Continuous Container Magic

I’ve learned a few things already this year about container gardening—or gardening in vessels, as a Northwest Flower & Garden Show speaker put it.

Roanne Robbins talked about Continuous Container Gardens (she wrote a book with the same title). Having struggled with creating containers that look good year round, I wanted to learn the secret to stylish containers that change with the seasons. The answer is simple: change the plants that no longer look good on a seasonal basis. Don’t know why I didn’t think of that. Instead of trying to have a static group of plants look good in every season, I guess I needed permission to plant and modify combinations of perennials, bulbs and annuals to add texture and color around the base of a focal point shrub, tree, or artwork. As new perennials or bulbs are planted in the containers, the old ones can find homes in the garden.

Secondly, I learned from Claudia Groth, a soils expert, Master Gardener and one of the Garden Doctors on KEX 1190, that I need to take a different approach to soils and drainage in my larger containers. I have some very large and deep pots that I filled completely with potting soil (not an inexpensive proposition). Not only are they now immovably heavy, I learned that the soil below the top 18 inches quickly will become compacted. I should have put Packing Pearls or even empty plastic nursery pots—of which I have an abundance—at the bottom. I also learned that it’s better to incorporate gravel or other drainage improving matter throughout the soil mixture rather than layering it at the bottom of the container as I’ve done in the past.

I’ll be taking a fresh look at my containers to improve the health of the soil and beauty of the display. May this is the year I’ll finally have a good-looking container on my front door step!