Lecture 1: Container Gardening

Lecture 1:

Container gardening is more popular than ever. According to a recent study, the average household today has 4.2 garden planters. And why not?

Ideal for urban or rural lifestyles, container gardening offers more mobility and flexibility than traditional gardening. It can provide year-round satisfaction as well as the opportunity to bring your garden inside.

Once relegated as only an alternative for apartment dwellers and people with small yards, container gardening is today enjoyed by people of all ages, lifestyles and gardening abilities even those with gardens.

Advantages of Container Gardening:

Add color, fragrance and style to balconies, decks, patios, entrance way or home landscape
Hide eyesores around your home with planted pots and hanging baskets
Garden planters can be moved or replanted when displays fade or plants outgrow space
Less chance of pest damage
You can take your container garden with you when you move
Plants not suited to your yard soil conditions can be grown in containers and planter boxes

Garden planters, outdoor flower pots and window boxes come in a large variety of materials, styles and sizes:
wood
ceramic
terracotta
fiberglass or resin
clay
concrete
and metal
The characteristics of each type will make some better-suited than others. We will discuss this shortly.

Mobility : Plants in pots are easy to move. Brighten a dark corner with pots of white, pink, or yellow flowering shade lovers such as impatiens and Helichrysum. Some plants with a short blooming period, such as lilies or foxglove, look magnificent in containers and grow well in those temporary quarters. Transplant them to the garden when they're finished blooming. As the seasons change, you can easily repot and replant containers to freshen your garden displays. Of course, if you are about to move to a new home—your container garden can come right along with you.

Focus : Potted plants and garden planters create interest. Grouped in strategic places, they break the monotony of a terrace or a patio and create an ambient scene. Build a simple theme garden around a color, texture or an idea. A collection of yellow and blue bloomers, such as pansies, Calendula, and heliotrope, makes a cheerful display. Pots of Sedum and Sempervivum bring a desert theme to your patio, balcony or garden.

Pizzazz : Nestle garden planters of bright annuals among duller plants in the garden for added color. As plants mature and flower, you can re-postion them to show-off blooms. To keep plants looking good water when soil dries; pinch off spent blooms and fertilize weekly.

Flexibility : Rearrange plantings to suit the season, your mood or blossoms as they mature and change color. Enjoy planters full of violets and narcissus in spring; petunias and dusty-miller in summer; and Coleus and Kale in fall. Create new planters to dress up your patio or deck for a party or special event. Container gardening doesn't need to stop in the winter—plant winter-hardy heathers for colorful displays in cold weather.

Contain Invaders : Contain rampant growers that are too invasive to let loose in the garden—bamboo and mints are great examples of plants that do well in containers, but will take over an in-ground garden. Plant these and other vigorous growers in garden planters, then plant the pot in the ground with the lip of the pot even with the soil surface.

Ambience : Garden planters set the stage in outdoor rooms and may even steal the show. Group sun-loving plants around a large houseplant that's summering outdoors. A jumble of various pots stacked on stands and clustered loosely lends a pleasantly casual look. Containers aligned with precision and planted with trim specimens, such as rosemary standards or ivy topiaries, create instant formality. A trio of large pots makes a garden appear more settled; they suggest the accumulation of years' of growth.

Scope : Plants that require a longer growing season than you have in your region can be started indoors to bloom outside in summer. Many frost-sensitive plants make wonderful houseplants in winter and can spend the summer on your patio or deck.

  1. Tools (20)
    Machete, trowels, pruners, scissors (to cut screen), watering can or hose (unless you use drip), measuring spoons,
  2. Different materials from which containers can be made – advantages and disadvantages (20)

Choose the Right Garden Planters for Container Gardening

Use garden planters with capacities between fifteen and 120 quarts, remembering that small pots restrict the root area and dry out very quickly. Deep rooted vegetables and larger plants require deeper pots to sustain growth.
Make sure your planter has adequate drainage. Holes should be one-half inch in diameter. Containers set on bricks or blocks will also drain better.
Most important in choosing the right garden planters is consideration of the material. If you choose clay pots, remember that clay is porous, which means water can be lost through the sides. Plants in clay pots should be monitored closely for moisture loss. Additionally, clay pots are more likely to crack in extreme temperatures and are heavy to maneuver should you change your mind regarding location or need to bring the planter indoors during the winter months.

