? Soil ? Repot ? Divide ? Paint

The dog days of summer are hard upon us, but don?t believe the guff about the garden being at its worse for wear and weather. If you?ve got a problem, there are easy solutions with a little attention to refreshing containers.

Containers are always thrilling whether on a condo balcony or in the middle of a border. They can make or break a garden so now?s the perfect time to re-evaluate them.

The most exciting plants for this time of the year are summer bulbs. They come in every colour imaginable, can be planted in all light conditions and are on sale for about twenty minutes in June before they are snapped up.? So put that on your list for next year. And keep an eye out in places such as Loblaws and big box stores who?ve had huge pots of glorious well-grown lilies that can be plunked down anywhere right now. They are blooming furiously in my garden at the moment and the scent is secondary only to their lushness.

When making up containers earlier this year I tucked lily bulbs under the rest of the plants and they are popping up pretty much as a complete surprise. It?s one of those serendipitous moments when you can look at an arrangement and say ?What an artist I am.? Who knew?

In one container I have a canna ?Intrigue? accompanied by a group of deep purple-black calla lilies (another great summer bulb that lasts a lot longer than its fragile beauty would suggest). The colour is exactly the same as an Asiatic lily called ?Landini? just opening up. Sometimes a colour memory does work. It?s stupendous. And even when the blooms fade the calla foliage with its gorgeous black spine and leaf edges look just right in the pot. A deep red coleus and a black vine complete the look.

If your containers are looking boring, try the following:

  • Carefully empty the container of soil and plants. Then add a layer of SoilSponge or some other water retentive material on the bottom and mix it with the saved container soil. Add some compost and water well, then add a fish fertilizer that?s diluted to half the recommended strength.
  • Repot the plants but only put back about half the plants you jammed in last spring: pick out the choice pieces with healthy good roots on them and re-position them in the pot.
  • Most perennials need dividing right now, so look gimlet-eyed around the garden at what could be useful for a new central focus. Ornamental grasses and hostas are especially useful so see if you can hew a chunk out of one side. But don?t be inhibited here, use anything that looks good and has height. But do not put it plunk in the centre. It should be to one side.
    • By moving the central focus to the side, you will give the container better balance. A vine or two at one of the edges and then add some of your favourite bits and pieces keeping in mind that you want a harmonious colour theme. I used to the purple-red one in one container, shades of bronze in another.
  • If you have nothing but plastic pots but like the shape, why not slap a coat of paint on them. Something in an antique-silver or gray; or a brilliant blue and yellow combination. You can do the same with clay pots and have just as much success. Just make sure they are dry before you re-plant.

Don?t put up with a boring look for your garden at this time of year. Let your containers do the work of being bright and fresh and you?ll find lots of other plants in the garden look better too.