+ Pots = Drama on the Deck
self-respecting deck or terrace should be caught naked. That is,
without a colorful container or three. Dress your outdoor space
simply, beautifully, and inexpensively by sowing seeds directly
into your patio pots. You can get a head start on the season by
germinating seeds in the warmth of the indoors and moving the
pots out after the last frost date. Or, create mini-greenhouses
out of your containers by capping them with plastic on cold
nights. Of course you can also just wait for warm weather, and
enjoy the pleasure that comes from watching your container
plants mature from seedlings to splendor.
A Few Theme Ideas
Choose any one of the many attractive varieties. Some have
serrated leaf margins, others are deep purple, and still others
have diminutive leaves and a compact mounding habit. Large
varieties require ample growing space. Thin to no more than
three plants per pot.
Cilantro: Cilantro is a fast maturing herb that
can be sown fairly thickly; the attractive, shiny leaves will
fill a large pot within 2 to 3 weeks. Shear the plants 2 to 3
inches from their bases and they will quickly re-grow, providing
you a month, or even two, of salsa seasoning.
Summer Savory: This very adaptable herb will
become a mainstay in your kitchen and garden once you become
acquainted with it. At full size, the plants are about 12 to 15
inches tall. Thin them to about 4 inches apart in a good-sized
Colorful ribs are most stunning when backlit by the sun, so
position a chard container accordingly. Plants grow to 18 inches
or more in height, and require roomy quarters. As your chard
seedlings grow, thin them over time so that no more than three
remain to mature in the pot. Use the thinned plants in soups and
Mesclun or Lettuce Mix: Salad mixes are as
beautiful as they are tasty. Broadcast seeds fairly thickly,
aiming for spacing of about ½ inch between seedlings. In about a
month, the container will be so luscious you’ll be reluctant to
cut it. But do! Then give it a sprinkling of diluted fish
emulsion, and the greens (and reds) will re-grow in no time at
Nasturtium: A half dozen nasturtium seeds will quickly yield a
container full of attractive edible leaves and flowers. Pick
flowers daily and more will continue to develop.
Good design is crucial in a garden that plays out in a space
that may be no larger than your powder room. Remember the
Proportion and Balance: Simpler is often better. One
large pot can make an impact on a small patio; larger spaces
will accommodate a number of containers. Just be sure that
they relate to each other in an orderly manner, and that the
display is not too large or small for the space. Consider
using pots of similar style or color in varying sizes, or
same-size pots staged at different heights. For a formal
entrance, a matched pair makes a strong statement.
Repetition: Multiple containers look “right” when
some element in the design is repeated. This can be the
style or material of the containers, the color of the
flowers, the type of plant, or some other facet of the
Unity: Repetition creates a unified look. Harmony can
also emerge from a planting theme: edibles, herbs, or
grasses are three examples.
Dwarf sunflowers grow beautifully and quickly in containers.
This is a particularly satisfying choice for children, as the
seeds are large and the payoff is humongous. Sow 5 to 7 seeds
per large pot and thin to the strongest three plants.
Marigolds: There’s a reason marigolds are so
popular: they are the ultimate in dependability. Choose the big
blooms of African marigolds (Tagetes erecta), or the smaller
French types (Tagetes patula). Signet marigolds (Tagetes
tenuifolia) make a particularly elegant mound, thinned to about
three plants per medium-sized pot.
Salvias: Salvias of all kinds are easily grown
from seed, and many summon hummingbird visitors! Thin to 3 to 5
plants per container.
Cosmos: For best results look for dwarf varieties
of Cosmos sulphureus, which are among the easiest of all flowers
to grow. Thin seedlings to stand about 3 inches apart, and enjoy
a long season of cheerful blooms. Deadhead the flowers regularly
to keep plants looking good.
Calendula: This tough flower will thrive where
others falter. Calendula (also called pot marigold) goes from
seedling to bloom in not much more than a month. Thin to 3 to 5
plants per container. Petals can be harvested and
used to give color to broth and flash to salads.
Sweet Peas: The advantage to growing sweet peas in
pots is that you can give these fragrant beauties the excellent
drainage, not to mention the early start, that they require.
Look for cascading varieties, or construct a support. And sow
early—they can take light frost. Protect seedlings from birds
with netting and thin them to stand about 4 inches apart.
Success will follow!
Zinnias: Dwarf zinnias thrive in containers. Plant
a single variety per pot, or combine different types or colors
for a more varied look. Zinnias germinate quickly and reach
flowering stage within weeks.
Sometimes it’s all about the pots. When you don’t want to
upstage an interesting container, choose an understated
Wheat grass: This grass will grow in any size
container, and reaches the height of stylishness in less than
two weeks. Trim (and juice) the blades of grass to keep your
pots neat and attractive. And when tidiness gives way to
disorder, start over.
Parsley: Triple-curled parsley makes any container
look sophisticated. Parsley seed is notorious for slow
germination, so be patient. For a lush pot of green, thin
seedlings to 4 to 6 inches apart when they are at least 2 inches
Sweet Alyssum: A blanket of low-growing white is
easy to achieve with a pack of Lobularia maritima seeds. The
fragrant flowers will spill daintily over the edges of your
unique container. Thin seedlings to about 3 inches apart.
Garden Seed Association (HGSA) |
P.O. Box 93, Maxwell, CA 95955 |
Phone (530) 438-2126 |