EVERYTHING IS A CONTAINER IF YOU STOP TO CONSIDER IT
These are photos of my container garden creations past and present. I’m a fanatic about container gardening for so many reasons, and I’d rather plant a combination in a container any day over digging in a garden. I’m not sure why – but putting arrangements together in containers just automatically clicks for me. And the color combinations, textures, and different plants I test out in containers allow me to expand my ideas in gardens. By the way, I do dig in gardens too, I just seem to prefer the ease of container gardens, but every space in a yard is a container too – when we edge a bed, or build a raised bed, or frame it with borders – we are creating a container garden, are we not?
So my statement is, “Everything is a Container if you Stop to Consider it” in the world of gardening. Enjoy the photos. Leave your comments and let me know what you have created for container gardens too.
To see services offered by Cathy Testa of Cathy T’s Landscape Designs and Container Crazy CT, click away to see the various sub-menus. Installations of beautiful and seasonal container gardens at store-fronts for businesses, and at your home to dress up your outdoor space is available year-round! Browse and you will see many examples of work done by Cathy Testa.
CONTAINER GARDENS BY CATHY T
This container garden has to be one of my all time favorites from the year 2013. My big cement planter filled with various perennials and tropical plants, with the thriller and star being my big red banana plant (Ensete) in the center. This plant is treated as a tropical in our CT planting zones, and must be overwintered. The cement planter was installed by my brother, Jimmy (who is also in a band, BackTrax) – and one time, when my Uncle Renald came by, he joked by saying, “you built a foundation for your plants!” This is true, it is just like a mini foundation but do I ever love it and I know I will enjoy this big container garden for many years to come. Long story short, I hired a professional photographer by the name of Catherine Cella of Joyful Reflections Photography to take the following photos of it for me. I will be sharing more of the story about this plant and the adventures it took me on last year, but here’s some of the pro shots below.
Although this photo is a little dark, and Catherine (noted above) wanted to edit this photo, I decided to leave it alone because it is so “rich” and “dark” showing you the intense coloring and ribs of the underside of the red banana leaves (Ensete). I love how each leaf would unroll as it shot out from the trunk of the plant. You can see in the center of this plant how there is a curled up leaf, similar to a cigar roll, and it is about to unfurl any minute.
Contrary to the photo above of the dark side coloring of the banana’s leaves, check out how the sun light is captured in the photo above on the right, not only in the banana leaves but in the various types of elephant ears in the big cement planter as well. The movement of the lush leaves in the wind was great – reminds me of the tropics, but also the light reflections are to be admired.
This photo, taken by Catherine (noted above photographer), was towards the end of the season, thus the pumpkin to remind us how beautiful it looked all the way into the Halloween season. Some may have thought this planter was put in a strange place, because you either have to be on the deck above to view down to see it or walk around to the other side of my house to see it too but something told me “put it here”, fill this “void or space”. I have this weird design thing where I sense “put it here to reflect something back” or to “capture invisible energy” in the landscape. In late fall, my husband got totally obsessed with building a wood shed – where? Directly opposite this big cement planter. Interesting. But the fun part is the plants got so tall (my goal) that they would dance above the deck railings teasing you to take a walk and just check it out – and I could see this planter well from my bedroom so it was a joy to wake up, move the curtains aside, and see the plant get bigger and bigger every day til the end of the season when it had to be overwintered.
PRIOR YEAR’S CONTAINER GARDENS BY CATHY T
This is a pallet box my husband spotted outside a warehouse one day and it was free for the taking. I told him, go get it immediately! Must have. It was in perfect condition, so I stained it, had him add the wheels on the bottom for movement, and the first year, I put a glass top over it with a string of holiday lights inside to add a nice effect as a coffee table in the evening. This year, 2013, I decided to make it into an herb garden. It’s been on my deck only one week so far, and I have already taken some of the bay leaves while cookin’ up ribs, and some of the basil to put on tomatoes for burgers. I think I’m going to add a big trellis on the back side to go up the wall. I line all my containers, but this is especially important with pallets. I always fear chemicals in the wood, so be sure to have a liner between the soil and the wood, with drain holes too – a must do! I go over “must-do’s for container gardening” in my classes, and when I was on t.v. on a program called, Connecticut Style – see TV Spots from my menu bar options on this blog for more info.
