I use to spend hours in the nursery picking out plants for my containers and then standing in long lines to check out. That is, until I got smarter about container gardening, specifically the containers. If I could leave the containers outside year round, then why couldn't I fill them with perennials, shrubs and even small trees? I would plant them once, watering them only during periods of summer drought. I could poke in some extra annual color, if I had the time. Otherwise, they would carry themselves through all seasons with little, if any, attention.
First, I had to get rid of all my terra cotta pots, which are porous and will crack in cold weather. Then I bought just a few very large containers made of a fiberglass, composite or ceramic rated for the outdoors. They were expensive, but what I saved in annual plants quickly justified the cost.
Then I had to select plants that enjoy average to dry soil conditions and the given light exposure and heat on my deck. I also wanted the anchor shrub or small tree to be upright or vase-shaped in order to accommodate perennials, keeping in mind, the perennials would eventually become well-shaded by the tree or shrub.
Here are several favorite trees and shrubs for containers...
Deciduous Magnolia (The Little Girl Hybrids)
Holly (Ilex crenata 'Sky Pencil')
Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum)
Oakleaf Hydrangea 'Snow Queen' (Hydrangea quercifolia 'Snow Queen')
Panicle Hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata)
Red- or Yellow-twig Dogwood (Cornus alba, Cornus sericea)
Variegated Boxwood (Buxus sempervirens 'Variegata')
Winterberry Holly (Ilex verticillata)
as well as favorite grasses and perennials...
Arborvitae Fern (Selaginella braunii)
Black Mondo Grass (Ophiopogon 'Ebony Night')
Bleeding Heart (Dicentra eximia)
Heuchera (Heuchera x villosa)
Hypericum (Hypericum calycinum 'Briggadoon')
Japanese Shade Grass (Hakonechloa macra)
Lady's Mantle (Alchemilla mollis)
Lamium (Lamium maculatum)
Miscanthus (Miscanthus sinensis)
Panicum (Panicum virgatum)
Sedum (Sedum rupestre 'Angelina')
Spirea (Spirea japonica)
Sweet Flag (Acorus gramineus)
In a container I treat Spirea as a perennial (top photo). By plucking a few babies with roots from the base of the mother plant and tucking them in close to the middle plant of the container, Spirea will weave itself through, over, and around the other plants in just one season. Awesome effect, especially from Spirea japonica 'Goldmound'.
Next, we'll start to discuss the design process given a blank slate. Until then... have a great week!
Welcome to my journal. For over 20 years I've created original landscape plans to help homeowners increase property value and really enjoy their yards. I approach every project as an unique opportunity to develop a work of living art, one that will require minimal care and age beautifully with time. In this journal, I will share some of my field experiences and tricks of the trade with you. Feel free to email questions. Thanks for visiting.