Sprightly spring container gardens
BY WENDY ALTSCHULER For Sun-Times Media
Whether you have lots of space or barely any at all, container gardens can spice up the inside or outside of your home. Use container gardens to decorate the front stoop, to provide a dynamic backyard spot for entertaining, to beautify the facade of your home or to grow vegetables and herbs inside on your windowsill. For simple container gardening tips, follow these suggestions.
Choosing the right flowers and plants
When choosing flowers, consider perspective. If you are looking up, for example, you’ll need trailing plants that hang over the edge of the container. If you are looking down at the pot, more upright flowers are better. If you are looking from a distance, brighter and bigger blooms are best.
“If you do not like to water everyday, use plants that are drought tolerant such as succulents or moss roses,” suggested Lisa Pasquesi, director of marketing at Pasquesi Home and Gardens in Lake Bluff, Lake Forest and Barrington. “Multi-colors and multi-textures create eye-catching displays while monochromatic or simple one-plant type containers create elegant clean designs.”
Pansies and violas are traditional favorites due to their bright colors, hardiness and reliability. Whereas many spring flowers are delicate and in need of covering when frost is on the horizon, pansies and violas are resilient.
“There are thousands of choices for sun and for shade in thousands of colors and sizes,” said Bill Koch, owner of Hawthorn Gardens in Hawthorn Woods. “There are not too many rules, and it is always fun to try different combinations. Just remember: thriller, filler, spiller and think about whether the plant plays well with others or if it acts like a gorilla!”
Great soil is key
“Begin by lining your container with a porous material that will let water flow through but will keep the soil in. Landscape fabric or cheesecloth works well. This will help insulate the roots and keep the container clean,” Pasquesi said.
Put two inches of gravel in the bottom of the container to help with drainage. The water will collect in the gravel so the roots do not sit in water and potentially get root rot. Fill the container with high quality potting soil. Fertilize with a water-soluble fertilizer to help promote larger and more prolific flowers.”
Simple dirt is not good enough. For a thriving container garden, make sure you are using premium soil mixes.
“We use and recommend Fafard professional soil mixes. It is the perfect blend of organic components that account for drainage, air and moisture holding capabilities, providing space for root development,” Koch said.
Fusion of fashion and function
The fun part of container gardening is picking the vessel. Terracotta pots, metal urns, cast-stone planters, plastic buckets, wood crates or even unique objects such as straw hats or recycled bottles could provide attractive container options.
“The larger the container (with a drainage hole) the better,” Koch said. “Don’t forget to feed your container slow release fertilizer — one feeding for the whole season. It works the best for the busy gardener.”
Maureen Byron and Marcy Brown opened Trellis & Trugs in Highland Park more than a decade ago in order to provide quality garden containers and ornaments to residential communities. These design professionals are experts in the field of fine container gardening and landscape decoration for discerning customers.
“Our containers in particular, and container gardening in general, allows the homeowner to put their own stamp, their own personality on their home,” said Maureen Byron, co-owner of Trellis & Trugs. “It can be by using very traditional, elegant hand cast English lead planters with a stately red brick Georgian or using our very contemporary Zinc planters with the same Georgian for an eclectic feel. Both are correct and both give the homeowner the ability to express their identity.”