|Plants in containers spruce up my side entryway in 2012|
|Part of my container plant staging area|
Despite my shortcomings with house plants, I do manage to winter over a few things under lights, in a sunny window or dormant in the basement. Success in this department always brings me great joy. Not only do I save a bit of cash, I'm rewarded with a sense of accomplishment and two year old plants that make nice specimens.
|A few of my overwintering successes-Brugmansia, Colocasia, Breynia, Geraniums, Abutilon (not the basil)|
Before any planting can happen, the containers that don't get left outside all year need to be moved out of winter storage from my garage and shed. Since many of them are too large for me to handle alone, I modified the strap on an appliance dolly. No more crushed fingers and sore backs-at least not from moving containers.
Once the pots are in place, they need to be cleaned out. Contrary to what you may have read, potting soil can be reused. I remove all the prior year debris, loosen up what's left with a three pronged digger then sift through with my fingers. Then I add new potting mix as necessary.
In over ten years of fairly extensive container gardening I've never experienced any problems with disease or pests when reusing soil in my containers. As it is, I go though 10-15 cubic feet of potting soil every season. Even though I fill the bottom quarter or third of all my large pots with crushed plastic water bottles, replacing all the soil every year would make what is already an expensive endeavor even more so.
Next comes the fun part-design. After the pots are in place I look at the orientation. My garden runs from south to north so for the most part, I have to site taller plants towards the north side of the pot unless I am trying to deliberately create some shade. Sometimes decisions need to be made. For instance, in this pot I plan to use Pennisetum 'Vertigo' as the focal point. 'Vertigo' will get quite tall and will shade out companion plants depending on how I orient it in the pot.
In a situation like this where the primary view can be from a number of locations, I have to decide which one to choose. From this angle where I'm viewing from northeast to southwest the grass would need to be on the southwest side and companion plants will have to be of a variety that does well in part shade.
From this angle, the view would be from south to north so the grass would be fine where it's planted now. But in order to effectively see the lower companions, I would have to make sure only low growers are planted in the garden around it.
By now even Nick is thinking I should just plant it already Agonizing over where and what to plant- it's what I do.
When choosing plant combinations for my container designs, I more or less follow the "thrillers, fillers and spillers" design concept as outlined in the article by Steve Silk for Fine Gardening magazine a number of years ago. Once the pots are in place and I've agonized sufficiently over orientation, it's time to choose the "thrillers".
For the most part I create all new combinations every year but in a few pots like this container in front of my breakfast room window, although the companion plants change, I always use a Colocasia 'Illustris' for a thriller.
By the time I realized I rotted my overwintered Ensete ventricosum 'Maurelii' last year I was unable to find another one. Until recently I wasn't having any luck this year either. Then on Sunday I took a ride to Walker Farm and scored this nice size plant.
Ensetes are relatively easy to overwinter dormant in a cool, dark corner of your basement. Usually I can get away with it for at least one winter before the plant becomes too large for me to wrestle indoors.
Before actually planting anything, I stage the plants and continue to sub various choices in and out until I find combination that pleases me. In general I use one third flowering plants to two thirds foliage. Occasionally I leave the plants staged for a day or two before making the final decision so I don't miss any opportunities to agonize over anything. Just for the record, I did end up planting this exactly as seen here.
Last year I was not happy at all with the way this pot turned out. I planted it towards the end when I didn't have much left in the way of plants and it never came together. Since it's the largest container on the patio, I'm not going to make that mistake again. A large Acalpha I found at Howard's is the inspiration and makes a fine thriller. Although it's still staged, I may permanently place the plants tonight.
Over the next week or so I hope to be able to get most of the containers designed and planted. I've yet to haunt two of my favorite nurseries for unusual annuals, The Farmer's Daughter in South Kingstown, RI and Oliver's Nursery in Fairfield, CT. Farmer's Daughter is on the calendar for this coming weekend. Since that also means lunch at Matunuck Oyster Bar I am beyond ecstatic.
So tell me, do you use containers in your garden? What are some of your favorite plants to grow in them?