Inside The New York Botanical Garden

Contain Yourself

Posted in Gardening Tips on July 5 2011, by Sonia Uyterhoeven

Sonia Uyterhoeven is Gardener for Public Education.
Recycled Drain Pipes Used as Planters in the Hampshire (U.K.) Garden of Pauline Thomas
Recycled drain pipes used as planters in the Hampshire (U.K.) Garden of Pauline Thomas

By now your garden should be ablaze with color. If it’s not, and you’re finding that you have unsightly gaps in your border, don’t panic! There is still plenty of time for an easy fix: Add a container display to your garden! Don’t limit your container plantings only to the patio though, containers are also a great way to jazz-up any dull or quiet beds or borders you might have.

An attractive container display starts with a good foundation–a good looking container. Many containers these days are made of synthetic materials like poly resin and fiberglass. These materials are often transformed into believable reproductions of classic containers. Find one that suits your gardening style.

Wooden planters on the New York balcony of Devin A. Brown
Wooden planters on the New York balcony of Devin A. Brown

If you are in the market for a rustic looking container try wood, faux wood or faux stone. If you prefer a more elegant look, then invest in terra cotta, faux terra cotta, reconstituted stone, or faux cast iron. Artistic souls will welcome the stunning array of colorful glazed pots as well as colorful lightweight synthetic substitutes that seem to be available everywhere these days. A few years ago I fell madly in love with a fiberglass reproduction of a bronze container that looked durable as well as lavish.

Colorful pots full of succlents in the Dallas patio garden of Shawn Ashmore
Colorful pots full of succlents in the Dallas patio garden of Shawn Ashmore

Maintaining appropriate moisture levels can be a challenge when gardening in containers, particularly if you like to escape for a few days during the summer. As common sense would dictate, the larger the container, the easier it is to keep it well-watered. There are many self-watering containers or contraptions on the market that you can outfit your container with. They are essentially water reservoirs that hold the water in the bottom of the container and slowly release it into the mix.

Another viable option is to add some of water retaining polymers or hydrogels to your potting mix. These polymers grab water from the soil, expand as they hydrate, hold onto the moisture, and then release it when the surrounding potting medium starts to dry. Friends of mine who plant narrow window boxes swear by them. Two brands that are easy to find are Terra Sorb® and Soil Moist™.

Whether you are placing your container in the garden or on your patio it is always advisable to raise it up onto bricks, blocks or feet to allow for good drainage. Next week we will take a look at some candidates for filling your lovely new containers.

P.S. – Thanks to Pauline, Devin, and Shawn who answered our call on Twitter for photos of their real-world container plantings! Want to have a chance at seeing your garden featured in future blog posts here on Plant Talk? Be sure to follow us on Twitter or “like” us on Facebook!