The Graceful Gardener’s Containers


As a gardener, I’ve always had a passion for designing and planting outdoor containers. Playing around with the different color combinations and textures of plants are fun and the choices are almost endless. To me, containers are an easy way to accessorize and customize my garden with pockets of color and my own creative expression. Over the years, I’ve had some container successes (I was a 2011 & 2012  Fine Gardening Container Design Finalist) and some not so great, like being a bit too ambitious and planting over 75 containers one year in which I had to succumb to watering daily for months during a drought (what was I thinking!).

This year, I decided to keep my container count to about 50…still quite a few but alot more manageable. By using a few container gardening basics and a little bit of TLC my containers provide be with big rewards throughout the spring, summer and fall.

Here are a few of my favorite containers which I designed and planted this spring/summer….


‘Tickled Pink’  Containers

Every year I plant the combination of Dragon-Wing Begonia’s, New Guinea Impatiens, ‘Silver Falls’ Dichondra and Creeping jenny in my large oval pedestal container. Simple elegance

Ingredients: Dragon Wing Begonias, New Guinea Impatiens, ‘Silver Falls’ Dichondra, Creeping jenny.
Light Requirement: Morning sun and afternoon shade. 


Dragon wing Cane begonia’s, petunia’s, fushsia, double impatiens and Persian shield spill from this lovely grey container located in part shade receiving mainly morning sun.

Dripping with elegant pink blossoms the dragon wing ‘cane’ begonia blooms all summer and into the fall in my Zone 7B garden.

Ingredients: Pink Cane Angelwing Begonia, Double Impatiens, Fuchsia ‘Electric Lights’, Sweet Potato vine ‘Little Blackie’, Persian Shield, Ramblin Petunia ‘Burgundy Chrome’.
Light Requirement: Part Sun


Ingredients: Tassel Fern, Tuberous Begonia ‘Solenia Dusty Rose’, Creeping Jenny.
Light Requirement: Partial Shade


Grouping these containers together creates a lovely composition around my fountain.

Partial Sun/Shade container grouping.


Tipping a pot on its side creates a playful spill of pink impatiens in my garden…

Ingredients:Coral/ Pink Impatiens, Sedum ‘Angelina’


 Here was my Finalist Entry for Fine Gardening’s  ‘Accessorize’  2011 Container Design Challenge.

My 2011 FG Container Design Challenge Finalist Entry



‘Hot and Sassy Red’ Containers


 There’s nothing like classic red to add drama to a container. I use red around my entryway every year to make a bold statement.

Ingredients: Cupressus ‘Goldcrest’, Petunia ‘Ramblin Red’, Euphorbia ‘Ascot Rainbow’, Coleus Stained Glassworks ‘Burgundy Wedding Train’, Dwarf Nandina ‘Flirt’, Calibrachoa Minifamous “Dark Red’, Dichondra ‘Silver Falls’, Creeping Jenny.
Light requirements: Full Sun

Sometimes simple is the way to go by using just one type of ‘showoff’ plant. I’ve chosen red trailing petunias to make a spectacular display in my large urn enhancing my entryway.

Petunia ‘Ramblin Red’
Full Sun

Large urns with red petunia blossoms flanking my entryway.


Ingredients: Red Dragonwing Begonia, ‘Deep Red’ Tuberous begonia, Creeping Wirevine.
Light Requirements: Partial Shade


Mandevilla vine is a prolific vine that twines around any structure. I have mine planted around a hummingbird feeder since the large red blossoms attracts butterflies and hummingbirds all summer.



‘ Purple Vibes’ Containers

 The fuss-free purple blooms of petunia and potato vine planted by my garage doors makes me happy every time I see them.. This showstopper just won’t quit…

Ingredients: Petunia (variety of purple tones), Calibrachoa MiniFamous ‘Double Amethyst’, Sweet Potato Vine ‘Little Blackie’, Dichondra ‘Silver Falls’.
Light Requirements: Full Sun

  Having planted this rectangular iron plant-stand to the gills, you can hardly see the container anymore. The photo does this container no justice…love the cascading purple calibrachoa.

Ingredients: Angelonia ‘Serena Lavender’, Purple Calibrachoa, Setcreasea pallida “Purple Heart’, Dichondra ‘Silver Falls, Iresine ‘Purple Lady’.’
Light Requirement: Full Sun/ Part Sun

Purple and chartreuse is a favorite color combination of mine. This planter is still in its ‘filling out ‘ phase and will look lovely in a few weeks.

