Lust of the Eyes with Unlimited Potential for Fulfillment
by Crystal Trojek
by Crystal Trojek

I am an award winning floral artist in competitive design, and my seasonal displays have been featured in magazines and local businesses. I use words as my art form when it is too cold to garden in Ontario, or too wet, or too hot. I’ve written a number of articles for local newspapers, newsletters, and Master Gardener publications. I am an educator of the topics of seasonal decorating and container gardening, newly self employed. ! !

I admit that lately I have spent a lot of inventive time thinking of creative ways to get rid of my new laptop even though my son assures me I can never have the old computer back. I loathe electronics with as much passion as I write. A completely vile subject: computers and their horrible little offspring, cell phones. Fortunately for me, the overwhelming tide of my imagination in the world of gardening is a giant that subdues and conjugates the words as they stream onto the keyboard. I can take my mind to significantly better places, like spring. It is a gift to see what others do not, it is a responsibility to share it with others. !

May 12, 2013

When I was younger (not so long ago, today), I never dwelt on container gardening and all its many exciting possibilities. I had three acres to garden and dream in, and spent most of my time thinking BIG.

The lawn cutters and wood choppers grew up and went away to school, health issues forced a move into town, and it took about three years for me “to get my head in gear,” as my husband says, and think about how you manage to keep most of your long time botanical friends in smaller quarters. Let’s face it, the man was right. You can cry about it for another year, or you can “get busy living or get busy dying.”

I freely admit that I’ve personally never owned them, but I think of containers now well, WELL beyond the world of two classic black Greek style urns with an insert full of overflowing red geraniums, bacopa, sweet potato vine, and those horrid green spikes. My rampant imagination annihilates that picture in about 3 seconds, and thinks there has to be more, and there most certainly is. Everybody to their own personal taste and be happy, but I want more for me and you should too, way, way, way, more.

Let’s talk mechanical, practical benefits before we visit the artistic side and people get nervous. In other words, we’ll convince your partner first why you bought the containers, and talk about what to do with them later. I like to think of containers in the same realm as my unquenchable thirst for nice shoes: there’s way more out there than in one store, way more shapes, colors, and materials than you think you can use.

#1 Benefit: In Canada, we have four mostly distinct seasons in our calendar year. The length of each season varies by the province where you reside, and that particular year, and sometimes unbelievably blamed on a groundhog with questionable credentials on his resume and an expunged criminal record of his prior professional activities. The best thing about containers is you can change them 4 times a year to celebrate the seasons. They are well worth your gardening dollar investment, even an expensive one. You will love it for years, you can divide your $100.00 investment in a nice container by 4, and every year after that you’ve already paid for it.

#2 Benefit: There are so many, many shapes, materials, and sizes of them. Grouped together or all alone, they always make a great statement in your personal garden space. Don’t be afraid of the really big ones. You can get a metal ring on castors now and place it on that to move it around easily from place to place. The really tall ones need some stones or a couple of bricks in the bottom so they don’t get knocked down or blown over by the wind, if that’s what’s holding you back from having one at your house. Tall planters can simply have a less expensive, smaller plastic pot that fits the opening, referred to as an “insert” at the store. No worries about how you are going to get all of that planted pot and its inhabitants in your SUV and home in one piece, just take them the insert to fill for you. Keep in mind what kind of plants you are planning to put in your large or very tall container and how much space the roots are going to need, but you don’t even have to fill the whole thing with a soil mix; turn an old plastic pot upside down and place it in the bottom to fill up space. One absolute: pots must have drainage holes made by the manufacturer or you. Plants die in standing water, unless they are a bog plant, and pots with water in the bottom of the container will surely develop that peculiar rancid standing water smell that citronella plants will never conquer for you.

#3 Benefit: containers are sublimely happy to be other places than on the ground, out of the way of large and small dogs, ponies, cats, deer, chickens, marauding toddlers, and dearly beloved holidaying guests throughout the year. Imagine 4 changes a year for hanging baskets (yes!), wall planters (yes!), dish gardens (yes!), balcony planters (yes!), deck rail planters (yes!), table centers of every tribe and colour (Yes!) and all the planters you place around your pool or hot tub to enhance the experience. You will, of course, not get 4 seasons out of tropical plants around here, but three is certainly worth the effort.

