Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Northern & Central Midwest
February, 2010
Regional Report

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Grandma's funky pot is perfect for a Mexican oregano and English ivy for the outdoor dinner table.

Plan Those Perfect Containers

With seed catalogs clogging my mailbox almost daily, I've been turning down page corners for all the interesting new flowers. Mostly this is inspiring me to start thinking about the containers that are going to grace my patio this year.

Pots of beautiful plants make everyone feel good, and it's actually pretty easy to design some that are beautifully different and will knock your garden guests' socks off. With a little planning and thinking outside the box, you will be ready to create them as soon as transplants are ready to go out and the garden centers fill to bursting.

Collect Containers
Now is the time to start collecting containers, to let your imagination run wild. An unusual container will make a striking accent to unique combinations of flowers and foliage. It's also early enough in the season that you can haunt the secondhand stores and the back shelves in garden centers, not to mention your own basement.

Drainage Holes Not Necessary in Decorative Pots
Even though you always hear that pots should have drainage for plants to stay healthy, as long as the pot the plant is actually grown in has drainage holes, the outer container can be just about anything. Even broken pots can add a certain amount of ambience. I have an Italian pot with one side broken out, and I like to let decorative oregano spill out of the broken side. It looks very Tuscan.

So, look at your baskets, buckets and bowls. Before throwing out that coffee cup that you love but has no handle, plant a tiny hen-and-chick in it. The box your clementines come in can hold a plastic liner filled with soil and lovely Rex begonias for the patio table. A crockery bowl with a chip out of the side will be a great accent for the kitchen table filled with a bright bromeliad.

Container Design
Just remember the rules of design: Make sure the center is filled with the tallest plants, the medium plants come next, and the outside ring should be trailing or softly draping plants that spill out over the edges of the container.

Plant Choice
When you start thinking about what to plant in these awesome containers, again think outside the box. Instead of the standard petunias and marigolds, consider perennials, grasses, vegetables, and herbs. Look for foliage color, fine and coarse textures, and spiky, soft and distinctly shaped plants. Take your container with you to the garden center and set the pots in it to make sure your combinations work. That way you won't come home with a host of plants for which you have no companions. Most importantly though, have fun with it!

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