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Your Garden: Containers – The Ins and Outs

By Linda Whitmore

Planter boxes add pizzazz to a patio or porch, fit nicely on an apartment balcony and give flair to store fronts and downtown businesses.

In driving through the communities of the Willamette Valley one can see amazing examples of pots, planters and baskets of trailing fuchsias and petunias, cheery daisies and brightly colored geraniums. To learn how to make a successful container garden, years ago we turned to Barb Bauman who, with her team of employees, plants thousands of baskets every year.

Barb was eager to share her expertise.

First, she explained, the gardener should decide where the container is to be located. Sun and shade determine the type of plants to be used.

Then select a container.

There is a wide range of attractive pots and baskets available at any nursery, but you can use containers that you have – an old watering can or washtub, “even a rusty old bucket,” Barb said. “Use what you have at home. It doesn’t have to be expensive.”

But she issues a warning.

“Make sure it has holes in the bottom. That’s going to be the make or break of your planter.”

Use a good potting mix; soil from your garden may be too heavy to allow for adequate root growth and water drainage.

Barb suggested putting a perennial plant, herb or grass in the center. “You know you’ll always have something interesting that’ll come back,” she said.

Whether the planter or basket is to be in the sun or shade will determine your choice of plants.

Barb suggested buying four-inch starts, with some plants that will grow tall and some that drape over the sides.

“Variety is the spice of life – get varied textures and colors,” she said.

As an example she suggests that in a fuchsia basket you add impatiens, wandering Jew and vinca vines.

“Sometimes the plants will be better looking at different parts of the season. This makes the basket look nice longer, too,” Barb said.

She suggested gardeners plant container gardens for other seasons too. “People don’t think of doing containers for winter. Your patios don’t have to be bare in winter.”


Water the containers EVERY DAY in the summer. “Enough to let the water run through,” Barb said. And do it in the morning, not evening. “Never put your plants to bed with their feet wet.” Watering in the evening is an invitation to mold and other sicknesses that weaken plants.


Use a timed-released fertilizer once a month. Barb suggested “a well-balanced fertilizer – around triple 16. That way you feed all parts of your plant – leaves, roots and flowers.”

Follow the application directions on the package.


Pinching is good. Pinching at an early stage helps the plant branch out and grow in several directions.

Dead heading – cutting or pinching off spent flowers – is very important to sustaining blooms. But with wave petunias or supertunias, deadheading isn’t necessary.

Barb packs many plants into her baskets and containers for a multi-colored, multi-textured display. Proper watering and feeding will assure they thrive and produce stunning results all season long.

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