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Updated on June 12, 2012

Choice Of Containers

At ground level where weight is not a problem you can build low retaining walls for permanent flower beds. The plants will enjoy having plenty of roof space and as there will be enough soil to retain moisture you will find you don't need to water so often. It's fun to do a little amateur bricklaying just three or four courses of brickwork will be enough and it's the ideal way of adding flower beds to an area that has already been paved or concreted over because you don't have to take up the hard surface.

Otherwise buy individual containers that will be in scale with the height and breadth of your plants. Low spreading plants will look best in low and shallow containers. Bushy type plants will look good in the conventional flower pot shape because they will have the height as well as width to balance it out. Tall containers will usually look best with a mixed planting so that some plants grow upright while others spill over the sides. Small trees an shrubs will demand a large container for their roots as much as for a sense of proportion. Aim for something at least 30-40cm (12-16in) deep and 30-45cm (12-18) wide and if you are likely to want veto move the containers perhaps to more sheltered position in winter or out of the way if you are trying to sunbathe sit them on a tailor-made platform with castors. In general chose the containers before worrying about the contents. It's important that they suit the size and type of your house and whereas you can't adapt them to fit the plants, plants will prove far more obliging and flexible.

Terracotta clay pots, either plain or decorated look warm and mellow in any setting but they dry out quickly in exposed conditions. If they are new always soak them in water for at least a day or they will steal moisture from the soil and parch the plants.

Cast iron urns and cisterns look magnificent in formal older gardens and come in 18th and 19th century designs but make up your mind in advance where you want them. They are far too heavy to move about. The same is true of stone pots and sinks. Even timber containers whether in a hardwood like teak and iroko, or in a painted softwood are fairly weighty to lug around. Square Versailles tubs in painted timber are ideal for larger pot grown trees and have a pleasing formality that requires them to be used in strictly symmetrical arrangements. They would be wasted in a grouping with other pots.

With the exception of the conventional terracotta plant pot all containers made from traditional materials are frighteningly expensive so even if you are not worried about weight, you may prefer far cheaper modern alternatives.

Plastic containers come in a wide range of colours and shapes although natural and some of the brown shades show off plants and flowers most sympathetically. They also come in simulated stone, with elaborately sculpted traditional patterns. Although these look fake on close inspection given a coat of paint they pass for painted stone and given a coat of matt terracotta coloured pant they look like genuine clay containers. More expensive fiberglass containers come in a very convincing lead finish and there is a good range of period reproduction designs to choose from. Fiberglass is also used to simulate wood although it's rather less successful in this application. Stone composition containers look good once they have weathered, particularly if they attract moss or lichen. If you live in the country it's a good idea to mellow them down with a watery solution of cue dung. Concrete containers tend to look municipal and in any case are probably too big for domestic use but they do come in very simple shapes which could be useful in a modern setting.

Improvising containers

Even the cheaper containers are still not cheap so look around for anything that can hold plants attractively and is capable of having drainage holes drilled. Large tin cans can make handsome cylindrical containers and can easily be given a coat of paint. A redundant wire vegetable rack floor standing or wall hung can be filled with plants, including trailers. Old fireclay or stone sinks make marvelous troughs and the plug hole provides a ready made system of drainage. An ancient metal hip bath will make a spectacular container but perhaps only in a paved backyard it would look out of place on a modern patio.

Tall clay chimney pots can double as sculpture and plant holder they look good grouped together in differing heights and their simple cylindrical shapes feel equally at home in modern and traditional situations. On the whole improvisation works best in a traditional setting where you can jumble old things together for a pleasing effect and encourage trailing plants to hide anything that is damaged. Even here you need to know where to draw the line. A discarded doll's pram, for instance would look merely ingenious however beautifully it was filled with plants.

If a roof has been specially constructed to take a conventional garden, it can bear enough soil for a lawn and plants to grow in.

Patios, terraces and paved back gardens should be treated imaginatively to form an extra special outdoor room.

Most balconies in modern blocks of flats are built to take a lot of weight- but they are so tiny it's difficult to exploits this advantage.


The ideal garden furniture looks good, is comfortable, and can be left out all year round but unfortunately it doesn't exist.


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    • d.william profile image

      d.william 6 years ago from Somewhere in the south

      Nice article. Good information and suggestions. I have a large back yard and have put many plants around the yard. I use only flowering plants for the color. Also love mimosa trees. They are hardy and thrive well in the full sun, and give shade to other plants that would otherwise burn up in the hot sun here in Florida. Thanks for sharing your information.

    • lionel1 profile image

      lionel1 6 years ago

      This is very nice thanks.

    • Rosemay50 profile image

      Rosemary Sadler 6 years ago from Hawkes Bay - NewZealand

      Very interesting and helpful hub. Love the blue flower pots.

      I picked up 2 drums from old washing machines, they look quite good painted up and of course have the drainage holes all around.

    • Hepburn@Birth profile image

      Hepburn@Birth 6 years ago

      Love it! I've been looking for some ideas - absolutely adore the blue pots!

    • kashmir56 profile image

      Thomas Silvia 6 years ago from Massachusetts

      All great ideas for container gardening, helps those who don't have a lot of land to make a garden .

      Useful and vote up !!!

    • louisxfourie profile image

      Louis Fourie 6 years ago from Johannesburg, South Africa

      I love new ideas for gardening, can you make your own containers?

    • einron profile image

      einron 6 years ago from Toronto, Ontario, CANADA

      The blue flower pots are enchanting! Thanks!

    • Esmeowl12 profile image

      Cindy A. Johnson 6 years ago from Sevierville, TN

      I love new ideas for container gardening. Thanks for the tips.

    • imgreencat profile image

      imgreencat 6 years ago

      Nice hub!