In the Garden:
Green leaf lettuce, pink diascia, and sweet alyssum fluorish in a springtime container.
Containers are like blank slates, waiting to be filled. Some years I have trouble deciding what to plant, other years it seems like there are too many good choices and a theme really helps narrow things down. Remember to start by selecting plants that are suited to the lighting conditions where your container sits. Then it's time to have a little fun in whittling down the choices.
Here Comes the Sun (Or Shade)
Whether or not you opt for a specific theme, do make sure your plants are suited to the planting location. If your container sits in full direct sun all day long or in direct sun all afternoon, select plants that like hot sun. If your container is on the dark, north side of your house, select plants for shade. If it receives full, direct sun just in the morning, go with plants adaptable to partial shade or sun. For an eastern exposure with just a few hours of gentle, early-morning sun, you can use plants for partial shade or shade. For bright, dappled light all day, go with shade to part-shade plants.
Plant By Color
A color theme is an obvious choice and can be as tasteful or as kaleidoscopic as you like. You can do a monochromatic scheme with, for example, all yellow flowers and golden-foliage plants, or a hot combination of blooms in red, yellow, orange, and bright pink. Or go for a cool, soothing, pastel look in rose, white, and silver.
Inspiration for a color theme can be as varied as your personal interests. How about something in burgundy and gold to match your favorite team colors, or flowers selected to complement the cushions on your deck furniture, or plants to echo your favorite Hawaiian print shirt.
Good Enough to Eat
You could grow a culinary herb garden and go with herbs you like to cook with along with some edible flowers. Popular herbs that do well in containers include thyme, chives, sage, tarragon, rosemary, and definitely basil. Your edible flowers could include lavender, chives, violas, nasturtiums, and maybe a squash plant or two.
How about a potted perfumerie: roses, sweet alyssum, lavender, nicotiana, and ten-week stock. Some scented geraniums and a fragrant lily or two would round out the selection along with a curry plant or some piquant herbs, such as artemesia, for those spicy notes.
Maybe nature is your bag. Try a portable butterfly garden in pots using plants known to be especially tempting to butterflies, such as lantana, zinnias, and verbena. Add a container of larval food sources, such as parsley and dill, so you can enjoy observing the caterpillars up close, too. Or cultivate a potted menagerie: cats and kittens (sempervivum ), horsetail (equisetum), and monkey flower (Mimulus) would get you started there.
Or how about a container water garden, or a container cactus garden or .... how about one of each!
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