The first step is to find a good container. There are lots of commercially available pots and boxes that will work well. For something a little different look for old pails, boxes, buckets...anything that will hold enough soil and provide adequate drainage will work. What the container is made of is not important. What is important is drainage. If there are no holes on the bottom of your container be sure to punch or drill several 1/2" holes to allow water to run out.
Next you will need potting soil. Be sure to choose a light, well drained potting mix. There are many brands available. We recommend Fafard Container Mix. We use it in all our containers and have had great success with it. Stay away from bargain brands as they tend to be heavy and drain poorly.
It is a good idea to place some small stones at the bottom of your container. If you have an old terra cotta pot you can break it up into small pieces and use these at the bottom of your container. Once you have added about an inch of stone or terra cotta chips to your container, fill it with potting mix to about 3" below the rim. Do not pack or compress the potting mix. Now is a good time to add fertilizer. We reccomend using a time release fertilizer such as Osmocote. Even if you use Miracle-Gro or another liquid fertilizer you should still add some time release fertilizer. Add about 1 rounded tablespoon of Osmocote for every square foot of surface area. For a 12" pot that would equal 1 rounded tablespoon. Simply mix the fertilizer into the top 2-3" of your potting mix.
Now comes the fun part: creating your design. The first consideration must be the conditions where the container is to be placed. Is it exposed to full sun or is it a shady spot? Is it exposed to alot of wind or maybe will not be watered regularly? All these considerations will govern your choice of plants. We can help you choose plants based upon your conditions. Most of our plants also have labels desribing what conditions they like. Often these tags will recommend companion plants and colors. As you experiment you will come to learn what plants work best for you.
Today there are thousands of varieties of plants available to us. Only a few years back we were limited to seed grown petunias, marigolds, impatiens, geraniums and of course vinca vine. While these plants still have their place in the garden we have a much greater palette to work with. Every year see new species of flowering and foliage plants introduced to the market. Most of these plants are a great improvement on the old seed grown varieties. The beauty of this is that no matter what conditions we are planting for or what look we are trying to achieve... there are always plants that will fit the bill.
Once you have identified what plants will work for your container it is time to get creative. Don't be afraid to try new plants or new combinations of plants...there are no hard and fast rules. The best way to learn what works is by experimenting. Over time we come to see how our plants grow and interact with one another. Gardening is a continual learning process. I know that every container I create inspires me to try something different on the next one!
For a general guide try the THRILLER, FILLER and SPILLER method. Simply put this means that your container needs to have three major components. Firstly, the 'thriller' will be a plant or plants that will make the major impact. It will usually add height and an architectural element to your container. Traditionally plants such as dracaena spikes, geraniums, marguerite daisys or annual salvias have seved as 'thriller' plants. These plants can still be used but consider trying other deserving plants. Fountain grasses or ornamental millet work well. Many perennial plants such as sedums or penstemon can be used. Consider using foliage plants such as coleus or artichoke. There are no rules!
Next you will want to to choose some 'filler' plants. These will be flowering and/or foliage plants that will fill out the body of your container. Choose complimentary colors.. pastels or bold colors. Choose plants that will grow at similar rates so one plant does not overrun another.
For 'spiller' plants choose trailing varieties. You want these plants to spill and cascade over the side of your container. There are lots of flowering and foliage plants available. For folige try ivies, licorice plant or some of the new vinca vine varieties that are available. Some flowering choices are bacopa, trailing verbena, trailing calibrachoa or scaevola.
These three elements will create a basic framework for your container. The rest is up to you. Again... don't be afraid to try new plants and combinations. Try plants with bold and colorful foliage. Use untraditional plants such as spider plants and succulents. Herbs often work well in containers also. The most important thing is to HAVE FUN!!!!
Your finished container is not static. It will grow and change everyday. Some maintenance will be necessary. Picking off spent blooms as often is possible will encourage more flowers and bushier plants. Occasionally trim back more vigorous plants to prevent the container from becoming too lanky. Sometimes the best thing is to shear back the whole container. After a week or two of recovery time it will look better than ever! Water regularly but do not keep the soil overly wet especiall before the plants have become established in the pot. Some liquid fertilizer every 1 or 2 weeks will help keep your plants growing vigorously.
ENJOY!!!! Please feel free to contact us for help or to answer any questions you may have.
CONTAINERS! Click on a thumbnail image to get the recipe for a fabulous combination planter!