- Grove City, Pennsylvania


October 15, 2011

Don't snub the shrubs for your container garden

GROVE CITY — In last week's column I introduced the idea of containerized gardening, or gardening with pots.

It's ideal for folks who might not have the space for a traditional garden, and it can be just as rewarding as gardening in a big backyard. It might also be a little easier for cotton-top gardeners like me.

Container gardening is not a new idea, but it is growing in popularity; it almost has to because of urbanization.

Aging gardeners with health concerns might consider small space container gardening as an alternative to a large backyard garden. Pots of all sizes, shapes, colors and textures are available at local garden centers so finding what works best for you couldn't be any easier.

"For shrubs, start with a 17-inch pot," said Ryen Roberts from Cottage Gardens. She recommends dwarf Alberta spruce, and says it does fine in a container.

She also suggests 'Tiger Eyes' sumac, but says it'll need plenty of sun. Dwarf Alberta spruces will grow to about 6 feet over a period of years and like partial shade.

Use a couple to flank a fountain or entryway and you'll add an air of formality to your small space garden. Tiger Eyes are tops for fall color, turning gorgeously gold before dropping their leaves.

Their "weed tree" cousins, the Staghorn sumacs, are one of the first to begin glowing gold in autumn along edges of woods and roadways.

But don't worry about Tiger Eyes taking over your small space garden; it's hybridized to reach only 3 to 5 feet tall and wide, possibly less depending on your pruning capabilities.

Perennials that do well in pots include heuchera (coral bells), sedums, and hostas. Yes, hostas are pot-worthy perennials.

Their foliage alone makes them a fine specimen for your container garden. Several different varieties of mini hostas planted together in a unique container showcases leaf color and texture.

Try H. 'Blue Mouse Ears,' 'Pandora's Box,' and the lovely variegated (and named) 'Teeny-weeny Bikini.' Sedum, also known as stonecrops, are succulents that require very little attention. Some (Sedum hispanicum) grow only to about 3 to 6 inches high and a foot wide, making them ideal for any small space garden -- in or out of containers.

Ryen says to try S. 'Angelina' in your favorite container, with bright golden foliage that turns orange in fall.

It's important to remember that you must give your container grown perennials added protection from harsh winter weather.

"Move your containers indoors to an un-heated garage or storage shed where temperatures won't dip below 30 degrees," Ryen said. "Here at Cottage Gardens our container grown perennials and shrubs spend the winter in greenhouses."

You can purchase specialized containers with rollers attached that make them easier to move. Ryen says you can also add more potting soil to help insulate roots.     

Cottage Gardens is located at 4945 East State Street in Hermitage. The telephone number is 724-981-2911. (While you're there, notice the wisteria that's practically climbed to the top of a very tall communications tower located behind the store.)

T.C. Conner is a columnist for Allied News. He can be reached at Check out his blog at www.thewritegardener. His new book, "Through the Seasons with The Write Gardener," is available for sale at Allied News. Published Oct. 12, 2011 in Allied News. Pick up a copy at 201-A Erie St., Grove City.


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