Friday, April 14, 2017

Growing Herbs in Containers - Planning a Container Garden

Planning a container garden

Where garden space is limited, or where your claim to the great outdoors begins and ends at the balcony or window box, you can create a visual and edible feast with herbs grown in pots and other containers.  Herbs such as bay laurel and rosemary are at their most effective when planted in their own in a container and since both can have a nice long life, placing them in a container lets you bring them indoors come winter.  Other herbs can be planted individually or in larger containers in groups.

rosemary being trained
on a copper frame into a
triangle topiary
This design is something you can do in its entirety or you can pick and choose those parts that will fit in the space you have available.

You can be as simple as a clipped bay or topiary rosemary in a large container flanking the door or a strawberry pot holding a wide variety of plants.

Containers can be the more traditional terra cotta or plastic pots to the more creative and textural stones sinks, barrels or half barrels, wheel barrows, olive oil cans, paint cans, steel tomato cans, wooden crates or hand-crafted hypertuffa containers you can make in any shape you want.

Keep these tips in mind when choosing containers:
1. Shallow containers such as stone sinks, and terracotta or hypertuffa troughs are suited for annual herbs such as sweet basil, dill, chervil, and calendula. 
2. Try to keep annuals and perennials in separate containers so you do not disturb the long-term herbs when you plant or discard the annuals.
3. All containers, regardless of style require adequate drainage holes in the base.  
4. If you are filling a large container, place it in the final position before you fill it, as it will be heavy and hard to move.

To Plan -- 

The easiest way to begin to fill a container is to combine three categories of plants: thriller, filler and spiller.

You want to have a bold, upright, architectural plant; that's the thriller.  It should get your attention.

The filler is the plant with medium height in the pot, or the next step down from the thriller.

The spiller tumbles out of the edge of the container and falls toward the ground.

When considering plants to use as your thrillers, fillers and spillers, think about their texture, fragrance and color combinations. Individually, each plant conveys color, texture, shape, and dazzle. Yet when combined in one container or a grouping of pots, examine how the plants interact with each other. Do certain colors in one plant bring out subtle complementary colors in another? How do the various leaf shapes, sizes and textures carry through the container plantings? Is there an underlying theme that connects all the plants together?

You can accomplish this with one container or a set of containers grouped together.

So how do you combine form and function into a fabulous container? Start with your focal point, or thriller. This is the plant that provides architectural structure in the pot. "Thrillers are the big, bold element, so look for shapes that are strong and pronounced," says Steve. Good options for thrillers are elephant ears, cannas and ornamental grasses.  You can add a lemon grass, chives and a thick-leaved scented geranium like ‘Mabel Grey’ too.

Fillers are the plants in the middle that connect the thrillers to the spillers. Fillers are mounding, billowy plants that you put around the thriller. They disguise the base of the thriller and fill up the pot with neat shapes. Consider using plants of moderate size, such as basil, coleus, pentas and lantana. Small leaf filler would include thyme and variegated thyme.

Spillers are the final element to consider when designing your pots. They cascade to the ground, softening the edges of the pot and anchoring it in place. They provide a colorful skirt around the combination of thrillers and fillers. Sweet potato vine, million bells (Calibrachoa) and nasturtiums are good examples of trailing plants.

Come back tomorrow for Design and Layout ideas for Containers

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