Home > Great Big Greenhouse Blog > September 2014 > GARDEN TALK with DOUG - FALL & WINTER CONTAINER GARDENING


Container gardens are meant for spring and summer, right?  Don’t believe it!  Try planting a container now and being creative with plants that have fall and winter interest.  I have a passion for container gardening and love talking to customers who want to try and learn to create a container garden. 
I seem to always start my conversation with telling customers not to be afraid of failing or losing some plants, or containers for that matter, because with these failures comes knowledge and experience.  I have had many failures over the years to go along with all my successes.   But, here are some tips to share with you that may reduce or eliminate some of your fears with container gardening.
The keys to being a successful container gardener are the same in the spring as they are for the winter – it all has to do with selecting the right pot, the right plants for the location of the pot, the right soil, and the right care. 
I am going to expand on these four key tips so that you will want to give container gardening  a try right now. 
  1.  CHOOSING A CONTAINER -  Choose a container that will withstand freezing temperatures.  A metal, wooden, “light-weight”, or a heavy, thick glazed containers are examples of good choices for a container.  I have them all plus some others.  Whatever the container be sure it has drainage holes.  This is essential.  And, the bigger the pot the better because a big pot needs more soil and soil will act as an insulator for the roots in the winter.
  2. CHOOSING A FOCAL PLANT – Choose a center, focal plant for your container.  Be sure to choose a plant that is very tolerant of the cold temperatures.  And, your choice of focal plant will be dictated by the location you want to place this container.  In other words, sun exposure will dictate what plants are best.   A few good examples of focal plants are Dwarf Alberta Spruce, Hinoki Cypress, Ornamental grasses, Nandina, or Boxwood.  Keep in mind that these plants can be used as your center plant year round.  I have Graham Blandy boxwood as focal plants in three containers as well as a Japanese maple and a topiary Yew in two other containers.
  3. CHOOSING THE PLANTS TO FILL THE CONTAINER – Now comes the fun part in filling the container with plants.  This time of year pansies make an excellent choice because of the color they will give from now into late spring.  Other plant choices to consider are monkey grass, evergreen ferns, hellebores, heuchuras, snapdragons, dusty miller, ornamental cabbage and kale, or heather.  Adding some ivy is an excellent choice of plant.  Ivy will soften the edging of the container by spilling over the sides.  I keep ivy in my containers year round and trim when needed in order to contain the growth.
  4. SOIL AND TIMING IS EVERYTHING – Having the right soil mixture is vital to being a successful container gardener.  I suggest using a soilless mix that is blended with some compost and composted cow manure.  I love this combination in my containers.  Along with the soil I add some Espoma Bio-Tone in order to encourage good root growth so that all the plants are well rooted going into the winter months.  I do NOT recommend any fertilizing in the fall that would encourage new tender growth that would be more susceptible to cold weather.  Hold off on fertilizing until after the first flush of spring growth.
In closing, making beautiful, decorative container gardens just takes some simple techniques, some plant logic, and desire to be creative.  Enjoy!!
Posted: 9/26/2014 by Doug Hensel | with 0 comment(s)
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