Container Gardens with Native Plants
By Wendy Redding
Those of us who live in cities may not have acreage for a wildflower meadow or even a backyard for a native plant garden. No need for concern. A patio or a balcony is a great place for a container garden, and many native plants are well suited for a display in pots. No wonder that container gardening is becoming more and more popular.
Container gardens can accent a garden or give a balcony a whole new look. The first job is finding the container, and you can think outside the traditional pot---you can recycle any object that will hold soil into a container garden. You can create a living wall by finding containers that hang.
The next task is to select plants, and we’ve tried to help by designing some container gardens and making the plants that go in them available at our Spring Plant Sale & Gardening Festival Saturday and Sunday, April 11 and 12, with the Members Only Preview on Friday, April 10. The location of your container garden—sun or shade -- is going to determine what plants you select. Also, blend grasses, annual, perennials, shrubs and trees and look for combinations that complement each other in color, texture and structure.
You will want to find a potting soil that drains well, which you can find at local nurseries. Local mixes are best because native plants are adapted to native soils. Be sure your container has a drain hole at least one-half inch wide, and raise the container on clay or wooden "feet" to allow airflow. Good air circulation is important because roots lose their ability to absorb nutrients if the soil is not well-drained.
Now you are ready to plant. You can line the container with newspaper or add in clay pieces to keep the soil in. Fill with potting mix and plant leaving about an inch between the rim of the container and the soil level. Top dress your container with tumbled glass, stones, sand or native mulch to retain moisture, prevent weeds and give your garden a finished look.
The rule of thumb is to water when the soil feels dry a couple of inches down. Water thoroughly and evenly using a fine spray until water drains out the bottom of the container. You can fertilize with an organic liquid fertilizer during the growing season, and don’t forget to prune and weed. Have fun!...Wendy Redding, staff horticulturist.