Container gardens do double duty as decor

By Dean Fosdick
For The Associated Press / November 25, 2010

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Container gardening is coming in from the cold, replacing the one-plant-to-a-pot displays that have been indoor decorating staples since the Victorian era. And combination planting — grouping different plants in one container — is as practical as it is attractive.

“Grouping plants together has several advantages, including the ability to create more impact and to water less often,’’ said Kathy LaLiberte, director of gardening at Gardener’s Supply Co. in Burlington, Vt.

Choose your combinations carefully. Don’t mix plants having different light, temperature, and water requirements, such as African violets and leaf lettuce, or succulents and berries.

“Think as much about the horticultural side of the container garden as you would about its looks,’’ said LaLiberte, who recommends a “thrillers, fillers, and spillers’’ style: “You can create a cool pot with one showcase plant, another that tucks under or fills in, and something else that’s trailing. That makes an imaginative arrangement combining different heights, colors and textures.’’

Light often determines which plants can be used for indoor gardening. Unless you have strong artificial light or direct sunlight, your best bet might be exotics such as caladiums, cannas, coleuses, or ferns..

Edibles also are another great indoor option, delivering freshness along with convenience and fast maturity. Choices vary from micro-greens to dwarf bananas.

“You can take salad fixings from seed to table in less than a month,’’ said Ellen Ecker Ogden, an ornamental kitchen garden designer from Manchester Village, Vt. “Cut and water and they just grow back again.’’

Herbs and annual flowers play well together in containers, and their blooms do double duty.

“They’ll give you a little taste of summer along with some lovely colors,’’ Ogden said.

Ogden recommends starting from seed rather than over-wintering mature container plants. “Some plants are sensitive and don’t like being moved. They suffer transplant shock if brought in,’’ she said. “Better that you find something fast-growing so it can be sown directly indoors.’’