By Jennah Watters
Have a small space in your garden where you can't decide what to plant? Try a container garden! I love putting containers - especially bold-colored ones - in unexpected spots in the garden. Your pretty flowerpots don't need to be relegated only to decks and porches! Here are a few ways to make the most of containers in your gardens:
Use a container to fill in an area where you are waiting for plants to mature. This is especially great if you've just planted shrubs. When properly spaced for maturity, there will often be large empty areas in between. Rather than filling the space with plants that will need to be relocated later or annuals that will need to be replanted yearly, find a large flowerpot that will fill in the area and complement surrounding plants.
Get more bang from your annuals! Annuals planted en masse in a garden make for a great show, but it requires a lot of plants and a lot of time. Smaller groupings planted in the ground tend to look dinky, but in a container they become a great focal point. Try a whole pot of the same annual in the same color for the most visible effect from the road, or play with color contrast such as yellow marigolds planted in a cobalt blue pot.
Pot up some mini shrubs! I love azaleas in the spring, but don't have a great place for them in my garden, so I planted two small azaleas in large flowerpots that live in front of my raised beds. I also have two evergreens planted in pots as topiaries on my front stoop. Just because it's usually planted in the ground doesn't mean it has to be! Shrubs are generally pretty hardy, too, so while you will need to water them if it's very hot and dry, they shouldn't require as much attention as flowering annuals in pots would.
Other perennials are great in pots, too - and that means you don't have to replant them every year! I like to pot things that tend to spread more than I'd like: liriope, mint, bee balm, sedums and creeping Jenny to name a few. You may need to separate out a clump every couple years to share with a friend, but containers planted with perennials are generally hardy and also require less water than annuals. Try to pick at least one plant per container with year-round interest, so you won't have empty containers in your garden come winter.
For any containers that you plan to leave out year-round, be sure to select a variety that will survive the winter. In some colder climates, materials such as terra cotta may crack during frost heaves, but heavier plastics, concrete and other new materials will be fine for many years. Some large pots can be pricey, but check sales early in the season and clearances late in the season for great deals.