Container gardening isn’t a trend, it’s a deep shift in how we garden. For decades, we’ve been shifting more of our flowering annuals out of the flower-bed and into containers, leaving the ground for low maintenance perennials and shrubs.
With the growth of outdoor living, we’re spending more down-time in our gardens than ever before. Surrounding ourselves with pots of colour has become the norm; beauty begets the relaxation we’re craving.
Container gardening has evolved dramatically since its first inception, where a geranium, trailing lobelia, and a “spike” were the norm. From perennials to edibles, succulents to shrubs, there’s nothing that a savvy gardener can’t design into a gorgeous mixed container.
Eat your Containers!
Not literally, of course, but edibles are getting increasingly popular to grow in pots. Gardeners are realizing that you don’t need a sun-drenched back pasture to grow your own food. It’s amazing how many summer salads a few pots at the front door can provide!
We used to keep our edibles hidden, stashed away in the backyard like a pile of old tires. We’ve always filled our most visible pots with annuals and other flowering plants, but now we’re starting to appreciate the aesthetic of edibles. To me, tomatoes, salad greens, mixed herbs, corn and cucumbers are as gorgeous as petunias and snapdragons any day!
Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and cucumbers thrive in containers’ warm soil. As opposed to in our ice-cold late May garden, heat lovers will grow faster in pots and your tummy will thank you! Make sure to be ready for extra watering, though (see the next trend).
Water issues are making headline news. Living on the Prairies, we always know that the next bad drought could be creeping up on us, and we’re becoming increasingly proactive about conserving water.
Container gardens use a lot of water, both because the container draws moisture from the sides and because the plants we typically put in them, namely high-octane annuals, need a steady flow to stay vigorously blooming. We can reduce our water and have our flowers, too!
Self-watering pots, once only available to the wealthy or very handy, are now mainstream and available pretty much anywhere. You pour water into a lower reservoir where it’s wicked up by the roots as needed. The big advantage is that you water less often while avoiding the wet/wilting cycles that, especially during heat waves, can wreak havoc on plants’ vitality. With no surface water to evaporate or run over the brim, you’ll also use less water.
A few inches of organic mulch, like cedar, will reduce evaporation considerably. The moist wood will keep the water in the soil where it belongs, helping to alleviate issues like blossom-end-rot in tomatoes, which is largely due to inconsistent watering.
Our addiction to these fleshy leaved beauties goes on! Beyond their sculpted features, their ease and versatility keeps us coming back. Plant them in shallow containers, window frames, old suitcases, tire rims or shoes; as long as there’s ample sun and drainage your succulents will thrive.
Having adapted to survive in earth’s harshest environments, succulents are ideal for the patio’s sun-bleached hot spots. Provide sandy, well-draining soil and let them dry well between watering.
Succulents demonstrate how gorgeous container gardens without flowers can be. I use them in miniature gardening all the time, and have created everything from Wild West gardens with cowboys to Star Trek gardens with air plants and Spock toys. If you like the aquatic theme, blend succulents’ blue tones and reef shapes with coral, shells and coloured glass for a crisp undersea feel.