Containers are a hot commodity when it comes to creative gardening. No doubt that’s because they’re so versatile. Containers can hold a single accent plant, armloads of colorful flowers, edible fruits and veggies – whatever you want. They can augment your landscape design, or they can be your landscape design if all you have to work with is a balcony or deck.
Anything can be a container – or a container-holder
Go to any garden center and you will find containers in every size, shape, and color imaginable. We call them “pots,” but they’re not all pottery. Containers can be any material that suits your fancy. The only rule is that they have a few holes in the bottom to drain excess moisture.
That means you DIY’ers can go wild. Make window boxes, or raised beds. Construct a bench with built-in containers at each end. Plant a small, low-growing container to use as centerpieces on your outdoor dining table. Plant in tool boxes or trash cans. Or the basket on your daughter’s old bike. Use any found object you can find, by scouring your garage, garage sales, flea markets, and thrift shops.
Oh, wait. There’s another universal rule to keep in mind. It’s easy to see containers themselves as works of art (and some truly are that), but beware here. Containers should complement, not compete with, the plants they hold.
If your container is a must-have but overly deep, put some empty pop cans or water bottles in the bottom. That way, you won’t waste a bunch of expensive potting soil, and your pot won’t weigh 2 tons, either.
Right plant, fun place
Vertical gardens are all the rage right now, and they are a creative gardener’s dream-come-true. Use, well, anything, to create wall-mounted or tiered vertical containers. Plant some small annuals or herbs in a fabric show organizer. Line up a series of containers with short trellises to create a screen.
Remember to place your containers where they will get the appropriate amount of sun or shade. Mobile container gardens (on wheeled platforms) are easy to move around, to catch some extra rays or change up the look of your space. (You can even wheel them indoors for winter.)
What can you plant in a container?
Not everything will thrive in a restrictive space, but there is no shortage or perfectly suitable goodies to grow from small trees and shrubs to grasses and groundcovers. Think about herbs and other edibles as well as flowers, and plants that will provide multi-season interest.
Get creative with water retention
We Californians are all about conserving water, and that goes for pots as well as in-ground plants. Try these tips to help your potting soil retain moisture:
- Mix it with moisture-retention crystals available at your garden center.
- Forget gravel in the bottom (which has no value), put a sponge down there instead.
- Line hanging baskets with a plastic grocery bag (punch a few holes). Coir will hold the soil, but it dries out quickly.
- Water with a few ice cubes for slow release.
- Top-dress with mulch.
As plants grow, they will cover most or all of the soil surface, also helping reduce evaporation.
Include more than plants
Not that your containers won’t be spectacular as is, but you can add a different type if visual interest with tiny versions of sculpture, an interesting stone, or found objects. And while you’re getting creative with your containers, consider how you can use artificial grass in fun ways to add even more zest to you outdoor areas. Faux grass isn’t just for lawns, you know.