How does your garden grow
BY WENDY ALTSCHULER For Sun-Times Media
When selecting your plants, make sure that they all have the same light and water necessities. 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.
"To mix it up, add snapdragons and stock for a little bit of height. Stock is similar in shape to snapdragons, but has larger flowers and a great fragrance," said Kim Goers Boyer, director of marketing at Vern Goers Greenhouse in Hinsdale. "A lot of these spring annuals will stick around until June, when the summer heat arrives. To keep them going, be sure to keep them fertilized and dead-headed-taking off any spent flowers before they go to seed."
Boyer goes on to say, "There are also a few annuals that can be planted now that will last throughout the summer. The basic accent foliage such as English ivy, spikes, vinca vine and fiber optic grass are more cold tolerant plants. Flowering plants such as lobelia, alyssum and fuchsia can be planted right now. A lot of these plants will get leggy, so don't be afraid to cut them back to get them to fill out and bloom again. By mixing some of these more enduring annuals in with pansies and violas, you will have beautiful containers on display. The best part about these pots, is that you will only need to pop out a pansy and replace it with a geranium when the warmer weather arrives."
Great soil is key. Plain dirt is not good enough. For a booming container garden, make sure you are using premium soil mixes. Containers also require repeated watering, which depletes nutrients from the soil. Use a slow-release fertilizer to keep plants thriving.
"The soil used in your container is a very important element. Soil for containers need to be well aerated and well drained while still being able to retain enough moisture," said Sandy Just, landscape maintenance and color designer at Hinsdale Nurseries. "Use a premium soil that has a blend of pine bark, which will help with aeration. Don't be tempted to fill your container with soil from your garden, which will be too heavy and will contain both insects and weeds."
Fusion of fashion and function: The fun part of container gardening is picking the vessel that you will plant everything in. Terracotta pots, metal urns, cast stone planters, plastic buckets, wood crates or even unique objects like straw hats or recycled bottles could provide attractive container options.
"Fiberglass and resin containers have come a long way, and can easily fool the eye into thinking that they are a natural material, especially as they age," said Just. "Eco-friendly concrete containers are becoming increasingly popular. They are lightweight and made from recycled materials. Make sure your container has drainage holes and cover the hole with coco fiber so that water can easily drain from the container."