Friday, May 10, 2013
Flower Power: The Art of Container Gardening
Container gardening continues to grow in popularity. Maybe it is because with just a few plants you can transform a small deck or patio into an attractive garden. Or perhaps it is the flexibility and mobility of the containers. You can move them to suit the season or your mood or to brighten up a corner that needs a “little something extra.”
Plants need room to grow so choose a container that will accommodate the plant’s root system and allow it to grow to its full potential. Unglazed terra cotta pots dry out more quickly than glazed ceramic pots or plastic containers. No matter which type of pot you use, be sure there are ample unblocked drainage holes for water to escape through.
The Dirt on Dirt
Vermiculite, perlite and sand keep soils light and well drained. Peat helps soil retain water. Use a blend that provides the right combination of drainage and water retention for healthy growth. You can use soil from your garden; however, if it is too dense your plants will not thrive. You may also have to battle weeds. We recommend bagged soil or a soiless mix designed especially for containers. It is also a good idea to change the soil each year to avoid disease and allow your plants the best opportunity to flourish. Some mixes contain water retaining soil additives that will soak up water then release it slowly back into the soil. This is a great idea if you are busy and are worried about missing a watering. Be sure to leave about two inches of room at the top of the pot when planting to hold water. Without that extra space, water will run off the soil before penetrating to the plant’s roots.
Choose plants with similar growing needs. For example group varieties that prefer full sun together. For best results start with quality plants. With our short growing season there is no time to nurse low-grade plants back to health. Saskatchewan greenhouse growers take a lot of care in growing plants that thrive in our climate. They are also knowledgeable and a great source of information when choosing what to grow and where.
Does the plant really need water? A lack of water is not the only reason your container plant’s leaves may wilt in the summer. Always test the soil. Stick your finger down two to three inches to check for dampness before watering. If dry, water the plant until water runs out the bottom of the container. If your soil seems adequately damp but your container plants still seem stressed, try moving them to a cooler location. If your container has dried out completely and the water runs down the inside edges of the pot instead of soaking in, submerse the container into a water-filled sink or large bucket and let the soil soak until rehydrated.
Flowers flourish when fertilized. New varieties in particular depend on plant food to thrive. If you have trouble remembering to fertilize use a well-balanced slow release fertilizer that is released every time you water. What is the best plant food? To encourage lush foliage growth and lots of blooms choose a fertilizer with a slightly higher percentage of nitrogen in the mix. Ask your garden centre staff what they recommend!
Colour Me Beautiful
Thinking of location will also help you decide on what colour combinations would be spectacular in your garden. Perhaps you want to match the colour of your home, complement a garden feature or present a particular style. For an arrangement that has a simple elegant style choose flowers or foliage that are similar in colour. For a more dramatic effect choose complementary colours such as orange and purple, or yellow and blue.
Location, Location, Location
The first step in creating your container garden is to decide where you will be placing the arrangement. Is it in full sun or shade? Is there easy access to water? Is it a windy location? Answering these questions will help you focus on the best plants to choose for the location. For example, you would not want to place full sun plants in the shade or a flower with a delicate petal in a windy spot.
Peter’s Plant Picks
These are highly under-rated plants that make great hanging baskets in Saskatchewan. Not only are they showy but they are also tough enough to stand a windy day and if you miss watering them they are more forgiving than a basket of petunias.
Everything old is new again. Growing up, I remember pots of coleus in my Mom’s house. Now they are all the rage in foliage containers. Every season there are more and more varieties of these jazzy plants. Coleus is probably one of the hottest plants this season.
These varieties, sometimes called potato vine, are popular in all foliage arrangements. Last year, we combined the light green, purple and bronze in hanging baskets. They sold out immediately!
These flowers have very interesting foliage and are great combined with petunias. Not only do they support the petunias but look great doing it!
Again an under-rated flower that is hardy and will survive right through to fall. These straw type flowers also make great dried flower arrangements.
The yellow variety sometimes called butterfly is a hardy daisy type flower that adds a cheerful touch to any pot.
By Peter and Dorothy Sandercock
First Printed in Growing Saskatchewan | Spring 2005
Click Here to Download a PDF of the article complete with pictures from Proven Winners.