If you're going to create a landscaped garden, it takes time, money and
a plan. Usually, because of the reasons mentioned, you have to create
landscaped gardens in phases to achieve the overall full look you have
in your mind's eye. But with container gardening you can use mature
plants and have an instant garden.
Container gardens are especially helpful when trying to soften the edges
and corners of hardscapes. A grouping of potted plants on a patio is the
perfect solution to break up a large expanse of wall, create a screen
for privacy, or use as a focal point elsewhere in the garden.
Containers come in all shapes and forms. To begin with, you can use
anything you want for a container. An old wheelbarrow, window box, urn,
glazed pot or items tagged for the dump. Some of the old favorites
include containers made of terra cotta, cast iron, wood, cement and
glazed ceramic. The newer container materials are hypertufa, which looks
like stone but has less weight, and fiberglass that is frost-proof and
feather-light. But before buying your containers, consider what type of
plants you want. If your plants are very tall, or wide, the container
size should be in scale with the plants. A good rule of thumb-buy bigger
than you think you need.
"Proper drainage for container gardening is imperative," says Ann Waring,
St. Mary's County master gardener. "You can use natural coffee filters
to cover holes in the bottom, they last one season. Drywall joint tape
is also a good option, dirt doesn't come out and they last several
The next important step for a container garden is growing medium. When
you place a lot of plants in a small space, you've really got to use
good potting soil, preferably one with a fertilizer in it.
"I use Green World-Magic Earth Premium Planting Mix," says Waring. "It
is a good soil amendment. However, composting is preferable."
Ray Greenstreet, of Greenstreet Gardens in Lothian, recommends a new
product called Potter's Gold.
"Potter's Gold is a true soil potting mix," says Greenstreet. "It is
made from by-products from the Chesapeake Bay and is produced on the
Eastern Shore. It fits into our philosophy of featuring products and
plants that do well in this Del-Marva area."
Adequate water is an important maintenance step with a container garden.
A water-retaining granule can be added to your potting mix that keeps
your containers from drying out too quickly.
When selecting plants, remember that they should have similar light and
watering needs. Other than that, the sky is the limit.
"When choosing plants," says Greenstreet, "think of thrillers, spillers
One of Greenstreet Garden's favorite combinations is a white bird of
paradise, a purple 'Moses in the boat', orange geranium, fiber optic
grass, yellow zinnia, coral portulaca, yellow lantana, orange million
bells, and waterfall blue lobelia.
Waring suggests containers for tropicals that aren't winter hardy,
because they grow very fast and need a lot of water and fertilizer. Some
tropicals she overwinters in her garage where it doesn't get below 40
degrees. She also uses grow lights.
Waring's favorite tropical container combination includes repeating
petunias with tropicals such as palms, bananas, hibiscus, mandivila
vines, canna, and coleus for color.
Container gardens are also a good choice for a small water feature or
"Our newest product, the Earth Box, is great for vegetables," says
Greenstreet. "It is a deep plastic box that has wheels. Its unique
feature is its capillary water reservoir underneath a grid that keeps
the plants from getting water logged. There are open spaces in the
corners for a small amount of soil to sit in the water and wick up into
the plants. There is also a plastic cloth top that stretches over the
soil to trap the sun's heat and provides a quicker maturity date on your
A few choices for your portable vegetable garden are Patio or Small Fry
tomatoes, Jalapeno or Yolo Wonder peppers, and Liberty or Crispy
So whether you want an instant flower or vegetable garden, pick your
pots, fill them up and enjoy an instant landscape.