Expert container designers Barbara Wise, Todd Holloway offer help for âI Can Do It!â pots
American News, (PR) April 05, 2012
Many people walk into a garden center with glorious plans for a container garden, only to be completely overwhelmed by rows and rows of plants. So they buy a bunch of varieties they like and cram them in a pot, and are often discouraged when those selections die, grow out of proportion or end up sporting colors that just dont work.
Thats why Tesselaar Plants, in its goal of Making Gardening Easy, offers these 10 tips and plant-by-number recipes from container design pros Barbara Wise and Todd Holloway.
Sometimes we need easy and thats container gardening, says Wise, author of the new book Container Gardening For All Seasons (Cool Springs Press, $ 21.99).
With the use of these basics, you’ll gain the ability to create your own dazzling container designs that last the entire season, says Holloway, owner of Pot Incorporated, an award-winning container and landscaping company in Vancouver, British Columbia.
1. âECHOâ COLORS
âI like to echo colors,â says Wise. This means looking for hues in one plant that can be reflected in another plant used in the same container. For example, she likes pairing Strobilanthes âPersian Shieldâ with Torenia âGolden Moonâ because the purple throat of the
torenia echoes the purple of the strobilanthes.
2. CONTRAST TEXTURES
Wise and Holloway both recommend mixing different textures. Fine or delicate foliage contrasts nicely with straight, narrow stalks and broad tropical leaves. Similarly, long, skinny, linear leaves or strappy, arch-type forms look great when paired with full, rounded or oval shapes. âI focus on the foliage contrast with one or two complementary flower varieties,â says Holloway.
3. CHOOSE PROVEN, EASY-CARE PLANTS
Especially if your pots canât be placed close to your water source and youâre limited on time, says Wise, try to choose plants that arenât as needy. Succulents, of course, require little care, but the same can be said for showy, tropical plants like mandevilla, cannas like Tropicanna and cordylines like Festival Burgundyâ˘. Even roses can be used in containers, says Wise, if theyâre disease-resistant and drought- and heat-tolerant: âFlower CarpetÂŽ roses, for instance, look fabulous trailing over the sides of containers.â
4. DONâT FORGET THE POT!
Some plants, like Tropicanna cannas, will grow up to six feet high by the end of the season and enlarge their root size so much, they break through the pot. So Wise recommends making sure all the plants you plan to put in one pot will remain in scale and that your pot size is one-half to one-third the size of the tallest plant when mature.
In fact, if Holloway had to recommend just one tip for successful containers, it would be to make sure the pot is large enough. âIt must have enough volume to accommodate the roots of the plantsâ ultimate size,â he explains. At minimum, it must have at least half the volume of the size of the mature plants.
âYour planter must be large enough to accommodate the plants throughout their life in the container,â he explains. âAt the very least, your container’s volume should be roughly a third to a half the size of the eventual volume of the mature plants. If your mature plants are expected to grow to 3 feet tall by 3 feet wide, your planter should be no smaller than 1 to 1.5 feet tall by 1 to 1.5 feet wide.â
The look of the pot â its style, material, color and texture â is just as important an element in container design as the plants themselves, adds Holloway.