#4 Benefit: For a lot of Canadians, containers are of great benefit as we age. They are less maintenance once filled with plants, you could put them on a drip system for watering if you would like, they are farther off the ground when you need to care for them, they can be moved around outside like the furniture in your house when you want to redecorate. Caring for plants have great health benefits in general, ask any horticultural therapist. Why are there plants in public buildings? Ever been in one that didn’t have any? Why do we have public parks, compared to public parking lots? Think about the difference.

#5 Benefit: Container gardening possesses unlimited potential for the botanical imagination. Every season, every year, you can do something different to them. You only need to remember that just like you, they need healthy food and water regularly or they will die. Gardening with containers allows everyone to exercise unrestricted imagination with the materials you can use. Your creations are pretty much limited only by the size of the container, and perhaps the weather.

#6 Benefit: Containers are small enough that when you get tired of them, they can be replaced with something new, just like paint, furniture and clothing. You can donate your good containers to fundraisers held by local hort societies, or already potted up for silent auctions, or to friends who alas have given up cultivating a “green thumb”, or any yard sale or preferred donation centre. Simply recycle them to another grateful owner, and never tell your partner what you paid for the new ones. Suffice to say, “They were on sale,” and leave the topic right there.

#7 Benefit: Anything artificial that you use in your container designs can be reused again and again, such as silk flowers. You can’t tell artificial forsythia from the real thing anymore, and it’s a fabulous accent to spring containers. Artificial plant materials, also known as “permanent botanicals” have come a long, long, way. I am personally especially fond of grasses. People have to fondle them to believe they aren’t real, and you can use them in containers outside all year long, over and over again. Natural materials like twig and moss balls will fade over time, and branches. If it’s made of natural materials, you can spray them a color when it fades out. Imagine a twig ball painted purple in the spring, black or lime green in the fall, and gold at Christmas. They are adaptable to a coat of many colors.

#8 Benefit: Containers can house small, manageable vegetable/herb gardens. A cherry tomato or a pepper plant will manage quite nicely in something larger than the grower pot where it was born. There is also the mixed herb garden, easily raised on a deck or balcony, and handy for snipping your favorites for adding to recipes any time of the day.

#9 Benefit: If you have to change residences, your container gardens can go with you to your new home, unless they are seriously attached to the wall, in which case you can write them out of your offer. You don’t have to move any time of the year and leave a lot of your garden behind, unless of course you are going to another country.

#10 Benefit : Containers are a great way to play with color, plant, and materials. You can test you color tastes, and if you don’t like what you have, you can simply remove things and start over. Do not be afraid of color! If you got dressed this morning and went outside amongst strangers and didn’t get laughed at, you can manage color. Line up all the plants on top of the soil in the pot first, do your moving around until you are happy with the result, and plant. Do not forget to fertilize once a week, and when it gets really hot in Ontario, water in the morning AND at night, until the water runs out of the drainage hole in the bottom.

#11Benefit: You can even put small shrubs, roses, and vines in containers, just in a frost proof container where we live. The shrub will only get as large as the space in the container that it is planted in, just like an orchid in a pot in your house, or your Christmas cactus. It will simply stop growing when it runs out of room. Shrubs in containers simply require regular watering and fertilizer, just like any other plant. How else do you get green in the outdoor, penthouse condo? Rooftop gardens have to have something green. Think also in terms of wall gardens, which are now a very big trend in countries where there is very little space, like Europe, Japan and China. It’s not really a new concept, just done in different ways today.

#12 Benefit: Possibilities of materials that you can plant in containers is almost unlimited. The only thing I can think of that you CAN’T put in a container is something that could jump out of it, like a kitten or a puppy, or perhaps uncovered food or drink. Containers can be used in many places with a multitude of materials in them, and quite likely to remain popular in many forms for a long,long time.

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