If you walk into most department or economy stores now, Christmas decorations are everywhere! Our thoughts naturally start whirling with all the holidays coming up and homemade gifts need to be at the forefront. A nice present for anyone, but especially for shut-ins, would be a living, growing, changing pot with colorful foliage.
Everyone loves a little bit of nature and all those bright flowers and lush foliage can lift one's spirits. Or perhaps, you want one for yourself to set outside, sprucing up your patio or front porch for the holidays.
Let's take a look at preparations for these easy but much-appreciated gifts.
Choose one that will work in the space of your room. Select a sturdy vessel, big enough to hold the number of plants you will use. It will need good drainage -- drill holes if needed -- and a saucer or tray underneath to collect excess water to protect furniture or floor surfaces.
If your pot is to remain outside, you will need to freeze-proof it and also use plants that will not freeze. There are several methods available to help ensure that your pots don't break. You can use pine bark mulch in the bottom one-third and then fill with the appropriate soil mix. You can also line your container with bubble wrap. If you have a large pot, you can place a smaller one upside down over the drainage hole and then fill around the sides and top with soil.
Do not use garden soil. It contains unwanted weed seeds or disease and will not drain well enough for container growth. Use a good-draining potting soil. You can use a layer of water-absorbing gel and a layer of perlite if you wish to keep your plants healthy.
You may have some good plant choices already in your garden. Before the first frost, take tip cuttings from a healthy mature plant, such as impatiens, coleus, sweet potato vine, lantana, and creeping Jenny. Rooting usually takes three to four weeks. Or, as you amble down the aisles at the garden center, you may find those little annuals sold in multi-packs containing four to nine plants. They are the best buy. Pansies and violas are also plentiful now.
When selecting plants for containers you need to have at least two that will remain evergreen. Group your plants by their requirements for light, water and temperature range.
Remember, "Flowers come and go, but foliage packs a punch the whole season!"
One approach you can use is the "Thriller, Filler and Spiller." This approach will make your pot interesting and fascinating.
"Thriller" -- a taller, single evergreen that will be the focus of your garden scene. Thrillers should be in the center for an all-around viewing or in the back if the container will only be viewed from the front. Depending on the size of your pot, you can buy a small evergreen, such as vertical grass "sky pencil" holly, Leyland cypress, yucca, arica palm or seedlings of a cedar from your garden. As these grow too large for your pot, they can be transplanted to your yard and replaced with something else next year.
"Filler" -- mounding plants used around the Thrillers. Some suggestions are begonia, pansy, viola, purple shamrock, heuchera, lantana and ornamental peppers. Spring flowering bulbs could go underneath the fillers for a surprise show next February or March.
"Spiller" -- trailing plants placed at the edges of the container. These will spill over the side and soften the look of your pot. Some suggestions are variegated ivy, creeping Jenny and trailing pansies.
For best results, lightly moisten mix. Don't pack mix too tightly.
Position your tallest plant in the middle so it doesn't obscure the final scene or block the light needed by the shorter plants. If you are using some daffodil bulbs or other spring blooming bulbs, they can surround the Thriller.
Put the mounding plants in next and then the edging ones. Check the view of your garden from various angles and make changes as needed. When you are pleased with the arrangement, press all of them into the soil. Clean up any excess soil or mulch off the plants and water thoroughly.
For any winter flowering container, to keep everything blooming well, feed a one-forth strength bloom-booster, water-soluble fertilizer such as 15-30-15 with each watering. Start two weeks after planting.
Container gardens can be very useful for the elderly and handicapped because they are readily accessible and have the ease of maintenance. These container gardens can be a delightful conversation piece.