Wooden planters are attractive and blend nicely with most outdoor environments but are susceptible to rot. Redwood and cedar are relatively rot-resistant, but remember to avoid wood treated with creosote, penta, or other toxic compounds with vapors that can damage plants.

Cheap plastic pots may deteriorate in UV sunlight, and terra cotta pots have a tendency to dry out quickly. Glazed ceramic pots are extremely popular, but they are fragile and prone to cracking if not handled delicately.

A newer alternative on the market that eliminates many of these concerns are lightweight polyurethane, fiberglass and resins. These garden planters are easier to lift and maneuver because they are much lighter than clay and wood pots. Lightweight planters are more durable than ceramic or clay, too, and able to withstand year-round extreme temperatures and exposure to sunlight without cracking or fading. Innovative technology allows the foam to closely resemble the looks of many natural materials, such as ceramic, wood, and rattan. That means you can get the same great finishes, colors, and designs as heavier planters but at a significantly lower cost.

COLOR
men have five, women are at a distinct advantage in this area...

Don't need me to reinvent the color wheel... BUT...

Yellow ~


Yellow and blue create an exciting combination that makes you think of spring and new beginnings.

Yellow and purple can combine to create two different effects. If a bright yellow is used with a deep purple, the effect will be dramatic. If you choose a pale yellow with a lavender color,you will create a classic, subdued, somewhat romantic look in the garden.

Red and yellow together create a bold, attention-grabbing color mix.

Pink ~


Pink and orange - a beautiful combination to enhance terracotta planters.

Pink and blue combinations are one of the easiest color schemes to work with because of the abundance of flowers to select from. This romantic color grouping creates a garden flower pot that is very easy on the eye.

Purple ~


Blue and purple are cool colors that look wonderful in shade or partial shade. To make this color combination pop, use in front of a light background.

Orange and purple produce an energetic contrast that may clash. If you want to be bold and different, this combination may work for you in flower pots on your patio or deck. Add burgundy for a rich, vibrant look, or lilac to soften the contrast.

White ~


White and green lend a feeling of lightness and a restful look to your garden flower pots. These colors are also very effective when placed into a grouping of boldly-colored plants. They will prevent the strong colors from overpowering the your container garden.

White and blue is another easy-to-create combination. There is a wide variety of plants to choose from that will make your garden light and cheerful.

When working with color combinations in your flower pots, don't forget green. Green is restful to the eyes and does not compete for attention or dominate in the garden. Green creates a void that allows our eyes to travel from one part of the garden to the other.

Don't forget that foliage has color. Color comes not only from flowers ~ but also the plant foliage and the color of your garden planters.

Brighten a shady area: use light-colored plants. Try these flower colors in
light pink
light yellow
lavender
pale blue
white flowers

Surround dark plants in the shade with lighter-colored plants so they don't disappear into the background.


Bring new life to your container garden display by exploring different color combinations in your flower pots. You will be surprised at the very different effects you can create.

Yellow ~


Yellow and blue create an exciting combination that makes you think of spring and new beginnings.

Yellow and purple can combine to create two different effects. If a bright yellow is used with a deep purple, the effect will be dramatic. If you choose a pale yellow with a lavender color, you will create a classic, subdued, somewhat romantic look in the garden.

Red and yellow together create a bold, attention-grabbing color mix.

Pink ~


Pink and orange create a southwestern look in your container garden - a beautiful combination to enhance terracotta planters.

Pink and blue combinations are one of the easiest color schemes to work with because of the abundance of flowers to select from. This romantic color grouping creates a garden flower pot that is very easy on the eye.

Purple ~


Blue and purple are cool colors that look wonderful in shade or partial shade. To make this color combination pop, use in front of a light background.

Orange and purple produce an energetic contrast that may clash. If you want to be bold and different, this combination may work for you in flower pots on your patio or deck. Add burgundy for a rich, vibrant look, or lilac to soften the contrast.

White ~


White and green lend a feeling of lightness and a restful look to your garden flower pots. These colors are also very effective when placed into a grouping of boldly-colored plants. They will prevent the strong colors from overpowering the your container garden.

White and blue is another easy-to-create combination. There is a wide variety of plants to choose from that will make your garden light and cheerful.

When working with color combinations in your flower pots, don't forget green. Green is restful to the eyes and does not compete for attention or dominate in the garden. Green creates a void that allows our eyes to travel from one part of the garden to the other.

