Make No Little Flower Pots

So the container gardening season has gotten off to a bumpy start, what with the Great Daffodil Disaster of 2017.  Nonetheless, I took a few days off this week and I couldn’t restrain myself from filling the pots with spring flowers. Also, I started the year with some changes to my approach to flowering containers.

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For starters, I got rid of all but a few of the smaller pots. Some went into the recycling and the remainder were stacked in the garage, which has plenty of room as long as we don’t try to park one of our cars in it.

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After adding a couple of new pots, almost all of our containers have an inner diameter of 14″. Larger containers appealed to me for two reasons: they have more visual impact, and they are less prone to drying out.

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There’s just a couple of 10″ containers that remain. These I kept to fill an old coal scuttle and some other items we like to use as planters.

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In addition to going large, this spring I’m using just three different container annuals. I was impressed by an article in Garden Design about Annie Hayes of Annie’s Annuals, where she says she fills each of her pots with just a single kind of plant.

I could see how this would create containers with greater visual impact, especially seen from a distance. I intend to use this simpler approach to my summer containers as well, which will be a greater departure from past practice.

Anyhow, this year I’m restricting myself to just three of my favorites. There’s Sweet Alyssum (Lobularia maritima), mostly ‘Easter Bonnet Lemonade’. I like to use this to underplant container tulips, but I’m also filling whole containers with just this annual.

Sweet Alyssum is wonderfully fragrant. Plant it about 5″ apart (half the recommended distance) and it will soon spill over the sides of your containers in a very appealing way.

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Then I planted two varieties of Stock (Matthiola incana), the 18″ tall ‘Vintage Copper’ and the shorter ‘Harmony Mix’. Stock, like Sweet Alyssum, is wonderfully scented.

Here’s a little botanical humor.

Q: Where does one go to purchase Matthiola incana?

A: To the stock market. (Hat tip to Peter of Outlaw Garden).

Lastly, I planted some white and yellow Pansies (Viola x wittrockiana ‘Delta Pure Yellow’ and ‘Delta Pure White’). Pansies are cheerful and cold-hardy, I could not imagine spring without them. Like most people, I love the Pansy faces, but from even a short distance I think the solid color ones look much better.

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Spring has been a bit tardy this year and the little plants I purchased had only a few flowers (or none in the case of the Stock). Tell the truth, I snatched some out of the cold frames at Anton’s, which makes me something of a horticultural cradle robber.

While working the containers I located the crowns of several Hostas I had planted last year. There was no sign of new growth, but they weren’t obviously dead either. After my experience with the Daffodils, I will monitor those containers with grim vigilance.

I also tried overwintering Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis) in one of the containers. That experiment turns out to have been a failure as well.

Have you planted in containers with spring flowers this year?

54 Comments on “Make No Little Flower Pots

  1. I like your tulip container. Don’t do any containers myself. No room to put them anywhere. But for three containers, I grow tomatoes in under the cover of the balcony above our terrace. That works quite well year after year.

  2. I think that is a good idea to plant up just one type of plant in one container as then the different watering needs of each plant are not a problem. Drying out is also a problem for me, as lots of my containers stand in the full sun, and I am going to try putting some of mine in an additional outer pot for extra moisture retention – I hope! I just planted my strawberry pot with Sempervivums, as they stand any amount of heat and drought and come in lovely shades of greens and reds. Apart from that I am waiting until the end of the month to plant up summer containers.

  3. Thank you for the chuckle… “…there is plenty of room in the garage as long as we don’t try to park a car in it…”
    Enjoy your writing very much…

  4. We had a mild winter and I have several hosta crowns that are chewed up. I am beginning to think that a high-rise apartment might be in my future, lol. Check out my tulips today:

    Denise at My Life in Retirement Keukenhof Gardens

  5. I have pansies all around a viburnum standard that I made. They look quite happy there. I have not thought to put alyssum in pots to dangle. I love alyssum. I often put it around the edge of my knot garden to give a sense of a full moon.

  6. Oh, your yard is looking good, despite the great daffodil disaster. I’ve always preferred to fill posts with a single plant and felt a little, well, unimaginative. But I really do like the way pots look with just one plant. And after reading your post, I feel better about my “one kind of plant, one pot” tendencies.

  7. I don’t think I’m organized enough yet to have too many containers on the go, so I’m starting off with a few that I can connect to the drip system. Nothing is planted yet, but I do have some on the go under the grow lights, including alyssum.

    I like the idea of using a single variety in a pot – many times, simple is best.

  8. Oh no, not rotted daffodil bulbs! Very upsetting indeed. I haven’t planted summer pots yet as they mostly seem to be full of brown sticks that I’m hoping will be fuchsias later in the season but after our cold snap, they may be dead. Love your scented pots. Sweet Alyssum and Matthiola incana fragrances are some of my favorites. Must go out and take stock of the pot situation and see if I can find one or two to copy your combination. Thanks for the link love!

    • I’ve used Fuchsias in my shade pots, they never thrive for me – I often think there is some missing ingredient that they need.

