Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Many Uses of Garden Containers

Barrier row in front of pressure treated base board


Ivy on tuteur in terra cott
Not long ago some friends asked how many containers...pots, planter boxes, hanging baskets... I have in my garden. I have a lot! It took a couple of tries but I finally came up with a tally...156. That number fluctuates a bit. And doesn't include the empty pots waiting to be used or the pots that hold spring bulbs that have died back and been moved to a summer resting spot. It also doesn't include the fountain planted with succulents; I really didn't know how to count that. Right now I have peppers and eggplant in a number of pots that will sit empty next winter. Many other containers are more or less permanently planted.

I am a big fan of pots in the garden. But there is a reason for that love...containers are useful in so very many ways that they are something pretty much any gardener should have.

I do like the look of containers, from simple terra cotta like most of mine, to glazed ceramic, wooden, or repurposed objects.

So esthetics is one reason to add containers. In my central California climate I don't get snow cover to pretty things up in the winter. Many of my perennials die back or look somewhat scraggly around the beginning of the new year so a pretty pot placed in the open space can draw the eye and prevent the garden from being too embarrassing. Containers are also the perfect spot for a plant with a reputation for being a bully...many ivies or mints for example.

Other end of row of fence pots
Fences can serve as a support for smaller pots with the caveat that you choose plants that can survive in a container that might dry out quickly. Here that means succulents. I got tired of the blank fence outside my family room window so, inspired by the abundance of hanging pots and garden art I saw in Buffalo, I  began hanging pots and other found objects here a few years ago.

I use a long line of pots against the fence in my side yard. It is paved in concrete, installed by owners over 30 years ago, and so nothing can grow there to soften the look. But the real reason I have that line of containers is that when we had the fence replaced 2 years ago the installer used a 2x12 horizontal board at the bottom made of pressure treated lumber. I did not want anyone to be able to come into contact with that so the pots make a nice barrier.

I have also used containers as a barrier to posts that might otherwise be run into by careless bike riders or basketball players.


I grow eggplant and peppers in a collection of larger pots. In my ongoing fight against root knot nematodes they allow me to have a nice harvest from my small garden while leaving space for planting in ground to plants less affected by them.

I know gardeners in harsher climates have more constraints, needing pots that can stand up to extended freezing or even hotter temperatures than I have in the summer. But I have found that containers add a sense of richness to my garden and can highlight particular plants that would otherwise be lost.  So I will continue to use them for many purposes...although I don't think I will ever need to buy any more!
Eggplant with a side of basil

12 comments:

Layanee said...

What a good idea for making a fence interesting. You must spend a bit of time watering but labors of love are no work at all.

Gail said...

Leslie, Containers are a must for some of us who grow in shade...I pack the sunny areas with containers that give me the flowers I can't always grow in the borders. You've inspired me to plant more!

Fairegarden said...

Your use of containers is impressive, Leslie, and inspirational! Your fence does look might fine.

Frances

Plant Stands said...

Those containers give everything such personality...I love it.

Cindy, MCOK said...

156???!!! Holy moly. I should go count mine, though. I'd probably be surprised how many I actually have, despite my ongoing efforts to reduce the number.

Leslie said...

The watering isn't as bad as it seems, Layanee. Many of the pots are large enough or the plants are tough enough that a couple times a week does it.
Gail...that is so true! As I have lost sunny areas over the years I find containers are my friend since they can be moved in and out of prime spots as needed.
Thanks Fairegarden! And glad you like it Plant Stands.
Cindy...you will be shocked. And go slowly...they are hiding everywhere.

Leslie said...

The watering isn't as bad as it seems, Layanee. Many of the pots are large enough or the plants are tough enough that a couple times a week does it.
Gail...that is so true! As I have lost sunny areas over the years I find containers are my friend since they can be moved in and out of prime spots as needed.
Thanks Fairegarden! And glad you like it Plant Stands.
Cindy...you will be shocked. And go slowly...they are hiding everywhere.

Leslie said...

The watering isn't as bad as it seems, Layanee. Many of the pots are large enough or the plants are tough enough that a couple times a week does it.
Gail...that is so true! As I have lost sunny areas over the years I find containers are my friend since they can be moved in and out of prime spots as needed.
Thanks Fairegarden! And glad you like it Plant Stands.
Cindy...you will be shocked. And go slowly...they are hiding everywhere.

Carol said...

That's quite a few pots. Way more than I have. Right now, my container plants have dwindled down to about ten, and five of those contain the miniature hostas. Here, all containers have to be brought in for the winter, or covered, to keep them from cracking in the winter-time. The alternating freezing/thawing can really wreck them! Yours really make your garden pretty.

Kathy said...

Yes, we have to haul our containers in for the winter, takes some of the fun out of it. I even have to haul in my mosaic bird bath every winter.

Northern Shade said...

Wow, that's a lot of containers, but then it also gives you a lot of flexibility with moving them around. It's much easier to move a pot than digging the perennials out of the ground and replant them when you get a better idea for a new combination. Her the perennials don't usually survive the winter in pots, and need the insulation of the ground.

Northern Shade said...

P.S.
I meant to add that your wisteria in the header photo does a terrific job of decorating your fence, too.