Thursday, August 14, 2008

Containers at the Adminstration Building at the National Arboretum

Spectacular {the word I really want here is flamboyant, it's a more accurate word,'s not a word you can just throw around. Oh well, we'll go with spectacular} large mixed containers are among my favorite things in the summer garden. The rain has stopped, at least temporarily, and grass is turning brown, trees and shrubs are being ingested by insects and disfigured by fungi, but these containers are just coming into their prime. The tropical plants need a month of unbearable heat and humidity before they relax and behave like they were in their jungle homelands. Annuals like that same month to get going at maximum speed.

One of the reasons containers work so well is that in a finite space it's possible to provide the soil, water, and fertilizer that they need to reach their peak. As good as the soil in your garden may be, it almost surely doesn't have the pore space that good container soil does. And as scrupulous as you are about watering, it is a lot easier to keep a pot watered than your beds. The same with fertilizer; walk around once a week with a watering can of Miracle-Gro and you are on top of it.

Containers are fun to make, and since they grow so quickly in the heat, they're fun to watch too, and they're beautiful. If there is a downside, it's that they can be expensive. At the Arboretum, we propagate quantities of plants to create all the containers we grow, but when you go to the Nursery, be prepared to spend a little money. Using some of your houseplants and or wintering over tuberous plants dormant (gladioli, cannas, gingers, tuberoses, etc.) can give you more and bigger material for less money. I don't think theres a formula for creating a "great container" but my ex post facto analysis reveals that good containers are fully planted, have a variety of textures, and....well, from there you can go a lot of directions and succeed. Come to the Arboretum and check out Bradley Evan's containers at the Admistration Building environs, the Herb Garden, and the Friendship Garden. They will amaze you, introduce you to some new plants (I guarantee), and maybe provide some inspiration for future creations.

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