by Ken Lain, The Mountain Gardener, Watters Garden Center
The easiest gardening is in containers. Tall plants turn ordinary container gardens into living art, adding height, variety and drama.
My designer rule for stylish containers is “thriller, spiller, then fillers.” Combine a tall, thrilling focal point with plants spilling over the sides of your container to soften the edges. Filler plants bridge the space between. Very little potting soil should be visible when your design is complete.
Plants will be touching foliage-to-foliage.
Start with a tall “thrilling” plant, and the rest of your job is easy.
Insider tip: The larger your container, the easier it is to grow and maintain. The more potting soil your container holds, the longer these tall beauties last for years of enjoyment.
Agave thrives in a shallow clay pot. Locals refer to this native wonder as Arizona’s century plant. Rumored to shoot up a 12-foot flower from its heart once every 100 years. I find they bloom every 10-15 years when cared for properly. They prefer a gritty, well-drained cactus mix.
Alberta Spruce, Picea glauca, is a perfect front yard container and raised bed tree. Lush growth means it’s also an excellent screen plant that won’t overgrow spaces. Experiment with topiary spirals or poodles specimens on entries and patios without room to plant. A beautiful choice for woodland gardens or behind water features.
Arborvitae, Thuja, as the centerpiece of a container garden is elegant, classy and low maintenance. Choose one that holds its shape nicely without a lot of pruning. A good option is Emerald Green arborvitae, a semi-dwarf cultivar that grows in a narrow pyramid to around 7-12 feet. Plant in a large pot with potting soil, and it will thrive for many years.
Boxwood, Buxus, are often grouped together in foundation plantings or to form low hedges. Dwarf boxwoods are famous for their use in formal cottage or English-style landscapes. They respond well to pruning, making them popular as topiary and bonsai plants. The fun of using this plant is trimming it to be anything you want.
Lavender is virtually synonymous with fragrance. The best-known aromatic herb is a potpourris staple; its flowers and leaves, especially after dried, have a fabulous smell. Lavender bridges the gap between plants with aromatic foliage and those with strongly scented flowers.
Sage, Salvia, is the longest blooming sage signaling spring with continual flowers broadcasting right through autumn. Hummingbirds and gardeners fall for this knee-high bloomer that deserves a prominent location in the garden’s hotter spots. Javelina and deer proof.
Roses are surprisingly easy to grow in our dry mountain air; they love it here. They thrive in larger containers at least 18 inches wide. Try Easy Elegant, Knockout and Carpet roses for continual fragrance every month to the growing season.
Rosemary quickly forms a hedge of aromatic evergreen foliage. Profuse clear blue flowers add a charming effect. Leaves can be used as a flavorful herb in cooking. Prunes well but is equally excellent in its natural form without pruning.
Yucca is a magnificent Southwestern native producing 4-foot wands of bright trumpet flowers irresistible to hummingbirds. Blooms tower above the mound with sword-shaped foliage. A must-have for sunny water wise gardens used in a showy evergreen planting.