Marjorie's eLetter for June 2010

spring E-Letter Container One
By Marjorie Harris

Container Planting

I love container planting. It's fun to do, it's a way to experiment with a multitude of ideas in the garden proper. It's certainly a way to improve your ability to actually "see" plants.

Plant blindness is a concept I've become more and more aware of. It's the ability to look at a plant and not really see it: what it will look like in a couple of years let alone a couple of months.

Gardening means exercising your imagination and containers will do this in spades. You can't plant a container without touching roots, smelling foliage and looking into the face of a flower. Not unless you are emotionally numb. I don't think people who want container beauty are this way, but many are confused by containers and do the same old same old every year. So I'm assuming you love to touch plants and to fuss with colours and textures.

There's something so wonderfully designer-like about using pots to work a kind of mini garden magic. First you take something upright (anything will do, most people like spiky stuff but there is no law) and you put it in the pot to the back and one side. Never in the centre. Booorrrring.

Now you have an upright which means you can put something floppy beside it, then something fluffy, something that will spill out the sides. All these technical terms do not have to confuse you. You just need enough variety to create a wonderful combination and enough contrasts to give a whack of drama.

I generally like to add a perennial and almost anything will do but Euphorbia griffithii 'Fireglow' looks wild; this year I'm using Tradescantia 'Sweet Kate' for its intense gold foliage. Then, in-between these plants, tuck in a few summer bulbs such as Oriental lilies, callas or even a dahlia. They will snuggle up through the other plants and be a nice surprise later in the summer when you've completely forgotten you planted them.

Don't overstuff a container. It doesn't look aesthetic, and all these plants grow like crazy and very quickly. If you need an instant hit for, say, a weekend party, then be prepared to remove a plant or two later on.


Make sure you have drainage: a hole in the bottom, something for the water to filter through such as a horticultural cloth, some gravel or packing pop corn (though I think this makes a real mess).

Placement of your container is always something to be thoughtful about: have it so that when you're having your end-of-a-frazzled day drink you can see it back lit. If not then, a morning cup of coffee with a group of plants so radiant with a new day you'll feel good for hours.

But, and here's what I love doing, stick some of them in places where no one would expect to see a container: on a plinth in the middle of a border, stuck behind a tree, on top of the trunk of a felled tree. Containers work just about everywhere.


There are no hard and fast rules about container collecting: make them all the same OR have everyone different? But make sure you have a place to store them.

I have found some really good all-weather -- they survive the winter-- containers:

LeanCrete which you can check out at:

I put one of their large bowl-like containers through an arduous year and found that it was not harmed at all. The wide bowl means I can plant a small shrub as well as the requisite dripping and fluffy plants.

Loblaws has really inexpensive containers which may only last a season. I haven't tried them during a winter season. But they are made of a composite and I'll give a report on the next spring.

Watch the web site for more information on Canadian-made containers.

If you need my services:  email me.

Yours Marjorie



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