When the first hint of autumn chill touches our gardens and containers, we gardeners are often too quick to rip out the plants that once looked so happy and fresh in those pots. Some of them are propagated, and others find a place in the garden; most find their way to the compost bin. It’s a shame really, because if you had chosen the right plants in the beginning, your container could be a show stopper through almost every season. Many perennials and shrubs can live for several years in a container. By taking advantage of these attributes, you can reduce the amount of time and money you spend on your pots. The following technique will provide you with year-round interest, depending on the plants you choose.
Container plants have very different growing conditions than those grown in the landscape. They completely depend on you for their water and fertilization needs. The container you choose must provide excellent drainage. While most perennials and shrubs grown in containers don’t grow as big as they would in the ground, at some point, all outgrow their space. Also, containers don’t insulate a plant’s roots from winter temperatures, so those who live in Zones 5 and below may have to wrap their pots.
Choose a container with a large mouth. Then choose plants for your zone that will survive your winters. A good rule of thumb for container-plant survival through the winter is that the plant should be hardy to two zones colder than your USDA Plant Hardiness Zone.
Plant the outside portion of your container first and leave the center open. By doing this you will be able to make a pleasant ring of spillers and fillers, plants that will in time become a living wreath. Next plant the center portion, but here is the trick: Leave whatever you are using in the center in its original container. That way as the time and the seasons change you can simply lift and remove the plant to suit the season!
This container was done with fall in mind, but by putting a conifer or boxwood in the center, this container will carry you right through the holiday season.
Lisa Bartlett is the Garden Manager of Smith Gilbert Gardens. Kennesaw Georgia's premier public garden, is an established garden with over 3,000 species of plants, many rare. This garden stands out as an exceptional blend of art, history and horticulture, all creating a tranquil retreat from the city.
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