I can’t contain myself

One pot wonder - the front porch fuchsiaI’m addicted to pots! I love container gardening because like putting a frame around a painting, a plant in the right pot is suddenly especially special. I started working yesterday with Julie Morris (Blithewold’s Dir. of Hort.) on our container bed. And I just read this morning on Garden Rant that mixed containers are “out” and one plant to a pot is totally the new “in” thing. I’m not sure where I’ve been because after years of resisting mixed containers and only grudgingly making a few weak attempts at combinations now and again, I’m finally into mixing it up. I’m so woefully behind the times!

an unorganized array of single plant pots - when we finish planting I’ll start obsessing about combos!One plant per pot is definitely the easier way to go. Each plant receives exactly the kind of attention it needs and pots can be placed in artful combinations and shifted according to whim and whimsy or whenever something starts to look scrunky. I may be a frustrated interior decorator (my house is so small that everything has a place – one place – it can go) because I really enjoy rearranging the “furniture” in the container bed.

Calibrachoa and Senecio combo on the left.  An outstanding Aeonium is in the other blue pot.A mixed container is a challenge. Just like planting a garden with the right plant for the right spot, for a mixed container one must at least consider putting plants with similar needs together. The roadside mixed container: fuchsia, phormium, plechtranthus, impatiens, and lobelia - you name it, it’s in there!I broke that rule with the pot combo of million bells (Calibrachoa) and blue chalk fingers (Senecio vitalis) but I’m hoping that improving the drainage around the Senecios with turfus will keep them happy even though I’ll be watering the pot whenever the Calibrachoas are thirsty. If either plant fails to thrive (another way of saying “shows signs of dying slowly but surely”) we’ll have to punt and repot. A good imagination is helpful too for being able to picture what your combo will look like when it “grows up”. What will overtake? What will fill in the gaps? My giant Ferry Rd. pot has filled in quite nicely with only one casualty so far (a lobelia). Now I wonder how much longer it will last before competition does them all in… Mixed containers always have the element of experiment – which if you have the time, patience and budget for it, isn’t a bad thing at all.

a quirky comboSo I got a little bit into it yesterday and although my first attempts don’t excite me (probably because they haven’t “grown up” yet) I’m kind of loving my last pot combo of the day. I actually almost ripped everything out thinking it was a terrible combination but then looked at it from another angle and decided quirky works too and if these plants were together in a garden I’d probably love it. Once again though I made a hash of the cultural requirements and will have to watch the pot hawk-like to make sure that nobody dies from benign neglect or compulsive over watering…

On a practical note, we use one part (ish) compost to two parts (ish) of soilless potting mix (dampened!) and we’ve just started throwing a handful of Espoma triple phosphate into our mixing bin – we used to use Electra so we’ll have to wait and see if there’s a big difference. For the two entrance pots, which I don’t want to have to check every day, I also added SoilMoist and that seems to have helped keep the pots from drying out completely between waterings. When we fertilize we usually use Neptune’s Harvest fish emulsion but occasionally use blue stuff blossom booster (only on the pots).

Are you a pot addict too? Do you have favorite combinations, tips or tricks? (For those of you who already participated in the conversation at Garden Rant, feel free to say it again here!)

6 thoughts on “I can’t contain myself

  1. Since almost everything I grow is in containers I have a bit of everything. Some containers (like the plant table) have 8 different kinds of plants, some have all the same color petunias. I’ve mixed veggies and herbs together and I have a bunch of just herb containers. I even threw some basil into a container with my purple hyacinth beans. I have a few mixed containers that are working perfectly and a few that are straggling (mostly the shade plants).

    Love the bright blue pot with the orange calibrachoa!

    Heather, You have my favorite kind of garden. Your successes are true successes and a labor of love – there’s no plant-it-and-forget-it with pots! -kris

  2. Kris: I love creating containers and have done both mixed and single. I think the singles have a formality that can be very interesting. Most of mine are mixed and it is always interesting to see the final effect of one’s choices. There is always a surprise or two, some unexpected color or texture within the pot! That is the fun of it!

    Layanee, I think you hit the nail on the head of why we love to garden! -kris

  3. I’m not a pot head., but do grow cherry tomatoes on the deck for easy picking. If containers have a shortfall it’s keeping them watered. I’m gone too often and I can’t rely on anyone to water.

    Oh wait I do container garden. Anything I don’t use from the nursery right away sits in the pot. I heel them in a nice bed of composted horse bedding while they wait so they can put roots through the bottom holes and forage for nutrients and water themselves. I haven’t lost anything over the winters so maybe I am a successful container gardener after all :)

    Containers (except maybe the ones that are heeled in!) are very high maintenance especially when it comes to keeping up with the watering. I’m always trying to devise ways we can leave all of the pots over the weekend without coming back in to them for water. Haven’t come up with the perfect solution yet… There’s always at least one dry guy… -kris

  4. I have a couple of singles: black bamboo in a clay-red pot, a couple of mints in their own pots–including an old cast-iron soup pot from my grandmother’s house–for obvious reasons, and a Christmas cactus in a small white-painted cast iron birdfeeder with shells as mulch.

    I would like to have more singles, too. One of my favorite ideas is to fill my big black urn only 1/2 full of soil, and plant yellow creeping jenny inside of it. And maybe scatter a few glass orbs across the creeping jenny. So that you can only see that there is a plant inside when you are right up on it–from further away, it would look unplanted.

    In reality, however, I’m a mixer at heart. The pot by my front door, beneath the shade of the porch, has frosty orange New Guinea impatiens, baby spider plants, and two colors of coleus. My bay laurels are underplanted with ‘Silver Falls’ dichondra. The year I did my entire herb garden in terracotta pots, I planted purple sweet alyssum all around the edges of each one in order to provide some color and interest.

    And the urn, in spite of the simple vision outlined above, has everything but the kitchen sink planted inside: silver lotus vine, eucalyptis, coleus canina, ‘Golden Delicious’ pineapple sage, ‘Marcus’ salvia, red cordyline, silver plectranthus… it’s a train wreck of an urn! lol.

    Kim, Your pots sound spectacular – maybe especially the “train wreck”! But I do also love the “ha-ha! tricked ya!” idea you have for that pot. You might need the Jenny to send out a tendril-y teaser to encourage people to investigate… -kris

  5. Oh, I forgot to ask: Would you mind sharing your secrets to keeping that fucshia looking so drop-dead gorgeous? Mine never look so full or lush… *sigh*

    Kim, I’m almost as mystified by its vigor as you! We do fertilize those fuchsias every couple of weeks with either blossom booster (we’re not too concerned about being fully organic with the container plants) or Neptune’s Harvest Fish fertilizer. And they are both fairly large stock plants that have been around for a while. Keeping them fairly shaded and really well watered helps them look lush too… -kris

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