Consider….. the container (for gardening)



From Flora Forager


Consider the container

I am lucky enough to have a decent sized garden. And yet, I am drawn to container planting for a variety of reasons.  Containers allow you to grow (and contain) plants that might be invasive (or aggressive) in your zone.  They let you play with color combinations and plant combinations easily, mixing up hardy plants and annuals, or let you have half-hardy lovelies that you can winter over year to year (if you’re lucky enough to have a space to do so).  If your limited in gardening space, they allow you to have some kind of garden. And containers themselves are lovely, so many options in colors and sizes.

Plain containers (basic black plastic pots) can help you extend and expand your vegetable gardening possibilities.  And decorative containers, obviously, give you room for playful development of your gardener/artist sensibilities.

I’ll  come back to using plain containers and other methods of vegetable gardening in a later post (closer to when you can safely put your vegies outdoors). For this post, I want to focus on making the most of your decorative pots.

First of all, where to get these.  Decorative pots can be very expensive.  If you have the money, any decent garden stor3 should have a good selection of decoratives.  Check with store personnel to be sure that the pot is sturdy.  In some climates, you may be able to leave your pots outside through the winter. I don’t recommend it for Portland (Zone 8) because of the potential for the plants in your pots to freeze  but it is possible to overwinter some things outdoors (I have roses in half-whiskey barrels to prove it).

If you’re looking for more affordable options, garage sales, neighborhood swaps, big box stores, and outlets (like HOMEGOODS) might be worth a look.  As I said, you can spent a lot of money on pots depending on the size.  Be sure in all cases, that they have a drainage hole in the bottom. Your plants will thank you.  If there is no drainage hole, you can drill one, or try the trick of not potting directly into that pot, but elevating a plastic pot inside (see illustration).  This is also a trick if you are not ready to commit a plant to a pot just yet. You get the effect, but not the commitment.

Now, obviously, right now you may not be pot/container shopping in person. On-line is another possibility especially if you are interested in lightweight pots.

Now for the fun part, one might even say the creative part — planting out the pot.

If the pot is a flamboyant color, and even if it’s not, you have some decision-making to do as to how closely to link the plant colors to the pot color.  For some colors, this is easier and others, easier said than done.

Once you’ve done that , you need to work up how you want the plants and plant colors to relate to each other.

                                                                   Here’s your basic color wheel:

And your color mixing choices —










Color harmony


Color echo


These fancy artists words simply put:

Complementary – opposite sides of the color wheel. We are familiar w/ Red/Green at Christmas

Analogous – Three or more hues in sequence on the color wheel (say yellow paired with yellow/green and yellow/orange)

Triad – Three colors equidistant on the color wheel (yellow/blue/red)

Color harmony – Colors all in the same family but different intensity, say dark blue to sky blue

Color echo – a color that occurs in one flower (or plant) picked up buy another flower (or plant).  For instance I used an example above, of a flower arrangement I did where yellow, green and orange are picked up and repeated in other plants.

Of course you’ve got to be careful (a bit) when doing all this matching! Yet I think we instinctively know when something looks pleasing (to us anyway, not everything looks pleasing to everyone)

Let’s illustrate a few pots from my yard.  I am a big fan of color echos.  But a note, I don’t quite have the variety of examples to show you this time of year.

In this example, the plant echoes the pot with its coppery color. Not much else going on though.


This example is more of a contrast. But if you look closely at the blossoms on this unusual camellia and  you’ll see a little smatter of off-white, like the pot.


And finally this pot – with its green, turquoise and reddish scheme led to my choice of these plants, where the reds echoed each other and the color of the pot.  The reds themselves are an example of color harmony.


Now for some additional tricks. I already mentioned the pot within a pot trick. This is great if you want to be able to change things up or if the plant really needs to be overwintered, or if you are not sure what you want in the pot permanently. You can see the example below…. it is the pot the pink camellia (above) is in.


Another tip is to pick up remaindered pots that may have flaws or chips. Depending on what you put in them, the viewer might never know. Just be aware that some of these flaws may affect the structural integrity of a pot and make it more prone to breaking.

Well, that’s probably enough of pottering about for this post!


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