By Cindy Hovis
Just when I think I can contain myself to just a few pots of plants on the deck, I fall in love again with spring, especially May. Currently I’m in a severe state of plant fever. As with gardeners, I’ve had to scale back my grandiose ideas as the years have gone by, but I view the changes I’ve had to make has made me a more deliberate and adaptive gardener.
One of the lessons I’ve learned is the value of container gardening. I grew up on a farm and I’ll have to tell you that I really hated to hoe those long lines of vegetables. In a container garden you can control the soil and ph balance needed to help these plants make a successful display, another advantage is that you can move the containers to better sunlight or shade.
Weeds are not so much of a problem since the plant grouping is tight within a few weeks of growing.
To plant a container garden that performs well throughout spring, summer and into fall you need to follow some key points. First, choose foliage that brings color throughout the season. I love sun coleus for that reason. It’s impossible to describe the brilliant shade of reds, oranges, yellows, and shocking colors of greens available. I also like sweet potato vines in dark purple and neon green.
Another key element to a successful display is to follow the standard formula that all Master Gardeners know: you need thrillers, spillers, and fillers. Thrillers are the focus of the container design, they are tall, colorful, and can take the summers well. At my house, sun coleus are likely to make their dramatic appearance. Other thrillers could be an unusual color of evergreen, or the spikes with no foliage. This year a found a dusty burgundy spike for two of the pots at the Kings Mountain Art Center. Spillers are the plants that can cascade over the edge of the pot, I had large red/burgundy pots an so wanted to play on the complimentary colors. I chose a a bright green foliage plant with yellow-green edges. I could not find my usual choice, the bright green sweet potato vine. The fillers are not just something to stick in to fill the pot. Fillers are the bridge between the thrillers and spillers. I prefer flowers that with good care that will bloom over the whole season, this year I’m trying to use wave petunias that will act both fillers and spillers, I also like the burgundy begonias and the blue hues of lobelias as fillers. I also have containers for herbs and vegetables–time and space keeps me relating my selections for these containers.
No matter your age or physical handicaps, with a little help from some friends, you can have container gardens in your life. These gardens do not only renew your senses but fill the soul.