By Sally Jones | Jun 5, 2023
Finally, summer is just around the corner! It’s the time of year when just about all homeowners acquire an overwhelming desire to surround themselves with verdant, prolific plants—including beautiful flowers, herbs, and vegetables.
No big backyard? No problem.
You can flex your green thumb in whatever outdoor space you have available—be it a window box, balcony, deck, patio, or stoop.
Starting a container garden doesn’t take a lot—you just need plants, soil, water, and some containers to put it all in.
Plus, we rounded up experts to get their best advice on the common and some not-so-common containers that will help you make your garden look enchanting.
1. Clay pots
Many budding gardeners begin with classic terra-cotta pots. And whatever the size, you can’t go wrong with terra-cotta pots; they’re both pretty and practical.
And all-white flowers—like forget-me-nots—stand out in terra-cotta pots of varying sizes.
“Clay containers have classic good looks and are widely available in a range of sizes at reasonable prices,” says Maggie Stuckey, author of “The Container Victory Garden.” “The material is porous, which allows air to pass through to the roots.”
If you go the clay pots route, there is a downside.
“Soil dries quickly because water vapor passes out through the porous sides very readily,” adds Stuckey. So water regularly, especially when the weather turns hot.
Baskets might not come immediately to mind when you think of gardening containers. But woven rattan makes a rustic counterpoint to delicate blooms.
“Experiment with a mix of various sizes, shapes, and weaves,” advises David Andre, landscape architect at Sprouted Home.
Baskets do break down after a few seasons in contact with damp soil. But you can make yours last longer by not putting the soil in direct contact with the rattan. Instead, try tucking some smaller pots inside the basket.
“Or line the baskets with a plastic bag, then they can hold moisture-loving plants quite effectively,” says Andre.
3. Aluminum buckets and pitchers
These spiky purple foxgloves look stunning in a simple galvanized farm bucket.
“Aluminum buckets and pitchers can be your allies if you’re going for an industrial or farmhouse aesthetic,” says Andre. “The silver sheen contrasts beautifully with green foliage and vibrant blooms, creating a striking visual appeal. Plus, they’re sturdy and weather-resistant.
4. Upcycled furniture
Painted furniture is a common prop in the container gardens of Instagram and for good reason.
“Old stools and tables serve as delightful, quirky pedestals for your pots while providing height and depth to your arrangement,” says Andre. “When painted, they add a pop of color and a personal touch to your garden space.”
Keep an eye out for inexpensive castoffs at garage sales and thrift stores or free items in your local Buy Nothing Facebook group. Look for small tables, stools, chairs, and even ladders.
And don’t overlook “brown furniture” that’s not in style anymore. It likely just needs a fresh coat of paint. Pull together nonmatching pieces by painting them all the same color.
5. Stone planters and bowls
Stone and concrete planters and bowls are a favorite among gardeners because they can withstand the elements.
Mix three or four plants of different sizes and colors if your planter is large. And be sure that at least one is a trailing plant that spills over for a romantic look.
Just be sure all the plants you choose have the same sun and soil requirements and that your planter has drainage holes in the bottom.
“Let’s discuss wooden crates,” says Andre. “They’re so useful for creating a minigarden. You can arrange several plants within one crate or even stack a few to create levels and add a vertical element to your garden display.”
Stuckey likes that crates are “made from a renewable resource” but notes that they have a downside: “They will develop rot after several years of watering.”
Luckily, you can hunt down free replacements by asking around at your local farm or produce stand.
Statues have long been used in gardens to create a certain mood.
In a small container garden, look for an ornament of the right scale that can nestle within a canopy of green. Or find a piece that does double duty as a statue and container all in one.
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