Container gardening a feature of garden tour

April 21, 2005
HELEN BOATMAN
Victoria County
Master Gardener

Container gardening will be a colorful sight to see on the upcoming Annual Garden Tour on April 30 and May 1 - and will be the topic for the second educational workshop offered on a first-come, first-reserved basis at 5 p.m. on both days of the tour.

The first workshop, announced in last week's article, is on bonsai. Registration for container gardening or bonsai workshops, both underwritten by Gaye Gilster Lee, may be paid at the following ticket outlets:

Earthworks Nursery, corner of Main Street and Airline Road.

The Foliage Shoppe, 3304 Sam Houston Drive.

Four Seasons Garden Center, 1209 E. Salem Road.

McAdams Floral, 1107 E. Red River St.

Renken's Nursery Inc., Loop 463 and Salem Road.

Plants in pots! What a way to grow your favorite plants! They can be seen throughout the garden tour, and especially in the Hall gardens on Santa Rosa Street with blooming spring color in ceramic pots. Container gardening is also a noted feature on the patio and second story balconies in the Averill Duson garden setting on North Wheeler Street, where the workshop will be conducted. Come see and learn various combinations of color and plant material.

There are many wonderful aspects of container gardening. One can grow plants anywhere - where there is poor soil or no garden space; in fact, any place you want. Containers can be moved around; they can turn any location into a potted paradise. A really nice feature about container gardening is that containers of plants may be used to enhance a permanent garden planting that may be on a downturn during the growing season. And then, of course, there is the container itself, the selection of which is only limited by one's imagination and stamina to search for that special container.

OK, so I will assume you've decided to try your hand at designing and constructing a container garden. Here are things to consider making your task successful. After deciding where the container will be situated, look for one that will be suitable in the space. Whatever you decide to use, be sure it has a hole for drainage. Since the plants in your container garden will share the same root space and light exposure, make sure your choices are compatible. Obviously, while cacti and ferns are marvelous plants, they should not be planted together. Also, flowers come and go, but colorful foliage lasts throughout the growing season. Consider this colored foliage as a focus of your pots. A harmonious color theme unites the plants. Contrasting textures and forms make them interesting.

While it is fun to visit your favorite garden center to select new and unusual plants, don't forget to look around your own garden. There may be a plant you would like to try in a container with other plants. A portion of a plant that has multiplied past its limits in your garden may a perfect candidate for a container. (One plant I plan to try this year is one of my tropical cannas, which will be the focal point of that container.)

After you've selected your plants, choose a good potting mix. There are many from which to choose. Your local nursery or garden center will be able to help you make the right selection. Adding a slow release or organic fertilizer will give your plants an added boost. You may also want to add a water retention gel to help keep your container of plants from drying out. To help retain the soil in your container, but letting the water drain, use a piece of broken pottery, curved side up over the hole. Another way is to use a piece of scrap screen wire over the hole. Something that I just recently discovered is mesh self-adhesive fiberglass drywall joint tape. It comes in rolls. Just cut a square piece and place over the hole. The holes of the mesh are small enough to keep the soil in the pot while letting the water drain properly.

Now you've decided on your plants, you've found that perfect container, and purchased a nice large bag of potting soil, and fertilizer. Before you put things together, if the pot is terra cotta, soak it in some water if it is of a manageable size. Clay is porous and will pull moisture from potting soil if it is dry. This step is not required for metal or plastic containers. The plant should then be soaked in its pot from the nursery in a bucket of water just long enough for the bubbles to stop. Place your choice of soil retainer over the pot drain hole, add your chosen amendments to the potting soil, arrange your lovely flowers appropriately and, "voila," instant beauty in a pot! Water in your plants and then weekly give them a drink as appropriate for the plant. Don't forget to spray water on the outside of the pot to help retain moisture.

Several other master gardeners and I will be illustrating these points when conducting the container gardening workshop at 5 p.m. on both days of the garden tour at the Averill Duson gardens. Come learn how to prepare and care for a container garden by advanced registration available at the various ticket outlets already mentioned for only $10.

Speaking of tickets, make note that advance price tickets remain on sale for $15 through this Sunday at all ticket outlets. Ticket prices go up to $18 starting Monday UNLESS you present this article and/or the adjacent coupon at the time of purchase. With the article and/or coupon, tickets can be purchased for the advance price of $15. Bring this article and/or coupon to purchase garden tour tickets starting April 25 and save yourself some money for admittance to the tour.