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Garden Trends: Container Gardening

I confess that I get inordinately happy when I hear the dulcet tones of weed whackers and lawn mowers.  I love every single thing about the look of newly mulched landscape and I get all “Sound of Music” when I plant new perennials, dig up weeds and spend time beautifying my yard and lawn.  Even the ridiculous amount of rain we’ve gotten here in Middle Tennessee can’t bring me down, because I know that all this water will pay off during the hot summer months and (hopefully) help establish my plantings and flowers so they’ll look just as nice in August as they do now.

There are as many different gardening choices as there are decorating schemes and it can be pretty overwhelming if you’re staring at a large plat of dirt and four thousand Better Homes and Gardens magazine clippings that you’ve been snipping for years.  Whether you’re just getting started on beautifying the exterior of your home or you’re an experienced green thumb looking for something a little new and different, here are some ideas to give your property a little extra pep!

Container gardens are all the rage and they work perfectly for any type of home.  Whether you live in a cozy condo or a sprawling suburban abode, this type of gardening is the most flexible and least permanent.  The key to successful container gardening is to start with a great potting soil.  Most greenhouse managers recommend 2 parts peat, 1 part perlite and 1 part builder’s sand.  This combination provides the right amount of nutrients and drainage for a variety of plants, herbs and vegetables.  However, it’s not always cost effective to mix your own container potting soil, so if you’re buying a premixed brand, stick with a bag that is a “professional blend.”  Those magic words mean that someone else has taken the guess work out of mixing and achieved the proper Ph and nutritional balance.

Once you’re ready to start planting, you need to evaluate where the containers will be stationed.  Then, select plants that are compatible in terms of light, water and growing rates.  Avoid mixing shade lovers like impatiens with sun-bathers like thyme.  Similarly, mint looks fantastic in a big terra-cotta pot, but it is an aggressive grower and should be planted all by itself.  Knowing how to water containers is crucial.  Because there’s so much less soil in a container, the dirt will dry out faster than in a flowerbed or traditional garden.  On particularly hot days, you might need to water containers twice a day.

Now that you’ve made a plan, you’re ready to start buying and planting.  To get the most bang for your buck, you need to combine different types of plants.  My HGTV loving friends spout this motto when planting containers: THRILLERS, SPILLERS AND FILLERS.   Choose a bold, upright plant, like dracaena, cannas and ornamental grasses, for your “thriller” to be planted in the center of your pot.  The middle of the pot should be planted with “fillers,” moderately sized and billowing plants like coleus, pentas and lantana.  Lastly, plant your “spillers,” around the edge of the pot.  You want plants that will cascade over the side of the pot and soften the entire arrangement.  Good choices for spillers are sweet potato vines, million bells and verbena.

In coming weeks, I’ll talk about other types of gardening and improving your home’s value and curb appeal with landscaping tips.  Container gardening is a nice way to get started and it’s particularly great for this time of year when temperatures can still dip during the night.  Smaller containers or containers on casters can easily be wheeled into a warmer garage or sunroom on chilly nights.  Happy digging and planting, friends!

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