Thursday, March 28, 2024

Midwest Gardening 2024: Container Gardening Part 1

Our goal this year is to not spend anymore money on major yard projects. So I thought I would share some old container gardening, and eventually some new ideas.


 I will buy a few plants and dirt, but we just had 180 patio blocks, sand, and gravel mix delivered to finish off the small shed area in the garden.

 Hubby traded off the large tiller (we are getting too old to handle and it threw dirt everywhere) for some labor from a neighbor, who moved all those materials and blocks from the front of the garage to the backyard (130 winding feet.)Thank-you Mr. M!

I may need to change the title of this series to "Old People Midwest Gardening", LOL.

Weather has been awful, we had 3" of snow---cloudy cold days, and even when the sun shines, highs are barely 40...and nights are so cold. The greenhouse project has been stalled. Hubby is heading off this afternoon to try and get shelves installed.

Of course while half the blogging world is in full bloom and gardening, and here we are hoping our Daffodils will burst into bloom...and they are resisting.


So I'm thinking about where I'm going to plant WHAT???

The first thing I start in Spring are my containers plants and some containers. 

Since I planted Coleus seeds, I am sharing with you photos of containers with Coleus.

My Coleus Planters...over the years.


I think this is from my first or second year of blogging 2016-7. This was a newly planted area with several bushes---I used all sorts of pots and plants that seemed to like the shade...and this worked for years.


I love creating garden vignettes or groupings with plants in pots. One of the most colorful and forgiving plants for shade/partial shade areas are Coleus. At this point, I now plant a mixed tray of Coleus seeds (2 packages) each year. 
Above, I no longer plant this area because the cedar and boxwood have grown so- I do place a long planter along here most of the summer with Coleus and Impatiens.
I've moved the fairy---and I will be working on some permanent plantings around her, in  her new location which is light shade with lots of sun along the fence.
I need to resurrect this silver tray for something...???


More Coleus

This front area between our garage and house, only gets a few hours of direct Coleus does well here also. Paired with Impatiens or can get some gorgeous displays that last until frost. This is late in summer, the Hostas were in pots because we had cleared an area out for a project and they needed to be moved. 
Hostas are great shade ground covers, hardy and easy to move around or split.


One thing about planting with seeds, even in a mixed package, you never know what you will end up getting. This planter is later in the season and on the front porch to protect it from frost...great color for October. I loved this variegated Coleus, and the burgundy ones are so special.


On the back stairs, one Coleus is paired with one Dusty Miller and one Impatiens. 
Fun inexpensive display and I pick up any kind of metal containers or watering cans I find.


This is probably 2018. You have to understand, Hubby thinks hoses are creative accents...This is late in summer when everything is NUTS and gorgeous! Other shade plants, White New Guinea Impatience, with Caladiums, Lemon grass and Dusty Miller.


Baby tears---I bought a tray a few years back for $6.99, and they seem to root everywhere they are near, so I dig them up every Spring and use them in pots! Perfect with Coleus and other shade lovers.
I've been gardening for so many years, I feel like I've thrown away more USED UP  containers, so I need to start on some OLD NEW GREEN REDO ideas!  We've also gifted friends and family from so many of the large pots.

I have pretty much been using the same containers every year, but in different locations.


I have two of these self watering LONG planters---that definitely need a facelift. They are so pitted with age, they should take a stain or paint fairly well if it ever warms up in Chicagoland.

This particular area has deep dark shade, except for early morning. Paired with Asparagus ferns the Coleus is more than enough color for this spot. Nice part about watering--is when Coleus droops, give it a huge dose of water and it recovers. I pinch off the tops to encourage continued growth throughout the season.


1)FLEXIBILITY: Moving colorful containers as the seasons change to better light/shade conditions is cost effective and decorative. 
2)FLORAL CONTAINERS save on water. Watering your annuals or plants in pots saves on water instead of watering large areas. I also spot water thirsty perennials such as Roses, Hydrangeas and am careful to choose other plants that tolerate dry conditions.

3) SEASONAL/Holiday DECOR/COLOR It's easy to alter containers to suit a holiday or seasonal choice and move it to a display area. Helps to change up your outdoor living spaces cozy or create more room quickly.


Another Shade loving gorgeous plant is REX BEGONIA which is $$$---But I winter them over in the house and usually get 3-4 years from a plant. They do need to go in fresh dirt every year to keep them healthy. It's very happy in partial shade as long as it doesn't get too hot. A pot larger than the plant is a good idea also---as they like cooler roots.


Wintering inside the Rex's often lose leaves, but will recover outside in Spring.

I filled in this pot with my water bead fern (not sure of the real name) and an Impatiens that didn't get nipped from frost. I had blooms through January that year when it finally spindly croaked.

USING OLD FURNITURE for Pot holders.


Late in the season , grass, waning New Guinea Impatiens and a Dusty Miller I popped in to fill up space. The large pot fit the chair hole just fine.

This OLD CHAIR served me well for display and adding some interest along the fence. It did finally die last year, and I haven't found a replacement yet. I remember I bought two of these in Wisconsin ( pre 1976 for $2 each) I sprayed them yellow and used them in my clay they definitely served their purpose. One resides with a friend with a coat of distressed white paint.

We have a long stretch about 60 feet of fencing on the East side which has hot sun, almost the whole day. As we reduce our vegetable gardening I've been moving perennials into the 4 foot deep beds along the fence. 
Here the pots are extra colorful to work with the Dragon Flies on the Fence.


