4 tips on using containers to create a gorgeous garden

flowers and vegetables in front yard
Using tall plants and wide plants gives a container garden the volume it needs to fill out the space. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

by Connie Oswald Stofko

Previously I showed you my experiment with a container garden on my front lawn. That container garden wasn’t as successful as I had hoped, but I learned a lot and tried it again.

This time it was successful and my neighbors told me they loved it, too!

It didn’t look like much in May or June, but in July the plants filled out and it was gorgeous. We had a mild autumn, and the container garden looked great into November.

back of container garden
Set plants on top of old pots to give height to your container garden. This container garden looks good from the back as well as the front. The sunchokes in the green pot got even taller in September. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

Tips on using containers and making it look like a garden

I found that the key to doing a container garden is to make it big enough to fill the space.

Use large pots. This year I used three pots that were about 18 inches in diameter and filled in with seven 14-inch pots. Last year, I used pots that were only 14 inches. They looked wimpy.

Use enough pots. In addition to using larger containers, this year I used more containers. I used a total of 10 containers; last year I used only eight smaller containers. And as the plants in the containers filled out, I moved the pots away from each other. That filled out the space even more.

Get some height. I used some taller plants this year, including a hydrangea and sunchokes. In addition, I set a couple of the pots on some old pots I had. It looked great from the back as well as from the front.

Fill in with foliage. I used an ornamental grass, but I also set out my amaryllis plant, which has only leaves during the summer. (I have my amaryllis bloom indoors in the winter.)

Bonus tip: Neighbors were surprised that I had tomato and pepper plants in my containers. Finding a sunny place for my vegetables was my original reason for trying out the container garden, and my front yard is sunnier than the back. You can mix flowers in the same pot as your vegetables! And don’t forget about fruit shrubs and even trees. 

container garden with flowers and vegetables
I have tomato and pepper plants mixed in with ornamental plants. The vegetables do better in my sunny front yard than in my shady backyard. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

Four reasons to create a container garden

You can figure out where your garden should be. I tried out the container garden concept last year because I thought I might want a garden in my front yard, but I wasn’t sure where I wanted it. I figured if I didn’t like where the containers were, I could just try a new location. I’m glad I did it this way because, as it turns out, I didn’t like the location I had chosen last year. I’m glad I didn’t build up a new garden bed and plant perennials.

You can decide where your plants should be. If you have a perennial or shrub and you’re not sure where the best location for it is, you could try it in a pot for one season and see how it does. You can even move it throughout the season to sunnier or shadier spots.

You’re not sure how big your plants are going to get. Did you ever get surprised when a plant grew wider than you thought it would, or a plant didn’t grow as tall as you thought it would? With containers, you can just switch those plants around. Slide the large plant to the back and place the short plant in front.

If you move, you can take your plants with you. You can plant small shrubs, perennials and vegetables, even if you plan to move during the growing season. Set the pots in your moving van (or depending on the size, even in your car) and away you go.

8 Comments on “4 tips on using containers to create a gorgeous garden

  1. I like to use pots of summer annuals in the spots that early spring bulbs or flowers have died off. That way I don’t dig into the bulbs or root systems trying to fill in that space. I just make sure I remove the pots in Fall so the new growth can come up to brighten a spring day.

  2. Oh, Nancy, I’m so sorry to hear that! We did see someone stopping at around 5 a.m., get out of his car and examine the plants, but he didn’t even pick a flower or a tomato. Little kids didn’t even bother the plants. On the other hand, my sister once saw a woman stop her car in broad daylight, pick flowers from my sister’s beautiful front garden, then drive off. I’m sorry you had such a bad experience. I can understand why you would be upset. For the rest of us who might pass by your house and enjoy your gardening efforts, I hope you won’t give up entirely.

  3. Well this looks like a great idea but I was “robbed” of 2 lovely containers set out in front. Has put a damper on that idea for me….if I can’t chain it down must go in the ground.

  4. Micky, great question. First of all, it’s no problem for me because my husband Phil usually mows the lawn! Phil says that he weed whacks in between the pots. Anything he can’t get at, he pulls out by hand. He says it takes five extra minutes. Last year I put down mulch and set the pots on top of that, so we didn’t have as much grass growing up between the pots. If you don’t want to be bothered by stray grass, I would recommend setting down cardboard or newspaper, then covering that with mulch, then setting your pots on top.

  5. It’s a great idea but what do you do about cutting the grass? Do you move everything, mow and replace.

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