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BASIC INFORMATION
Decorative containers offer interesting ways to grow a wide variety of plants and add a unique element to landscaping. Planting in containers allows you to control the soil, adjust the amount of sun or shade, and vary the watering schedule.

Containers work well to hide unsightly areas or to brighten up small spaces. A set of stairs can be dressed up by placing potted flowers along the side of the steps. The edge of a balcony can be disguised by using pots brimming with plants. The walls of a plain concrete courtyard can be softened with potted shrubs and climbers. The possibilities are endless.


STEP ONE: THE CONTAINER

Affordable containers are readily available today. These can include colorful glazed pots; synthetic urns of mock cast iron, cement and stone; and molded resins that duplicate the looks of priceless antique planters. Until recently, these looks were simply too expensive for most gardeners.

Many of the containers now available are big, lightweight and fashionable, not to mention frost-resistant! This versatility has made container gardening more fun, more creative and more exciting than ever before.

Planting in Containers
Flower Gardening in Containers

Clay and terracotta pots look great anywhere. With a little creativity, you can use just about whatever comes to mind: Half barrels, old water heater tanks, oil drums, tin cans, old boots, and just about anything else you can think of that can hold container soil, is big enough to hold a good amount of soil (the more the better) and has a drainage hole or holes to release excess water.

Generally, mixing pots of different sizes achieves more visual interest. The optimum effect is achieved by grouping several large containers together with clusters of smaller and medium sized containers.


STEP TWO: THE SOILContainer Garden

All containers must have drainage holes so water can escape and not back up to rot plants' roots. Potted plants need good potting soil, not soil dug from the yard or garden, which is too nutrient poor and filled with weed seeds to be used for potting. Some of the soil-less mixes are particularly good, being more lightweight while also retaining moisture well.

Generally speaking, good container soil needs to be free draining and able to hold moisture. The soil should also meet the pH requirements of the plants. For example, plants such as Rhododendron, Heather, Camellias, and Citrus must have acid soil. Hydrangeas will never be blue unless the soil pH is below 6. A 50:50 mix of soil based and organic potting soil is a good basic soil mixture from your local garden centre.


STEP THREE: THE PLANTS 

This is the fun part. In addition to the basic cultural requirements of the plant, you'll want to think about a few design considerations when making your plant selections:

Pool & Patio Gardening Tips

Color: Choose what you like, but keep in mind that too many competing shades can become chaotic. To avoid this, select three to four "theme colors" and use them in different hues and shades. A few jolts of odd colors can then be mixed in for contrast here and there if you want. White and silvery-gray can also be useful for heightening or softening the impact of other surrounding colors.

Draping: Consider adding some plants that drape over the side of the pot to add another dimension. Vinca vines are probably best known as trailers. Petunias drape particularly well, as do trailing nasturtiums and bellflowers, and sweet potato vine.

For Shady Spots: Use containers full of shade lovers such as ferns, hostas, camellias, fuchsias, lilies and impatiens

For Height: Try climbers such as small flowered clematis, morning glory, and less vigorous climbing roses
Pool and Patio Container Gardening Hints & Ideas

Expiriment: Mix & match elements in various sizes, shapes, colors and textures. Don't limit yourself to a few common annuals. A key tip is to group pots of plants and flowers with similar "dispositions" together in staged settings that create a floral mood or establish a visual focal point.


STEP THREE: WATERING & FEEDING
Container Gardening

Plants in pots tend to dry out more quickly than plants in the ground, so routine watering is essential, especially in areas with greater wind and sun exposure. Never underestimate how much water many container plants need. Larger containers can use 4.5 litres of water per session (twice daily during hot weather). A gravel mulch can help to conserve moisture.

Feeding plants regularly with a balanced general plant food is also smart. You may wish to add a slow release fertiliser to the container soil when planting to feed the plants for the season.