OK, so let’s say you’re a total non-gardener with no interest in spending hours digging and planting, clipping and pruning. Got it.
But you would like a few simple pots of plants on your balcony, deck or patio this summer — some beautiful flowers, a few herbs and perhaps a few vegetables that you can pick or snip as you need them.
So, here’s the good news: Three very easy-peasy pots you could put together in less than 30 minutes — for all three — that will look terrific all summer.
To figure out which pots and plants to use for these three projects, I popped into my favourite Vancouver city garden centre, Hunters Garden Centre on Broadway, and got owner Miles Hunter to help me pick out key materials.
We started by thinking about a simple herb container that could either be placed as a hanging trough on a balcony railing or used as a window box or just placed as a straightforward rectangular planter on the ground.
We found a lightweight, 45-by-20 cm (18-by-8 inch) plastic, terracotta-coloured, trough-style planter with its own water-reservoir/catch basin on the bottom.
“People always tend to overfill these planters,” says Hunter. “They cram in too many plants and the container ends up being messy and overcrowded and just not functioning very well.”
Instead, we selected a simple arrangement of three excellent herbs: Delightfully fragrant Arp rosemary in the middle, curled parsley on one side and lemon thyme on the other. It took only a few minutes to complete the project.
For soil, we used Keefer’s Planter Box Mix (28 L for $7.99) and we opened a tub of Pro Garden Mix Hanging Basket 14-14-14 slow-release fertilizer for $26.99.
Now remember, there is enough in these two products — the soil and the fertilizer — to do much more than one pot.
A bag of Keefer’s soil will fill two, perhaps three pots. And there is enough fertilizer in the 14-14-14 Garden Pro Mix to sprinkle in dozens of pots, so there should be no need to buy more for a few years.
Next, we turned our attention to a summer flower pot and hit on the idea of a red-and-white combination to mark Canada’s 150th birthday on July 1.
You’ll find a lot of garden centres will be promoting the red-and-white Canada anniversary theme this year.
Hunter picked out a beautiful blue ceramic pot, something that can be used over and over again. He also pointed out a beautiful cordyline called Red Star.
“A lot of people place this right in the centre of the pot, but I always think this causes it to dwarf and overshadow other plants in the pot,” he said.
“I prefer to place it at the back of the pot, so it acts as a backdrop to the rest of the plants.”
Once the cordyline, was in place, it did indeed look better at the back than in the middle.
We next filled the pot with a couple of striking ‘Classic Scarlet’ pelargoniums and plugged gaps with super-floriferous annuals, Lobularia ‘White Knight’ and Bacopa ‘Gulliver Snow.’
This container looked excellent from the moment the last plant went in. It will only get better and better through summer.
For the third, easy-peasy pot, we looked at various veggie options and settled on a very simple, practical combination of peas and salad greens (mesclun).
In a deep terracotta pot, we placed a black, 3-foot metal trellis at the back and planted a row of ‘Little Sweetie’ snow peas in front of it.
These will climb up, clinging to the trellis as they go, but no farther than 75 cm (2.5 feet), being a short, highly productive variety.
In front of them, we picked a mesclun blend pack comprising various lettuce and salad greens that can easily be harvested as needed throughout summer.
“These will keep regenerating every time they are snipped,” said Hunter. “They also won’t bolt (going quickly to seed when the weather gets hot), which makes them even more attractive for growing in a container like this.”
How much would it cost to do all three pots?
The finished herb planter costs $40.21. The Canada 150 planter would cost $88.13, although this includes a sturdy $49.99 ceramic planter that can be used over and over again.
The vegetable pot would cost $65.20, but includes a Vaso Cilindrico clay pot that costs $29.99 and would be reusable year after year.
If you don’t feel like doing any of this work, but want this collection, Hunters Garden Centre will make up the pots for you, for a few dollars more per pot for labour.
All the materials — plants, pots, soil, fertilizers, trellis and so on — are available from Hunters stores at 2560 West Broadway in Vancouver and 15175 72nd Ave. in Surrey.
Other ideas for a herb pot include a trough filled with varieties of basil (only put this out when the night temperatures are warmer in June). Sage, mints and fennel are also possibilities but these tend to get bigger and you need to be mindful of space and also of using bigger pots.
You can also achieve a very simple, elegant look by placing just one plant in a stylish pot, such as a classy blue- or yellow-leafed hosta or perhaps the stylish ornamental grass, Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’ or a blue Festuca glauca in a single pot.
One-plant simplicity is a very easy way to go. For a splash of colour, consider pelargoniums, begonias or fuchsias (for light shade), argyranthemums or for a classy foliage look, consider heucheras or variegated forms of carex grasses.
The point here is that even non-gardeners can do something very quickly to add a few easy-maintenance containers to their outdoor living space for summer.