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Container Gardens

By Sereba Agiobu-Kemmer
08 April 2016   |   11:24 pm
Most of us don’t have the time or space to plant even a little bit. However, a great way to enjoy the vast array of colorful flowers and foliage without spending a lot of money is to container garden.
Potted orange bourgainvillea twinning on arbor over doorway

Potted orange bourgainvillea twinning on arbor over doorway

Most of us don’t have the time or space to plant even a little bit. However, a great way to enjoy the vast array of colorful flowers and foliage without spending a lot of money is to container garden.

Plants grown in container, ranging from ordinary flower pots to decorative tubs, urns and vases present an effective method of cultivating ornamental flowers, herbs, cacti, vegetables and small trees (including dwarf fruit trees) in difficult or impossible situations.

This method of growing plants exclusively in containers instead of planting them in the ground is also useful in areas where the soil or climate is unsuitable for the plant or crop in question. Using a container is also generally necessary for house plants in limited growing space, or growing space that is paved over, can also make this option appealing.

Pots traditionally made of terracotta but now more commonly plastic, and window boxes have been the tradition. Small pots are commonly called flower pots. In some cases, this method of growing is used for ornamental purposes. Containers range from simple plastic pots, vases, tea cups to complex automatic-watering irrigation systems.

Containers come in all shapes and sizes and almost anything that will hold soil will work.

The flexibility in design is also another reason container gardening is popular with gardeners. They can be found on terraces, balconies, on porches, doorsteps, and in urban locations on concrete aprons, forecourts, roof -tops, or suspended from buildings, lamp posts. Sub-irrigated planters (SIP) are a type of container that may be used in container gardens.

There are many advantages to growing plants in containers, namely:
less risk of soil-borne disease
virtually eliminate weed problems
mobile plants gives more control over moisture, sunlight and temperature.

They are useful to maintain small gardens in peak conditions since directly one set of plants passes from flower, they can be immediately replaced by others that have been planted and grown to flowering point in a small nursery in an inconspicuous corner.

The most important preliminaries to success are a good growing mixture, or compost, which in most instances needs changing annually; provision for drainage; adequate watering, and the regular removal of dead leaves and spent flowers to prevent seeding.

Seed production depresses further flowering so this is highly important. Also all containers should be deep enough to keep plant roots cool and moist, especially where they stand in full sun.

Pots of lower growing evergreens will help to shade larger containers stood behind.

The growing mixture commonly used for container culture are either soil-based or loamless (peat-based); soil taken straight from the garden is unsatisfactory. The former type may be mixed at home normally with equal quantities of good loam, coarse sand and moist peat or leaf mould, together with some dried blood and bone meal. Or they can be obtained from good garden centers and nurseries prepared to a formula.

Loamless or soiless mixture are basically peat with added fertilizers and sometimes sand or vermiculite.

They are clean and light to handle, and give excellent results provided the material is neither over watered nor allowed to get bone dry.

Plants grown in container, ranging from ordinary flower pots to decorative tubs and vases present an effective method of cultivating flowers, herbs and vegetable fruits in difficult or impossible situations.

There are simple pointers about putting a container gardener together.

Be sure that water will readily drain from the container. Standing water will kill plant roots. Don’t choose plants that will grow rampantly.

They will take over! Avoid plants that will grow too tall and need staking. Start with small transplants so they grow up together. Combine plants with similar light and water needs.

Limit the number of plant types to four or five per container. Use plants whose colors compliment one another and blend with the color of the container. Include taller plants for height and place them in the center. Trailing plants look best around the edge where they may cascade.

The list of plants that can be used in containers is very long. The best container gardens are designed like a bouquet with a mix of tall linear plants and flower spikes (line), round flowers and broad-leaved foliage (form) and plants with small leaves and dainty flowers (filler).

Hanging baskets provide bright spots of colour in unorthodox situations such as the corners of buildings, hanging from lamp posts or over door ways. One kind, which is semi-circular, with one side flattened, can be hung against a wall.

Hanging baskets made of wire look best lined with sphagnum moss, but they dry out very quickly, so need frequent watering twice a day in hot weather. A lining of plastic (either in addition or instead of the moss) will retain moisture, but holes are necessary to prevent logging. The best method is to lower the basket into a bath of water for about 20 minutes.

Suitable plants for hanging baskets include various trailing houseplants tradescantia, episcia cupreata (flame violet) African violets, small-leaved ivies, ivy leaved perlargoniums, tuberous begonias.
Tubs And Plant Boxes

For many years sawn-down casks have been used for cultivation of plants, for they are comparatively cheap to buy and deep enough to take plants with extensive root systems, like rhododendrons, azaleas, hydrangeas agapanthus, dataras.

Their term of life depends on how they are treated; extreme dryness, for example, causes the staves to shrink and fall out, so many people today purchase the virtually indestructible glass-fibre models. Many of these are extremely attractive (and expensive), especially those fashioned as replicas of old lead vases and cisterns, or based on the wooden containers used for growing orange trees in the classic gardens at Versailles France.

There are jardinières for balconies or for standing at corners of a formal pool, pedestal vases for raised positions and boxes of various shapes, sizes and designs to stand about on patios, steps, entrances, by front doors and in key positions. Apart from glass-fibre and wood, plant boxes can be made of concrete, aluminum or terracotta. Most expensive of all are those made from real or reconstructed (reconstituted stone) tub bed and potted plants whether forming a whole pot garden or specimen such as impatiens, plants. Containers combine impact and versatility.
Sink garden and other ideas

Old stone sinks make excellent receptacles for small alpine plants and dwarf conifers and since they can be raised on brick or a low wall they are easy to tend. They can be used for a miscellany or rock plants or devoted to one genius-like saxifrages or geraniums. It is then easy to provide special plants with the right soil.

Another idea is to make a whole miniature garden complete with loam cutting the lawn when required with scissors.

Other plant containers to use outdoors include tower pots which consist of plastic sections with extended pocket-like into the top of another so that it is possible to build the towers to various heights. A range of plants can be used in the pockets.

The kind of builders’ bricks that have holes through them can also be used for growing plants. Fill the holes with soil and put a small house leek (semperivium ssp) in each. Stand them about in unsightly corners stand them about in unsightly corners such as on manhole covers. They persist for years and years, the brick completely hidden by the house leeks after a period of time.
Growing Bags

This comparatively new innovation consists of bulster-shaped plastic bags filled with loamless growing mixture. They can be laid on any hard surfaces an opening made in the top (the bought bags have special areas for cutting) and after watering planted up.

They are excellent for herbs and flowers and vegetables such as tomatoes, marrows, other vegetables indoors (under glass) and in the open plant 4 or 5 plants to each bag.

They need regular watering but produce stupendous crops in area where normal vegetable cultivation is impracticable. After harvesting, the growing mixture can be used to mulch-choice garden plants.
Miniature water gardening

Clear Perspex or glass containers can be used for water plants, preferably singular plants such as water lilies, water lettuce, water hyacinth, it can also include fish and water snails.