This is kind of an interesting story. One year I participated in a “Gardens, Gallery and Gifts” event put on by several women in my home town. I used a cocobowl I picked up in Hawaii the year prior at a unique shop by a man that made tools out of wood. He had a pile of these bowl in a basket on the floor. I thought they were cute, so I bought like two. Well, it hit me how adorable these would be with a hens-and-chick plant, and the cocobowls are natural and organic. So I contacted the guy in Hawaii and asked if he could ship me the whole lot in his basket. He did. The shipping wasn’t cheap but you know what – these were so adorable, everyone wanted one at that show. And I still have two bowls with an Agave in them – that plant has been in that bowl for 3 years now and still is looking great. I’ll find a photo of those later. Remember, drain holes in the bottom which I carefully drilled. These little bowls will last forever, coconuts are tough. And to water, I just hold it under a faucet and let the water run into the bowl and drain out.
Everyone wanted this frog – he had a matching wife standing up in a bathing suit. The frogs sold but this planter did not. So I took it home. Every winter since, I moved this big pot back into my house. The Kalanchoe plant completely fills the planter now, it is HUGE! (Will find the photo of it later as it looks today.) My cousin actually got the frog and she uses it every year in her planter with the lady frog that matched. You’ll notice I put little blue stones under the frog to similar water as he was basking in the sun. I don’t use a great deal of funky decor in my containers, but once in a while, it just works and is fun. And lucky for me, a professional photographer took a photo of this container with the famous frog at a garden show, as shown below. Visit Catherine Cella of Joyful Reflections Photography to see her work. She is located in Ellington, CT.
I’m in love with ‘Maui Magic’ elephant ears. I wrote a blog post about this plant and the story behind it. Click on tropicals to locate it or just search Maui Magic on this blog page right side bar to find it. The leaves on this sucker got like 2 feet large. Something about how it moves in the wind, and the stems on these are really nice, with purple color and really long so it pops up above the other plants in the container. Always go for BIG containers – it makes a statement, the soil won’t dry out as fast, and most importantly you are giving the roots the growth power to make the plants amazing in your container gardens. I stored this plant’s root system in peat over the winter, and it is reused every year – now that saves money too. I offer a class on the how to’s for storage of tropical plants.
Notice the two-tiered kitchen basket lined with moss and planted with succulents. The woman who purchased this was smart in my opinion! It looks so nice on a patio table, and this is easy to create. Just make sure you get a basket that has drain holes in it – this one had like a wire pattern so I knew the water would drain well. Moisten the moss before you place it into the base, and always always use potting mix specifically for container gardens. Do not use soil from the ground, why? I go over why in my classes. Succulents are perfect for small containers like this in full sun because they can take a bit of drought and the heat.
This is a container I made for a client. She was throwing a party for her daughter’s graduation, and she has very pretty gardens, but she wanted some decor. What I love about this pot, is not only the plants, but that it looked just right in front of her red barn. The red banana plant will reach up to 8 to 10 feet in one season – talk about dramatic, and the leaves are visually luscious and large, but also the mix of plants add a bit of that country feel to the pot, which is what I think made it work against her barn. Can you identify the plants? There are many annuals, and some perennials, and a big tropical. Always consider using all types of plants to mix it up!
This one was on my deck several years ago, but I have to keep sharing it. It was featured in a magazine as a foliage rich arrangement, and you can see why. The ‘Kong’ Coleus is a favorite of mine because the leaves get so large, and notice the sweet potato vine (Ipomea) picks up the plum colors from the Coleus. The shrimp plant is loved by hummingbirds, so to me that makes it a winner immediately. I had two of these on my deck. They got sun to part shade and thrived.
My good friend, Catherine Cella of Joyful Reflections Photography, captured one of my favorites. The red head with a Jade plant, and gems by Crista Grasso of AmberTortoise Jewelry. Everyone inspected this container, but no one bought it. They wanted to know where I got the pot – but of course they did! I actually bought it while on vacation, and was able to find the supplier online eventually but they only had white ones in stock. I didn’t think white would do, the red was stunning. Note the bowl to the left, which I picked up at a consignment shop and refurbished, then filled with hens-and-chicks. The base of that pot was wrought iron – very sturdy – a good find, and the guy who bought it for his Mom did well to do so for Mother’s Day.
Sometimes just the right small pot works for container gardens, and again, succulents are good for these because it is hard to keep the soil moist, so go for drought tolerant types. Catherine Cella of Joyful Reflections Photography captured this photo when I sold these at the Ellington Farmer’s Market last season. I plan to return to various farmer’s markets in 2014, but this year, I have some other goals to focus on. I do miss it – the people who attend markets are full of enthusiasm and in a good mood. I enjoyed the market very much.
This container sold immediately – and it is not surprising. The glass beads on top of the soil glistened in the sun, and the succulent bloomed right on time for its showing at a market. It is simple, clean, and elegant, and tolerant of the type of gardeners that don’t like to water their containers in the heat of the summer. Plus the glazed pot is so pretty and lasts a life time. Wish these weren’t so darn heavy for the big pots I use more in my container gardening world.
