Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
May, 2004
Regional Report

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Container herbs look beautiful, taste wonderful, and attract beneficial insects for the whole garden.

Container Garden Inspiration

Container gardens can begin with just about any container -- an old wheelbarrow, bathtub, bird cage, "distinguished-looking" shoe, child's wagon, or even just a camouflaged bag of potting mix. If it'll hold soil and a plant, it's fair game. Mounds or cascades of color can come from begonias, petunias, ivy, geraniums, campanulas, impatiens, succulents, fuchsias, azaleas, or vegetables (patio or cherry tomatoes, strawberries, and herbs).

Whether you have only a small patio or a huge garden space, containers are perfect for highlighting individual specimens or providing year-round enjoyment. Some vegetables and colorful ornamentals thrive in a container's confined root space, and you can easily add visual art to your garden by your choice of containers.
Here are some considerations to help you determine how much maintenance your container garden will require:

1. Daily sun pattern. Does the space get direct sun in the morning (east), midday (south), or in the evening (west)? Or not at all (north)? This will determine the choice of plants and the amount of water you'll have to provide.
2. Pot style. If you use the same style or size of pots for all your containers, you'll achieve a more formal, calming look. If you use a variety of sizes, styles, colors, and textures, you'll get a busier look.
3. Pot type. Terra cotta pots are porous and heat up, so the potting mix will dry out quickly and you'll have to water more frequently. Plastic pots hold water longer. Metal pots, especially if dark colored, absorb a great deal of heat so they shouldn't be placed in the hot sun. Hanging pots, especially if made of wire lined with coir fiber, require the most maintenance.
4. Plant choices by preference and use. Choose colors and textures you enjoy. Do you want a woodsy look, something always in bloom, or vegetables? Do you want everything at one height or on trellises? If you put more than one plant in a container, get one large enough to allow for their mature growth.
5. Plant choices by amount of direct sun. In shade or bright indirect light, choose ferns, impatiens, begonias, lamium, pink polka dot, coleus, and fuchsia. In areas receiving 2 to 4 hours of direct sun, choose gardenias, pansies, violas, impatiens, coral bells, camellias, lobelia, and dianthus. In 4 or more hours of direct sun, choose roses, salvia, petunias, marigolds, ivy geraniums, bouganvillea, succulents, and cacti.
6. Plants by location. Place the largest plants and pots at the back, with smaller trailing plants in front and hanging from above, so you can enjoy a whole wall of color and texture.

Provide for easy watering, especially of heavy pots. It's better to bring the water to the pots than to have to lug the pots to the water source and then back into place! During hot summer months, you may have to water every day -- and perhaps twice a day for hanging containers!

Be sure to save space for a chair and small table so you can enjoy your new Eden!

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