By SHARON PEDUTO
From farm to formal, your porch can be transformed quickly just by using container plants. Breathe life into your newly constructed contemporary, Victorian wrap-around, or small front porches with containers that can be moved around to follow the sun (or to follow your whim). Whether the porch has sun or shade, adding perennials and annuals in pots can change drab to dramatic.
Containers can be tall, short, round, square, huge or small. The possibilities are endless, with the extra bonus of being able to move them and/or leave them for next year. Perennials can be left for next year right in the pot.
Don’t skip drainage
Regardless of your style, certain guidelines help ensure healthy container gardens. According to house experts at the Spruce, drainage is important.
Too much water in containers causes root rot. Once roots are gone, you can’t get them back.
Small rocks, gravel or broken clay-pot pieces were traditionally used at the bottom of containers, but are no longer considered good for drainage purposes. Drill holes in the bottoms of containers to prevent root rot.
For large containers, you can use upside-down plastic containers or put used plastic bottles at the bottom of containers—but still use as much soil as possible.
The benefits of creating drainage this way are twofold. You’ll use less soil overall, and your containers will be much lighter than they used to be.
Remember: You still need holes in the bottom.
Annuals such as geraniums in medium-sized pots do not require a lot of preparation. Put them in larger plastic pots with holes and plop them into containers.
Let there be light
Fundamentally, porches are for shade—but they still get sun in some areas during hot summer months. Research how much light your particular choices of plants need before buying. Light, or lack of it, can make a huge difference in the survival of your plants.
Light levels help to determine where your plant or groups of plants should go. Don’t keep shuffling your plants around. Make your life easier by grouping plants that have similar light and watering needs.
The dirt on potting soil
“Potting soil” is also a generic term. All professional gardeners agree that you shouldn’t skimp on potting soil. Buying soil with slow-release fertilizer helps, but add liquid fertilizer as needed. Keep your container plants healthy. The healthier the soil, the happier the plant.
Planting techniques vary according to your style. Country and cottage pots can be a mix of plants and herbs placed in pots. Don’t worry about plant height—once they’ve grown, the plants will look as though they organized and planted themselves.
On the other hand, a modern container garden design is more symmetrical.
The technique mostly used in container planting is “thriller, filler, spiller.”
A thriller plant is the main focus of the planter. For example, a vine with flowers like clematis will grow tall with a small trellis.
Next, use a filler of medium height, such as chocolate mint (bonus: you can cut it back a few times during the growing season and enjoy the yummy cuttings). It will grow around or in front of the tallest plant.
The spiller, like creeping Jenny, spills over the sides of the container.
The container-garden porch
Make an inviting entrance to your porch by placing small or medium filled containers on your steps.
If there is enough sun, plant miniature roses in containers. They work with any style. In the fall, you can remove the roses from the containers and plant them in the garden.
For a more contemporary appeal, plant rose trees in containers on each side of your entrance.
Some large containers can crack if left in the elements. In the fall, put them as close to your home as possible. Next year, add some new soil and nutrients, and mix them into the existing soil.
By spring you’re bound to see some perennials you’d planted sprouting green again.
Hanging baskets are beautiful; however, they require watering at least twice daily. They’ll die of neglect if you go on vacation without having a neighbor water them.
Whatever you do, don’t forget to smell the roses!