I know there is only one plant in this pot – but this is a “troublemaker plant turned star” – another one of my statements. Some plants are big time trouble in the garden because they spread and are difficult if not impossible to remove. This is the case with Petasites, shown here, but in a container, those roots stay in place, and you have a showy plant with big huge leaves, which I adore. It turns into a “star” in a container garden. It is a shade lover and likes LOTS of moisture. To learn more about it – see my blog on this plant on this site. Search via the right bar search field to find the post. Notice also, I elevated the pot on small table. A technique to make it even more glamorous on your patio or deck. This plant returns every season in my pot – I store it in my shed, and roll it back out – this is year 4 using this plant – saves moolah.
Scroll up to the frog in the pot – and take note – this is how big the Kalanchoe got in this pot. It overtook the pot but I moved out the other plants in it to save them for another use. When people visit me – they “wow” at this huge plant.
This one is not my creation, but a photo I took at the Philadelphia Flower Show – and I just love the huge glass bowl they used! I have a few of these bowls in stock and want to recreate this – however, plants in bowls like these can be tricky. You must balance the moisture with evaporation – and you can not add drain holes, so I searched for the right plants, and didn’t find them – so I stored my bowls away until the right moment arises. Maybe at my sales in 2014 at the markets.
Talk about vavoom, huh?! The ‘Dipt in Wine’ Coleus cascaded down perfectly, ‘Mojito’ elephant ear on the right got very large, as well as the Ensete red banana. And the Dahlias, given to me by a friend, served as the welcoming filler in this container. The pot is very big, the soil is soilless potting mix, and the watering routine done by me kept this baby growing strong. Located right by my entrance door, everyone visiting enjoyed it as much as I did in 2011. Now all the English Ivy is gone, I pulled it out – and this bed is being redone in 2013. But I will still put a big pot here every year to add that punch I so enjoy!
My neighbors and the mail lady commented on this one located at the end of my driveway. The sign got me nothing really – LOL, I took it down, but the pot captured all kinds of attention. The ‘Siam Ruby’ banana plant was a favorite that season. It has plum with streaking of a bright green in different widths. And this plant did great in both full on sun here, and part shade by my house – so I guess it just suited me in more ways than one.
When I was going to UCONN, I worked for a landscape designer and she had me do up the pots for her clients. One year, a strawberry pot came along and I used succulents. They are prefect for these because of the drought tolerance. These pots go so dry quickly. Notice the top plant is a perennial Salvia to add that purple color and height. Of course, I had to stage the pot with Begonias in the back on a chair, and set it up in front of her cute shed. I just can’t stop playing with containers and photos of them.
What is the easiest, and perhaps the craziest container garden you can create? A grass topped container garden! I’ve done this before, applied grass seed to the top of the soil mix and let it grow. But I always add something decorative to the top. In this case, a pair of faces and some lights (which do work) as I wired the lights through the side of the pot. And I inserted a succulent called, Aeonium arboreum ‘Zwartkop’, into the soil. This plant, hardy to Zones 8-11, is treated as an annual or tropical in our CT zones. The dark toned plum colored rosettes set against the bright grass makes it pop. Aeonium will grow to about 8″ tall on a stalk and gives the container garden of grass a different texture and look.
Aeoniums can be cut and inserted into the soil, it will grow roots. Just be sure to use a sharp razon knife to make a clean cut or pruning shears. You can move these plants inside if you do not have a greenhouse. Just recut it again, set the tip of the stem into a class of water, and roots will eventually grow. This is one method to save the plant over the winter to reuse the following season.
This is a container I just did for a client. The wind was blowing so hard, the plants were leaning to the right in this photo above and the photo was taken right after I finished planting up her pots. Note the Pennisetum (grass-like plant) with dark blades of foliage. This is called Pennisetum ‘Princess Caroline’ – and it is a striking accent plant as it will grow tall and wide, but I also carefully selected the Black-Eyed Susan cultivar ‘Moreno’ (Rudbeckia hirta) because it has the center color picking up and repeating the color of the accent plant. In full sun, this perennial will thrive and bloom all summer, reaching about 12″ tall, it fits just right next to the Pennisetum. Using perennials in container gardens is a plus because you can move them into your gardens at the end of the season, and it comes back – it doesn’t get tossed away like some annuals do. There are some perennials you can leave in the containers and they will return the following year if stored appropriately – also a bonus. There are different textures happening in this pot as well with the various foliage sizes. My client texted me that evening to say she loved them, and my response was, “I’m jealous – it is better than my containers at home!” At least for the moment, I’m still and never stop planting up container gardens at home.
