Best 10 Tips for Container Gardens
Whether your container is a traditional planter or an old boot, these 10 tips will take your compact garden the gem of the neighborhood.
You have a stunning container and gorgeous plants to go in it. You plant it carefully, stand back to gaze at your new masterpiece and you’re…well, underwhelmed. Nothing’s really wrong, but it doesn’t say “Wow!”
Here are 10 design tips and tricks to help take your planters from merely pretty to pretty fantastic.
Mulch, Lift, and Foliage
1/ Mulch Matters
Pots with a single upright plant—say, a rosemary topiary or a large hosta—leave a great deal of boring soil revealed. A layer of attractive mulch, such as washed river stones, terra-cotta pebbles, glass marbles, or sphagnum moss, adds a finishing touch and cuts down on water evaporation. (Remember to keep mulches away from plant stems.)
2/ Get a lift
To add extra height, place a plastic rose collar (used to protect hybrid teas over winter) in the center of a large container already filled with soil. Fill the center of the collar with additional soil. Now you have two tiers to plant in. If the collar is visible after planting is complete, camouflage the plastic using a few clumps of moist sphagnum moss.
3/ Show no Soil
Plant closely, fully, and generously so your containers look gorgeous from the get-go. Gently squeeze root balls into thin, narrow shapes to make room for more plants. Don’t worry about the tight quarters: careful watering, quality soil, regular feeding, and deadheading will keep your display in top shape.
4/ More Foliage, Please
Garden designers always sing the praises of contrasting shapes, textures, and shades of green found in foliage plants. In containers, use at least one-third of foliage plants to set off flowering plants to the best advantage.
5/ Set the Stage
When grouping different containers, raise a few at the back by placing them on bricks or upside down pots. Not only does this add height to your scene, but it also improves air circulation, too.
Cheat and be Bold!
6/ Less is More
The fancier, more ornate the container, the simpler the plant palette should be—a grouping of one type in a container can look sophisticated and dramatic. Even simpler: place a massive unplanted container—perhaps glazed Provençal blue or maroon—in a bed of groundcover under a shade tree to inject a punch of color. Or center an intricate obelisk (with no vines on it) in a container of low-growing plants to serve as a piece of garden sculpture.
7/ Be bold
The farther away your container is from viewers, the bigger and bolder the flower and leaf forms should be. A mass of dainty bacopa and Swan River daisies in a pot next to your front door is a fuzzy blur when seen from the front sidewalk.
8/ Cheat a Little
For a special party, bump up the floral quotient by tucking floral picks (small plastic vials that hold water) filled with stems of gerberas, dahlias, or roses into window boxes and other containers.
9/ Cue the Understudies
For key containers, keep a few duplicate plants growing in pots elsewhere in the garden. Then, if one or two underperform or meet an untimely end, you can replace them with something identical. (Because you know if you go back to the nursery for a replacement, there will be none left!)
10/ Trailers to the Back
For a softer, more natural look, plant some trailing plants midway back instead of all along the edge. Let a few stems meander around the bases of upright plants before spilling over the edge.
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