By Kim Thistle
Let’s have some fun. We are going to design a pot for your step or patio together.
First of all you must choose a container. Many people pick beautiful mosaic or intricately patterned pots that catch their eye due to the beauty of them. When using this sort of container, keep in mind that the pot is the attraction and the plants will take the back seat. No loud-mouthed petunias in this type of vessel. If you want your plants to be the focal point, choose a solid colour or something with a nondescript pattern. This said, a colour that makes a statement, such as bright pink or bright blue, makes a wonderful container choice as long as you choose flower colours to complement it. Those aforementioned bombastic petunias in bright purple would look deadly in a hot pink pot.
Next you need to think about the soil you will use to fill your pot. A light and airy mix with some organic matter mixed in is the solution. Avoid heavy garden soils that will hold too much water; this will encourage root rot and your plants will look sickly and slowly die. A mix that is too light will dry out quickly and will not anchor your pot, making it easier to blow around your deck when the gale force winds of autumn hit. We like to use a soilless mix such as pro mix and add some organic matter such as worm castings or compost. This not only provides good aeration for the plant roots, but also gives them something to feed on.
When plants are grown in the ground they are able to stretch their roots to find nutrients. When grown in a container pot they will use up the nutrients available, and once those are depleted you will notice a steady decline in the health of your plants. Be sure to fertilize throughout the summer. A slow-release fertilizer added to the container at time of planting will be of great benefit but will not replace regular feeding.
Thrillers, Fillers and Spilllers
Now for the hard part, what plants do you want to use? The Proven Winners™ people have summed it up in three words. To have a container that merits attention you need a thriller, a filler and a spiller. To break this down, the thriller is a taller plant in your container. The fillers are the shorter plants that are placed in front of or around your thriller and the spiller is, of course, the hanging plant that is placed at the pot’s edge.
• Dracena - the most commonly used and often referred to as a spike
• Argyranthemum - these beautiful daisies bloom well into late fall
• Snapdragons - plant a cluster of at least three
• Grasses such as King or Prince Tut
• Siberian Iris
• Celosia - ideally a cluster of three
• Canna lily
• Ferns such as Japanese painted or Ostrich
• Ornamental kale
• Dusty miller
• Coleus - as long as there is a taller centrepiece
• Geranium - as long as there is a taller centrepiece
• Calibrachoa (commonly referred to as million bells)
• Creeping Jenny
• Hanging petunias such as Waves
• Cool Wave pansies
Sample Pot Patterns:
• Siberian Iris, Heuchera, Patriot Hosta, Cool Wave pansy, Silver Falls Dichondra
• King Tut grass, Coleus (one dark and one light), Creeping Jenny, Plectranthus
• Celosia (Fresh Look), Lantana, Calibrachoa, Mercardonia
• Snapdragons, Flowering Cabbage or Kale, Redbor Kale, Creeping Jenny
• Sallyfun Salvia, Sunpatiens, Lobularia
• Bella Upright Fuchsia, Non Stop Begonias, Hanging Lobelia
Always check the tags on the plants to be sure you are planting the correct plant for the exposure. For example, fuchsias wilt in full sun and do much better in partial shade or shade. If you are in a windy area, choose scaevola and Hiemalis begonias. If you get hot sun all day, lantana and celosia will thrive.
Be adventurous. Try some new things. I’d love to see your creations at the end of the summer. Send your pictures to email@example.com.