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How to plant a container garden

How to plant a container garden

It’s time to bloom where you are planted and spread the smiles that come with a dose of spring flowers.

One way to do this is to observe the charming custom of the May Basket, which was widely popular in the 19th and 20th centuries. This tradition says that on May Day, which is May 1,  paper cones or baskets of flowers are hung on the doors of friends, neighbors, and loved ones.  The custom was to knock on the door, yell “May Basket!,” and then run. If the recipient caught the giver, he or she was entitled to a kiss.

Another way to mark May 1 and celebrate the happiness that flowers bring is to get outdoors and plant a container or two. We have all sorts of planters that make ideal additions to your porch or patio, including some new terra cotta designs in our Aurora Artisanal collection, which are handmade at our studios in Aurora, New York. Another pretty option is our Strawberry Pot, which features a hand-painted design inspired by our legacy pattern Rose Cottage that mixes lattice and florals. Six openings allow you to grow strawberries, of course, but try it for succulents, too.

Our estate manager, Corinne Bowman, who oversees our grounds and the planting of almost 5,000 annuals on our 65-acre estate in Aurora, offers some planting pointers:

  • Start with potting soil mix, which is lighter, has more nutrients, and will allow water to permeate better than the dirt you might find in your back yard.
  • Put the potting mix in a container that ideally has drainage holes. Drainage holes are especially important, Corinne says, if the planter is outdoors. If your planter doesn’t have drainage holes, you can add a little pebbly gravel to the bottom of the container before the potting mix.
  • If the container is large, you can save on the amount of potting soil by putting a plastic flowerpot upside down in the container first and then adding soil and plants. This will also make the container much lighter in weight.
  • Any kind of annual can be planted in a container but be mindful of how much sunlight the flowers require and where you place the container.
  • For extra interest, include a trailing plant to cascade out of the container and fill the gaps in the pot. Corinne suggests ivy, ‘Silver Falls’ dichondra, lobelia or sweet potato vine.
  • Don’t overwater. Unlike hanging baskets, which tend to dry out quickly because they’re more exposed to sunlight and air, containers usually don’t need daily watering. In fact, it’s better to underwater than overwater.
  • Finally, keep in mind that plants grow quickly. What might look a little sparse on May 1 will fill in quite nicely by the end of the month around Memorial Day. Try not to overcrowd the pot, so that it looks good all summer long.


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