Perennial Planters—The Bachelor’s Best Friend
By Earl J. Woods
As I approach my mid-30s, it occurs to me that one of these days I’m going to have to make the terrifying leap into the world of home ownership. But what if I should buy a new house, one without any landscaping? I’ll need a quick and easy way to add some colour and life to the yard.
Fortunately, Hole’s perennial expert Jan Goodall has come to my rescue with some expert advice on simple landscaping solutions. Her suggestion? Perennial planters. When you think of planters, it’s usually bedding plants or vegetables that come to mind. But Jan showed me that with a little imagination and planning, I could create colourful and creative perennial pots.
A Landscaping Solution
My lesson began with a short lecture from Jan. “Perennial planters are ideal when used as an interim landscaping solution,” she said. “Often, people move into newly constructed homes without any landscaping—no lawn, no plants of any kind, and it just looks terrible. Who wants to wait for seeded grass and small trees to reach their mature sizes? Perennial pots can instantly add some colour to that dusty brown emptiness during the summer.”
When you have completed the landscaping around your new home, you can remove the perennials from their pots and install them in traditional perennial beds. The empty pots can then be used for late-season annuals or indoor plants.
When creating perennial planters, you need a few essential ingredients
A sturdy, aesthetically pleasing pot
High quality potting soil
Several perennials of mature, blooming size
Care and Nurture
Perennial planters require little maintenance. Consistent watering is vital—irrigate only when the top 3 cm or so of soil has dried out. For fertilizer, add 20-20-20 once every two weeks or once a month until the first week of August.
In colder zones, perennials will not overwinter in pots outdoors. Wait for the first hard
frost of the fall then cut the foliage to about 5-8 cm tall. Leave the pots outside until the
weather remains consistently cool, but before the soil freezes solid. Then, you have a
choice—you can remove the plants from their pots and plant them in the garden or bring
the pots indoors. A heated garage is ideal, but any indoor location with a temperature
that hovers close to the zero degree mark and receives some light (as from a window)
“Overall, though, I’d recommend taking the plants out of the pots and planting them in your garden,” Jan notes. “They’ll always have a better chance of overwintering successfully in the ground than they ever will in a pot. Also, if you plan to overwinter perennials in their pots, then you must make sure that the pots you choose are large enough to contain the mature roots.”
Jan had one other caution for me—if you love the look of your perennial planters so much that you move them from your garden back into the pots each year, you should choose varieties that don’t mind having their roots disturbed on a regular basis. Hostas, variegated sage (Artemesia ‘Oriental Limelight’), daylilies, bluebells (Campanula), stonecrop (Sedum), Hens & Chicks (Sempervivum) and ornamental grasses such as moot grass (Molinia), lime grass (Elymus) or blue oat grass (Helletotrichon) are good choices. But astilbe or bugbane (Cimicifuga) will probably deteriorate if you move them around too much.
The Black Thumb’s Dilemma
Jan makes a convincing case for perennial planters. In fact, she was so enthusiastic that I may actually discard my arrested adolescence and start looking for a real home, rather than a teeny apartment crammed full of comic books and DVDs of old science fiction movies. And if the Black Thumb can enjoy and appreciate perennial planters, it’s a cinch that you will, too.
Uses for Perennial Planters
Condo or apartment balconies
Housewarming, wedding and graduation gifts