If you really want to make a stunning impression, container flower gardens are an excellent option. Style can be expressed through the container choice (such as modern, classical, or stately) and the endless plant and decorative options inside of the containers.
With a little time and creativity, flowers, plants, and natural materials can be transformed into a work of colorful, living art.
Why Use Containers to Grow Plants?
Planters can serve many purposes. They can be used to:
- bring color to a monochrome area,
- liven up a patio, balcony, deck or poolside terrace,
- provide privacy,
- brighten up a dark corner,
- hide equipment,
- welcome guests through a doorway, and
- much more.
Types of Containers
From dignified to playful, containers come in all sorts of styles. The most important thing to look for, though, is what material the container is made of. During the bitter cold Long Island winter, materials like ceramic or terra cotta will not survive. Even “frost proof” terra cotta will be hard-pressed not to shatter. Plastic is not recommended either as it becomes brittle in frigid temperatures. If you would like to use these materials, consider them for warm season use only; they should be emptied of all plants and soil before it freezes, or moved to a protected location.
Instead, look for planters made out of stone, wood, concrete, or resin. Be sure that the planter is sturdy enough to contain the type of materials you want to plant, and ensure that there are drainage holes at the bottom.
Unless you choose something hardy like an evergreen, most plants and flowers will not look their best for more than one or two seasons in a container. Choosing plantings that thrive for a few months and then switching them out can bring attention and newness to a planter or container.
You can choose to use one type of plant in a planter, or, for added interest, choose plants and flowers of different heights, textures, and colors. Annuals, perennials, small shrubs and trees, and even succulents are all good choices for container gardens.
An effective way to design an appealing container is to include a “thriller” (the focal point, such as a tall grass or narrow, upright shrub), “spillers” (plants that cascade over the sides of the container) and “fillers” (mounding plants to fill in the container for a lush look). This method brings visual interest no matter which direction the container is viewed from.
Tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths are all great spring flowers. As the bulbs for these flowers need to be planted in fall, however, the easiest method for container gardening is to buy the bulbs already in bloom. Pansies, violas, and snapdragons make great spring additions, and ivies can be used as filler.
Oxalis, which resembles clover, is another option to use as a shorter, mounding plant. Be careful to keep it only in the container, though, as some varieties can be aggressive spreaders.
This is the season during which you have the most freedom to be creative. Most flowers and plants will survive in a large container during the warm summer months, so it all comes down to personal preference. Warm-season annuals such as marigolds, impatiens, begonias, geraniums, sweet alysum and petunias work well in a summer planter. Or you could use tropical plants such as caladiums and cannas for a more dramatic look.
In summer, it’s especially important to consider if the planter will be in sun or shade, as different plants and flowers have different requirements.
And be sure that the container can be easily watered – some may need daily watering to keep plants from wilting. Drip irrigation is an excellent choice in small and large containers alike, particularly if it’s set on a timer.
Using shades of darker orange, yellow and red, fill the container with fall blooms such as mums, and add ornamental kales, pansies, snapdragons or even something like Swiss chard or ornamental cabbage to fill it out.
Depending on the look you’re going for, you could add features of interest such as pumpkins, dried corncobs, miniature gourds, or berries. Dried or fake cattails add a decorative flair. Grasses, especially in the middle of the container, add height and a varying texture.
Few things can survive in a container during Long Island winters, so it’s best to take anything living out of the container. Fill the container with sprigs of evergreen, red berries such as holly, pinecones, and stately branches. During the holiday season, dress it up with seasonal adornments such as ornaments, lights, and bows.
If you’d rather still have something growing in the container, you can try growing a small evergreen tree in a large container, but it’s harder for them to overwinter in containers than in the ground. Choose a slow-growing evergreen that’s hardy to at least Zone 5 (two zones colder than the Hamptons). Arborvitae and boxwood are good options.
- Be sure to change out the flowers in the container when they look spent, whether it’s time for the next seasonal change or not.
- Pinch off spent flowers to help them continually bloom.
- Use potting mix (not garden soil!) and replenish it each time you transfer plants; add compost and slow-release organic fertilizer each time as well.
- Put the planter in the desired location before filling it. Planters can be heavy, especially when filled with soil, so you’ll save yourself a lot of time and aggravation by placing the container in its final location, and then adding the soil and plants.
- Think about how the planter will most often be viewed. If it will frequently be seen from far away, focus on a variety of colors to help each plant stand out. If it will be seen close up, concentrate on creating a diversity of textures.
- If using perennials, note that they typically will not grow to full size in a container because their roots are restricted
- Choose compact or dwarf varieties of large perennials or shrubs.
- Consider placing a tuteur or pillar in the center of the container and growing vining plants up it.
If you’re looking for spectacular seasonal containers for your Hamptons home, including planting and regular maintenance, just give us a call at 631-283-0289. We can create any type of container design you’d like and ensure that it looks spectacular throughout the year.