Container gardens bring color to shady spaces and are easy to manage. Combining the right plants is the secret to professional results.
Container gardens are the perfect solution for those who long to garden but do not have an abundance of time or space. They brighten the corners of a porch or patio and highlight entryways. Since many of these areas are shaded, selecting plants that thrive in shade or partial shade is important. A big pot of pink impatiens, or a basket of ferns will always be beautiful and in good taste. However, for the more adventurous spirit, mixing plants in a container is a challenge that yields outstanding rewards.
Choose pots that are at least 24 inches in diameter. Not only will they hold more plants, but also they will not dry out as quickly as smaller ones do. Trough-type containers are good to use along the edges of a porch or patio, and round ones fit nicely into corners. Assemble groupings of varying sizes, heights and shapes for extra interest. Clay pots are traditional and always a good choice, but newer plastic pots look like the real thing without the weight and breakability of clay. They retain moisture longer and can be less expensive. Throw in an unusual container, such as one shaped like a frog or turtle, for a charming touch of whimsy.
When selecting plants, keep the final composition in mind. Choose colors that complement or contrast, and vary texture and forms of foliage and flowers. A classic green-and-white color scheme is simple and effective. Variegated ivy paired with green and white caladiums, a low-growing fern, such as maidenhair, and pure white impatiens makes a stunning presentation in a shady location. Though only two colors are used, the difference in the shape and texture of the plants pleases the eye and provides interest.
Multi-hued container gardens are especially eye-catching as long as colors coordinate, and form and texture are varied. A mix of orange, red and fuchsia impatiens tucked amid Boston fern will bring a dark corner to life and lend tropical ambience to the area. Add trailing chartreuse sweet potato vine for an extra punch of vivid color. Hot-colored arrangements such as this are excellent near a pool or in a courtyard setting and can be placed under trees or shrubs for a movable burst of color wherever it is needed.
Form and Texture
The rule of three applies to planting container gardens just as it does in interior decorating. Plan to use three types of plants with distinctly different forms and textures. Select tall plants for structure and height in the container. Where they are placed depends on the shape of the container and personal preference, but center is always a good place to begin. Boston fern, giant liriope, caladiums or hostas would work well. Add trailers such as ivy, creeping Jenny, fuchsia or wandering Jew. Fill in and around these basic structure plants with shade-tolerant annuals such as impatiens, begonias or coleus. Use one color or several, as long as the look is cohesive and pleasing to the eye.
Tips for Successful Container Gardens
Be sure all plants have the same light and water requirements. Do a trial arrangement while plants are still in their nursery containers to avoid placement errors; digging up and replanting is not a wise idea. Use good potting soil with fertilizer in it to get the container off to a healthy start. Water thoroughly. Be attentive to container gardens, especially in the hottest months and keep them watered well. Avoid over watering.
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