Mary Ellen Shaw

A flower garden is not for everyone. Perhaps there is not enough space or it’s just more work than you care to undertake.

You can still enjoy beautiful flowers from spring until fall by placing them in containers such as planter boxes or pots.

A nice feature of gardening this way is the ease with which you can change out the contents of the container.  I’ll share with you my own choices for this type of gardening. Whether you have one container or multiple containers the touch of color provided will brighten the space where they are placed and your day along with it.

We have a 6-foot window box that is mounted under the double windows of our living room. Having a box in that location is a tradition that goes back almost 80 years to when my father built the first box. My handy husband, Peter, has replaced the original box several times over the years because even wood preservative doesn’t keep rot away forever.

A box of that size is a statement for sure. The first flowers to go into the box are pansies in late April. I buy an assortment of colors that include: purple, blue, yellow and deep mauve. Because our cream color window trim serves as the background for the flowers the dark colors look best in the back of the box. Pale blue and yellow stand out when placed in front of the deeper colors.

Because the window box is almost totally in the shade throughout the day the pansies look fresh until late May. Then it’s time for a change. New Guinea impatiens are the replacements. Hot pink and light pink blend together nicely.

Plants have a way of telling you when they have reached their full potential. They tend to look “tired” and that is when it’s time for another change. That usually happens by mid-September and the window box is transformed once again. This time it’s filled with mum plants. Deep burgundy is a perfect fall color against the cream color backdrop. My trick for getting them to last until late October is to buy plants that are just barely budded. Garden center plant markers can get switched out so I make sure that I can tell the true color of the plants from the buds. In the fall you have to be prepared to cover the mums on cold nights. The nice thing about having plants in containers is how easy it is to cover them compared to doing that task when plants are in large beds in the ground.

You can even keep your containers filled with boughs in the winter months, providing the container is made to endure the freeze and thaw conditions of winter.

Placing containers along the border of a patio or deck gives a stunning look to the space. You can buy attractive containers without spending a lot of money. I have seen 24-inch long containers made of resin for under $10. The fact that they come in multiple colors is a plus! Just clean and sterilize them in the fall and they can be used for many years.

In sunny locations you have more options when it comes to choosing container plants. Flowers with different shapes and leaves that have different textures create an eye-catching effect. The old adage of “thrillers, fillers and spillers” speaks for itself when it comes to choosing the type of flowers that will enhance your containers. One of my favorites for sunny locations is calibrachoa. It looks like a mini petunia and comes in several colors. It will trail over the edge of your container. The silver hue of a licorice plant is attractive among bright colored plants. Flowers with small blossoms like alyssum are great for filling in gaps. Putting all of your choices alongside one another while you are still at the nursery is a good test to see how well they will look together.

Choosing the correct potting soil is important. The words “Potting Mix” are what you should look for on the bag. I use Miracle-Gro with moisture control. Container plants dry out more quickly than those grown in the ground so check the soil daily to see if the plants need watering.

If you really want to keep things simple, placing a plant in a pretty pot on each of your front steps is an easy way to provide pops of color. Geraniums are one of my favorites in that role. They are pretty from Memorial Day up until the first frost. 

Containers filled with flowers make great seasonal decorations. As you move forward from May until October have fun selecting flowers along the way.

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