Saturday, October 5, 2013

Container Gardening!!

Gateway drug to gardening... Containers! ANY body can do it, it's easy, economical, manageable, less risky... and really, we can do a lot with pots. Containers are great for renters (not permanent / easy to take with you), condo/apartment dwellers (with lack of soil), and/or people wanting to jazz up their porches, patios and balconies. They are also wonderful for: adding depth, height and interest to a landscape, working with and creating microclimates for frost tender plants and, for water wise gardens, allowing us to still have our favorite water loving plants- just in their own happy zone... really pots are simply awesome. And don't even get me started on all the fantastical styles, colors, materials, shapes and sizes they come in. So here are some sketchy illustrated and wordy pointers on container gardening.

Make it Pretty. For cozying up and bringing lushness to an outdoor space with too much hardscape and bare walls- well yeah, containers can do that. As the design rules go, groups of odd numbers are best (unless they are flanking an entry way or focal point, in which case 2 works)- 3 being the golden number for a cluster of pots, especially in a corner- I like to go with similar or same exact style/color pots in three varying sizes- though varying colors in the same material and color story can have a fun impact as well. For choosing plants in a pot I usually stick with three (or 5) and like to refer to a term I WISH I coined, but heard from a nurserywoman, who surely heard it somewhere else (ah yes, the derivation has yet to be tracked down)... anyway, rambling aside, it goes like this: The Thriller, The Spiller and The Chiller (See sketchy and 100% original ADh+d drawing, right). Your thriller- she is the star of the pot- the tree, the specimen, the tallest and brightest. Then your spiller- she's a cascader- for example, your ivy, bacopa, campanula, creeping jenny, or sedum. Finally you got your chiller. He's, well... chillin... anchoring the pot-scape together between the pendulum swings. Together, when done right, the three sing.  Succulents are especially great for this as they do well with part sun and won't hate you if you neglect watering- a good succulent triad as illustrated on the far left is aeonium, echeveria and a cascading succulent, such as a sedum. Go-to "thrillers" include Japanese Maples, Citruses, Abutilons, and Cordylines/Phormiums to name a few. And remember When choosing plants be sure to select contrasting and compatible colors and textures (not all the same shade of green).

Make it Edible. Edibles will grow in your container like a boss. Some invasive ones like mint, you may
even prefer to keep strictly in the pot. Some tried and trues: Herbs, Lettuces and Chards (great for part shade), Annual Veggies (I grow tomatoes in containers every year with excellent tasty results), Berries, Dwarf Fruit Trees and Citrus, and Perennial Veggies (many peppers, including serranos are a great "perennial veggie" for containers in the bay area).

Make it Both. So long as plants are grouped by like-requirements and they all get along and are respectful of one-another, there's no reason we can't mix and match the cutting flower with the herbs, the fruit tree with the spilling succulent. Try it out and if something doesn't work, try something else. Nothing is permanent in container gardening.... although happy plants can last a whole lot longer potted up than you may think. I have a client with lemon and lime trees which have been planted in the same pots for over 15 years and still continue to bear fruit prolifically throughout the year. Plus there are bonsai plants that are FAR older than you and I living their lives in containers. Fun Fact: The oldest living bonsai is a 5 needle pine residing in the Tokyo Imperial Palace collection and is approximately 550 years old!

AND Since a picture is worth a gazillion words AND Miss AndiPlants is Miss SuperBusy + TiredofTypingPants, I'll leave you with these few drawings AND these short words of encouragement to throw some soil and plants in your pots this fall. What have you got to loose (except maybe a few plants?)!

Cheers, and happy gardening!!

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