Container Design on a Budget

I wasn’t sure why I grabbed my camera as I headed out the door yesterday to visit Mom.  I only knew that there is always something interesting going on in Mom’s garden, and it’s been too long since I took my readers over there.

If you’ve been with me a while, you’ve seen her exterior home makeover, her elevated walkway lights, and the update of her front garden.  And I’ve been promising for some time to share Mom’s gorgeous, quiet backyard sanctuary.  I still intend to make good on that promise.

But in this post, I’m focusing on her ever-beautiful garden containers – and sharing a few of Mom’s container gardening practices.

1.  Accessorize Sparingly

Containers are the jewelry of Mom’s garden.  And since she accessorizes sparingly, they are always well-placed, elegant, and never gaudy.

Hen and chicks in a small statuary urn.

They don’t overwhelm her garden, they enhance it.

2.  Use Commonly Found Container Plants

Her containers are a reminder that elegance doesn’t have to come at a high price.  She doesn’t go for exotic, pricey specialty plants.  She uses inexpensive, tried-and-true garden favorites like geraniums, begonias, lobelias, impatiens, and African daisies.  These all do well in our USDA garden zone 8B.

The base of a cracked birdbath became a pedestal for this container of geraniums and trailing lobelias.

These plants are popular for a reason:  Besides being reasonably priced and easy to find, most of them bloom all season long.

Mom plants her containers once in late spring, and they look beautiful well into fall.

This year I noticed a new monochromatic theme in some of her containers.

Some were simply planted with one plant.

But that simplicity allows us to fully appreciate the beauty of the featured plant – a Rieger begonia.

Or a cheerful African daisy.

3.  Use a Mix of Bargain Containers

Since Mom has an informal cottage garden, she doesn’t worry about making sure her containers match.  Like me, she has collected her containers over the years. Some were deeply discounted or garage sale finds, and a few she even got for free.  We both love the thrill of hunting for bargains – even when it comes to containers.

Things always seem to work out.  Mixing containers and moving them around gives her the freedom to experiment with different plant groupings every season.

She can enjoy the patina of a nicely weathered clay pot,

place a sweet hanging basket where a focal point is needed,

or go larger scale where she wants more impact.

A Corokia cotoneaster Raoul in a large frost-resistant container.

When it comes to containers, anything goes.

A vintage watering can hosts trailing periwinkle.

And an upturned saucer on a pedestal is home to a display of tiny succulents.

4.  Keep Plants Happy

For most common container annuals, it doesn’t take much to make sure they look good all season long.  Some simple care tips are:

  •  Consider sun exposure.  Place the plant where it gets the correct amount of light.  Check the plant’s tag  before you buy it to make sure it will be happy where you want to place it.
  • Water consistently.  Check the plant’s tag for water needs and combine it only with other plants that have the same water needs.
  • Fertilize regularly.  Most summer-blooming annuals need a little nourishment now and then to keep blooming all season long.
  • Deadhead regularly.   This works for many flowering annuals and perennials.  Don’t let blossoms go to seed.  Instead, pinch blooms off once they are spent so the plant puts its energy into developing new flowers.
  • Protect the plant from pests.  Slugs have been known to dine on impatiens, and aphids can sometimes plague a nasturtium. Luckily, with all the environmentally friendly pest control products out there these days, there is no need to use harmful chemicals to control pests.

5.  Be Patient with Imperfection

Some plants look beautiful even when they are winding down for the season.  This pansy is past its prime but still sweet.

In My Own Garden

In my own garden, I’ve been experimenting with coleus plants that I grew from seeds in my greenhouse.  Since slugs love them, I have been keeping my precious babies safe in containers.

But that is for another post.  My favorite container right now is on my front porch:  The begonia that thinks it’s a tree.

I’m way behind on my yard work this year, and my containers are really the only things bringing order to the chaos outside.  So now it’s time for me to sign off, get out there, and finally get to work.

Happy gardening, folks!

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Sources:

  • I have found that summers are precious – too precious to spend time dragging a garden hose around, keeping it unkinked, and then spending time re-winding it.  So I’m really enjoying this self-retracting hose that my husband bought me last year.
  • Mom has many passions and talents, and writing is among them.  She currently has two books available on Amazon:  Year of the Angels, a touching historical fiction novel based on her childhood during WWII, and Cries from the Fifth Floor, a fun paranormal thriller/murder mystery.

 


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12 Replies to “Container Design on a Budget”

  1. Very good advice to stick with tried and true plants versus trendy, untested varieties. I am coming to the conclusion that a limited palette helps with maintenance, too, so you don’t need several watering and feeding regimens for several different varieties. Do you know the name of the pink phlox in the background behind the pots? It looks so healthy! Mine finally succumbed to our many seasons of drought here in my zone 7b-8 garden in NE Georgia.

    1. Hi, Kristy,
      Yes Mom loves those phlox, and they do so well in her garden. She doesn’t know the name, but says she bought them at Home Depot. So they’re probably a fairly common variety – around here anyway. One of them turned out to be purple instead of pink, so she advises purchasing them when they’re in bloom to make sure you have a color match.
      Hope you can find them. Thanks for stopping by!
      Heidi

    1. Hi, Debbie: I wish I could remember the name of that begonia variety. They are in the better nurseries around here, but I grew mine from a tuber (not as expensive). I must have gotten a pretty healthy tuber. It’s grown a lot even since I took the photo!

  2. Coming to you from Share Your Cup.
    Great post. Your mother’s containers are lovely.
    I saw many posts I want to spend time reading.
    Always love to find another fellow gardener. Stop by my blog for a visit.

  3. Your Mom sounds like a very interesting person and her containers are lovely! I love her gardening practices too. Your begonia is so unique. Love the color.

    1. Thanks AnnMarie, yes, my Mom is very interesting! And she is so passionate about gardening. I’m always learning something new from her. Thanks for stopping by!

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