Create better container gardens with these easy tips | THE COMPLEAT HOME GARDENER

Marianne Binetti shares five tips for creating better container gardens.

Northwest Flower and Garden Show runs Feb. 22- 26 at the Seattle Convention Center. Ticket information, shuttle bus reservations and parking tips are available at

A taste of spring awaits gardeners as the Northwest Flower and Garden show in Seattle at the Washington State Convention Center Feb. 22 – 26. This year the show theme is all about edibles but that doesn’t mean the 23 full size display gardens won’t be filled with flowers. The edible theme is just a suggestion to the competing designers, not a mandate. New as well is the “Tasting Corner” a gourmet food and marketplace to keep garden lovers fueled as they peruse over 300 vendors that pack the convention center space surrounding the indoor display gardens.

New at the NWFG show this year: “Container Wars” every day at 11 a.m.

I’ll be hosting this competition that pits one garden celebrity against the other in a reality show format. The audience cheers on and judges as creative container gardens are created in a short time frame. If you need inspiration for your potted gardens this summer or need tips on how to keep container gardens happy, this is the stage to watch.

Audience members that attend “Container Wars” will be rewarded with prizes as well so grab a seat in the bleachers before the show begins to make sure you go home with free products such as fertilizer, tools, gloves and garden aprons.

If you can’t make it to the five day run of the NWFG show, here are five tips for creating better container gardens:

  1. Be sure the container has good drainage. Large pots may need more than one drainage hole. In our climate the winter rains soak the soil and weigh down the pots so that excess water is sometimes trapped by the weight of the wet soil. To prevent this soggy situation, slide plastic bottle caps under your pots so that they are slightly raised from the ground. Even half an inch of air space will stop the suction effect that blocks free drainage of plant pots.
  2. Use a light weight potting soil. Again, the rainy weather makes gardening in our area unique. Potting soils that contain perlite and sand to help the flow of air and water are better than soil from your garden beds. Never use heavy compost as the only medium in pots. Tip: You can reuse old potting soil if it is still lightweight and filled with white perlite particles. Just add a few inches of fresh compost to the top of the potting soil and mix this in. Just don’t over use compost in pots or you could drown your plants.
  3. The taller the pot, the taller the plants. The top designers featured in the Container Wars competition add drama with a tall or focal point plant that is often twice as tall as the pot itself. Low, rounded pots look great with lower growing plants, but tall or tapered pots cry out for something long and lean.
  4. Foliage can be flashy. Karen Chapman and Christina Salwitz are two local designers that have created careers out of using foliage to create beauty in pots. (The duo wrote a first book called “Fine Foliage” by St. Lyn’s Press. Their latest book is called “Foliage First.”) These two designers suggest a three leaf trifecta that mixes a variegated ‘Tricolor Sage’ with red ‘Gulf Stream’ bamboo and purple ‘Crimson Pygmy’ barberry. Poke these three in a pot and you have a container garden that is all foliage, partly edible and great looking all year long.

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