Tip for a blooming fine container garden

Published on Thu, Apr 18, 2002
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Tip for a blooming fine container garden

From traditional terra cotta pots to whimsical washtubs, more and more people are using containers – both conventional and avant-garde – to indulge their green thumbs. “Containers let you garden in the smallest of spaces, inside or outside,” said Texa landscaper Larry Connelly. “They’re great for growing plants that may not thrive in a traditional garden. But best of all, containers let you take a flexible attitude toward gardening and move plants around at the slightest whim without making major revisions to the landscape,” he says.

With more than 23 years of experience as a landscaper, Connelly incorporates container gardens into many of his designs. Connelly has worked on high-profile landscaping projects such as the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum in Atlanta, and high-end residential projects across the country.

Connelly said there are several tips professionals use to ensure a successful container garden:
• Use your imagination. Terra cotta is nice, but there are plenty of other types of containers to choose from. Don't be afraid to try a planter box or wacky containers, like watering cans or wastebaskets, even old washtubs or aquariums. Just remember to poke a hole in the bottom for drainage. Put plants of various shapes, colors, sizes and textures together in the same container to complement and contrast.
• Size matters. Pay attention to the space you have to work with on your balcony, deck or room. Larger spaces allow for a nice mix of styles, shapes and sizes of pots and plants, while small spaces look better filled with different-sized containers made from the same material.
• Never overwater. According to Connelly, drainage is the most important – and most overlooked – aspect of container gardening. “Poor drainage kills more container plants than nearly any other cause,” he says. “And the frustrating part is that it's preventable.”
• Move it. A great thing about growing plants in pots is that containers can be moved with very little effort. Depending on your mood, you can reposition containers into thousands of different combinations. When you’re filling your containers, remember that different plants need different amounts of sunlight. Group plants by how much light they require, and it’ll be easier to care for them.
• Go vertical. Don’t discount the aesthetic value of adding hanging plants or wall-mounted planter boxes to your container garden. Or, if you're working on a flat surface, add some height and visual interest by using small specimen trees and columnar evergreens.
• Know your climate. Keep in mind that the container gardens on your balcony and deck are subject to the same temperatures as your traditional garden in the backyard. In hot climates, for instance, use lighter-colored containers to lessen heat absorption.
• Pay attention to the soil. The right soil combination is a critical element to ensure healthy plants. Add about an inch of peat moss and compost to the soil in your container garden. The combination of peat moss and compost loosens heavy soil and adds body to sandy soil while saving water by absorbing and releasing moisture.
• Vary with veggies. Flowers are great, but don’t be afraid to branch out by adding some vegetables and specimen plants to the mix. Cherry tomatoes, carrots, beets and herbs all generally do well in container gardens. For a fresh alternative to a traditional garden, dig in to the versatile, vibrant and often one-of-a-kind feel that container gardens can add to a home or backyard. (ARA).

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