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Gardening with Wanda

A common topic addresed at the Hall County Extension office

POSTED: November 1, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Container gardening in the winter can be a fun and creative way to keep winter color in a garden or patio.

There are several annual and perennial plants, as well as trees and shrubs that can add interest and texture to your garden landscape.

Good soil and drainage are important when planting in containers. Make sure the container has adequate drainage holes because poorly drained containers could result in root-rotting fungi and possibly death to the plants.

Also, make sure the soil used is a good commercial potting mixture, which when blended with organic matter such as composted pine bark, along with vermiculite or peat moss, will improve drainage and aeration.

Soil from the garden is not recommended because it can contain diseases and pests.

Mix in fertilizer, which contains essential elements needed for plant growth. A 5-10-15 or 5-10-10 fertilizer usually is fine.

Once the soil and drainage matters are taken care of, it is time to begin the fun and creative side of container potting. Since we are going into the colder months of the season, it is important to choose plants that are suitable to the colder temperatures.

Hardy winter annuals such as pansies, violas, snapdragons and ornamental kale and cabbage are a good pick for use in containers. Perennials that include dianthus, dusty miller and liriope also can be used in the winter months.

Tree and shrubs, either deciduous or evergreens can be used as your focal point. Deciduous plants, plants with leaves that fall off in the winter, can add interesting texture and color on the bark and branches.

When mixing plants, try to have a central plant that is taller, surrounded by lower plants and if you have room, a draping plant to hang over the sides. A good example would be a dwarf cypress or Japanese maple for height, pansies or violas planted around it, mixed with some draping English ivy over the sides.

This flowing pattern creates a look that is pleasing to the eye in scale and contrast. As an added bonus, I like to plant bulbs into the containers. As spring approaches, it is always refreshing to see the bulbs begin to shoot up between the winter flowers.

The types of containers you can use are endless. It really is up to the gardener as to what type of look they are trying to achieve.

I recommend three to five containers that match in shape and color, fine tune it to the square footage of the area you want them in and create the desired look with your preference in color and texture.

Avoid lots of small pots, which tend to look cluttered and unbalanced.

Wanda Cannon is a Master Gardener trained through the Hall County program and also serves as Master Gardener coordinator and horticulture assistant for the Hall County Extension office. Phone: 770-535-8293


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