5. THINK âTHRILLER-SPILLER-FILLERâ
This tried-and-true design trick is a great way to make sure your container gardens have the right scale, proportions and mix of shapes and textures. âFor your âthriller,â try a tall or upright focal point plant such as canna or cordyline,â suggests Wise. âFor your filler, youâll want a plant thatâs bushy or fuller â like a daylily or caladium.â The âspiller,â she explains, is any plant that will trail or cascade over the edge of the pot, like petunias or lysimachia (creeping Jenny). âRemember to mix in fine foliage with your big leaves and to add a little repetition or echo of color among the plants. This makes for a more cohesive, unified piece.â
6. SAME NEEDS, SAME POT
âKnow the difference between full sun, partial shade and full shade,and choose plants with like cultural requirements in one pot,â says Holloway. Or, as Wise, likes to put it: âKnow who your plantsâ friends are.â This not only ensures healthy plants, but cuts way down on your maintenance routine.âKeeping light exposure in mind while considering plants is extremely important,â says Holloway. âKnowing whether your plants do best in full sun, part sun, part shade or full shade is a good starting point once you’ve determined the location of where your planter will live. Always make sure all the plants in the pot are tolerant of the light conditions of your location.â
7. CONTAINER CARE 101
Plants in containers have different needs than those in the landscape. Here, Wise and Holloway provide a few basics:
- Â Â Â Â Plant spacing/placement. Even though Holloway likes cramming in lots of plants, he still encourages planting them a few inches apart to give roots a chance to spread and establish quickly. After filling the container with soil up to a few inches from the top of the pot, he recommends starting your design with large plants and adding smaller ones as you move to the edges of the pot. âFill with soil as you go, making sure the tops of the roots arenât covered with more than a half-inch of soil.â
- Â Â Â Â Moisture. Because thereâs less soil in containers, they tend to dry out quicker than their counterparts in the ground. So Holloway recommends keeping an eye on when your plants need a drink, especially later in the season, when theyâve grown and gotten bigger. âAllowing your planter to fully dry out one or more times causes considerable stress on the plants, often preventing them from fully recovering or reaching their full potential.â Holloway recommends watering with your sprayer on a gentle shower setting. âYou can stop
watering when water flows freely out of the bottom of the pot.â Wise suggests keeping
pots as close as possible to your water source, to cut down on the water hauling. She also
recommends using a potting soil made for containers instead of soil dug up from the ground: âThe lighter components of potting soil provide more aeration for roots.â Checking for moisture is easy, she says: âJust stick your finger into the soil, up to your first finger joint â if it feels dry, then water.â On the other hand, you donât want roots to rot, so make sure thereâs a hole at the bottom of the pot for good drainage.
- Â Â Â Â Feeding. For easier feeding, Holloway and Wise recommend a slow-release, granular fertilizer. âIt doesn’t hurt to apply some liquid fertilizer occasionally as the plants grow larger,â notes Holloway, âespecially in tightly planted containers, where fertilizer is in high demand.â
- Â Â Â Â Keep âem in shape. Holloway and Wise recommend keeping plants under control â bushier and with more blooms â by pinching, pruning and deadheading throughout the season.
8. THINK OF THE BIGGER PICTURE
âThe container and the plants must always complement their location,â says Holloway. In her book, Wise even devotes a whole chapter to the concept of âcontainer-scaping,â or using container gardens year âround as landscaping supplements, garden focal points or dĂŠcor accents in your âoutdoor room.â You can also treat your containers as constantly evolving props, says Wise, moving them to perhaps cover a hole in the landscape or changing out spent plants as new seasons arrive. âYou can create a lush container-scape, maybe even a paved paradise, when you fill it with potted plants,â she says. âThe options are endless.â
9. ADD SOME ARCHITECTURE
Just as a landscape needs good garden âbonesâ to give it three-dimensional interest and character, containers can always use a beginning structure or skeleton. So give it to them, says Wise, with manmade materials, trees and shrubs or architectural plants like agapanthus, cordylines, phormiums or succulents. âA pyramidal trellis in the center of the container, for instance, adds height and can showcase stunning annual vines like mandevilla and passion flower.â
A topiary hibiscus is also striking, she adds, especially with a thick grouping of daylilies below. âAnd I love shrub roses in containers underplanted with Purple Queen setcresia and lantana.â
10. CHECK OUT THESE RESOURCES
Youâll find more container gardening inspiration from Wise when her book, Container Gardening For All Seasons, hits bookshelves in April 2012. This at-a-glance recipe book of sorts offers 101 full-color photos of container garden designs for all seasons, climates and personal tastes. Each recipe comes with a shopping list, a coded âplant-a-gramâ (showing which plants go where) and a listing of sun preference, pot size and difficulty level. Wise also offers plenty of ideas on her blog,B Wise Gardening.
You can also find stunning container designs on Hollowayâs Pot IncorporatedÂ website, particularly on the home pageâs slideshow or âGallery.â Pot IncorporatedâsÂ FacebookÂ page is routinely updated with inspirational material as well.