Stephanie Hudak's business, Creative Gardens, is located in Madison where she specializes in custom-designed containers. She is a freelance writer and frequent speaker at garden clubs and events.
 

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Containers for Every Season
by Stephanie Hudak - posted 02/22/12  

Gardens are getting smaller and gardening time is getting shorter – that has been true for several years now and will probably continue to be true. But another prevailing trend is that container gardening is strong and getting stronger, not only because of time and space, but because containers offer quick satisfaction with minimal effort. You don't have to be trained in design to create stunning focal points for your garden; you just need to follow a few simple guidelines to set yourself up for success.

The first guideline is to start with a container that inspires you and will support the cast of characters that you will put into it. Next, use a quality potting mix, buy reliable plants that will survive their season and fertilize regularly, and of course, adequately water. Throughout this article you will see some plants repeated in containers, and that's because they have proven themselves over the years to survive nature's duress and still look stunning. So, let's take a look at some of them.


Exciting Tropicals

Plants that are commonly used indoors make exciting and lush containers when the night temperatures stay well above freezing. Leaf texture, shape and color dominate this type of planting but occasionally you will find exotic flowers that can be the center of attention.
 



 

Alocasia x amazonica – Zebra Plant

Asplenium nidus – Bird's Nest Fern

Eucomis  ‘Sparkling Burgundy’

Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’ – Creeping Jenny

Muehlenbeckia – Creeping Wire Vine

Bletilla striata – Chinese Ground Orchid
 


Alocasia or Colocasia – Large Elephant Ears
Alocasia x amazonica – Zebra Plant
Cyperus albostriatus ‘Variegatus’ – Dwarf Papyrus
New Guinea Impatiens
Polypodium aureum ‘Blue Crisp Fern’ Grass
Ipomoea ‘Sweet Caroline Sweetheart Light Green’ – Sweet Potato Vine
 


 

Bromeliad
Asparagus meyeri – Foxtail Asparagus Fern



Versatile Caladiums

Caladiums, hostas and ferns make a great combination to start a container. Have fun adding other plants to make a colorful statement. Look for caladiums that have been bred to tolerate the sun to extend your placement options.
 



 

Hosta ‘Fire and Ice’ Caladium

Polypodium aureum ‘Blue Crisp Fern’

Lysimachia nummularia ’Aurea’ – Creeping Jenny
 



 

Large Alocasia or Colocasia – Upright Elephant Ears

Caladium, Fern, Ivy

Dragon Wing Begonia
 


Caladiums
Dragon Wing Begonia
Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’ – Creeping Jenny
Lysimachia congestiflora
Hypoestes phyllostachya – Polka Dot Plant
Liriope muscari ‘Evergreen Giant’


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Modern Settings

For a more modern setting, choose a large container with simple lines and a bold color. Add plants with big leaves, bright colors and unusual textures
 



 

Large Alocasia or Colocasia– Upright Elephant Ears

Cyperus papyrus ‘King Tut’

Coleus ColorBlaze LifeLime

Begonia Mandalay Mandarin

Lysimachia congestiflora
 



 

Equisetum hyemale – Horsetail reed

Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’  – Creeping Jenny
 


Hosta, Heuchera and Solomon’s Seal


 

Succulents

Succulents are perfect for those areas that get a lot of sun but not much water. Unusual containers can be the point of interest here with the plants adding texture. Window boxes, which are often very hard to access, are also ideal for succulents – seek out ones that cascade to soften the edge of the box.
 



Kalanchoe luciae - Flapjack
 


Kalanchoe tomentosa – Panda Plant

Echeveria ‘Black Prince’

Sempervivum ‘Red Rubin’

Sedum spurium ‘Voodoo’ and ‘Red Carpet’

Echeveria ‘Topsy Turvy’


 

 

Kalanchoe luciae - Flapjack

Sedum spurium ‘Voodoo’ and ‘Red Carpet’

Sedeveria hybrid

Sedum nussbaumerianum ‘Coppertone’


Succulents combine to create a lush, textured and easy-to-maintain container.


 

Coleus

Coleus now come in so many different colors, sizes and sun tolerance that they should be considered in every arrangement.
 



 

Coleus: Big Red Judy, Velvet Mocha, ‘Gay’s Delight’, Pink Chaos

Muehlenbeckia axillaris – Creeping Wire Vine

Rumex

Ajuga reptans ‘Black Scallop’



 


Winter Color

Winter containers usually call for the same old pansies but by combining them with conifers, grasses and shrubs, you can get a year-round container by just changing out the pansies in summer. The addition of garden accessories adds sparkle.
 

 

Aucuba japonica – Gold Dust Plant

Carex testacea – Orange Sedge

Juniper chinensis ‘Torulosa’

Heuchera ‘Caramel’

Sedum ‘Angelina’

Sedum Lemon Coral

Metal mushrooms
 



 

Juniperus chinensis ‘Blue and Gold’

Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Goshiki’

Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Nana Lutea’

Nandina ‘Firepower’

Liriope muscari ‘Evergreen Giant’

Ivy, Pansies, Twigs


 


Pansies and More

Combining pansies with tall, textured plants increases the pansies’ impact in a pot. Don't be afraid to use any plant that is hardy to your area. A “pot in a pot” is also a great way to use plants that need different soil requirements, such as cold hardy sedums.


Pansies
Sedum ‘Tricolor’
Sedum ‘Blue Spruce’
Acorus gramineus ‘Ogon’
Kales
 


 

 

Kale – lacinato

Parsley, Snapdragons, Pansies


 


Vegetables and Herbs

Vegetables and herbs add amazing color and texture to a container and have the added attraction of being edible.


 

Lettuce, Nasturtium, Chives





 


Anything is fair game when it comes to containers – it really is all about letting your creative self run free. Don't be afraid to mix succulents with annuals and perennials. If watering is an issue, place succulents in separate pots with their own soil mix and then into the larger container. Vegetables can go in any container, even if it is just for the foliage. Conifers and grasses are the ultimate marriage of textures and easy maintenance. Houseplants rule in the summertime. Trees are four-season winners. And don't forget to add fun accessories like ceramic mushrooms for extra color and sparkle. But the most important guideline – have fun!

 

(From Georgia Gardening Volume X Issue I. Photos by Stephanie Hudak.)

 

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