Gardening Magazine

Struggling with Container Planting

By John Markowski @jmarkowski0

I struggle mightily planting in containers. Always have and there's a good chance ... always will.
My container aesthetic, for the most part, has been to use them as a means to grow something I can't currently grow in my landscape. An escape for a plant or shrub that would have been eaten by deer or eventually destroyed by my poor soil drainage.
Now truth be told, I am not a huge fan of huge mixed containers with all sorts of different flowers and colors in the mix. I'm not sure why, it just has never appealed to me. But I do love those container plantings that share an equal mix foliage, flowers, texture, etc; a mini garden of sorts. I get the thriller, filler,spiller idea but have not been able to pull it off to date. Add to the growing list of garden "skills" I need to brush up on.
To further prove my point, here are some pics of my current container plantings (and I use the term loosely).
This is a Physocarpus (Ninebark) 'Diablo' that was getting chewed regularly "out in the yard" so I saved it by dumping it in a large container I had sitting in the garage: 
Struggling with container planting
And there it sat in a cormer of my deck for months, recovering from the savage beating it took for so long. The original intention was to reintroduce this shrub to the wild when a proper location could be found; of course that location doesn't exist in my landscape so the reality was the container WAS home. So why not dress up said home with some Lysimachia 'Aurea' (creeping jenny)? The results: not too bad, looks much better when the creeping jenny spills over the sides.   
Sensing a theme after seeing this?
Struggling with container planting
This is a Weigela 'Wine and Roses' that was salvaged in a container and actually rebounded real nicely. It looked decent enough a few weeks ago when it was blooming a bit, but now, not so much, even if it is healthy. The charteuse potato vine plants I added at the base add some decent color contrast, but not enough to make this very interesting.
I have tried many times to go grow a rose bush, any rose bush and even the so-called "can't fail" Knockout Roses have failed me. So my last attempt was to try it in a container and so far so good. A few blooms but more importantly, the leaves haven't been destoyed to date:
Struggling with container planting
Eh, more to come on this one.  
Another common practice for me is to try out ornamental grasses in containers. I can't get enough of that shape and multi-season interest so why not add some more that can be viewed up close and personal while I am eating my breakfast outdoors.
I know they are everywhere, but I am a friggin sucker for the annual purple fountain grasses:
Struggling with container planting
I kind of dig them in a green/gray container and for the love of odd numbers, I've got three of them in clear view outside the kitchen window. Boring, I guess, but I enjoy them now and when they are in full bloom in a few weeks.
Over the winter, I purchased a bunch of Leymus 'Blue Dune' grasses after seeing their phenomenal blue color on the Santa Rosa Gardens website. I have made a concerted effort to add more blue to my gardens this year so this would work out beautifully. Except, turns out, they are potentially invasive and I wasn't going to take that chance. Another bit of poor planning/research on my part.
So I wasn't going to simply destroy them, so why not try them out in containers? I love the combo of brown and blue so a few brown containers later and we have this:  Struggling with container planting
They are very small right now, but I assume they will grow quickly. I am excited about these so more pics to come as they mature and hopefully bloom.
And finally, we have the edibles that are growing in containers. I have a bunch of tomato plants that look real solid to date including the 'Isis Candy' cherry tomatoes:
Struggling with container planting
The real test comes with all of the watering now that we are entering the dead of summer; but so far so good.
I even have my first bounty of 'Senorita Hybrid' peppers:
Struggling with container planting
Pretty exciting stuff as I've never tried these mild jalapenos before.
I have scores of other plants in containers but I am hiding those from you for now. These were just some of the highlights (lowlights).
I know I need to be more adventurous/experimental with my choices/combos and maybe one of these years, I'll actually do it. 
John  

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