Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Western Mountains and High Plains
June, 2007
Regional Report

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Use your imagination to combine plants with colorful blooms and attractive foliage.

Get Creative With Container Gardening

If you're short on gardening time like me but you still want to have living color on your patio or deck, growing in containers is a great solution. Containers full of annuals will spruce up unattractive areas and make an entrance more inviting. Containers are mobile so you're not locked into a specific landscape design or theme. With the changing seasons, you can change out the theme to suit the season, or create something uniquely you.

Container gardens can be easy to maintain in small spaces, and they are also a way to accent existing gardens. Selecting the right kinds of plants for specific locations, using a good soil-less mix, and watering and fertilizing properly will ensure success with your container gardens.

Container Selection
There are so many containers to choose from when designing a container garden; you are limited only by your imagination. One of my favorites is an antique bathtub, but you can choose from clay, terra cotta, plastic, wood, glazed pots, stoneware, metal, wire baskets, worn-out boots, and anything else that will hold potting mixture and have a method of drainage. The container should also be of proper size to support the plants you desire to grow.

You don't have to be a floral designer to create attractive container gardens. It just helps to remember a few basic elements of design. Color is the first element our eyes see, so it is one of the most important qualities when selecting and designing with plants. Combining cool colors of blue and green will create a subtle effect, while orange, red, and yellow colors will convey a sense of brightness and warmth. Monochromatic schemes are created when plants of various tints and shades of one color are combined. Combining three, four, or five adjacent colors on the color wheel will create an analogous theme; for example red, purple, and blue; or yellow, orange, red, and purple.

Form, Texture, and Line
The three-dimensional shape of the plants should be considered to create a satisfying container composition. There are generally five categories of form to look for in plants: upright-growing, rounded or mound-forming, arching or rosette, prostrate or trailing, and irregular growth characteristics.

Texture encompasses the surface quality of the leaves and stems. They might be smooth, rough, velvety, or leathery. Texture can also denote the relative size and number of leaves and flowers in relationship to the size of the plant.

Lines in plant combinations can be vertical or horizontal. Plants with strong ascending stems and leaves create the vertical theme. Stems and leaves that grow more horizontally tend to be more calming and help to stabilize a container composition.

Use Your Imagination
The real beauty of container gardening is that anything goes. You can even try potting up small trees, vegetables and herbs, tropical plants, or anything else that suits your fancy.

Container Garden Care
When gardening in containers, it's important to remember that potted plants need a little more attention than their counterparts in the ground. Pots are exposed above ground so the potting mixture will dry out more quickly. Keep the containerized plants well watered and fertilized. Above all, enjoy the beauty of living colors and plant textures, even if you have limited time and space!

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