As an avid container gardener, I'm always on the lookout for good books on the subject. Container Plants by Halina Heitz (Barron's Educational Series, 1992; $20) is one of the best I've read. It contains a wealth of information -- enough to satisfy even a seasoned gardener. It covers everything from propagation to harvesting, plantings for each season, diseases and pests (with alternative treatments if you prefer not to use chemicals), a glossary of terms, and a source list of reference books and plant societies.
Each plant is profiled in depth, including advice on care and suggested uses. I especially like the interesting combinations of colors and textures shown in the color photos, giving inspiration beyond using the plant in containers.
Favorite or New Plant
The number of plants that can tolerate dry shade is limited, but of those that can, epimediums (Epimedium grandiflorum) are among the best. One of the most beautiful epimediums is 'Rose Queen', with rose-pink flowers in mid-spring and handsome, glossy green, compound leaves divided into teardrop-shaped leaflets. The foliage stands about 1-foot tall and is semi-evergreen in my mild winter climate. The new leaves have beautiful bronze markings that fade as the season progresses.
Like other epimediums, 'Rose Queen' grows in shade or part sun. It thrives in moist, well-drained soil, but it also tolerates dry shade well. Plants spread slowly to form dense clumps that rarely need division, so 'Rose Queen' can serve either as a ground cover or as an edging for a shady perennial border.