Finally, you can say goodbye to winter and its chilly dreariness and think about the really important stuff like, “How am I going to decorate my front porch?” Or, “Where can I put that beautiful palm I saw at the nursery?” Or, “Where can I find several pots to use on the deck?” Or even, “I want to find a group of pots I’d like to display, but I don’t want them all to match. I would love them to be conversation pieces!”
Gardening doesn’t have to involve acreage and a staff. You can highlight any corner, refresh any entryway, use almost any plant material you like and bring it all together any way you like. How do you do this? Use containers!
First, let’s discuss a few rules for use of outdoor pots:
1) Select pots suitable for the area. If they’re to be outside in the elements, make sure they can withstand the weather. Check for drainage and, if using in full sun, pair the pot with a saucer to retain moisture.
2) Make decisions about containers based on color, texture, size, and design. But not necessarily in that order. You can mix or match a pot collection, so don’t limit yourself. A traditional house doesn’t require traditional containers, nor does a contemporary house need square pots, with little or no ornamentation. Think about proportion, and use the largest pots at the top of the stairs, and smaller sizes below, or grouped around. Don’t be afraid to move pots around once you have them planted, so you can get the feel and appearance you want.
3) If you seek a row, or line of pots, try to make them all the same size and design. This kind of uniformity will make your space appear larger, and/or more formal. Likewise, if you seek a pair of pots, say to flank a door, you’ll probably want them to match. But that rule isn’t written in stone. Or terra cotta. Two different designs, but of roughly the same size, can complement each other as well.
4) Don’t limit container use to areas solely attached to your house. Pots can add a bit of distinction to any garden when raised on a stand, nestled in with existing landscape, or placed on top of existing walls. If you’ll think of formal European gardens you’ve seen, many have potted plants mixed in with ground plantings.
That’s pretty much all the design ideas you’ll need to contemplate for containers. Now comes the next step: selecting suitable plant material. Think about sun or shade and watering requirements. Larger plants tend to have larger root balls, so use large containers for the big ones.
You can pot one plant per container, or you can mix several, all depending on size. Gardeners selecting multiple plants for one container call this decision “The Big Three:” Thriller, Filler, and Spiller. Thriller is the larger plant used as a focal point. Filler is the plant that will grow uniformly in the pot and is roughly less than half the height of the big plant. And Spiller is usually a bloomer that cascades over the sides of the container.
It really is this easy. Nurture your design sense, and go shopping for containers that fit your moods and space. This time of year, pots are stacked for sale all over. And nurseries have been waiting for you all winter, just stuffed with plant material suitable for any environment. And you really can start the process. All plants, no matter where they were grown, are ready to go outside once the nighttime temperature doesn’t go below 45 degrees. Container gardening is just another way of bringing your personality into your landscape.
Live Life to the Fullest,
Chris Olsen is a nationally known home and garden guru, designer, author, TV personality and public speaker. In his book, Chris shares his landscape and gardening knowledge along with his unique flair for home decor and design.He is also a member of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers. Learn more about Chris and all of his work at chrisholsen.com.