Plant combinations in containers for 2008

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Improvisational Container Planting

old washtub with wooden owl

I wanted this chainsaw-sculpted owl and red flowers to lure you to the secret garden entrance.

I am pretty lackadaisical when it comes to container plantings. I have three window boxes hanging on the porch fence-cum-railing and a rusting metal washtub that I found in the barn when we moved in. I never really plan or purchase plants for these containers. I count on something showing up due to the kindness of friends or excessive seed sown, and then I try to make it work. Let’s call it improvisational container planting to give it some credibility. (Click all photos for larger–and sharper–image)

Take me to your secret garden

The washtub container used to rest by the main entrance to the house, but last year I moved it to the entrance to the Secret Garden, because we don’t want the Secret Garden to be so secret that no one finds it, right?

Image of grass path with washtub planter on right and apple tree on left

This photo is looking north. The house is downhill to the west, or to your left. The branches of the apple tree obscure the planter from the house more than they did last year, when this photo was taken.

So I wanted something bright for this container to be visible from the house, drawing you to investigate. That was the plan, but now that the apple tree is fully leafed out, you’re lucky to catch a flash of red when the wind ruffles the leaves.Image of washtub full of flowers

Oh well. The red flower underneath the zonal geranium (aka pelargonium) is Tukana Scarlet Star Verbena, and the one below that with red and orange florets is Luscious Citrus Blend lantana, both received from Proven Winners as trial plants. I’d only grown verbena once before, and lantana never, so I was pleasantly surprised at how well they’ve been doing, especially since I never water the container. Well, I probably watered it once or twice after it was first planted, but never since. Out of sight, out of mind. That marigold blooming like crazy is ‘Signet Starfire’ from Renee’s Seeds, also a trial. And the geranium was given to me without a tag. Generic geranium. This container doesn’t follow the thriller, filler, and spiller formula, but it is bright.

Mother’s Day Special

Another tradition traditionally ignored around here is buying Mom a present for Mother’s Day. (Buying being the operative word, as plenty of homemade gifts and donated labor abound.) This year tradition was impulsively tossed aside by my DH, and I was escorted around the local Lowes with the injunction to pick out anything I wanted. Anything. Talk about brain freeze! I finally settled on a lovely hanging basket, suppressing both the gasp as I looked at the price tag and the frugal urge to put it back and look for something more reasonable.Image of hanging basket of pale yellow calibrochoa and true blue lobeliaI think pale yellow flowers, such as this Yellow Chiffon Superbells calibrachoa, complement many hues on the color spectrum, especially the true blue of the Laguna Sky Blue lobelia, both, again, from Proven Winners. Just looking at this makes me sigh with pleasure, even though I know it is unfashionable in some quarters to love pastels. I think three windowboxes filled with this combination next year would not be too much.

Another good choice for containers, beds–and vases

Image of windowbox with petunias and other flowersUnless, that is, I decided to fill it with the Supertunia Vista Silverberry petunias above, accompanied by the Laguna Heavenly Lilac lobelia on the other side, pictured below. (Both were trial plants from Proven Winners.)Image of lilac lobelia at one end of window boxThis year the window box also has Gulf Winds alyssum provided by Renee’s Garden and Balcony petunias purchased as seed from Select Seeds. The Balcony petunias are wonderfully fragrant in the evening, but we only figured out after this photo was taken that they need to be pinched back regularly to look their best.

Next year, I would just use one Silverberry supertunia with a Heavenly Lilac lobelia on each end, and plant the Balcony petunias separately. The Silverberry petunia can also be a spectacular groundcover as you can see in Flowergardengirl’s North Carolina garden. One reason my Silverberry doesn’t look as full is we’ve discovered these petunias make excellent cut flowers.Image of small mixed flower arrangementThey last a long time in water and continue to open new buds. According to the literature I received, the “blooms are silvery white in the heat and blush pink in cooler temperatures,” so those of you with warmer summers might not see as much pink in the blossoms.

The opportunity to trial plants and seeds (as a result of attending the GWA symposium last year) combined with my 17-year-old son working for a local wholesale greenhouse made this the best year ever for my container plantings. What was your most successful container planting this year?

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

Now, the digging and dividing of perennials, the general autumn cleanup and the planting of spring bulbs are all an act of faith. One carries on before the altar of delayed gratification, until the ground freezes and you can’t do any more other than refill the bird feeder and gaze through the window, waiting for the snow. . . . Meanwhile, it helps to think of yourself as a pear tree or a tulip. You will blossom spectacularly in the spring, but only after the required period of chilling.

