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 choices. 

·        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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