In the world of gardening, the gardener is pitted against the environment. Container gardening is an easy way to level the playing field. Instead of working against poor soil, rocky soil, or no soil, the gardener is free to let loose with their imagination. In the world of container gardening, if you can imagine it, you can create it.
I've traveled across the United States and I have seen some incredible creations in containers. No one can match the creativity of Walt Disney World. Visiting during the Flower Festival at EPCOT in May is a treat to the senses. Oh, what one can do with unlimited resources and greenhouses! Visit Callaway Gardens in the South and the container plantings are enough to make you swoon. Again, unlimited greenhouses and gardeners can create magical displays.
Let's face it though, most homeowners don't have those unlimited resources at their fingertips. However, with a little imagination and a visit to your local garden center, you are on your way.
Planning your container creation does require some thought. One of the biggest decisions you need to make is where to put your container when it's done. This will determine the type of plants to use. Are you going to put your container in full sun, shade, or a blend? Your plants will need to be able to withstand the lighting conditions that are best suited to their nature.
You also need to make sure you mix your planting with varieties that all have the same growth requirements for light and water. Planting varieties that have opposite needs will probably not thrive and will force you to make another trip to the garden center.
Do you find yourself like a deer in the headlights when you get to the nursery? Do you freeze at the thought of trying to come up with a pleasing combination? I took a workshop once on planting containers. There are three basic elements of creating a beautiful container for your yard. You want a thriller, a spiller, and a filler. A "thriller" would be something that has height, form, and makes a statement.
Marigolds, snapdragons, and gerber daisies are examples of this type of plant. It wouldn't even have to be a flowering plant; you could choose a plant that has nice foliage. Your "spiller" is something that can cascade over the side to give added dimension to your planting. Trailing lobelia and ivy are examples plants that will add that hanging characteristic to your container.
Last, but not least, is your "filler". This is the plant that will fill in the empty spaces in your container. One of my favorite choices is sweet alyssum which comes in several colors. It fills in nicely and gives a pleasing look to the arrangement. Do remember to allow space for the plants to grow or you'll end up with an overcrowded container.
Something to keep in mind when choosing your plants is what type of color scheme do you want. Do you want to create drama and impact or are you leaning more towards harmony and tranquility? Knowing what your goal is will help you with decisions on which plants to select. If drama is your goal, go for contrasting colors. These are the colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel. A particularly pleasing color combination for me is blue, orange, and white. For me, these colors translate to a planting of marigold, brilliant blue lobelia, and white sweet alyssum.
In creating a harmonious combination, you'll want to stick to shades of the same color such as lavender, lilac, and purple, or in shades of pink. Petunias, trailing petunias, sweet alyssum, and some shades of lobelia would work in this instance. I've only given a few examples of the variety of plants available.
If your container is going to be in the shade, make sure it doesn't blend in to the shadows by using dark colors. Lighter colors and white will keep your container from disappearing into the background.
Gardening in a container is an easy way to add color to your yard without going to a lot of trouble. The one thing you do have to watch out for is watering. Your planting can easily dry out during the summer. Unless it's near an irrigation system, you need to remember to keep it watered.
These few tips should give you enough courage to head to the garden center and start planning your own masterpiece. If you have questions, don't hesitate to ask for help. You aren't being graded on this! Also remember, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. If you like it, that's all that matters!