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by Naomi Mathews (Lanao2@aol.com)
(Copyright March, 1999 by Naomi Mathews)
Celebrate the arrival of spring with bright, colorful flowers cascading over the edges of your favorite container. With so many different styles, shapes, colors, and sizes of containers available, and a boundless variety of flowering plants to choose from, the sky is the limit!
Container gardening offers a wonderful opportunity to allow your creative imagination to run wild. You become the artist, while your containers serve as the canvases on which to paint your pictures.
As with all types of gardening, there are some basic guidelines to follow when planting in containers. Following a few simple precepts will make a vast difference in the results of your container gardening efforts. Container plants are somewhat more demanding because they are more dependent on the gardener for their needs. Fortunately, their needs are quite simple: appropriate soil, proper light, sufficient water, shelter from extreme heat or cold, and pest control if needed.
Selecting your containers
Before selecting containers, consider where you will be placing them. If you want a dazzling windowbox to present you with a cheerful bouquet from your breakfast nook window, choose either a
wooden or plastic rectangular windowbox. Keep in mind that windowboxes will need to be attached to your house or sit on a window sill.
Do you have a patio, a deck, or an area around your swimming pool that you want to blossom with color? If so, planting a variety of your favorite flowers in containers of mixed styles, materials, shapes, heights, or colors presents a great opportunity to express your creativity. Such container gardens make vibrant displays either in a patio corner, against a drab bare wall, or perhaps on either side of an outside stairway.
Examples of containers you can mix or match include wooden wine barrels, clay pots of various sizes and shapes, glazed ceramic pots, plastic pots, galvanized tubs or buckets, or wire pots. Don't forget the possibility of using some clay strawberry jars as blooming show stoppers! Do you have a penchant for hanging baskets? There are many styles, shapes, and sizes to choose from and the choices are entirely up to you. Remember, you're the artist!
Attributes of suitable plant containers
Containers should be large enough to give plants plenty of root space for healthy growth. Windowboxes should be at least 9-10 inches deep and 9-10 inches wide. Let the width of your windows gauge the width of the windowboxes you select. The sizes or shapes of other containers are best chosen by the variety or size of plants you want to grow in them.
This 32-page booklet is part of Storey Publishing's Country Wisdom series. In this informative booklet you'll learn:
- How to select containers
- How to choose a good potting mix or make your own.
- How to plant and care for your container gardens.
- How to create beautiful hanging baskets and windowboxes.
- Which plants are best for containers.
- And more!
All containers should have sufficient drainage holes in the bottom. It is a good idea to place a layer of pebbles or gravel, Styrofoam peanuts, or perhaps broken pieces of clay pots in containers lacking holes. Drain holes prevent overwatering and help provide air circulation necessary for healthy plant growth. Be sure to thoroughly clean any containers that were used for previous plants, as this prevents diseases from attacking your new plants.
Selecting soil for your containers
It is recommended that you use commercially prepared potting soil in garden containers. Potting soil is always sterilized as opposed to your garden soil. Soil from your garden contains bacteria, noxious seeds, and possibly other harmful organisms that may infect your newly potted plants.
Potting soil contains rich organic material such as peat and various composted barks. It also contains vermiculite, which helps the soil drain, yet keeps it moist. Potting soil is relatively inexpensive considering all the benefits your plants will derive from it.
All potting soil should be thoroughly moistened prior to filling your containers. It is best to soak the soil overnight before planting tender seedlings, as they need moisture to prevent them from becoming stressed following transplanting. Adding a reliable brand of granular fertilizer when planting will give your seedlings a great start.
Next comes the fun part! It's planting time! Or is it?
By this time you have decided where you want your containers to be situated. You've also selected how many you'll need, and the styles and sizes that will suit your needs -- or, your fancy! You've dashed out to your local garden center and purchased several bags of potting soil to fill your new containers. Finally -- you're all ready to plant!
Did I hear you say you haven't decided which flowers to plant where? You're not sure who goes with what? Should you plant pansies with petunias? Or perhaps marigolds with mums? Or will it be daisies with dahlias and dianthus?
True, there are so many plants to choose from it could boggle your mind! This can be a bit daunting if you're a first-time container gardener. What you need next, then, is a plan. Here again, just remember. YOU are the artist. YOU get to plant in your containers what YOU wish to see, smell, touch, or maybe even eat!
For starters, consider the growing patterns of various plants. Some plants are "trailers," others are "fillers," while still others are "uprights." Some have large blooms, others sport medium sized blossoms, while still other varieties produce showy clusters of flowers that will droop prettily over the side of your container. Then there are those with tall stalks, medium sized stalks, and those that have no stalks at all, but grow in compact clumps. Some have blossoms of yellow, pink, red, purple, orange, blue, white, variegated colors, and the list goes on!
Definitely confusing, right? Not so! Drawing up a planting plan will help resolve your confusion.
Tips on creating a dazzling spring windowbox
To show off all the plants in your windowbox, select plants of different heights. Next, select flowers with blossom colors that compliment each other. Doing this will give your container a more pleasing eye appeal. Now, consider the foliage color, size, and texture of the plants you select.
Sometimes adding plants with striking foliage and NO flowers will make an outstanding addition to a windowbox. Then there's the issue of symmetry, or balance. Do you want a super formal look, or more of an informal cottage garden look? Just remember, you're the artist painting this flowering canvas to suit YOU!
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