Creative Containers

I recently attended a lecture delivered by Jessica Walliser,
author of Container Savvy. During
her speech, Jessica shared valuable information about planting containers and
focused audience members on three things – container choice, potting mix and proper
plant selection. Jessica’s favorite containers are glazed ceramic and her
recommended potting mix is half organic compost and half organic potting mix.
In addition to the container and soil mix, Jessica informed us that plant selection
is a key factor for success. As many of us have heard before – right plant,
right place! As a former organic farmer, one of Jessica’s focus areas is on
planting containers with fruits and vegetables. She suggested seeking out
some dwarf varieties that are becoming more and more available. Can you imagine
picking lemons off your patio plant or grabbing a few cherry tomatoes on your
way to the compost pile?  Yum.
There are many containers to choose from!

While planting containers with fruits and vegetables is a great
use for them, especially when you have a small garden space, I know many of you
also look to containers to add color and interest to your landscape. Another expert
container gardener is Alyssa Shropshire, who works at Clearview Nursery. Alyssa
has been designing containers since she was 16 years old and has won multiple
awards. She has even designed containers for business owners and celebrities –
that’s some serious ‘street cred’.

Like Jessica, Alyssa had some great tips for making containers
special. She suggested using some of the Proven Winners plants which are
categorized as ‘thrillers,’ ‘spillers’ and ‘fillers’.  Alyssa said when she is designing a
container, she strives to have the overall plant material be as tall as the
container itself. In some cases she looks for plants that have a color scheme
that complements the container; in other cases she focuses on contrasting plant
material or on seasonal accents.  Alyssa
strives for a jam packed container and often combines annuals, perennials and
woody plants.

When asked for some recommendations for plant selections,
Alyssa shared the following:

·        For shade – favorites include Hybrid Helleborus
(Hellebores), Heuchera (Coral Bells), Cyrtomium falcatum (Holly Fern), Dryopteris
erythrosora (Autumn Fern) and Begonia grandis (Hardy Begonia). 

·        For sun – Pennisetum (Fountain Grass), Dracaena,
Bougainvillea, Hibiscus, Lantana, Verbena, Sedum and Cordyline are good

·        Evergreens like Carex, Lonciera or small hollies
or conifers add structural and all season interest. 

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, here are some
photos of Alyssa’s containers. I’m sure you will agree with me that she has an
amazing talent.
Euphorbia, Lonicera, Juniper and Ornamental cabbage were used in this container and show how
perennials, evergreens and annuals can be successfully combined.
Alyssa used upright conifers in these containers
to ensure the height of the plant material matched that of the container itself.

This part shade container utilizes Carex, Heuchera and some
annuals for a stunning display.
A gorgeous grouping of sun-loving annuals makes you wish
summer was here now!
A great fall display uses perennials and annuals for texture
and color.

Ornamental cabbage, greens, plumes from grasses and Ilex verticillata
(winterberry holly) berries greet guests during the holiday season.

I hope this post has convinced you to use containers for accents and focal points. Maybe
it’s a pop of color you need in the garden, an empty spot you need to fill or
just a little something that says ‘welcome’ by the front door. However you use them, I’m confident you can
enhance your landscape with one or many containers. So fill ‘em up, experiment with different
plants and enjoy!

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