I can’t contain myself

One pot wonder - the front porch fuchsiaI’m addicted to pots! I love container gardening because like putting a frame around a painting, a plant in the right pot is suddenly especially special. I started working yesterday with Julie Morris (Blithewold’s Dir. of Hort.) on our container bed. And I just read this morning on Garden Rant that mixed containers are “out” and one plant to a pot is totally the new “in” thing. I’m not sure where I’ve been because after years of resisting mixed containers and only grudgingly making a few weak attempts at combinations now and again, I’m finally into mixing it up. I’m so woefully behind the times!

an unorganized array of single plant pots - when we finish planting I’ll start obsessing about combos!One plant per pot is definitely the easier way to go. Each plant receives exactly the kind of attention it needs and pots can be placed in artful combinations and shifted according to whim and whimsy or whenever something starts to look scrunky. I may be a frustrated interior decorator (my house is so small that everything has a place – one place – it can go) because I really enjoy rearranging the “furniture” in the container bed.

Calibrachoa and Senecio combo on the left.  An outstanding Aeonium is in the other blue pot.A mixed container is a challenge. Just like planting a garden with the right plant for the right spot, for a mixed container one must at least consider putting plants with similar needs together. The roadside mixed container: fuchsia, phormium, plechtranthus, impatiens, and lobelia - you name it, it’s in there!I broke that rule with the pot combo of million bells (Calibrachoa) and blue chalk fingers (Senecio vitalis) but I’m hoping that improving the drainage around the Senecios with turfus will keep them happy even though I’ll be watering the pot whenever the Calibrachoas are thirsty. If either plant fails to thrive (another way of saying “shows signs of dying slowly but surely”) we’ll have to punt and repot. A good imagination is helpful too for being able to picture what your combo will look like when it “grows up”. What will overtake? What will fill in the gaps? My giant Ferry Rd. pot has filled in quite nicely with only one casualty so far (a lobelia). Now I wonder how much longer it will last before competition does them all in… Mixed containers always have the element of experiment – which if you have the time, patience and budget for it, isn’t a bad thing at all.

a quirky comboSo I got a little bit into it yesterday and although my first attempts don’t excite me (probably because they haven’t “grown up” yet) I’m kind of loving my last pot combo of the day. I actually almost ripped everything out thinking it was a terrible combination but then looked at it from another angle and decided quirky works too and if these plants were together in a garden I’d probably love it. Once again though I made a hash of the cultural requirements and will have to watch the pot hawk-like to make sure that nobody dies from benign neglect or compulsive over watering…

On a practical note, we use one part (ish) compost to two parts (ish) of soilless potting mix (dampened!) and we’ve just started throwing a handful of Espoma triple phosphate into our mixing bin – we used to use Electra so we’ll have to wait and see if there’s a big difference. For the two entrance pots, which I don’t want to have to check every day, I also added SoilMoist and that seems to have helped keep the pots from drying out completely between waterings. When we fertilize we usually use Neptune’s Harvest fish emulsion but occasionally use blue stuff blossom booster (only on the pots).

Are you a pot addict too? Do you have favorite combinations, tips or tricks? (For those of you who already participated in the conversation at Garden Rant, feel free to say it again here!)