Containers That Say Welcome

You don't need a large yard, or even any yard at all, to create a landscape with potted plants.


Outdoor pots can be "landscaped" just like the rest of your outdoors. And these planted containers can be worked into your larger landscape to dress up existing plantings. One way to heighten the drama of these two features is to place the containers by the front door.

Three Types of Plantings

Plantings such as pink mandevilla skirted in English ivy can be made to complement a border of hardy garden mums and a basket of blooming ivy geranium. Now doesn't that make a fine how-do-you-do?

The husband-and-wife team of Doris and David Leonhard designed these container gardens with an eye toward three distinct kinds of plantings:

1. "Bouquet" containers, which combine three or four plants in one pot to create contrast, color, and grace.

2. "Accent" containers, which feature a prominent, eye-catching plant not usually seen in pots, such as a shrub rose or even an evergreen tree.

3. "Moveable gardens," a collection of different-sized pots and plants that look good on their own, but also complement each other, creating added visual impact.

How to Display Container Gardens

These gardens-within-a-garden were all placed near entryways at homes of the Leonhards' Boston-area clients. Care was taken in selecting the pots, too -- they are all rather decorative, and they are all rather large. You walk around in a garden.You don't stumble over.

Maybe the most endearing attribute of container planting is its mobility. This feature can be exploited to make you seem to be a better gardener than you actually are.

Pots can be rotated, with showy blooming containers coming to the fore while languishing, transitional plantings are exiled to a restorative site. Groupings can be shuffled around, like rearranging furniture, for altogether new looks. And if company's coming tomorrow and your containers are not just so, it's easy to zip out an underwhelming or underperforming plant and plop in a replacement flower that just happens to be in full glory.

Container Gardening Examples

Container color cheers the places you spend the most time, such as chaise-side on this backyard terrace. The standard fuchsia is Southgate. The pot in the front is devoted to ivy geranium.

This allamanda, a fast-growing tropical vine, flowers all summer in the Leonhards' own backyard. The cement pot is rimmed with ivy. This simple arrangement winters inside.

This lollipop rose, Popcorn, is underplanted with variegated lemon thyme and Baltic ivy. Another long-blooming easy-care container rose: the Fairy.

This slow-growing dwarf Alberta spruce exemplifies the way conifers can fill an entryway, and handsomely. Helichrysum and young marguerites flourish underneath.

Alantana standard guards these sunny steps, aided by light-blue plumbego, a white maranta "tree,"and a pot of vining dipladenia.

Flowering Bouquets

A flowering bouquet kind of falls on its face if it isn't flowering. To avoid container lulls, plant flowers that stay in bloom for extended periods. Lobelia, a long bloomer, thrives in partial sun. Says David, "Sometimes we plant strawberry jars in coordinating colors, but masses of one color is my favorite way."

You can tuck vegetables such as strawberries, tomatoes, parsley, and pepper into your bouquets, but they are heavy feeders and need extra fertilizer. Dressing up these edibles are southernwood, pink and white nicotiana, lobelia, viola, petunia, and dahlia. This pot requires full sun.

By grouping plants according to their cultural needs, you will accomplish two things: You will assure that they grow and thrive. And you will make your life a whole lot easier.

Here's another tip from Doris and David: In potting up your containers, add a slow-release granular fertilizer such as Osmocote to the potting mix. It's a great time-saver and a bit of an insurance policy.

How to Plant a Container Garden

1. First, cover the drainage hole with pebbles, broken clay pots, or packing "peanuts." The peanuts make the completed pot lighter and easier to transport. Make sure to use the truly peanut-shaped little noodles, not the concave or hollow ones, which will hold water and possibly rot roots. Fill with potting mix to planting depth.

2. Plant the central upright plant, the tallest one. In this case, it's the daisylike marguerite. It does not have to be placed in the center of the pot. If the pot is to be shoved up against a wall or backdrop, put the tall plant in the back.

3. Plant the skirt. Add soil and position low trailers and cascading plants around the edge.

4. Tuck in mid-level plants, sweeping around your star-performer and rising to greet it. Water thoroughly, avoiding blossoms and leaves. Add more soil if settling occurs. And remember to deadhead (remove spent blossoms) as the season progresses.


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