Big pot make big statements – is what I say – and for several reasons, which I go over in my container garden talks. This container was placed in a beautiful shade garden at a friend’s property in Broad Brook, CT during a garden and gift show. The Astilbe is ‘Fanal’ and ever since I used it – it has been a favorite, it gets really tall, and works well in containers. But the showy plant, which everyone circled around the pot to investigate was the Farfugium japonicum (Leopard Plant) on the back side, shown above this photo. It has glossy leaves, reaching 6″ across! This is a tropical plant in CT. The photo above was taken by me of the leaves with water droplets. I loved the photo so much, I printed it on post cards, my business banner for booths, and a cover of my appointment book. I noticed many booth visitors picked up my appointment book because of that photo. And one lady told me she saw the plant photo on my big banner as she arrived to the garden show. Farfugium likes part sun or part shade, or full shade, so it worked well with the Astilbe x arendsii ‘Fanal’ perennial. ‘Fanal’ reaches 1.5 feet and has a very deep red flower color, plus the foliage has a bronze color. Both have become “one of my many favorite” plants.
‘Heads about the rest’ because so many people loved this container. In fact, at the Garden Show, it was showcased only and was not for sale. I can’t let go of this unique pot with the faces all around, and a different Mohawk hairstyle shaped plant is in it today. I tend to like planting up head planters because so many plants resemble hair styles, plus positioned in the right place on your patio or garden, can spook unaware visitors. My cats took second looks the first time I had this one out on the patio. It was comical. After awhile, they knew it was just another one of Cathy’s plants.
Here’s another example of using grass as a base to create a fun and whimsy container garden. Notice the coco bowls set on top. I find something like this appealing and cute – perhaps to decorate a patio table, or to create some kind of fantasy garden. It is so easy to add grass seeds to container gardens.
Every year I create a new combination by the entrance to my house. This year, I stacked one medium pot on the larger pot and filled the base with Portulaca annuals. The Portulaca were small starter plugs but they grew quickly. They have been amazing with vivid orange coloring, but they do close up tight every day around 3 pm for the evening. I have actually stood and stared at them when open, telling myself to enjoy their show. A feast for the eyes. And the black elephant ears surprised me. I thought they were Colocasia ‘Maui Magic’ but they may be ‘Black Diamond’ or the exposure intensified their coloring. This spot faces west; it gets morning shade and hot sun in mid to late afternoon. Watering every other day and admiration keeps it happy. Its lush and rich.
One big thrill for gardeners is successfully storing or overwintering plants for reuse every season. They become your prized possessions, and, not to mention, save you dollars because you are not rebuying them. In the late fall of 2012, I stored a red banana plant (Genus Ensete) and replanted it in my new cement planter in 2013. As of Sept 13, it has grown to a ginormous size. I can envision a jacuzzi right next to it …perhaps in the future. But for now, I’m so diggin’ looking at it. Perhaps in my former life I lived on a tropical island because lush tropicals seem to draw me in. And, in case you are wondering, no, I did not fertilize this at all this season. The soil was partly from recycled container soil that may have remnants of fertilizer, but its location, soil microbes and worms have been contributors to the soil’s health, plus this large planter gave lots of growing room for the plants. Bigger is better. No one thrives in tight shoes.
This is a planter at the end of my driveway. The colors are not too exciting, but the plants are so full and lush. I just started adding some fall decor. Felted dolls, like the one shown, work well. If it rains, they dry out nicely without getting ruined. They won’t stay perfect forever but will last several years. I stake them in and use zip ties to secured them. I need to add some big pumpkins and gourds around the base to dress it up some more. And, btw, I love the elephant ear to the left side too. Considering the harsh conditions by the roadside, it has grown large. I see birds hanging out here sometimes. They seem to enjoy it too.
These were not created by me but by Rhonda Niles of Gardening Inspirations, located in southern Connecticut. She was a special guest speaker at one of Cathy T’s Classes and our group of attendees enjoyed creating their own miniature scenes. This was a fun afternoon and there’s just something about creating in person with a group. The socializing factor makes it a way to connect with new friends while working with plants, learning, and bringing home a little treat. Miniatures are hot today. Why not consider making one in a pumpkin for the upcoming Autumn Season!
This is a two-tiered container positioned by my entrance door. I wrote a blog post about the plants in it. See HERE. But I wanted to add it to this page, especially after I added some cute Halloween themed wooden decor I picked up at a fair. Fall is upon us now!
More to be posted…
Container Crazy Cathy T