Container Gardening to Extend Seasonal Beauty

Five easy-to-find favorites

By L.A. Jackson

Container Gardening to Extend Seasonal Beauty
Coleus and Golden Creeping Jenny

Mixed potted plantings create instant, cheerful mini-gardens for porches, decks and patios, and while flowers do add zing to such outdoor arrangements, their flash can be fleeting. However, there are many plants sporting eye-catching, colorful foliage that have the extended visual sass to keep a container looking spiffy deep into the growing season. Below are five of my favorites that should be easy to find at local garden centers.    

Coleus. In the botanical sense, nothing says “Floozy!” like the new generation of coleus cultivars. Their fancy leaves are persistent pleasures for the eyes through the summer and early fall with colors that range widely from lively lime-greens to ridiculous reds to bold blacks — and many wild combinations in between.

Purple Basil. This deep purple pretty can certainly keep a potted creation from slumbering in a sea of green leaves during the summer months. ‘Purple Ruffles’ is one of the more popular cultivars to try. As an added bonus, this edible is an excellent addition to culinary creations ranging from marinades to pestos to herb vinegars.

Golden Creeping Jenny. A low-growing, brightly colored prissy, it will quickly form a mat over the top of a pot and then drip down the sides. This will not only help soften the lines of the planter’s rim, but also will act as a ground cover to provide shade for the soil in the container, which will help prevent moisture loss. Consider it living, lovely mulch, if you will.

Purple Fountain Grass. A distinctive beauty that grows 3 to 4 feet tall, providing not only vertical interest for a large container garden, but a mysterious, deep purple tone to break up the ordinary greens of typical plants. The cultivar ‘Rubrum’ is the current queen of the foliage night for many gardeners.

Ornamental Sweet Potato. This kin to ordinary sweet ‘taters burst onto the horticultural scene several years ago in shades of screaming chartreuse and dark, dusky purple, but now cool copper and red-tinted shades can even be found. A rambling vine, this pretty will easily spill out and over to accentuate the sides of a large planter.

Garden To Do’s for June

  • Sundials can add infinite charm to any garden setting, but a precise sundial can also add plenty of inquisitive chat to any garden conversation. Since the accuracy of a sundial is subject to where it is on this big round ball we call Earth, especially in latitude, buy one that has an adjustable gnomon (the shadow maker) or a base that can be tilted to correctly orient such a solar time keeper to its proper north-south angle.   
  • Rhododendrons should be pruned after they bloom. This prevents the formation of seed pods to save the plant’s energy for next year’s flower show. 
  • Vegetable plants that are beginning to produce delectable edibles should be lightly side-dressed with a complete fertilizer. (And be sure to consider these high-yield veggies for next year's garden!)
  • Any trees, shrubs or perennials that were planted in late winter or early this spring have root systems that are still developing, meaning they are trying to keep up with the summer demands of leafed-out plants, so be sure to thoroughly water such new plantings at least once a week during times of extended arid spells.
  • Cukes always taste bitter? It is probably due to stress from dry conditions. For the best flavor, keep cucumber plants hydrated by mulching and providing water on a regular basis if the rains don’t come. (And once ripe, try our Cucumber Dill Salad!)

About the Author

L.A. Jackson is the former editor of Carolina Gardener Magazine. If you would like to ask him a question about your garden, contact L.A. at: lajackson1@gmail.com

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