Friday, May 28, 2010

My Container Garden Phase I: Pretty is as Pretty Does

As Dovecote is nestled under the trees, sunshine is a commodity found only in the front courtyard. The other gardens are ferny and shady, inviting hydrangeas and impatiens. I longed for the brightness of my favorite mixes of annual and perennial flowers, and a container garden at the front of the house was the solution. Container gardens require more TLC in the early stages, than a normal flower garden.

This is a flower garden I had years ago, before the deer discovered a trendy, new dining spot.  I planted it mid-May, and the coolness of the earth is more protective of shallow root systems than the exposed, raised pots of a container garden.  Additionally, the heavier soil holds the new plants better than the light, Miracle Grow Potting Mix, I use in containers.  

It takes several trips to the local greenhouses to build up the beginning structure of the garden. Over the years of trial and error, I have come to love the abundant  clear blue color of Plumbago Auriculata "Imperial Blue."  This link to Martha Stewart Home and Garden provides extended cultivation instructions.  My grower's best specimens come in hanging baskets containing four to five plants, requiring careful division. First I clip the wires from the base and then I gently dump the plant over on its side. It is important to maintain as much of the root systems as possible to provide water and nourishment to mature plants. I give the plant a few strong thumps on the ground, encouraging it to divide by the separate, underlying root structures. By gently pulling the plants by hand,  I detach each section. 

Place the largest growing plant in the center of the pot. I love the wild and wooly "Cleome Royal Queen Mix." My specimens are a bit leggy, but will flourish by breaking up the roots and receiving full sun. They grow to 4' and spread out,  but crowding them in the container creates a dramatic effect. 

The plumbago grow in both an upright and trailing habit and are placed next--three to a pot. 

The "Lanai Peach Verbena" completes my favorite color combination with blues, pink and white. They are planted in the spaces between the plumbago and oriented so the longer trailers hang over the edge of the pot. These, like the cleome came root bound and required some breaking up on the lower sides and edges. 

All three steps are illustrated in this picture. I have had to keep the pots sheltered in the breezeway for several days because we have had very hot, dry, windy weather. The variations in root depth, lightness of the soil, and transplant shock calls for patient, gentle watering until the roots take hold. Cool weather promotes root growth, and heat will cause your plants to bolt on a weak foundation. As a further precaution, I took the ruthless step of cutting all the buds and flowers from the Cleome. Blooming and seeding takes energy the plant needs to become established. When the containers are ready, we will send part II--locating the pots in the courtyard, and making interesting combinations by mixing unusual, more exotic plants into this homogeneous group. 


  1. Gorgeous and inspiring. I think I need a trip to the nursery.

  2. Lovely container garden. This is good

    Just like to share with you a famous quote...

    "The voice of parents is the voice of gods, for to their children they are heaven's lieutenants. " -- Shakespeare

    You can get more famous quotes at


We love your comments and hope you will join the conversation! Please do not use this forum for advertising.