1. Container Garden Considerations From patios and balconies to decks and porches, container gardens can add colour and interest to any area around your home... and you don't even need a garden. There is a lot to consider in planting and maintaining container gardens, but these tips should provide enough information to make your first attempt a success. Annuals make excellent long-flowering container specimens, however, perennials have one major advantage: although they do cost more initially, they can be placed out into your borders at the end of the season, gracing your garden for many years to come. Annuals, of course, require yearly replacement. As more gardeners experiment with overwintering tubs and other containers with perennials in them, new information is becoming available on which plants will survive with minimal winter care, and which methods give the best results. 2. Choosing a Container Garden centers now carry a huge range of containers, so it is easy to select an attractive pot that fits your budget. Any container you use should have holes in the bottom to drain water. Some pots may not come equipped with drainage holes, but it is usually easy to drill some into the bottom with an electric drill and a concrete bit. On balconies or decks, large saucers might be useful to catch unwanted drips at watering time, but containers should not rest in standing water for long since the roots may begin to rot. Try partly filling the saucer with gravel and resting your container on top. If you plan to try overwintering perennials in your pots, avoid clay (also called terra cotta) pots, since these can easily crack and break from the action of water expanding in the soil when it freezes. Gardeners in very mild winter regions have less of a problem with this. The size of the pot makes a big difference to overwintering success. In Zones 1 through 7, pots should generally be at least 12 inches in diameter, and ideally over 16 inches. Those half whiskey barrels are an ideal size, but other large pots made of molded plastic (there are some GREAT plastic pots on the market now!), molded foam, concrete, wood or any other frost-proof material are worth considering. A depth of at least 12 inches is advised. 3. Soil The planting mix must be able to hold water and nutrients, yet drain well. Plain old garden soil is just too poorly drained for using as is, and most commercial potting soils are too light. A recommended blend is 75% soil-less potting mix and 25% weed-free, loamy topsoil. In some regions triple mix is available, which has equal parts of coarse sand, soil and either sphagnum peat or compost. Many gardeners have reported excellent results using triple mix in pots, right out of the bag. 4. Fertilizer Whatever your choice of soil, those that contain only a small portion of actual garden soil will require you to provide the plants with additional fertilizer. Various slow-release products (Osmocote is a common brand) really cut down on extra work, but soluble liquid fertilizers (such as Miracle-gro) are also popular. Whatever the choice, follow the label instructions carefully as to the correct rate. 5. Selecting plants By including perennials in your container displays, it throws the windows wide open to experimentation with endless flower and foliage color, texture, blooming times, perhaps even winter interest. Including annuals in the "mix" is still wise, since few perennials will give you the same sort of all-season color that annuals should. Starting with three basic plants is a good way to begin.
- First choose a flowering plant for long-season color... perhaps an annual or a perennial such as Moonbeam Coreopsis, or Scabiosa 'Butterfly Blue'.
- Next, select a plant with attractive foliage as an accent, such as a Hosta, or something with silver, burgundy, gold or variegated foliage.
- Then choose another plant with a different foliage texture from the first two, but perhaps with either a complimentary (i.e. similar and blending well) or a contrasting (i.e. shockingly the opposite) flower color.
- Finally, choose a selection or filler plants. These could be several trailing plants to spill over the sides, or perhaps something with a delicate, airy sort of habit.