Arranging Containers for a Container Garden

Just because plants are in different pots doesn't mean they can't be neighbors. Setting up containers in small or large gatherings has practical advantages: You're more likely to remember them and water and fertilize them at the same time, keeping the entire display looking good. Groups also tend to raise the plants' local humidity and to moderate the effects of hot sun, which can be a good thing, depending on what you're growing.

Groupings can also be wonderfully attractive and appealing if artfully arranged. I give you a few suggestions, but make sure you also experiment and vary the show from time to time. That's one of the many beauties of raising plants in containers — you can cycle plants in at out of the show as you see fit (taking away something that's struggling or no longer blooming, for example, and replacing it with something similar or completely different).

Here are some container grouping ideas:

1 Group various-sized containers. Put tall containers to the back, shorter ones at their feet so you don't block any one display from view. Try not to group containers of widely varying sizes, though — tiny pots at the feet of big tubs just go unnoticed. Mix and match complementary pot colors, materials, and forms until you get a look that pleases you. Or create a gathering of all the same type of pot but with a variety of sizes, forms, and contents (plants).

1 Display containers on a tiered stand. Tiered stands are practical because ideally, they allow room for each pot of plants to distinguish itself from its fellows; they also permit good air circulation. Keep the entire thing as sturdy as possible by leaning or even securing it to a wall or other backdrop support, if warranted. Don't put heavy or top-heavy plants on upper or rickety shelves — instead, set these containers lower down and reserve the narrow and upper shelves for smaller containers. For a more interesting look, intermix types: Don't put all only-foliage plants together and all flowering ones on a separate shelf.

1 Tuck in non-plant extras. Some gardeners have a lot of fun boosting the interest, whimsy, and/or colorfulness of potted plants by adding some décor. These accents can be anything from a small ceramic turtle or bird, to a whirligig, to a decorative birdhouse on a stick or even a faux flower.

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