Container Gardening Trends
By Rob Sproule
“The earth laughs in flowers.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
Gardening is, at once, unchanging, yet always in motion. The essentials of why we do it, like the urge to nurture and express our story through the earth, never change, but how we do it is as seasonal as fashion trends.
Container Gardening is the dominant art form in gardening trends. It is the art of creating living, dynamic sculptures. It’s also, especially with our short summers, very non-committal! Here are a few of the dominant trends to watch out for in container gardening this year:
Colour of the Year:
Every year, we’re told which pantone colour will be setting the trend for indoor and outdoor decor. After a couple years of “meh,” 2018 promises a colour that gardeners can sink their teeth into: Ultraviolet (18-3838 to be exact).
One of the most complex colours on the spectrum, ultraviolet is complex and very moody. In a container garden, it can look vibrant and boisterous during the day, then downright brooding under evening’s shadows.
It sits on the edge of our visible spectrum. The next time you look at a deep ultraviolet flower, consider the fact that you actually can’t see some of the colour; your eye is giving you the closest available likeness. A visiting bee, however, with a fuller spectrum of vision, is getting the full show.
Fun fact: ultraviolet is actually a real colour that you can measure, while “purple” is an imagined colour that only exists in your brain, but this is all above my paygrade.
How to use ultraviolet in containers:
“¢ On the colour chart, violet sits opposite yellow. So add some simple, sunshiny yellow to spice up your complex ultraviolet array.
“¢ Ultraviolet tends to get lost in shade or shadow, so pair it with a brighter companion (chartreuse foliage works well), to give it more life.
“¢ Violet looks amazing in the fall, when the lower sun begins to play tricks with light, so it’s a great way to add vibrancy as the days get shorter.
Water Garden Containers:
This trend is for people who love the idea of pond gardening, but not the commitment that comes with it. It’s literally taking a pot without drainage, filling it with water, and putting pond plants inside. Simple as that.
Compared to the hassle of digging and building a pond, filling a large bowl with water and adding some plants seems incredibly more desirable. To get started, you’ll want to have heavy clay soil (water-loving plants don’t fare well with regular soil) and you’ll want to buy specific water garden plants from the Garden Centre.
You can add sounds effects by adding a small pump. By putting it on your patio, you’ll be able to enjoy the gentle white noise it creates for relaxation. It will also increase ambient humidity around it, so surround with lush tropical containers to suck up the moisture.
Water plants bloom best with over 6 hours of light a day, so put it in the sun. Be creative with your container – remember that anything without drainage will work!
Some things to watch out for:
“¢ You may need to empty and scrub the algae out once or twice a year. If you don’t have fish, you’ll have a lot less algae.
“¢ Add a small pump for a the bubbly sound and to deter mosquitoes from using the still water to lay eggs, or add a dash of organic larvicide to keep them away.
“¢ You’ll want to add water as it evaporates. Let it sit for a couple days before adding, thought, to let some of the tap water chlorine evaporate.
“¢ Avoid half-whiskey barrels, as old toxins could leech in to harm plants and fish.
Succulents have been the “it” plant for years and there’s no sign of that slowing. They combine ease-of-care with a contemporary design style.
Find a shallow container (terra-cotta works well) and a Garden Centre with a big selection, and get choosing. Opt for a blend of different shapes and colours (try not to have all rosettes, even though they may be your favourite). With any luck, there will be some String of Pearls or Burro’s Tail to add trailing appeal.
If you have a planter that’s felt too ornate, old world, or vintage to use for annuals, this is how to use it. Or, to be really on trend, head to an antique mall to dig out an old birdcage to plant them in.
Succulents can be expensive, so here are a few ways to trim costs and have a better looking planter as well:
“¢ Choose a few succulents to bring indoors in the fall. Keep them in their pots when you plant them and give them lots of winter light. They’ll become specimen pieces as the seasons go by.
“¢ Blend succulents with less expensive bedding plants to save money. Avoid the costly “designer” annuals, which will devour your succulents, and go for sun-loving marigolds, zinnias, portulaca, and other classics.
“¢ You could bring your whole container indoors if you have room, but be sure to spray for bugs a couple times before bringing in.
You’ll want a better draining soil than your average container mix. As a rule of thumb, blend a peat-based potting mix (Pro-Mix, etc), with cactus soil as 1:1 ratio. Consider adding a layer of pebble on the bottom for even better drainage.
Make sure your pot has sufficient drainage holes. If they’re too small you’ll risk them getting plugged and/or leaving your succulents sitting in wet feet.
Keep yourself on-trend this year with these simple tips, or increase your knowledge with the experts at one of our gardening workshops in St. Albert, Alberta and you’ll have a stunning garden all year long.