~Adrian Higgins in The Washington Post, November 6, 2013

Comments on this entry are closed.

Anna September 2, 2008, 12:14 am

Your containers look incredible. Nice write up for all the plants. Both my Citrus Blend Lantana and Silverberry are over 6ft. Thank you for linking to me. I’m thinking of using the Silverberry in containers next year.

Lori August 25, 2008, 2:34 am

Oh, I LOVE that blue and butter-yellow color combination in your Mother’s Day basket. That’s one of the few shades of yellow that I’m willing to grow in my garden!

Shady Gardener August 21, 2008, 12:06 am

You have some beautiful container gardens! I’m not so good about doing this… only on the front porch/deck. Otherwise, a few hanging pots and that seems to pretty much be it. And certainly not as “inspired!” as you have. 😉 I need to visit your site more often!

Cindy August 12, 2008, 4:49 pm

The bouquet arranged by Talitha is just gorgeous. She has a great eye! I like that pale yellow Calibrachoa with the cornflower blue Lobelia: you chose your Mother’s Day present well, IMO.

Kim August 11, 2008, 8:16 am

I really like your containers, and that arrangement in a vase is beautiful. I love calibrachoas, too, when the rabbits don’t eat them. They just bloom their little hearts out all summer. I have containers all over, but my favorties this year is a group of 3 on my deck with dark cannas, tall red grasses, coleus, ipomea and some calibrachoa. It’s taller than I am, so next year I’ll probably use purple fountain grass instead of the grasses I used. Still, I like the combo. I’ll try to post a pic on my blog later.

Annie in Austin August 10, 2008, 11:43 pm

That creamy yellow/sky blue basket is my favorite too, Kathy – nice present!

Last spring I planted a ‘Mutabilis’ rose in a large terra cotta pot with fig ivy twining around the outside of the container. Hand-watering and afternoon shade has kept it alive and in non-stop bloom even through this summer’s stress. The bees think it’s a success, too!

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

Daisy August 10, 2008, 11:16 pm

I love my containers. There’s not much rhyme or reason to them, but they’re always my favorite planted areas each year. I’ll have to look into some of those superbells!

Fern August 10, 2008, 11:12 pm

You’ve got a couple of my favorites there; Yellow Chiffon Superbells and Signet Marigolds.

How did you get to test plants for Proven Winner’s and Renee’s seeds? I want that job!!!

Dave August 10, 2008, 10:14 pm

You’ve put together some very nice plantings in your containers. I like the concept of working with what you have!

TC August 10, 2008, 9:45 pm

Persian shield, and coleus to name but two. Oh, and I almost forgot, dwarf dahlias in a tire planter.

mss @ Zanthan Gardens August 10, 2008, 7:59 pm

I love those yellow chiffon whatchamicallits, calibrachoa? Absolutely lovely. A pale creamy buttery yellow is about the only yellow I really like. As for your “improvisational container plantings” they look like something I’d be comfortable with. Many container plantings look to “done” to me…do you know what I mean?”.

Nancy Bond August 10, 2008, 6:27 pm

All your planters are lovely, and I’m a huge fan of yellow and blue combined, but the washtub is definitely my favorite! What a wonderful bright and cheery planting. 🙂

Kathy Purdy August 10, 2008, 6:26 pm

Kathryn, do you have a picture of that container on your blog someplace, that you could link to?

Stuart, thanks for stopping by.

Mother Nature, thanks for visiting. I think I’m going to have to grow more calibrachoas myself.

Stuart August 10, 2008, 6:07 pm

Inspirational post Kathy. I really like the way you let your available plants and the type of container dictate the result rather than buying specifically for them. Lovely pics too.

Kathryn/plantwhateverbringsyoujoy.com August 10, 2008, 5:38 pm

Hi, Kathy, My most successful container planting this year would have to be my strawberry pot on the front steps. First, it’s aqua, shiny. It has growing from the top purple petunias and lavender violas. From the pockets are bursting many white alyssum, graciously left over from last year, interspersed with many colored blossoms of portulaca. Very charming.

Your blushing petunias are lovely. I also learned they are great cut flowers and continue to bloom. Who knew? I also learned this yr. about pruning them back for better growth. Always learning…

Mother Nature August 10, 2008, 5:38 pm

I have come to love the calibrachoas. I have a red one in a hanging basket this year. Also a pink supertunia that, should a stem break off, is easily rooted. I love your little floral arrangement.