Almost anything can be converted into a container garden. The key is to match the size and style of the container to the type of plant. Vines and trailing flowering plants need a container that allows them to flow from the container in a cascade of leaves and blossoms. Spiky stalks require tall, thin containers with wide, solid bases. Airy, feather-leaved plants look great in willow or reed baskets. Tipped containers work well with succulent arrangements.
You can plant a single gladiolus or amaryllis in an umbrella stand, once you drill a few drain holes in the bottom. If you add a 2- to 3-inch layer of river gravel in the bottom of the stand, it will prevent the soil around the bulb from compacting. Two or three stands grouped in a corner provides drama in a living room or entryway.
Old leather shoes can hold African violets, also known as Saintpaulia. Wooden shoes work well for geraniums or tulips. Rosie Lerner and Michael Dana of Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service confirm that African violets will grow in any well-drained container. The deep purples and powdery lilacs of the African violets make a dramatic contrast against weathered, wrinkled leather. Place a single flower in a lady's spike-heel pump or a man's wing tip filled with sphagnum peat moss and perlite, after drilling drainage holes through the sole.
Violet leaves do not respond well to cold water. Place the violet's container on top of a second container filled with gravel and water instead of spraying it directly on the leaves. You can also use a watering can with a long, narrow spout that fits underneath the leaves.
Like coffee pots, tea kettles work well for hanging plant arrangements. Use trailing petunia, fuchsia or English ivy in a cascade from the center opening and mint or chamomile from the spout. If you drive a shepherd's crook into the ground at least 1.5-feet deep, it will hold a full teakettle container garden. These look very nice when they flank a doorway or gate.
If you arrange seven teacups on a charger plate you can make a tabletop herb garden. You will need four herbs with different maximum heights, plus one trailing herb. Cynthia Barstow at Vegetarian Times suggests the classic combination--parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme--because they are used in so many dishes. Barstow also suggests combining ethnic herbs such as basil, oregano and cilantro.
Plant the tallest herb in the cups at the 11, 12 and 1-o'clock positions. The second-tallest herb goes in the center cup and at the 10 and 2-o'clock positions. Plant the third-tallest herb in the 9 and 3-o'clock positions, and the shortest herb at 4 and 7-o'clock. Plant a trailing herb, such as mint, at the 5, 6 and 8-o'clock positions.