Self Containment

Pump up your porch this season with playful plantings that bring beauty and bounty.

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It’s the season for gardening, and it’s the season for porch sitting. What better way to combine the two than with a container garden? Packing color (and flavor!) into a smaller size offers less maintenance and more curb (and patio) appeal to your home. We spent time with two of the Upstate’s best stocked and knowledgeable garden centers to get the lowdown on planting our own, easy-to-maintain containers: Country Boy’s and Martin’s Nursery.

For a classic, Southern front porch container Allen Walcher of Country Boy’s offers a wealth of advice. “You want to keep things a bit more formal. Two identically planted pots framing a doorway look neat and welcoming. For the backyard, however,” Allen says, smiling, “that’s where you can have some fun.”

Create an English cottage-style container with five different plants. Allen recommends, before planting, to “think about your house color. Pick colors that complement your exterior.” Even more essential, look at your outdoor space and determine if it receives less than six hours of sunlight. If so, you’ll need to plant shade-loving varieties. Otherwise, choose sunny plants and try to keep them out of the harsher summer afternoon light.

From there, it’s time to do the fun part: select your plants. For a sun-loving container, think about which plants will grow tall, which will spill over the side, and which will mound. It’s also fun to include a scented flower. Begonias work well as a center plant and come in a variety of colors. Allen’s final piece of advice is to add a white flower simply because, “When you add white, it makes all the other colors pop.” Pinch back dead blooms and leggy stems to keep your container lush and happy throughout the season.

At Martin’s Nursery, edible plants look just as compelling in containers with the added bonus of upping your culinary aptitude. Choose two varieties of basil such as purple ruffle and Italian large leaf for color and height; oreganos and thymes will drape over the sides of the container as will mints. Parsley, chives, and dill are all delicate and add interest (and flavor!). Or consider a more thematic grouping—a pot planted with tea flavorings (lavender, lemon balm, spearmint), or one just for a certain style of cooking (Italian basil, oregano, and parsley for pasta). Because herbs tend to spread quickly, containers also work well to keep them from overtaking your yard, while it also keeps what you need steps from your kitchen.

Whether for color or for culinary ventures (or both!) container gardens add enjoyment to any home and any style. Follow these tips to make sure your potted plants are as pretty as they are plentiful.

  • Plant only in containers 14″ or bigger, otherwise it is difficult to keep them watered. Plus, their roots need room to grow down.
  • Only use bowl-shaped containers for plants with shallow root systems, such as mosses and succulents.
  • Fill the base of pots with one inch of large bark mulch, Styrofoam peanuts, or drainage gravel. Roots grow best (and therefore plants look best) if the soil drains well.
  • Use a potting soil with a high content of sphagnum peat moss.
  • Add a small handful of pellet fertilizer and mix well before planting.
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