Containing My Enthusiasm

“Uh, Mom, why is there a garden in our garage?” I heard that question the other day, as my college daughter surveyed the landscape of plants in flats and nursery pots that consumed half of our garage. The truth is my enthusiasm for plant buying–from the church youth group, several nurseries, and two local plants sales–had collided with cooler than normal spring weather, and it seemed the plants needed a bit more indoor time.

With slightly warmer day-time temperatures promised this week and lows that are not quite so low, I have been slowly planting things out. Many of those plants are finding homes in containers, which are a great way to experiment with annuals, tropicals, and even perennials. You can find books on container gardening, but the basic principles are simple. Find a pot you like. The bigger the pot, the more you can pack into it, although if the pot is deep, fill the bottom with light stuff, like crushed four-packs. Then, pick a “thriller,” a plant that will grow tall or be striking in some other way. Add a couple of “spillers,” plants that will fall out of the container dramatically. Finally, pack the container good and full with a “filler,” a type of plant with lush foliage or pretty blooms. My favorite container from last year was a large, green and white striped pot filled with Lava Rose and Lava Green coleus, Fiesta Ole double impatiens, a fern, and petunias. Here’s the same pot filled with new things for this year: caladium, Supertunia petunias, a fern, and a pink and green coleus.

For the Northfield in Bloom program, many downtown businesses and residences will be planting window boxes and pots with a designated container-formula. The Northfield Garden Club recommends planting dark coleus (thriller), sweet potato vine (spiller) and pink petunias (filler). My two backyard window boxes have a variation on this theme. I could not find any sweet potato vine in town, so I bought vinca vine, which is a little less lime in color, but drapes nicely. One box is planted with Dark Star coleus, an almost black coleus, and the other with a Perilla Magilla, which is not a coleus, but comes from the same family. It looks like a coleus and is a dramatic foliage plant. For petunias, I used a mix of Wave petunias and the youth group petunias, which are called ‘Pink Celebrity.’

All the pots look a little skimpy and cold now, but just give them a few weeks and some warmer weather. What are your favorite container combinations?

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