  9. We have just “finished” filling our pots with annuals…about two dozen or so. My Arranger selects them and I plant them. I love having lots of pots of annuals about the garden. It’s really the only way we use annuals.

  10. I haven’t planted for summer yet, but I like the idea of single plants per pot. I still have the pansies I planted in autumn, amazingly they weren’t killed by our minus 8°C winter temperatures although they did take a bit of a knock.

  11. Aren’t you a bit nervous to plant annuals in the Chicago area? It’s not too cold? I’m in southeastern Wisconsin and have basically the same weather.

    • Some annuals are ok to plant when the weather is still pretty cool: pansies, stocks, sweet alyssum, ice flowers, snapdragons … others you have to wait until later.

  12. I bought some flowers at the UNH greenhouse open house a couple of weeks ago but have been enjoying them on my four-season porch where they get plenty of sun and no chance of frost. Our local nursery and box stores don’t have anything besides lovely pansies right now. I did get my containers out and ready.

  13. I just set aside the pots of tulips from last year and they are coming along nicely…no fuss, no muss.

  14. The simplicity of your plan is appealing. I never did get around to planting tulips in pots, so maybe next fall. To tell the truth, the only pots that have shown signs of new life here are the ones I kept in the sunroom all winter. I was thrilled to see the Calla Lilies coming back. My little potted Buckeye tree was chewed off by a rodent in the garage. I think it’s toast. And the other potted plants that stayed outside have yet to show much promise. Maybe with an extended warm spell. I’m starting to slowly move the hardier plants back outside for the season. Yay!

  15. I love big pots, and I do think they make a bigger impact. That said, I have an abundance of pots in all different sizes. I even have pots in the shape of two feet with the big toe sticking up on each foot. (Christmas gift from my former neighbors.) Your Alyssum and stock sound great. I grow Alyssum but have never grown stock. Pansies are always a good bet. Looking forward to seeing your wheelbarrow in full bloom.

  16. I liked your violas planted in the garden cart Jason. Good idea! Alyssum goes well to many annuals, sure seems well with tulips or tagetes. You’re right, big containers and tubs don’t dry fast, I should use them too.

  17. I think bigger pots & tubs are better … I like the idea of one plant per pot… I might try that. Looking at your spring garden makes me a little bit envious as we will be heading into winter in a couple of months.

  18. Jason, I like the idea of Sweet Alyssum in pots, now it’s on my list to try. I planted tulips and daffodils in large pots last fall when I ran out of time and energy to plant some of them in-ground. Many of the potted dafs are blooming now and the tulips will bloom in a few days. The decks are going to be very colorful this spring!

  19. I’ve planted some sweet peas, but other than that I haven’t really planted much in the flower garden yet. I don’t plant very many containers as I am so bad at keeping up with them. Yours is going to look great though with those plantings! I’m really surprised at your daffodil disaster. I’ve had problems with tulips before, but I’ve often planted daffodils in pure clay with awful drainage and they usually still do fine!

  20. I tend to do one plant per pot like they do at the front door of Great Dixter, though many fewer pots than they display. I also use mostly perennials like Heucheras and Hostas and then just pop them back in the garden at the end of the season. You are doing much more elaborate pots than I am — even in your scaled back versions.

    • “Pop them back in the garden at the end of the season” – I’ll have to try that since all my Hostas seem to have died over the winter. I thought it was almost impossible to kill Hostas.

  21. I’ve somehow ended up with “hundreds” of small pots, so I just go ahead and use them, usually by filling them with my compost and plopping in cheap, colorful annuals. I’m careful, however, to keep them in groups (for visual impact and for my own convenience), and not scattered about. If a grouping is more than six feet from a water tap (where I can water without even unrolling the hose), I keep a full watering can beside them. Since I go out into my garden every morning, giving the small pots a quick squirt is never inconvenient. As for the full watering cans, the water never stands long enough for mosquito larvae to survive!

    Yes, I hate small pots. But I have them, so I might as well use them.
    🙂

    • Absolutely nothing wrong with colorful annuals, and cheap doesn’t hurt either. My containers get brighter in the summer, with zinnias, marigolds, nasturtiums, pentas, and salvias – at least in the sunny side of the garden.

  22. Hello Jason, I’m gradually replacing the smaller pots on the patio with larger ones as they take less maintenance and can host a few different plants. I tend to go for one-plant-per-pot but and experimenting more with mixing perennials with annuals. I like how the white Alyssum off-sets the other plants in the pot. I think it’s a great combination.

  23. I could do with losing some of my small pots and just opt for large ones, so much better for moisture retention. I think I have over two hundred pots dotted around….I like white Alyssum too, it’s such a delicate little plant. Single planting in pots is great, but when the blloms go over there is nothing to take their place. Good luck with those hostas!xxx

    • Wow – 200 pots! How do you have time for anything else? I wouldn’t get inflexible about the one plant rule, for one thing you probably need to have different plants for spring and summer, and also plants for filling in or underplanting.

  24. I agree, the bigger containers are less prone to drying out, and I like the visual impact of them better. I have most of my herbs in half-barrels and large pots.

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