Sunday, April 6, 2014

Container Gardening: Pots, Boxes and Other Vessels

Not my door, but I wish it was (hahaha).
Here are some containers and pots that my husband and I have photographed over the last year that I thought you might get some ideas from for this year's gardening season.

You don't have to be elaborate, and it doesn't have to be something newly purchased. You can use existing materials you have on hand, or shop the thrift stores or craft shops for some ideas for decorative containers. Containers can be made from clay, plastic, ceramic, tin, fiberglass, stone, cement, compressed fibers, and peat moss. One nursery owner that I talked with last year uses coconut fiber called Coir for hanging baskets. Coir is the natural fiber found in the coconut between the outer and inner shell of the coconut. This material actually holds more water than the sphagnum moss hanging pots. It is also longer lasting. This is the same fiber that you will find used in doormats. I haven't used it before myself, but I'm going to look for it in the nursery or online.
Link to: Coconut Coir bricks

Recycled watering can that leaked used for planter.
I usually don't fuss too much with my containers. I pot up some window boxes, and some pots to fill in around the house along with some hanging planters. Sometimes I get discouraged with them half-way through the season because they start getting 'leggy' and need some work (or the trash).

The picture at left is from a recycled watering can that one of my neighbors gave me (it leaked). And another neighbor shared some of her 'Golden Creeping Jenny' that I filled the container with. Because the watering can leaked I didn't have to add any additional drainage to it.

When you want to have some containers around your house or yard you should first determine where you want to place them. Depending on whether or not they will get sun or shade will determine which plants will grow best in the amount of light they are exposed to.

Another important factor to consider for your container is drainage. If there is not sufficient drainage in your pot, water can sit in the bottom of the pot which could result in your plants rotting. Sometimes you can add additional holes to the base of your pot by drilling or punching holes in it.

I use a mixture of potting soil with moisture pellets and composted manure for my planting mixture. You don't want to use just soil from the ground because it will end up being compacted in your container and probably doesn't contain enough nutrients for your flowers to last the season. And most potting soil in itself does not have any nutrients. If you use an organic mixture as above for planting your flowers, and if you find you need to add additional fertilizer throughout the season then use a liquid organic fertilizer. If you were to use a chemical fertilizer it would kill off all the beneficial organisms in your composted mixture.

If you decide to use a coconut coir block and add them to your potting mixture, break or cut into pieces and add water to it, then mix it in with your potting mixture. If you add coir to your mixture you should add perlite because the coir will have a tendency to pack down.

Lewiston, NY
Another important factor when choosing plants to combine for a pot is to consider the needs of the plant as far as the light and watering requirements. Make sure that the flower/plant combinations you are choosing have the same light and water requirements. You would not want to plant flowers that require full shade with plants that require full sun. And the same with the water requirements. Some plants require less water than others. Also some plants can be severely damaged in a area that's exposed to strong winds.

When you are shopping in the nursery or store for your plants remember to check the plant tags for their requirements or ask an employee. Plant tags usually give you a lot of information on that specific plant. This tag will tell you what the light and water requirements are, the height and width of the plant, and how often you need to fertilize it. And if it's a perennial plant it should give you the hardiness zone that's recommended for your plant. Be careful when shopping for perennials in your hardiness zone. I have found several instances where nurseries and big box stores (like Lowes and Home Depot) sell perennial plants that are not suited for that particular hardiness zone in which they are selling them. I've seen them sell tropical plants in stores up north and customers see the word 'perennial' on them and purchase them thinking they will survive our winters outdoors. If you are shopping and have a smart phone you might want to look up a plant if you are unsure of the hardiness zone of  a specific plant that you want to plant outdoors for your hardiness zone.

USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map

Sometimes the plant labels will give you additional information too, such as the habit of the plant meaning if it will form a mound, if it is a 'filler' which means it will fill out in the pot, or if it is upright like a spike, or if it is a trailing plant like ivy which would hang over the pot.

When filling out a pot try to incorporate these three things: 'Fillers, Thrillers, & Spillers'. Example: a filler could be petunias, a spiller could be ivy, and a thriller could be spike like a snapdragon. Here is a link to a previous post with more links that I wrote on Window Boxes and Container Tips.

Youngstown, NY
Kingston, Ontario Canada

Lewiston, NY

Sackets Harbor, NY

Ontario, Canada

Feel free to mix up your pots with perennials, too. At the end of the season you can plant them right in the ground and either pot them up the following year or leave them to come up in the ground.

"You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream."
C. S. Lewis

This window box that my husband and I put
together a few years ago was one of my all-time favorites!

Here are some links from previous posts on the Villages photographed in this issue of my blog:
Lewiston and Youngstown, NY 
Sackets Harbor
Niagara-On-The-Lake, Ontario, Canada
Niagara-On-The-Lake Part II, Niagara Parks Botanical Garden, Ont. Canada

Hope you find some ideas you are able to use for your upcoming gardening season! 
Leave a note if you'd like. . .


  1. It sure makes me want to start thinking about my containers and plants to fill them. I have to say the coleus makes for great container plants as you have shown. Containers really do add a lot to the garden and fill in spaces where needed. Hope to be up North very soon.

    1. Yes, the coleus does make a great filler or accent plant in a container. They can add a lot of drama. You have the most interesting pots and containers and I can't wait to see your beautiful displays this season. Thanks for commenting LuLu and see you soon!

  2. There is a lot of nice architecture and scenery behind those pots. The Lewiston GardenFest has a container contest with nice prizes, too bad these or some like these could not be entered.

    1. Thanks Donna. I would love to see the container entries in the Lewiston GardenFest, but don't think we're going to be able to make it this year. That is such a beautiful show and so much work goes into it. And I love touring the gardens of the local homes there.

  3. I love finding new ideas for containers...some great ones here Sue!

    1. Thanks Donna. I'm like you in that I'm always looking for new ideas for container plantings. They can be a lot of fun and add some great highlights to any garden.

  4. Nice project with amazing place structure.
    Zarah from Bizbilla B2B portal