Container gardening opens up new landscaping options

When it comes to getting creative with your landscaping, don't overlook containers! Perhaps you haven't really considered container gardening because you think of it as only for apartment-dwellers and others who have little or no land in which to grow plants.

However, I believe that creative incorporation of container gardening into your landscape can add an exciting element with comparatively little effort on your part.

I have suggestions for plants for your containers, but let's start with some of the benefits of container gardening...

Move ‘em around! With a container, you can literally pick up your shrubs and put them somewhere else. With most forms of landscaping, your plants are... well, planted. But with container gardening, it's no more difficult than moving a coffee table from the living room to the den.

Soil control. With containers, you have far greater control over the soil needs of your plants. You can create specific soil environments that meet the needs of specific plants, without having to deal with many cubic feet of earth.

High and low. Container gardening allows you to create interesting features by varying the plants' height above the ground. No need to build a full raised garden: find containers of different heights or place them on rocks, pillars or benches and you've instantly added height and depth to your landscape.

Hold the kudzu! Well, okay: you probably wouldn't plant kudzu anywhere. But if you're worried about "invasive" plants taking over your landscape, confine them to a container and you and your other plants won't have to worry.

Year-round enjoyment. In many cases you can move your container garden to an unheated greenhouse when it's time for frost to appear. They'll be safe until spring. No greenhouse? Even moving containers to a covered patio or porch will help protect them.

What can you use for containers? The answer is... just about anything!

Let's start with the obvious. Clay or plastic pots are inexpensive and practical. And if you think they're boring, you can place the pot inside a ceramic container or basket.

But the fun starts when you get creative! Look in your garage, shed or attic. You probably have several items that are just gathering dust that would make ideal – and very creative – containers. An old watering can, a galvanized bucket, a discarded toolbox. Punch or drill some drain holes and you're in business. But don't stop there. Go to flea markets and junk shops and look for baskets, wood crates and boxes. Line them with some landscape fabric and don't forget the drain holes. How about that old wheelbarrow, grandma's washtub or a kid's discarded wagon? Group two or three together, maybe at different heights and you'll have a really dramatic effect!

What can you plant in your containers? Certainly you can plant annuals or even veggies and herbs. But I'm going to suggest some perennials for your container gardens. They'll come back year after year, and many perennials thrive in locations too shady for annuals. 

Here are lots of plant suggestions for your container garden projects.

Even dwarf trees can be heavy! Here's a useful tip: Place your container garden tree on a dolly or rolling platform. You'll be glad you did when you need to move it to a different location, or take it to your greenhouse when frost is imminent!

I hope this has given you a few ideas that will get you thinking outside the box and inside the container!