First - Select your container, this will be a fairly personal choice and can reflect your style or compliment you choice of outdoor décor.
Larger is better, always select the largest possible container you can afford both budget and space wise. Make sure the size fits in with the scale of your landscape, a tiny courtyard garden can be easily overwhelmed by a planter that is too large.
Be aware of the material your planter is made of, you want to ensure that it is frost proof; most stone, wood, concrete, plastic and metal planters will be ok but double check with your local retailer and especially when selecting terra cotta and glazed pots, you want to make sure they are designed for outdoor use and will not crack or break apart.
Second – Gather your plant selection, be creative and use plants that complement each other or add contrasting elements for visual interest.
Fall and winter planters should include plants that are hardy and can withstand the winter months without becoming too ratty looking. Avoid using perennials (unless they are evergreen) as they will die down and leave an empty space in your creation. If you wish to use perennial or seasonal plants leave them in their pots so you can easily switch them out without disturbing the rest of the planting.
Put as many plants as you can into your container, this will give it a lush fullness. Try and keep the overall shape pyramidal as this is a pleasing and balanced design, give the planter as much height as you can and layer down from there with various combinations of plants including trailing or cascading plants that can spill over and soften the edges of the planter.
This mini landscape is a living outdoor arrangement that is only limited by your creativity.
Third – Always use a good well-drained soil mix. It should be porous enough to drain well (especially during our wet winter months) yet still be able to retain some moisture so that the plants do not dry out too quickly.
To help keep plants healthy and lush incorporate a good quality slow release fertilizer into the soil mix before planting. Check with your local garden center for available soil mixes and fertilizers.
Fourth – Accessorize, like a floral arrangement you can incorporate some final touches to your container that will add that extra punch. Use seasonal cuts or ornaments, branches and stems with dried seed heads, berries and fruit. These “temporary” additions can be changed out as needed. Finally, including some lighting (LEDs) is a great way of adding life and extending your viewing pleasure into the evenings and through the dark days of winter.
Some Great Container Plants:
- Heuchera, Heucherella and Tiarella
- Phormium (tender)
- Cyclamen (hardy selections)
- Dwarf conifers
- Carex (evergreen forms)
- Mukdenia (great fall colour, deciduous)
- Dwarf Rhododendrons and Azaleas
- Ophiopogon (Black Mondo Grass)
- Ferns (evergreen forms)
- Broadleaf evergreens (so many to select from)
- Ilex (deciduous forms have attractive berries)
- Callicarpa (deciduous, purple berries)
- Cornus (deciduous, coloured stems)
These plants and many others are available at Art's Nursery. Please call 604.882.1201 ahead of time to confirm availability if you are looking for a specific item or variety.