As a gardener, I have many character flaws. I'm impatient,indulgent,greedy and desperately want plants I can't afford. I haven't overcome any of these problems, but I've gotten more inventive about getting what I want.
It all started when I plopped a few bare root shrubs into containers. The results pleased me so much I kept on experimenting. Since then, I've discovered many practical uses for stashing plants in pots that go way beyond ornamental container gardening.
Let me count the ways:
1. Immediate gratification
My first experiment began with a Norway maple that was sucking the life out of everything underneath it. My husband and I took it down limb by limb, but it left us with a big hole and an unsightly stump.
I really wanted another tree, but there were two problems. Having the stump ground out and buying a big specimen wasn't in my budget. Instead, I found a big iron pot at a tag sale, planted a small dogwood and put my creation on top of the stump. The stump added a few feet to its height and I planted daylilies around the bottom of the container. Voila, instant tree. We christened it 'the temporary tree' but we liked it so much we kept it for several years.
2. I have no idea what to do this plant.
This happens to all of us. You buy something on a whim and can't find a home for it. Instead of casting about for a proper spot, stick it in a container for awhile.
Tuck it into the garden somewhere.
Move it around until it's happy. I didn't know how much sun this spirea would need to keep it's gold tones so I tried different locations before deciding on a permanent home.
3. I want this plant but shouldn't have it.
Maybe you're tempted to buy something that won't tolerate the conditions in your garden or it's too aggressive. If you can't resist, pot it up! Below, the golden hops is climbing happily (in a container) at the bottom of the dead tree that supports it. I love the foliage, but this sucker would eat up the whole garden if I put it in the ground.
4. Experiment without a big commitment.
Maybe you have some kind of garden fantasy in your head, but aren't sure if it will work. Here's your chance to play around with trees and shrubs as focal points.Try weeping shapes or anything else that strikes your fancy.
5. Rescue struggling plants.
Maybe you put something in the wrong place, or it isn't getting enough water. You aren't sure why the darn thing is going downhill and you don't know what to do. Dig it up and give it tender loving care in a container. After all, what do you have to lose? If the plant doesn't die it's bound to improve and you'll look like you know what you're doing.
6. Expand your plant palette and save money.
Sometimes it's hard to find new plant introductions, and they're often small. The plant you're lusting after may only be available in bare root size. Maybe the price of the mature tree or shrub you're hankering for exceeds your budget. You could buy a smaller plant online for much less money and enjoy it twice - in a container and later in your garden.
This gold foliaged Kolkwitzia started out in a 4" pot in this urn. When it got too big, I transplanted it into one of my shrub borders.
You can see the gold foliage peeking out on the right. Many of the 4 inch pots I've nurtured are now towering trees and shrubs that make up the backbone of my garden. So satisfying!
The same goes for perennials. I needed a boatload of lavender to fill the long window box in front of my house. I ordered it online in 4" pots and by the end of the summer they had grown to a one gallon size. I didn't really need all of the petunias I planted with them and they were plenty big enough to put into my beds later.
7. Do you really want this plant?
Find out if whatever you bought (or were given) merits a place in your garden. If you're experimenting with a new plant and you aren't familiar with it's growth habit, don't turn it loose in your beds right off the bat. Stash it safely in a container and get acquainted with it's strengths and weaknesses. Find out about any aggressive tendencies,sloppy habits or anything else that might render it unworthy.
Like it or not, gardening teaches you patience. Why not have not have a little more fun while you're trying to get better at it? Since I've developed my 'patience in a pot' method, I'm getting more virtuous every day!
I'll bet some of you have other ideas and I'd love your feedback.