Ingredients: Dwarf Alberta Spruce, Petunia ‘Ramblin Nu Blue’, Sedum ‘Angelina’, Sweet Potato vine ‘Sweet Georgia’.
Light Requirement: Full Sun


‘Blue Rhapsody’ Containers

Ingredients: Swan Planter- Petunia ‘Ramblin White, Euphorbia ‘Diamonds Frost’. Middle palnter: Blue Plumbago auriculata, Petunia ‘Ramblin White’ Sedum ‘Angelina’. Small planter: Angelonia Arcelia@ White, Blue lobelia, Fan Flower Bombay@White, Lobelia ‘Techno Heat Blue’.
Light Requirements: Full Sun

 My ‘Blue Rhapsody’ container garden has to be one of my favorites that I plant every year. These containers definitely capture your attention from across my garden all year round. I plant spring bulbs in them in the fall for a pretty flower display in the early spring. Also, when I entertain I like to dress up the area with blue and white porcelain vases. 

Note: As of a few days ago my lovely Swan planter was a victim of a large tree limb and is no longer gracing my garden. I’m so glad I took this photo to share its splendor with you cause for now its just a memory...

My Blue & White grouping…


Ingredients: Blue Fan Flower scaevola, Torenia Summer Wave@ ‘Bouquet Gold’.
Light Requirement: Full Sun


Ingredients: Creeping Jenny, Sedum ‘Angelina’.
Light Requirements: Full Sun/Part Sun


‘Fancy Foliage’ Containers

 Packed with fancy foliage my round container looks good all year round. I replace the trailing coleus and potato vine with pansies in the fall.

My 2012 Fine Gardening ‘Fantastic Foliage’ Finalist Entry.Ingredients: ‘Toffee Twist’ Sedge, Coral Bells ‘Caramel’, Sweet Potato vine ‘Black Heart’, Coleus Stained Glass “Burgundy Wedding Train’.
Light requirements: Full Sun/Part Sun


 A combination of various hues of purple foliage plants draws attention to this planter. Still in it’s ‘filling out’ phase, once it matures I’m sure it will be one of my favorites foliage-wise. I apologize for the sub-par photo…

Ingredients: Purple Fountain Grass, Persian Shield, Setcreasea pallida ‘Purple Heart’, Dichondra ‘Silver Falls’.
Light Requirement: Full Sun/Part Sun

This in an old picnic basket I’ve had for over 25 years ( a wedding present ) that I decided to use as a container this year. The  foliage is a ‘feast’ for the eyes.

Ingredients: Red Star Dracaena, Coleus ‘Black Dragon’, Sweet Potato Vine ‘Sweet Georgia Heart Red’, Variegated Creeping Fig, Creeping Wire vine.
Light Requirement: Part Sun/Shade


‘Addictive Succulents’

Kalanchoe with various sedums.


Harvest Delights

 Patio kitchen harvests are so easy and convenient. I fill my huge round patio container with tomatoes and herbs in the summer, lettuce in the fall…

Ingredients: Tomato ‘Celebrity’, ‘Cherokee Purple’ and’ Sweet 100′, Variegated Basil, Marigolds.
Light Requirement: Full Sun


Favorite herbs fill my old iron container….

Ingredients: Lemon Balm, Italian Oregano, Italian Parsley, Thyme, Chives.
Light Requirements: Full Sun/Part Sun


Here are a Few Simple Container Gardening Basics…

(1)  Buy (or make) a good quality potting soil.  A planting mix with good drainage and water retention will reduce the amount of regular care required.

(2)  Try to use plants with the same watering and lighting needs in the same container.

(3)   Water your containers on a regular basis.  I know this is the most time consuming part of container gardening. I try to water my containers in the morning to keep them from drying out from the midday heat. I also like using larger containers. The larger the container the more moisture it will hold thus the less often you will have to water.

(4) For your containers to reach their full flowering potential, they need to be fertilized. Fertilizing is just as important as watering for achieving beautiful healthy containers. There are several types of fertilizers to choose from, including powders, liquids, foliar sprays, manure teas, etc. My most foolproof method is using a slow release glandular fertilizer when planting and then about 6 weeks later a liquid fertilizer every 2 weeks to give my containers an additional boost during their growing season.  I use liquid fertilizer for my heavy bloomers (like petunias), and for my vegetable, shade loving and foliage containers I use Haven Brand Manure Tea, an organic fertilizer that these plants love.

(5) Most flowers benefit from having their spent flowers removed. To keep my containers blooming and looking neat I deadhead my plants when needed.


Hope you’ve enjoyed the photo tour of my containers.























Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *