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Saturday, May 19, 2012

A Canvas of Color with Container Planting

There is just something about wandering around a nursery this time of year when it is finally safe to plant shop till you drop!

Resist the temptation to just grab whatever catches your fancy. Have in mind what you want or make a list before you make the trip. Have an idea where you'll be putting these plants. Will they be in full sun or partial shade? Will they be in containers, bedding plants, window boxes?

Pictured here are ideas for container plantings. When you plan container or window box plantings, keep in mind three things: thrillers, fillers, and spillers.

 You can get creative with the arrangement utilizing various containers for your plants. Keep an eye out at farm sales or flea markets for old galvanized pots and wash tubs. I save those flexible black nursery pots that young trees come in to use inside the larger tubs. You can just fill the tub itself with potting soil and plant directly in them but realize how heavy those tubs will be to move around. Also, come the end of the season it is so much easier to just lift the smaller pots out then to try to empty the tub to store for the winter. To leave the dirt in the tub encourages the bottom to rust and eventually break through. As the plants grow and fill in the plastic pots will be hidden from view.



The plants shown in these two pictures like sun to partial shade.

This old wash tub contains four types of heat tolerant annuals requiring full sun. I used one spike and two each of the other three types.

In the center is the accent plant, Dracaena spike, a tall, upright growing, grassy annual.

Around them are Calibrachea, trailing 1 inch petunias that bloom profusely until they slowly peter out by late summer. They come in a choice of colors ranging from yellow, peach, pink and purple.

Trailing Verbena, a trailing perennial often planted as an annual can grow to 12 inches tall and 2 feet wide. The leaves are medium to dark green, ovate in shape with coarse toothed margins and grow to one inch long and half as wide. Beautiful plant as it spills over the edges of its pot, basket or over rocks. Colors options are in the red, pink and purple range.

Diamond Frost Euphorbia is a light airy plant with little white flowers great to use to fill in the gaps. Tiny, delicate leaves and flowers adorn this 12 to 18 in. plant which looks a bit like Baby's Breath.


 In addition to the Calibrachea, Verbena and Euphorbia, this arrangement includes Sweet Potato Vine, Nemesia, Lantana, Lobelia, Bidens and Nicotiana.

Lantana can tolerate neglect. If put right into the ground this butterfly, bird and hummingbird attraction will grow into shrub like proportions. In a pot you'll have to pinch and prune to keep it shapely.

Nemesia prefers a cooler climate, so once the heat of summer kicks in, blooming will decrease. Chop them back by one-third and they will bounce back. Available in a wide array of colors, they are red in the picture.

Actually a tender perennial, Lobelia looks beautiful for a while then will peter out by midsummer. You can cut it back by half and it will rebound, or you can just let the neighboring plants fill in the gaps as they grow. Lobelia prefers more shade if grown in very hot and sunny climates such as the South. Color shades range from blue to purple to pink and white. Pictured here it is blue.

Bidens is a trailing yellow flowered plant that is both heat and drought resistant. Looks great with many container plantings. Deadheading will encourage continuous bloom. In mild climates Bidens easily reseeds itself.

Sweet Potato Vine is grown for its trailing green or magenta foilage, both of which blend beautifully with other plants for container planting. These ornamental types will not produce actual sweet potatoes.

Nicotiana, or Tobacco flower, are wonderful night bloomers to attract Sphinx moths. Shown here is the smaller type not known for its scent. If you want the type with the large white tubal flowers that emit a wonderful sweet fragrance in the evening, plant N. sylvestris directly in the soil, as these are much bigger plants.


















This assortment consists of aromatic cooking herbs. Great combination to have near the kitchen door. Herbs are heat and drought tolerant, requiring sun and well drained soil.

Garden oregano does best in the ground due to its size so for this arrangement I used Greek Oregano. A much smaller plant, this oregano smells as you'd expect and is perfect for snipping as needed.

There are several choices of basil. Typical Garden Basil also does best in the ground. Here we have Thai Basil which has smaller leaves, with purple stems and flowers.

Purple Sage looks great with the Thai Basil as it has a purple tinge to the leaves.

There is a difference between Marjoram and Oregano. Though similar, marjoram is actually a member of the mint family. It is considered a meat herb, complimenting many types of dishes. Marjoram is a bit sweeter than oregano.

Lemon Thyme is a favorite for those who love to add these sprigs to fish or just enjoy the citrus aroma of the leaves. There a many types of Thymes in which to choose.


Lemon Verbena is a wonderful plant for snipping the leaves to add to teas, cooking and making toiletries. For those who love lemon this plant is a favorite to just have around. It will grow into a 2 - 3 foot shrub unless pruned throughout the season.

Rosemary is a favorite woody perennial that can overwinter in cold climates if the potted plant is brought indoors. Known as the plant of remembrance these aromatic needles are loved in cooking, soapmaking as well as medicinal and cosmetic herbal treatments.

Last there is Parsley which is always handy to have nearby for cooking as well as a quick breath freshener.


Potted herbs need to be trimmed regularly or the plants get leggy and woody. Trimming helps them get bushier which is more attractive as a grouping.

For shady spots needing a splash of color, think Colelus. These attractive plants are grown for their beautiful foliage. Coleus or Painted Nettle, offer a variety of leaf shapes from smooth to deeply cut, and color from green to purple to red to white, from solid to splotched Coleus will survive in the sun but the color of the leaves is most enhanced in the shade. Small flower spikes appear in late summer. Pinch off these blooms and growing shoots of young plants to encourage bushier plants.

The center spike plants add a bit of height and are available in green or magenta. The magenta type is called Cordyline Australis and it blends very well with the other plants, though doesn't get as tall as the green type.

The trailer for this pot is known as Ipomoea or Sweet Potato Vine. Deeply veined dark magenta leaves drape over the edge.


Finally we have the old standby for easy color, Impatiens. These plants will let you know when they need water, but then quickly bounce right back. Impatiens bloom the entire season right up to frost, which turns them to mush, requiring little effort in fall clean-up.