By Ken Lain, the mountain gardener
Spring trees begin to bloom this issue. Trees are noble works of nature, and we are humbled by their greatness. While walking through the redwoods of California or admiring the massive structure of a Texas oak. Often it’s as simple as pulling under the cool shade of an eastern tree-lined street. We are amazed at the majesty of trees. We feel this every spring and wonder if everyone feels the same.
Plant season begins at the first thaw. The easiest gardening is in containers. Tall plants turn ordinary container gardens into living art, adding height, variety, and drama. My designer rule for stylish containers is “thriller, spiller, then fillers.” Combine a tall, ‘thrilling’ focal point with plants spilling over the sides of your container to soften the edges. Filler plants bridge the space between. Very little Potting Soil should be visible when your design is complete. Plants will be touching foilage-to-foliage.
Start with a tall ‘Thrilling’ plant, and the rest of your job is easy. Here is my ‘Go-To’ list of tall plants that thrive in container gardens.
Insider Tip – The larger your container, the easier it is to grow and maintain. The more Potting Soil your container holds, the longer these tall beauties last for years of enjoyment.
Alberta Spruce, Picea glauca, is a perfect front yard container and raised bed tree. Lush growth means it’s also an excellent screen plant that won’t overgrow spaces. Experiment with topiary spirals or poodles specimens on entries and patios without room to plant. A beautiful choice for woodland gardens or behind water features.
Arborvitae, Thuja, as the centerpiece of a container garden is elegant, classy, and low maintenance. Choose one that holds its shape nicely without a lot of pruning. A good option is ‘Emerald Green’ arborvitae, a semi-dwarf cultivar that grows in a narrow pyramid to around 7-12′ feet tall. Plant in a large pot with Watters Potting Soil, and it will thrive for many years.
Boxwood, Buxus, are often grouped together in foundation plantings or to form low hedges. Dwarf boxwoods are famous for their use in formal Cottage or English-style landscapes. They respond well to pruning, making them popular as topiary and bonsai plants. The fun of using this plant is trimming it to be anything you want.
Agave thrives in a shallow clay pot. Locals refer to this native wonder as Arizona’s century plant. Rumored to shoot up a 12′ flower from its heart once every 100 years. I find they bloom every 10-15 years when cared for properly. They prefer a gritty, well-drained cactus mix.
Autumn Sage, Salvia, is the longest blooming sage signaling spring with continual flowers broadcasting right through Autumn. Hummingbirds and gardeners fall for this knee-high bloomer that deserves a prominent location in the garden’s hotter spots. Javelina and deer-proof.
Fountain Grass, Pennisetum, waves merrily in the slightest mountain breeze, adding instant drama to a bland patio. The plants look gorgeous as standalone specimens and make handsome partners when paired with trailing plants like the sweet potato vine.
Gardenia is famous for its heady fragrance and grows best as a patio specimen in partial shade. Gardenia roots don’t like to be disturbed, so choose a larger 18″ inch container for years of evergreen patio enjoyment.
Hibiscus – jumbo blooms and bright neon colors make the tropical hibiscus a patio favorite. Provide plenty of sunshine and a bi-monthly feeding of Watters’ Flower Power’ to keep this bold bloomer showing through Autumn.
Lavender is virtually synonymous with fragrance. The best-known aromatic herb is a potpourris staple; its flowers and leaves, especially after dried, have a fabulous smell. Lavender thus bridges the gap between plants with aromatic foliage and those with strongly scented flowers.
Roses are surprisingly easy to grow in our dry mountain air, but they love it here. They thrive in larger containers at least 18″ inches wide. Try Easy Elegant, Knockout, and Carpet roses for continual fragrance every month to the growing season. Feed every 2 weeks with Watters Flower Power of even larger blooms from your bush.
Rosemary quickly forms a hedge of aromatic evergreen foliage. Profuse clear blue flowers add a charming effect. Leaves can be used as a flavorful herb in cooking. Prunes well but is equally excellent in its natural form without pruning.
Yucca is a magnificent Southwestern native producing 4′ wands of bright trumpet flowers irresistible to hummingbirds. Bloom’s tower above the mound with sword-shaped foliage. A must-have for sunny Waterwise gardens used in a showy evergreen planting.
Free Garden Classes offered by Watters Garden Center
We go deep into growing better. Check out this spring’s entire class selection offered every Saturday @ 9:30 am
February 11 – Mountain Fruit Trees and the Heavy Harvest
February 18 – Gardening for Newcomers
February 25 – Evergreens that Bloom Early
Until next week, I’ll be helping locals choose thrilling plants for their large pots here at Watters Garden Center.