Design | Selecting the Perfect Container

Now that spring is arriving I know most of us are itching to get planting! So I wanted to take some time and write about something that you can do now, to prepare for the upcoming season. If you are anything like me this will help feed your spring fever!

The first thing Matthew and I do in the spring is gather inspiration for our landscape. This usually begins early February, thanks to some amazing brainstorming sessions with Matthew we have direction for this upcoming year.

Part of our brainstorming session lead to thinking about my container gardens for this season. How I want to construct my containers and if I had the necessary sizes to fit my desires…

I got to thinking with all the options for containers, or pots, how in the world are you supposed to pick what is best for you? In an effort to help make your container gardens the most beautiful that they can be, I will start by explaining the basics of container selection.

The first most important thing to do before going out and randomly buying pots is to have an idea of what you are going to plant in them, and where they are going to go. Yes I know it is so easy to ‘pick up a pot’ because it is cute, you like it, and you will find a space for it somewhere…. Stop. Like everything in landscape design just buying things at your fancy will land you with a hodge podge landscape. So go into container selection with a plan. Yep, this is the designer in me scolding you if you just go and buy without keeping your landscape goals or end aesthetic in the front of your mind. While you may find a perfect pot for your aesthetic make sure you think through how you will use it. Are you trying to make simple statements when it comes to plantings, are you looking to grow patio edibles, are you looking for a stately annual container with many specimens? Knowing how you will use the pot will help you decide if it fits all the requirements, not just the aesthetic. Ok, so I am guilty of this myself… so learn from my mistakes. I have bought countless containers because they are ‘cute’ and fit my personality and my landscape… then I get them home and they are too small to fit anything but one herb… which may be fine but know this before you buy it. It is often we buy containers that are too small for our intended use. Ok so enough with the lecture… now you have a plan.

There are many kinds of containers that can be used to add beauty to your landscape, or for those who have limited space can provide a mini landscape on a balcony. So here I go in a mini explanation of the container opportunities you have.

 Terracotta pots, reclaimed pots including a stock tank, glazed pot

Terracotta pots, reclaimed pots including a stock tank, glazed pot

Terra cotta pots – These are pots that will remind you of grandpa’s garden; I love them for that reason but also for their timeless appearance. They are a wonderful addition if you are looking for a ‘cottage’ look, timeless beauty, and something that gets more beautiful with age. Their beginning orangey appearance will dull over the years, many will get stained and will give you a primitive look with a few years of weathering. While these are some of my favorite pots for these reasons I do want to make you aware that while beautiful, they will force you to water more often, especially in a sunny location. I often water these pots two times a day. This is because clay is porous, meaning it will absorb the water from the soil, leaving your plants with nothing but dry soil mix. That being said the bigger the better if you want to use this beautiful option; the bigger the pot the more moisture the soil will hold and the longer it will take to dry out.

Glazed pots – these pots make beautiful centerpieces for any landscape. They come in many different colors as well as shapes and are perfect as a decorative pottery piece. They fit in well with many landscape aesthetics based on the shape and color you chose. These pots are very heavy and best suited where you will not need to move them frequently. The glazing helps retain moisture so you can get away with smaller pots in this instance.

Plastic pots – these are some of the most economical pots, well typically. They are also your lightest pots, so if you are considering a spot where you may need to move them from time to time plastic is a great option. Now many of you are thinking of plastic pots that are simple, and you can find for $30 or less in most big box stores. However, there are very decorative and unique plastic pots for those looking for something that is lightweight but not typical of what you usually see. This type of pot holds moisture well so they are perfect for those who do not want to water a couple times a day.

Cedar pots – these pots are constructed from cedar, a rot-resistant wood. They are perfect in both rustic and modern garden designs, depending on the shape. These are also easy to make for those looking for a custom piece and have some handyman traits. Much like the terracotta these planters will dry out quicker than plastic, and glazed pots, so the bigger the better for these as well.

Stumps – hollow stumps make great rustic, woodsy containers for those looking to fit a more rustic, natural aesthetic. These containers are sections of hollow logs that are cut in varying sizes, often something you can make yourself. They hold moisture well but do have a limited life-span as the wood will begin to rot with the moisture. This is not harmful to your plants, but does reduce its longevity.

Buckets and other misc. items – ok this is one of my most recent obsessions, I confess. I have begun planting up stock tanks, old buckets, old wash bins, tobacco tins, tool boxes, really anything I can get my hands on (I only use things that are at the point of no return for any other use, I can’t bring myself to destroy perfectly good antiques). Many of these items will require you to add a drainage hole, but some are self-draining as is. Yes I have many not-so-new stock tanks, wash bins and pails that have rusted to the point of having adequate drainage. This category opens you up for your own imagination, or something you saw on Pintrest.

So that is a very brief description on container types for your landscape.  So feed your spring fever, have fun, and most importantly start with a vision and a plan!