GOING TO POTS
Let container's mood shape selection of the plant
By Vicky Katz Whitaker
Copley News Service
Indoors or out, a potful of pretty flowers can make any decor more attractive. But where to start?
"I go for the container first, pulling things together as I shop," says container gardening expert Kathy Bond Borie, a horticulturist with the Vermont-based National Gardening Association. "I like to use perennials or small shrubs," the mood or color of the pot shaping her decision on its final contents. "I hold everything side by side," rejecting plant and flower colors and shapes that don't work for those that do.
There's no limit to where you can put potted plants or shrubs, indoors in hallways and sun rooms, outdoors on patios and decks.
"You can even put them in the middle of a garden," suggests Bond Borie, who prefers larger pots with just a few types of plants or one alone, because "they make more of a statement." She's part of a growing number of savvy container garden fans and professionals who see simplicity as a key to good design.
"It's a bit of a trend," Bond Borie says. Mixing lots of different types of colors and plants together in one pot takes away from the overall effect, she explains. "If you put in too many things, its gets so busy that you can't show off individual plants."
Whether you're an experienced container gardener or just starting out, choosing a planter can be daunting. Garden planters and flower pots come in all shapes and sizes and in an equally diverse variety of materials including clay, concrete, lightweight fiberglass and fiberstone, resin, stone, wood, metal, ceramics and glass.
There's a growing market for eco-friendly pots, too, including biodegradable weather-resistant coconut husk planters that break down in three to five years, dishwasher-safe "green" pots made primarily from rice hulls and natural binding agents, even colorful pots made of bamboo pulp that have the look of plastic.
Some eco-conscious container gardeners prefer water-conserving self-watering pots or "wet pots," a combination of glass and water absorbing terra cotta that gives the plant the water it needs through natural capillary action. If you're looking for something that's more showy, check out solar-powered resin pots that cast a soft glow throughout the night.
Clay and earth-toned terra-cotta pots have long been favorites of experienced gardeners, since they absorb excess water that collects in man-made containers. Most will not make it through a harsh winter without cracking unless you take the pots inside your house or store them in a garage or shed, wrapping them carefully in straw for insulation against the cold, says the NGA's Bond Bourie.
Wood pots are more resistant to cold, but eventually will rot, even if waterproofed. To extend the life of a wood pot, line it with plastic. Concrete pots may need to be sealed and though long-lasting, are extremely heavy, making them less desirable if you want to move your container garden from one spot to another.
Many container gardeners opt for fiberglass, fiberstone or resin pots that are lightweight, waterproof and crack resistant, often mimicking the look of their heavier concrete cousins. Glazed ceramic pots can add color and texture to any decorating scheme, but like their terra-cotta counterparts, can't take cold temperatures and are subject to chipping.
Most garden books devote some pages to container gardening, but for more comprehensive advice, seek specialized guides such as Sunset's heavily illustrated, 128-page "Container Gardening," which gives you tips on choosing pots and plants or Sydney Eddison's "Gardens to Go: Creating and Designing a Container Garden," published by Bullfinch Press. In addition to the basics, Eddison offers advice on design, color, texture and cultivation.
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