Clever Container-Gardening Ideas

With a little imagination, you can fashion container gardens from unexpected sources.


When it comes to choosing containers for your plants, why opt for the typical terra-cotta pot? A wealth of more intriguing objects is just waiting to be transformed into creative container gardens.

For inspiration, search everything from gardening magazines to your own kitchen cupboards, garage, and basement. They're sure to yield a host of creative possibilities -- decorative urns, watering cans, wooden crates, old milk cans, tins, half barrels, even an old pair of boots.

Planted with enchanting floral displays, these objects take on renewed life and invigorate our outdoor spaces. A hollowed tree trunk packed with a stunning array of annuals creates a colorful focal point, while a weathered pair of boots overflowing with striking succulent rosettes lends intrigue to an otherwise overlooked spot. And a basket brimming with blooms adds instant charm to any area.

Toolbox with a Twist

While searching for unusual containers, don't overlook the toolshed. It can be a virtual treasure trove. Use drought-tolrant plants such as sedum and herbs to create your garden and consider adding sphagnum moss to help retain moisture. If using a wooden container, opt for one made of redwood or cedar, which resists rotting. If you must use a container made of softwood, protect it by treating it with a preservative.

Trough Treasures

Gardeners have long been enamored by the practice of growing plants in troughs. Today, troughs modeled after those of yesteryear continue to be used as planters, particularly for growing alpine and other compact, slow-growing plants.

When planting a trough, consider a few important details. Make sure it has a drainage hole at its lowest point. Cover the hole with bits of pot shards or pieces of screening. For potting soil, use an equal mixture of medium-rich potting mix and fine-grain gravel. Fill the trough with compact, low-growing, and dwarf plants. Good options include varieties of Alyssum, Armeria, Campanula, dianthus, Gentiana, moss, Primula, phlox, Saxifraga, sedum, Silene, thyme, and viola.
Learn how to make your own hypertufa trough.

Neutral Beauty

Concrete planters make excellent containers for creating extravagant displays of flowers because they hold lots of soil. They're also highly durable; their thick walls protect the container from exposure to the elements, although it can still be damaged by the expansion of soil as it freezes.
Learn how to make a concrete planter.

Wheelbarrow Whimsy

The rustic charm of wheelbarrows makes them ideal planters for showcasing floral displays. Plastic or metal varieties can also be transformed into containers. To arrange your display, simply select a colorful collection of potted plants, and experiment with their placement on the wheelbarrow until you achieve the desired effect. Try combining upright plants to add height, and use trailing plants, such as ivy, to soften the arrangement's edges. If you want to draw more attention to the wheelbarrow, paint it a bright shade that complements the colors of the plantings.
Learn how to make a miniature fairy garden.

Baskets of Blooms

Baskets aren't just handy holders for bread and other household items. They also make charming containers for plants. Try filling a small basket with varieties of thyme to create a quaint exhibit in an herb garden, or resurrect a long-forgotten lidless picnic basket to showcase geraniums. To protect your basket from regular waterings, avoid planting flowers directly inside. Instead, line it with plastic before adding flowers planted in pots.

Made by Nature
Twigs from your yard can add an earthy feel to any container- pots, boxes or baskets.

Nature yields a splendid selection of materials for constructing inventive containers. This flower box is crafted with layers of twigs. Planted with a lively mix of lobelia and petunias, it's sure to spruce up any area of the garden. Create a charming vignette simply by adding a few old toolshed finds, such as an antique seeder sprouting trailing sedum, and oil cans filled with sprigs of lavender and lemon thyme.

Beauty in a Box
The picture of serenity, this concrete flower box provides a dignified home for a bounty of multiflora hybrid petunias.

Concrete pots like this charming planter make excellent containers for creating extravagant displays of flowers because they hold lots of soil. They're also highly durable; their thick walls protect the container from exposure to the elements, although it can still be damaged by the expansion of soil as it freezes. Just like any planter, concrete containers need drainage holes to avoid saturated soil. If your container does not have them, you can make holes yourself with an electric drill and a 1/2-inch masonry bit. Drill holes throughout the length of the planter.

Wheelbarrow Whimsy
A broken wheelbarrow is revived as a playful stand for an assortment of annuals and miniature roses.

The rustic charm of wheelbarrows makes them ideal planters for showcasing floral displays. Plastic or metal varieties can also be transformed into containers, but when it comes to conveying charm, it's hard to beat the old-fashioned wooden wheelbarrow. To arrange your display, simply select a colorful collection of potted plants, and experiment with their placement on the wheelbarrow until you achieve the desired effect. Try combining upright plants to add height, and use trailing plants, such as ivy, to soften the arrangement's edges. If you want to draw more attention to the wheelbarrow, paint it a bright shade that complements the colors of the plantings.

Baskets of Blooms
An antique basket finds new life as an enchanting planter filled with Lantana, verbena, and Dahlberg daisy.

Baskets aren't just handy holders for bread and other household items. They also make charming containers for plants. With a potpourri of baskets available today, the possibilities for creating imaginative displays are endless. Try filling a small basket with varieties of thyme to create a quaint exhibit in an herb garden, or resurrect a long-forgotten lidless picnic basket to showcase geraniums. To protect your basket from regular waterings, avoid planting flowers directly inside. Instead, line it with plastic before adding flowers planted in pots.


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