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Container Planting

In 1973 I read the two plants books by Maggie Baylis: "House Plants for the Purple Thumb", and "Plant Parenthood".

They not only gave great insight to the houseplant revolution that was going on at the time, but great fun along the way.

One of her interesting and probably novel ideas of the day was interior landscaping of houseplants. This was a new idea and at this time people were quite conventional and traditional with their home plants. People were not brave enough to start planting in bathtubs and old chairs, but Maggie was suggesting being brave. She was probably not the first.

Thirty years later people now feel comfortable with being unconventional and we are seeing all sorts of bright and new ideas for container planting.

This ol' Rocker

RockerContainer gardening is now at its most interesting best.

Planting in a chair is fun and no different from any other container.

Aside from general preparation of the chair: painting, sanding, staining, or waterproofing, there are two factors to consider: soil and drainage.

Use the best potting soil you can afford. Drainage is necessary because you may have to water frequently.

Along with good potting soil, fertilizers in the form of time release are probably the best to use although others will do just fine: 15-15-15 or 20-20-20. Another amendment might be polymers. These are water retention crystals that have the ability to hold water around the roots for a period of time. When not allowed to dry out, they may last an entire season.

Chairs should be bottomless, and a bottom made of inch grid metal, called hardcloth is best. Form a basket to be countersunk and stapled or nailed in with "u" brads. This will form a strong foundation to plant. Use a layer of newspaper or a piece of burlap to hold the dirt in place. Even a layer of sphagnum moss on the very bottom and sides will add to the natural beauty.

Winter RockerThe plant material choices will be dependent upon final location. Sun porches or sunny spot in the garden will require sun-loving plants. The same goes for a shady corner of the garden or a woodland spot: shade-loving plants.

In both cases, plant selection will be towards plants that grow well in containers.

In the design, three factors are important to remember: a focal-centered upright plant. Secondly, a filler in the pot. Third, a trailer to soften the edges of the seat area of the chair. Contrast, texture, and size are of importance.

Color combinations are personal preference, however, keep in mind the color of the chair. If the chair is painted purple - colors of blues, pinks, and lavenders and white along with gray/teal hues would look lovely. If the chair is painted white, you can go either hot or cold in color combinations.

Take into consideration the formality of the chair style. Country looking rockers are fine for cottage, or passalong plants. If you have a formal dining room chair, miniature roses and primroses might be nice.

Begonia in rockerEven bulbs can be timed for spring or fall surprise arrivals.

Do not forget to mulch to keep moisture in. Even an irrigation emitter can create slow and even watering.

All containers need to be refurbished seasonally and the soils replenished if not removed and replaced annually. Nothing lasts forever and plants can be replaced. Everything has its time and that definitely includes plants.

Go ahead. Try it. Plant a bathtub, a coal bucket, a baby carriage, coffee cans in the breakfast nook, wastepaper baskets in the family room.

You'll discover a whole new world.



A great natural container - a tree stump of driftwood filled with sedum flowing over to the ground.

How lush and green.

In early spring this turns to a carpet of bright yellow.


Tip: An excellent large, outdoor planter can be made from a bottomless chair. In areas where termites can be a problem use a metal one. Create a planting bottom from one inch wire mesh and use plants for a sunny spot or a shady corner. A great conversation piece.