In the Garden:
Coastal and Tropical South
October, 2005
Regional Report

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Moss-lined containers on a French Quarter balcony in New Orleans are decorated for the season.

Containing Ourselves

Balconies in New Orleans are starting to bloom again after Hurricane Katrina. The gardens and gardeners in this historic city are bouncing back with humor and containers full of color. Even if you don't garden high above the street, potted plants have a lot to offer. Their obvious advantages include control over water and soil mixes, and the ability to garden in otherwise impossible locations. And beyond that, the design possibilities are endless.

Remember the rule of three in selecting plants for containers. Put together a tall spiky plant, one that flowers, and another that sprawls or crawls. Or use matching pots filled with different flowering plants to add color spots wherever you want them. Containers are all about the gardener's choices; you're not limited to tillable soil or the one sunny spot in the yard.

Weight Matters
In choosing pots and mixing soils, go light to save your back, not to mention wear and tear on fences or other supports. Clay and other pottery materials are heavier than plastic or moss liners. Combine bagged potting soil half and half with ground bark to lighten the mix, or use mixes called "soilless" for even lighter loads. If you have ever lost plants to overwatering, these alternatives are definitely for you since they can, and should be, watered nearly every day.

Basic Container Smarts
Anything can be a container for plants as long as it has three qualities. Be sure it's strong enough to hold soil and cover roots, has drainage, and suits your style. Often those attractive ceramic pots or other unconventional containers (an old boot, perhaps?) can be drilled to allow water and air to flow out. When that's not practical, use the attractive container as an outer sleeve with a pot that drains slipped inside it. And if you've fallen in love with a huge pot that would be extremely heavy when full of expensive soil mix, just fill it halfway with lava rocks or even packing peanuts and set plants and soil in the top half.


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