Japanese willow in formed concrete patio pot

Potting Up Perennials ?

Do you ever do something over and over and not really think about why?

We all do. Luckily, we have people in our lives that question what we do. Then, we can reason, or we can change! That’s how progress happens.bypass pruners with red handles

So, when we headed to the garden center years ago, I browsed the annuals for our deck planters. My husband headed for trees and shrubs.  After twenty minutes of looking around, I went to find him and discuss what to buy.

“I like that blue juniper, it’s cute,” I said.

“Why don’t we get some small shrubs and keep them on the deck for the season, then plant them in the ground?” My husband asked.

This is the kind of thinking he does that takes me by surprise. I always bought annuals for the pots. Isn’t that what everyone does? It never occurred to met that we could put some of the miniature shrubbery in pots and enjoy the various greens, blues, golds, purples, and crimsons.  Pots without flowers, could it work?

sketch of trowel with red handle
Never leave the garage without a trowel.

I was a bit skeptical, but agreed. When we got the shrubs home and potted, I stood back and took a look.

The deck was green, serene, and inviting. With the variety of textures, leaf size, color, and structure, there was plenty to look at, even without bright annual colors. I loved the look so much that I decided to go with ferns for the hanging baskets.

Over the years, I’ve fluctuated on what and how much I plant on the deck. This year I seem to be far behind in planting. I’ve been busy weeding and edging and moving plants around. I’m not sure that I can even get annuals at this late date. I’ve seen a lot of petunias left over, but I don’t have luck with them once the July heat starts.

While weeding the garden, I noticed how great everything is growing. So good, in fact, that the irises and hosta need dividing. I found a rose bush volunteer under a peony bush. I also bought eight Japanese willow bushes on sale. With all of this bounty, do I really need to buy annuals? How about potting up perennials instead?

Hosta in terracotta pot
Hosta in terracotta pot

So far, I have the willows in pots. I will be adding to the collection as I make my way around the yard. Some lavender would look great in the rectangular planters. Best of all, it’s free for the digging!

Besides what to put in the pots, are the pots themselves. Some of my terracotta have been around for two and a half decades. Back then, terracotta, stone, concrete, and plastic were the predominate material choices for pots. And the plastic was ugly.

Now, reasonably priced choices abound. The biggest change – fiberglass and styrofoam pots that are pretty and lightweight. More styles are available too, from rustic concrete troughs to modern fiberglass cylinders.

Willow in glazed blue pot
Willow in glazed blue pot

As I get older, I am less inclined to move my large pots indoors for our freezing Midwest winters. The first few years, I lost a couple of the terra cotta ones because I left the soil inside of them. They, of course, absorbed water and cracked. Since then, I’m careful to empty the pots. I’ve had no trouble, even with a couple of feet of snow and subzero temperatures.

Glazed pots are touted as more weather resistant. My experience has been different. What the experts fail to point out is that, unless the pots are glazed on the inside, they are vulnerable to chipping and cracking. Since glazed pots tend to be some of the more expensive and heavy ones, I don’t use them much.

My plastic, fiberglass, and foam planters are my garden workhorses. When I’m growing small trees and shrubs, these pots stay out all winter with the plants inside them; and they do just fine. They aren’t the prettiest garden pots, but they do the job.

pink rose in terracotta pot
pink rose in terracotta pot

The latest additions to our collection are cast concrete. They are pretty, but very heavy. These pots stay out during the winter; and I’ve found that the bases are starting to flake. The concrete seems to be mixed with gypsum, so I’m guessing that they are not high quality. Live and learn!

These empty planters look sad without abundant plant growth. They are calling me to get them planted and happy. I’m thinking some blood grass would provide an interesting structural and textural contrast.

How do you “branch out” when planting your patio pots?

Lavender plant in terracotta rectangular pot
Lavender in terracotta


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