Grow Me a Garden—In Anything
left: Blogger MrBrownThumb suggests choosing bright, loud-colored pots for foliage plants that may not flower in the spring or summer. Here, an aloe looks majestic in an azure blue planter. right: A hollowed out stump, like this one from MrBrownThumb, makes for an interesting, natural container.
With the ever-growing emphasis on being green, buying local, and eating fresh, it’s not just farmer’s markets that have been enjoying a boost. While maintaining a garden in one’s backyard has long been a popular suburban pursuit, urban dwellers have been getting in on the action. Container gardening is exploding, with blogs and TV shows urging enthusiasts along the way.
Even if you have a yard, planting in containers is a smart way to start. They make it easy to move plants around to capture or avoid the sun, or if you just want a change of scenery. When summer blossoms fade, you can replant them with hearty fall flowers, or drag them indoors if you’ve got a sunny window. And if you already have plants indoors, housing them in portable containers makes it easy to put them outside come spring.
left: Interior designer Kelly Hoppen places a trio of clear glass planters on a dining table. Next time you receive a flower delivery, re-use the glass container as a planter or terrarium.
Most importantly, container gardens can be quite low maintenance. Dirt du jour blogger Cindy McNatt says, “When I think of container gardens, I think easy. Succulents can take a few weeks of neglect when I'm off in the High Sierras looking for wildflowers or hiking the high mountain lakes. Kitchen herbs can go days without attention when I'm busy doing other things.”
left: Dirt du jour blogger Cindy McNatt suggests using a birdbath as a planter. The height lets trailing varieties go the distance. right: Red and yellow succulents, like these shown on Dirt du jour, provides a burst of color without the hassle of finicky blooms.
While we love getting our hands dirty and enjoy the resulting riot of color, what really interests us is how creative we can get with container gardening. Container garden designer Lyndsay Maver of Boston-based Lynzariums echoes our thinking, saying, “I like to think I can plant in anything.” We’ve curated a creative mix of images showcasing container gardens in everything from a fancy French fauteuil to a rustic, pitted, wooden shovel. As for what we found on eBay, the possibilities were endless. But first, a few tips to get you going:
1. Find out what growing zone you live in (there are 11 in North America), so you can choose appropriate plants.
2. You’ll also need to consider how much sun and shade you can provide. (More on this below.)
An old wooden shovel serves as a mini succulent garden, by Lynzariums.
3. Chose your container based on the type of plant you want to grow. Or vice versa. Plants should not be more than twice the height of the container or more than half its width. If you choose trailing plants, you might like some extra height. Or, depending on the plant, you might be able to train it around a balcony railing.
4. Drainage is crucial. The first one to two inches of the container should be lined with gravel. Maver says, “I always use lots of layers of rocks, shells and natural materials so the plants are not sitting, drowning in wet dirt.”
5. Use potting soil, preferably a type that includes fertilizer, though if you feed your plants regularly, they’ll likely grow better.
Lyndsay Maver of Lynzariums layers all sorts of found natural materials to ensure ample drainage.
6. Don’t leave containers in full sun all day, even if those little plastic instruction sticks that come with the plants indicate as such. Containers heat up more quickly than the ground.
7. If you're using a container, you’ll also need to water more often, since plant roots in containers are not as deep as those grown in the ground, which can naturally search for moisture.
8. If you decide to put more than one variety in a single container, select plants that call for the same amounts of sun, water, and food. If one plant dies, just replace it with another.