Containers bursting with annuals and perennials put the focus where you want it. Whether they dress up the front entry, serve as the centerpiece of an outdoor dining table, or lead you toward the end of a path, pots play an important part in the landscape.
There's no need to tie yourself down to traditional terra cotta, however; part of the fun in this sort of gardening is choosing and using more unusual containers. So, get inspired and start planting!
At left, an old chair brimming with blooms is right at home on this welcoming porch. Choose plants that complement each other and your chair, and don't be afraid to mix colors or add a houseplant. "A container is essentially a horticultural box of crayons," says Denise Smith, a horticulturist in Jefferson, Georgia. "Remember, you are making a 3-D picture with colors and textures."
At left, perennials play beautifully in a galvanized tub. Their easygoing look fits the container's casual nature, with flowers in bloom throughout the summer. It takes maintenance to keep color constant throughout the growing season, however. Feed your flowers with a liquid blossom-boosting fertilizer, such as 15-30-15, every other week. At the same time, remove all flowers past their peak to encourage new bud formation.
Add quick and easy color to a garden or deck with these pots that feature a series of pockets, allowing you to layer plants. When filled out with foliage or flowers, they also add sophisticated design to your yard. At left, strawberry begonias (Saxifraga stolonifera), squeezed into the sides of the container, grow beneath the iris. Once the iris stops blooming, the begonias begin to flower, the blooms sprinkled along 8- to 10-inch stems. Other jar pockets are filled with mazus (Mazus reptans), usually used as a ground cover. Above the mazus, the reddish-purple whorled foliage of 'Vera Jameson' sedum tops the pot.
Often overlooked, hanging gardens have enormous potential for brightening up your outdoor spaces, especially when you choose unusual containers. The two examples at left, an old, cone-shaped fire bucket and a miner's basket, were found at a flea market and antiques shop. Most importantly, look for containers that can be suspended easily and are strong enough to hold the weight of soil and plants.
Place your hanging garden where you would love color, but can't find a way to get it there. Loop chain or rope around a sturdy tree limb, making sure to thread it through an old piece of hose to prevent damage.
• When grown in containers, annuals and perennials are short-term, seasonal plantings. They usually require a little more work but reward you with variety and lots of color.
• If you mix several types of plants in one container, make sure they share the same growing requirements, such as light and water.
• Use dark-colored blooms in front of a light-colored house and light-colored blooms in front of a dark house.
• Don't place too many colors in one pot. If you have more than one pot, repeat the same color in each one for continuity.
• Make sure the plant you purchase will fit into the container and still have a little room to grow.