February 24, 2013

Maine Gardener: Planning a container garden? Think outside the pot


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Dan Heims, a lecturer on container gardening at New England Grows, says just about anything can serve as a plant container, and there’s no need to spend a lot.


The spiller is a plant that trails out of the pot toward the ground, like sweet potato vines, lysimachia, some trailing sedums, ivy and creeping thyme.

The filler is the one that connects the two, and often includes coleus, heucheras, hosta and a variety of flowering plants.

You also have to think of the growing pattern of your mix of plants, so that the container will look as good in late July as it did when you put it out in May. If one plant is a thug growing faster than the other plants in the container, the design will be thrown out of balance unless you spend a lot of time pruning the thug.

Even though gardening season is still a couple of months away, you can start working on your containers -- not the plants for the containers, just the containers. As you travel through shops and even your own attic, check to see what would give your garden a striking look this spring.

Heims suggests that you might include perennials in your containers, because many perennials (heucheras are his favorite) have colorful foliage that fills your container until frost -- and then you can transfer the perennials into your actual garden for the winter.  Heucheras are such a favorite for Heims that he has written a book on them for Timber Press.

It will make the time until the real gardening season seem shorter.

Tom Atwell has been writing the Maine Gardener column since 2004. He is a freelance writer gardening in Cape Elizabeth and can be contacted at 767-2297 or at:



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