From Habersham Gardens
Back in the day, a few pots of red geraniums and variegated vinca anchoring an asparagus fern or two was all you needed to deem your creation a container garden. While that combination can still be impactful, things have definitely changed for the better.
“We have such a wide array of plant material available to us today – both sun- and shade-loving, it is a shame to limit yourself to the same old combinations,” says Vicki Nace of Habersham Gardens Intown Garden Center. “From tropicals to succulents and long- and late-blooming perennials to new varieties of dwarf trees, your container is truly the only limit!”
Following are some container gardening best practice tips:
Contain, don’t constrain. Be mindful to select the right size pot for your garden. Don’t go too small or you run the risk of inhibiting root growth as well as creating a challenge to keep the container hydrated. Remember, bigger is better!
No southern-fried plants, please. There is nothing more frustrating than watching your beautiful shade plants sizzle because your container is taking on more sun than the plants can handle or watching your sun-lovers try to please you to no avail because they just need more sol. Pre-planning is key so mull over these important questions before you shop:

  • The setting: Sunny, shady, windy and/or arid conditions all require different logic. Notice the environment and arm yourself with this valuable information before purchasing the first plant. It is critical to your success.
  • The tone: Traditional/formal, cottage garden, sophisticated chic, architectural/modern, eclectic or whimsical – whatever your style, name it and enjoy!
  • The colors: Get out the Crayolas and pick your palette. The primary purpose of a container planting is to grab the eye with color and monochromatic plantings can be as impactful as complimentary color mixes. Think of your container garden as a visual exclamation point in the garden.
  • The care: Container gardens are living beings and need love, food, water and good conversation never hurts. Be sure you will be able to maintain your investment.

Bottoms up. When planting the container, place shards of broken pots or irregular sized rocks over the drainage holes and fill the pot by one-third with lightweight filler such as packing peanuts or pearls. Remember to elevate the pot using pot feet or level stones so the plants can “breathe” and make sure the water drains easily so as not to drown your garden. Always use a quality potting mix for container gardens and if fertilizer isn’t already in the mix, add Osmocote or Dynamite time released fertilizer since the container will be watered often.
The commitment. After making your plant selection, follow this very scientific advice while loosely placing the plants in the container: focus on varying heights for an uppy, downy, all aroundy look and easily rearrange until you’re pleased with the composition. Now is the time to make changes before you commit.
The commitment, part deux. Now that you’re ready to place root to soil, gently squeeze the grower’s container to release the plant. If the roots appear pot bound, gently massage them to loosen the soil. Plant at least 1/2″ below the level of the pot to allow for adequate watering. You can back fill with soil to adjust for height differences.
Remember, you are Mother Nature when it comes to container gardening. Even if it rained the night before, the container might still need a good soaking if the plants seem stressed or the soil seems dry. If you are traveling out of town, have a friend give your container garden a drink and if you have a lot of planted pots, placing them in a kiddie pool filled with a couple of inches of water can be a great babysitter.
Habersham Gardens Intown Garden Center, 2067 Manchester St., (404) 873.2484 or www.habershamgardens.com.
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Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.

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