It doesn’t really matter what you plant inside, container gardening really is all about the container!
Here we’re going to focus on, well, the container. Whether you use terra cotta, wood, granite or even some rather unconventional materials, the receptacle in which you bed your plants will define your container garden and distinguish the spot you place it in.
Terra cotta may be the most widely used type of garden container, and for good reason. It’s of the earth, and as such, harmonizes perfectly with nature. Terra cotta on brick is quite subtle and maintains an earthy flow throughout an outdoor room. Terra cotta placed on soil, mulch or grass provides just a bit of an accent and appears to belong in its setting. Wood containers such as buckets, barrels and troughs offer up a more rustic or countrified look and feel. Stone containers speak of age, elegance and often grandeur, depending upon their size. For a contemporary look, try cement or metal containers; look for those with straight lines.
Nowadays, even home improvement stores carry some spectacular containers, often made of lightweight synthetic materials that so closely resemble stone and cement that you sometimes have to touch them to figure it out. Or look at the price tag. For Mother’s Day last year, my husband bought me a huge container in which I featured my largest dracaena. It looked just like stone, but if it actually had been, it would certainly have been out of our Mother’s Day Gift price range.
You can find containers just about anywhere. And you don’t have to be conventional about finding them, either. Some of the most striking container gardens are planted in vessels that were never intended for that purpose. Got an old tool box hanging around? Metal or wood, it doesn’t matter; you can plant something in it. How about a watering can, a wicker basket, a watering trough or a piece of chipped china or pottery that you’ll no longer use in your home? This mindset fits very nicely into the going green theme that we’re so conscious of lately. Re-invent, re-use, think outside of the box. How about a fishbowl or small aquarium, a conch shell (nice for a beach house), a colander, a pail or bucket, a mailbox, a birdbath, an old wooden box or chest? Don’t forget wagons, wheelbarrows, and garden carts. Even a mailbox can be transformed into a container garden. I’ve seen container gardens planted in shoes, for goodness sake!
If you haven’t got any inspiring material in which to plant your container garden lying around (hard to imagine, but just in case), you can usually find some very inexpensive end-of season containers, things you might not have been able to afford in the spring. And if you’re a yard sale aficionado, you’d be surprised at what kind of containers you can find (whether they were meant for that purpose or not) for mere pennies.
One last thought. You really have very few limitations when deciding what kind of nature to include in your container garden. You do want to be sure that all the plants in one container require the same type of soil, sun exposure and drainage. Other than that, there are a few general guidelines you might like to keep in mind.
If your container is shallow, avoid using materials that are too tall. If your container is tall, try to include some plants that are also tall, about the height of the container. In any but the shallowest containers, try to incorporate three levels of plant matter: something tall, some that are medium height and/or short and finally, something that will cascade over the rim of the container.
That’s it. Find a container, pick a few plants and get out your potting soil. When you’ve put it all together, give it a drink. You’ll have a container garden in practically no time at all.