This area was a very popular vignette in the blog over the years. 
Early in the season (MAY), this pot was filled with red Petunias, Dusty Miller and the grass. Impatiens were in the back. You can see the Daffodil leaves, and a pesky weed, that I keep having to pull out of here...

The Yellow-Orange Pot has more Petunias and some sort of plant I don't remember the name of. 
In the ground are Day Lilies and Russian Sage to the left.

The THICK FOAM  Pot yellow/orange (I bought 3 of these on deep discount because of the color at the end of the season. They are excellent for insulating heat or cold. They are worth their original $$$ prices.

  Above a mixture of blue pots early in the season transplanting with the wintered over plants and starts.
I have a modest collection of blue, blue and white, blue metal pots and containers. The larger pots were an investment maybe 20 years ago, but I add to them when I find them. 


I have smaller ones I use inside the house, or use for starting perennials in.


Vignettes of grouping pots of one color, always makes a statement. Metal and ceramic and SOAP, lol, which blended right in when I took this photo. I tend to use tin or white saucers with these pots. These are filled with shade friendly plants including Caladiums (grown from bulbs), Sweet potato vine, Coleus and ?Dianthus? 


A different year...the grass is Lemon Grass a mosquito deterrent...which really works.
Have an evening event, scatter pots of Lemon grass around your patio, break or crunch a few fronds early in the evening to disperse the scent...really works.

First year I planted my Elephant ear in a pot---which had to be moved later. 



Our original front porch was lattice and long planter pots along the railings...which was private and lovely. Unfortunately we had Carpenter Bees that just wouldn't leave the area alone--and since I'm allergic, we had to do away with all this, and replaced all the wood with synthetic railings which really can't hold planters well.

We do have one long wooden planter---our mailbox planter which I change up every year, and everyone seems to enjoy. It has been enlarged over the years and we have to drag a hose (60 feet) to water it...LOL, but it cheers up the 5 families that have their mailboxes here. 


This was a very successful year---just busting with flowers.

I've save money by using vinca vine starts dug up from elsewhere on the ends now---which keeps the cost down...full hot sun and wind here so not everything works well. End of the season, even the marigolds had a hard time with a very hot year.


I don't know how many of these long plastic planters I have---but they work so well in lots of places, this is the pond ledge---early in the season...partial sun here.

Here you can see the versatility of moving plants around. Late Spring, when this area does get sun during the day---great place to put the plants while they are reaching maturity, and I'm waiting for the peonies, roses, iris, and other perennials bloom in this area. Once they are blooming maybe only two-three containers will be needed.

Another long container location in front of the garage.
Eventually the cute red bench died---it rotted everywhere---but it was great for holding a long planter---hot sun here all I'm limited to what I can plant. 
Marigolds are happy here! 


Fall Vignette switch out. I dragged the back Patio grasses out here as the backyard is total shade when the sun dips lower in September/October. Got a hole, add a pumpkin!

Note the Fishing creel filled with faux greens and of course a hanging fish.


Now I put our long planters on a permanent shelf under the wreath. Again the Vinca is economical and the marigolds I grow from seed. I've had mixed results with Petunias lately---just so hot and dry.

Veggies and Herbs.
We use long containers for plantings other than flowers!

Over 9 years ago---our first greenhouse. I can't emphasize enough how wonderful and versatile these railing planters are. This week, I will start them in the greenhouse with veggies, nasturtiums, onions, radishes and some other seeds.
Hopefully the newly insulated and floored greenhouse will be critter free, and the stones will help to keep the greenhouse warm at night! Here is a planter on the front porch.


Early springs outside! 
Lettuces, radishes and onions are perfect on railings, far from bunnies...even though a Chippy may nibble a bit.


I keep a few long planters  on the front porch with basil, thyme and parsleys...again away from critters. This is late in the season.


We have even tried pickles on the porch and mini melons---it's been too hot for anything but tomatoes or herbs the last few years.


I also use pots on 'boot trays' $$$ but bought at the end of winter---cheap! making them less $'s than saucer trays. These are easy to dump also.


When frost and Fall comes...I move everything to the front of the house for the low sun.
In Fall it is easy to bank them long planters, fill them in with mums or Fall decorations and also protect and cover them from frost. 

How to get ready for OUR Crazy Chicagoland weather? 
But, then EVERYONE has had crazy weather the last few years. 

This year I will be planting for HEAT and I suppose we will be wearing jackets and boots in July in our Wonky Chicagoland Weather. 

MORE Container ideas  TO COME in the next post of Midwest Gardening 2024.

What is your favorite 
Container and Planting in your Zone!

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  1. How beautiful! Love those gorgeous coleus and pretty impatients. Thank you for the inspiration of your adorable containers . Happy Easter.

    1. Aw, thank you---I've been slow to post...winter is so long here and so, Hugs, Sandi

  2. These are all such fun and so pretty. You're wonderful at this garden work. Container gardens are the best, aren't they? My favorites to be sure. Can't wait to see what spring and summer bring you!

    1. Aw, Thanks, Jeanie. Back when I started this, I had aging parents I took care of and two-three jobs at anytime. It was an easier way to garden--fill the beds with greenery and perennials, and plotch a pot here and there.
      When we retired it was even more fun...I can't's been so miserable here, sunny freezing days with warm pouring rain inbetween. Hugs and have a wonderful holiday! Sandi

  3. Great gardening post, Sandi! I'm so excited to be featuring your post at Tuesday Turn About's garden themed party this week!

    1. Thanks so much Julie...I have posted your link up on my list to the right...gardening is such a trip-- and container plantings are my favorite!


Thank you for any and all comments. I will be happy to answer any questions or comments in replies or email! HUGS!