Picking a primary color for a container garden helps created a unified look. Here the sun impatient of the left adds brightness. The Begonia in the center and Sweet Allysum to the right continue the pink-purple theme.

Story and photos by JOYANNA LOVE

The aged iron gate brings a sense of anticipation for what lays beyond.

An English cottage garden lines either side of the path leading to Rachel Giles’ home.

The flowers and beauty continue onto the porch through flower pots and container plants.

Giles said the architecture of her house inspired her garden, and container gardening has given her the opportunity to experiment with plants, different types of containers and continue her theme beyond the traditional garden.

“It’s fun to experiment,” Giles said.

She has used antique pottery, teacups and teapots as containers for growing plants.

“Just use your imagination,” Giles said.

She said even a boot could be used as a planter for those going for a rustic look.

Giles said container gardening “brings warmth and greenery to where you are.”

“It doesn’t have to be expensive. It doesn’t have to be exotic,” Giles said.

A simple formula for those just starting out to get a beautiful statement container garden is the thrill, fill, spill principal.

The thrill is a plant that “is a statement,” Giles said.

“It’s something that says here I am,” Giles said.

Giles particularly likes plants that add “structure and interest and height” for her thrill element.

The spill element is a plant that will grow beyond the edges and down the sides of the container.

“Then, you want something that fills in the gap in between,” Giles said. “It makes it look more full.”

Before creating a container garden, one should choose the style or look that they are going for.

“You can’t go wrong, ” Giles said.  “If you stick to those things, it is very easy to create a wonderful outdoor space.”

Giles said it is also important to be selective in the number of plants used in containers that are going to be placed near each other.

“It is better to use the same five plants over and over again than to use 25 plants that don’t go together,” Giles said.

Picking a color to serve as the theme before purchasing plants is also important. Giles chose pink and purple as her primary colors for her plants on her front porch this year.

“That makes it movable, interchangeable and coherent,” Giles said. “Make it fit your home and the space you want it to be.”

Choosing colors also helps narrow the options when deciding which plants to buy at the store.

She said each plant should look like it belongs together.

“If you wouldn’t wear it together in an outfit, why would you put it together in your garden,” Giles said “That is the best advice I have for buying plants.”

Her garden continues around the side of the house to the backyard, where large planters set on the edge of the main garden, and container plants continue the theme into the outdoor sitting area.

“I think all of us want a beautiful garden,” Giles said “I’ve never known anybody who didn’t love a beautiful garden.”

Once Giles has selected a container for a plant, she fills the bottom with rocks. For a large planter, she puts the rocks about an inch deep. Broken pottery could also be used.

“That allows the bottom of the pot to drain better,” Giles said. “It doesn’t get too soggy,”

The rocks also keep dirt from clogging the hole and causing the roots to rot.

A high-quality potting soil is also important to the plants success.

Giles likes using a mixture of the original Miracle Grow and the Miracle Grow moisture control potting mix.

Giles said she uses the moisture control because the soil in pots dry out quicker than a traditional garden.

Watering is essential to container gardening. The plants should be watered enough to keep the soil moist.

Osmocote is her fertilizer of choice because it only requires one application per growing season.

Removing dead flowers from the plant keeps it growing longer

“If you pinch off dead flowers, not only will you continue to have good looking flowers, but it will flower longer,” Giles said.

Flowers and pretty plants are not the only things that grow well in containers. Herbs will also grow well.

“You don’t have to have an acre of land to have herbs … here we have,” Giles said.

She has multiple herbs growing in one container, including oregano, sage, thyme and lavender.

“It’s one of the most important things I have in my garden that I use daily,” Giles said.

The arrangement is not just useful, but visually appealing as well.

In another pot, she has dill and spearmint. Mint is best grown in a container because it can be invasive in a traditional garden, Giles said.

The small amount of space needed makes this a good option for anyone, even those living in an apartment.

Giles said using herbs actually helped the plants to grow better.

Herbs can be planted in a container garden any time of year.

Giles said herbs are “cold hardy,” meaning it can survive colder weather better than a flower can.

While the herbs were doing well in early spring, a fern she had in a hanging basket did not do as well.

Giles first became interested in gardening because her parents were gardeners. When she and her family moved into their house Giles thought an English cottage garden would fit the look and style of the house.

“It is just a passion,” Giles said. “It’s so good to be outside. It’s so rewarding.”

When in full bloom, her front, side and backyard gardens together with her container plants create a welcoming, colorful atmosphere for the outdoor space.