Debra Prinzing

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Monday, August 4th, 2008

A true-blue grouping (left) in Sunset Magazine’s test gardens; Silvery succulents (right) thrive in ice-blue containers for a satisfying grouping at Longwood Gardens, 2006

Ever since I relocated from Seattle to Los Angeles, nearly 2 years ago now, I have relied more than ever on container gardening. With a confounding, on-again, off-again irrigation system that will cost the equivalent of a year’s grad-school tuition to completely repair, and with rock-hard soil that endured years smothered by the previous owner’s idea of weed control (black plastic sheeting covered with red lava rock “mulch”), I’m desperate to grow plants in spite of unwelcome conditions.

But where? And how to keep them alive when it’s too hot and dry for anything but succulents to look good?

The answer is a container garden. Gardening in a container is like one-stop shopping. Maybe we should call it “one-stop gardening.” Here are some of the best reasons for gardening in pots:

Why grow a container garden?         

  •  Move plants and architectural interest above the ground’s surface:  You’ll enjoy beauty closer to eye level, as in this cool vintage vessel that caught my eye at Chanticleer Gardens in Pennsylvania (2006).




Edible and Accessible: Lettuces and herbs thrive in pots, like this over-sized terracotta “strawberry” pot at right – measuring 48 inches tall, created several years ago by the designers at Emery’s Garden in Lynnwood, Wash.! At left, ornamental peppers and kale in a pot at Longwood Gardens are food for the eyes.



Define a focal point: Signal the entrance to the garden, such as with these two glossy Asian pots that contain lush golden hostas. Mounted on pillars, they announce: “Come this way,” a way that’s made more enjoyable because this portal leads to the gardens of David Lewis and George Little, Bainbridge Island artists.



Provide a natural perimeter: Anywhere in the garden, such as at the edge of a deck or patio, pots can act as a verdant “wall” to contain, deter, protect or enclose. I particularly enjoy seeing three identical pots, lined up as a formal barrier – it’s plant-filled architectural interest. Here, at the edge of Peter Norris Home & Garden’s parking lot, these giant iron urns hold gold-streaked phormiums (left). A trio of fern-filled pots defines the edge of a formal planting scheme at Robert Dash’s Madoo Garden (right).