Springtime Flowerpots & Planters
In spring, a gardener's fancy turns to thoughts of annuals and planters. We've got some bright ideas for you to consider—and some pitfalls to avoid—when creating seasonal beauty in containers.
Bringing flowers closer to eye level is an effortless way to raise their impact. Here, a retired rain barrel positioned in a shady corner of the yard boosts up a basket overflowing with (clockwise from center, right) purple and white pansies, easy-care calibrachoa
('Million Bells Plum'), variegated oregano, deep-purple verbena, and lacy ferns.
A perfectly proportioned antique urn punctuates a stone-clad pillar, its graceful shape and matte-black exterior fully in character with the adjacent fencing. The planter's bright begonias will quickly fill out to drape over the egg-and-dart rim of the urn, creating a flowering finial that offers season-long color.
A matching pair of classically inspired urns planted with ficus topiary standards flank the formal entry of a Georgian?style home. Foliage trumps flowers in this symmetrical arrangement, where the varying size, shape, and texture of leaves creates a calming first impression.
A set of aged and unused stone steps is converted into a grotto-like terraced garden with the aid of a dozen mix-and-match pots of similar size and shape.
A pansy-filled planter perched on a low, street-facing wall reflects the relaxed, friendly character of the cottage that lies behind it. Check your local garden center for pansies that stand up to your climate best: Although these old-fashioned flowers are traditionally cool-weather performers, many varieties (including those in the 'Majestic Giant' series) have been bred for greater tolerance to both heat and cold, significantly extending their season of bloom as well as the range of climates in which they can be enjoyed.
Creating a garden in a rustic wheel barrow or cast-off wagon multiplies your options without increasing your labor: Wheel your portable Eden out to the patio or deck when you're entertaining outdoors, or "park" it in any corner of the yard that would benefit from an instant touch of greenery or whimsy.
There's a good reason impatiens are consistent best sellers at nurseries and garden centers throughout the country. Few flowering plants are easier to care for or more effective at lighting up shady spots with color. Water them, protect them from full sun, and these ever-popular annuals will bloom profusely from spring through fall, quickly spreading to cover a garden bed or cascade from pots.
Someone's intentions were admirable—but a cluster of too-small containers outfitted with dainty annuals and trailing vines is an unsatisfactory substitute for this building's original bluestone-edged built-in planter box, which is ample enough to hold the kind of well-proportioned plantings that the assertive architecture demands.
Planters should complement surrounding architecture in style, proportion, and material. Effective alternatives to the slightly-too-small concrete planter that tops this cut-granite column include a massive, molded terra-cotta pot (to play off the structure's red-brick lintels) or a shallow, wide, black-painted cast-iron urn (to match the wrought-iron fencing and the building's Victorian Romanesque architecture). New fiberglass pots made of composite materials that imitate stone or clay are also worth considering. Durable and lightweight, many of these modern mimics are surprisingly handsome, moisture retentive, and a lot easier to hoist overhead when filled with plants and potting soil than the weighty originals.
If you're trying to cut down on outdoor water use, it's smart to line unglazed clay or wooden garden containers with nonporous plastic liners that help retain moisture—just make sure they are well camouflaged. Always tuck the smaller interior pot below the rim of the larger outer pot. Quick-growing annuals planted close to the outer edges of the planter will soon spill over the rim, concealing any gaps.
Of course, annuals are far from your only option. Perennials, herbs, and even trees can work well in planters. Slow-growing dwarf conifers and young evergreens of many varieties—including arborvitae, Alberta spruce, even hardy rhododendron—can remain happy and healthy in pots and planters for years. Just keep the plants watered and fertilized during the growing season, protect their limbs from ice damage in winter, and relocate them to roomier containers or garden beds when they outgrow their temporary digs.
A galvanized washtub on wheels demonstrates how successful approaching yard chores with a sense of fun can be. Here moss-lined baskets, terra-cotta pots, recycled tin cans, and other noble castoffs house a rainbow coalition of easy-care annuals and perennials.