There’s no limit to the creative use of containers to enliven a garden.
By Petra Spiess
Container gardening is a simple way to enjoy nature without the work of a full-fledged landscape. Even if you have an ample garden, containers bursting with annuals and perennials will certainly enhance it. But the containers themselves can, too.
Pots have come a ways since terra-cotta was the main (albeit, still nice) option. Today’s pots come in literally all shapes and sizes to suit every garden and gardener. Here are just a handful of interesting and useful containers on the market.
Galvanized Metal Stock Tanks and Buckets
Stock tanks are large, rust-resistant, galvanized-metal containers used for watering cattle and horses. They’re inexpensive, come in a variety of sizes and are nearly indestructible. To use stock tanks as plant contain-ers, drill a series of holes in the bottom for drainage. As many stock tanks are large, it’s a good idea to fill the bottom third of the container with something other than soil, like clean, crumpled plastic milk jugs or any lightweight item that will displace volume. Fill the remainder of the stock tank with potting soil and you’ll have an impressive, cheap, industrial-chic planter that looks especially striking when filled with annuals of all the same type.
Similar to stock tanks but much smaller (although just as durable), galvanized-metal buckets and tubs are sold for a song at home-improvement stores. These make great planters after the addition of drainage holes.
These are a truly excellent option for Colorado gardeners faced with concrete-like soil (which is most of us). Raised beds allow you to grow a variety of plants not well adapted to local soil conditions, including many fruits and vegetables.
If you’re handy, you can build these planters yourself. Or check out the many raised-bed planter kits on the market, included tiered systems that make efficient use of small spaces. Just build, fill with good soil, compost and plants, and you’re ready to go.
Vertical interest is an important, often overlooked garden element. Usually achieved through tall plants, trellises or arbors, vertical interest can also be gained through planters on posts. The planters attach to the posts via special hardware, and the columns can range in height from 24 to 48 inches, providing a very dramatic focal point. Elevated planters are also great for pet owners who don’t want their mischievous puppy consuming $200 worth of annuals.
Why should horizontal spaces get all the garden love? Wall planters allow you to plant a freestanding or wall-mounted frame to create a show-stopping container garden. They also let you grow a lot in a little space.
Why not combine two landscape needs into one? Lighted pots are a clever way to provide outdoor lighting in an unusual and beautiful way. They come in a variety of sizes and colors, and are usually made out of opaque plastic that creates a diffuse, soft illumination when lit from the inside. Lighted pots can have a plug-in light source or be solar-powered.
PVC Window Boxes
Window boxes are so charming—except when they rot, the primary problem with wooden boxes. Window boxes made out of PVC (polyvinyl chloride) come in a host of styles to fit any house décor, and they won’t warp or rot. Additionally, they can be mounted in different ways and because they usually come in white, you can paint them any color you like. Simply use an exterior-grade latex paint.
Just because a container is a window box doesn’t mean you have to put it under a window, either. Window boxes look great on a deck, porch or patio, too.
Baskets are plentiful, come in all shapes and are relatively cheap. But they rot when exposed to water, so line basket planters with plastic and set potted flowers inside them.
Pretty much anything that holds soil and resists rot can become a planter. Thrift stores have an endless supply of old tins, buckets, and even pots, pans and enamelware. Containers that lack holes, like enamelware, can become the outer pot. Simply remove the potted plant when watering, then place the pot back in the enamelware after draining. You can also find figurines to enliven your flowerpots.
Bloom Master Plastic Planters
Want pots dripping with flowers on all sides without having to bother lining the pots with moss? No problem. Bloom Master’s plastic planters have holes throughout that are designed so the soil doesn’t wash out.
Because they don’t require moss, these planters can be planted in half the time of a moss basket. They also hold more soil volume than a moss basket. This cuts down on watering frequency as soil retains moisture longer than moss. Bloom Masters come in hanging baskets and standing boxes that look quite spectacular after the blooms mature.
Gardening is fun for the brain, but not so much for the back. Constant stooping to plant and weed can give even the stoutest gardener back spasms. Standing planters are elevated, so you don’t have to bend over to plant or maintain them—a clever solution to an age-old gardening problem.