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Perennial Planters—The Bachelor’s Best Friend

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.
 

Starting Out

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.

Overwintering

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)
will do.

“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
Temporary landscaping
 

Planning an event? Rent a patio planter!

Save money at your next event! Hole's Greenhouses rents patio planters for your wedding, anniversary or other special event.

Here's how it works:

  1. Visit Hole's Greenhouses 7 days before your event.
  2. Pick out the planters you would like. We recommend snapping a picture of the planters with your phone.
  3. Email our Information Centre at questions@holesonline.com and include contact information, rental dates, location, number of planters required, indicate pick up or delivery and include the pictures of the planters if you are able to. 
    • If you prefer, you may place your order over the phone at 780-419-6800 (9am-4:30pm, Monday-Friday; excluding holidays.)
  4. Our Information Centre will respond within one business day. Weekend enquiries will be answered on Monday. 
  5. Once confirming your order, we will tag your planters and have them ready for you to pick up or for delivery!

Rental Fee: 25% of the retail price of the patio planter/per day

Delivery & Pickup Fee: $100*

*subject to additional fees depending upon special requirements such as location, delivery times, venue restrictions, site preparation, size of order, etc.

Payment Terms: patio planter retail price must be fully paid along with Delivery & Pickup Fee, should delivery and pickup be required. Upon return, 75% of the patio planter retail price is credited back to the renter. Damaged planters will not be given full credit.

Visit Hole's today, or contact our Information Centre (9am-4:30pm, Monday-Friday; excluding holidays) by emailing questions@holesonline.com or by calling 780-419-6800 during specified hours.

Growing Fall Bulbs In Pots

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When it comes fall planting, most people think of planting tulips into flowerbeds around the house or in the garden.
 
But here is something a bit different that you might want to try with your tulips this fall. Rather than planting your tulip bulbs into the ground, plant them into pots. I’ve done this for years because it is simple as can be, plus I have a blaze of colourful flowers long before anything else is transplanted outside.
 
Now, not everyone can put tulips into pots because one needs some free space and a cold storage area. But if you have garage or storage shed that is cold during winter (anything around the freezing mark but not down into the minus 20s!) and a bit of extra space, then you’re set. You’ll have tulips poking through the soil in March.
 

Here are the step by step instructions for very early spring tulips:

  • Choose a pot. I like bigger pots but smaller are just fine.
  • Add good quality potting soil to the pot. Garden soil is too heavy and dense, plus it often contains too many weed seeds.
  • Fill the pot to within about 15 cm of the top of the rim.
  • Place the tulip bulbs on the potting soil with the "pointy part up". Put lots of bulbs into the pot for a really good spring show. I like to plant the bulbs about 3cm apart.
  • Cover the bulbs completely with potting soil leaving a few centimeters of space below the rim so that the pot can be easily watered.
  • Water the pot thoroughly and then place it in a warm spot for at least 2 weeks to allow roots to develop. The rooted bulbs will not bloom, after rooting, until their "chilling requirement" has been met, which is equivalent to about a month or so of freezing to near freezing temperatures.
  • Once the bulbs have received their chilling requirement, they are ready to bloom. The trick at this point is to keep the tulips cold until you are ready to place them outside. If you warm the bulbs too early, the shoots will pop out of the potting soil and become floppy and die. I keep my tulips cold until about the 3rd week of March and then I place them on my deck and give them a good shot of water. If it does freeze outside even after the tulip shoots have emerged they won’t be harmed.


Usually, this pot planting technique allows me to enjoy tulips in early April - a good month before the regular garden tulips begin to bloom.
 
So if you have some extra cold space in your garage or cellar, give potted tulips a try. It really is a thrill to see tulips popping out of pots when there is still a foot of snow on the ground.

~Jim Hole

Container Gardening

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Not that long ago, virtually all the plant pots you could buy were either made of clay, ceramic, or cheap plastic.
 
The clay pots were durable and attractive but exceedingly heavy and very difficult to move because of their weight. They also had a nasty habit of chipping unless they were handled carefully. Sometimes, they would also crack during the winter if water accumulated in the pot and turned to clay-splitting ice. 
 
Back then, plastic pots eliminated the weight and ice splitting issue common to clay, but they were quite ugly and became brittle and faded from the summer sun.
 
Today, those poor quality plastic pots have been replaced by high-quality, UV-resistant, lightweight, plastic pots that are also attractive. I have two gigantic, black pots in my yard that look as good as the day I bought them 7 years ago. One of our lines of pots, from Crescent Garden, even comes with a 10 year warranty! They remain outside 365 days a year without any protection and I plant them up with bedding plants in the spring and small evergreens and boughs for Christmas.
 
I think that the advances in pot durability and aesthetics are fabulous. Gardeners are embracing the idea that beautiful and durable pots go hand-in-hand with beautiful bedding plants. By investing in high quality pots now, you can enjoy them for years to come.
 

~Jim Hole

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P.S. We still have a few spots left for my tomato gardening workshop on May 9th. Click here to purchase tickets. Our last couple workshops sold out, and I'm sure this one will too, so get your tickets soon!

For the rest of the summer, I will also be on Alberta@Noon on CBC Radio the first Friday of every month (starting May 1st at 12:30pm). The phone lines will be open from 12:30-1pm, so if you have any gardening questions, please call in!