One of the first decisions you need to make when planning your container garden, is what colors you want to display in your outdoor planters. Color comes not only from flowers ~ but also the plant foliage and the color of your garden planters.

Consider the amount of sunlight on your garden in the morning, at mid-day and early evening.

You will also want to consider the growing conditions of the location of your planters, as well as the surrounding features such as walls, deck railings, furniture and other plantings.

Shaded areas can appear brighter by using light-colored plants. Try these flower colors in garden planters in the shade:
light pink
light yellow
lavender
pale blue
white flowers

Surround dark plants in the shade with lighter-colored plants so they don't disappear into the background.

Garden planters in the full sun can handle brightly colored flowers.Pastels will appear faded and washed out in bright sunlight. Try these bold colors in a sunny garden:
reds
oranges
bright yellows
deep blues
purples

To create a unified look throughout your container garden, try to stick to two or three colors.

Consider not only the flower color, but also the color of the plant foliage and even the planter.

Color preferences are purely personal and unique ~ express yourself with the colors you choose for your garden.

Explore the color wheel


Monocromatic

A monochromatic color scheme is composed of plants of the same color. You may have an all-white garden or a garden that is "in the pink." Create extra interest in a monochromatic garden by using a mix of tones or shades of the same color in addition to various textures, shapes and sizes.

Warm colors include red, orange and yellow. They tend to make flowers appear closer than they really are. Cool colors such as blue, violet, silver and white lend a calming effect and make plants appear farther away in the garden.

Remember to consider foliage color in any of these container garden color schemes.


WHITE IS A SPECIAL COLOR IN THE GARDEN

White flowers are in a class by themselves. They blend well with most colors and can provide a transition between colors that do not normally work well together. White flowers can create a beautiful display in garden planters in the evening when combined with well-placed, soft lighting. Moon gardens....

Purple Flowers for Garden Planters

Purple is an ideal color for accent plants in groupings of garden planters planted with other colors such as pinks, reds, yellows and oranges. You'll find an excellent selection of purple flowering annuals, perennials and herbs for most growing conditions.

Many herbs have purple flowers

Borage is a full sun to partial shade plant that will produce purple and lavender flowers for your planters. This plant also produces a variety of other colored flowers as well. If you live in zones six through ten this plant is a great outdoor plant for your garden. Borage blooms throughout the cooler months...

Hyssop is a plant for full sun that grows well in planters in grow zones six through nine, although experienced gardeners will have success in other areas. This is a violet, violet- blue colored flower that adds color to your garden.

(ALL) Mints are a common herb that produce flowers, pink or purple. Mint is easily grown in zones five through nine and is found blooming from early July through the end of August. Mint can be grown in full sun or in partial shade, only requiring a few hours of sun a day for a healthy plant. Planted in the garden, mint can become invasive, so it is an ideal plant to keep under control in beautiful terracotta planters.

Sage is another purple-flowered herb that blooms in the early spring months as the weather starts to warm. Sage is easily grown outdoors in zones four through eight and in other areas where gardeners bring in their plants during the very high and low temperature swings. This is a full sun plant that does well in all types of planters, including window planters, in the garden or on a balcony in the full sun.




Try these bold colors in a sunny garden:
reds
oranges
bright yellows
deep blues
purples

To create a unified look throughout your container garden, try to stick to two or three colors. Consider not only the flower color, but also the color of the plant foliage and even the planter. Color preferences are purely personal and unique ~ express yourself with the colors you choose for your garden.

Qualities to look for in containers:

  1. Will hold enough soil and water
  2. Will last long enough
  3. Has adequate drainage
  4. Will insulate from the heat of the sun
  5. Blends with the existing theme  
david

Syllabus: Container Gardening: Patios, Balconies, and Beyond

COURSE SYLLABUS

Instructor: David King
Email: ** redacted **
Phone: ** redacted **

COURSE TITLE AND NUMBER: Container Gardening: Patios, Balconies, and Beyond BIOLGY X 498.3 Reg # 257610

There are no prerequisites for this course. We will meet from July 28th through August 25st for 6 meetings. PLEASE NOTE THAT THE FINAL MEETING IS ON August 25th: credit students will have an assignment due. All class meetings, except for the one field trip I have been able to schedule at the last minute, (noted below) take place at The Learning Garden, located on the campus of Venice High School at the intersection of Venice Blvd and Walgrove Ave. You enter the garden on Walgrove, the first gate on south of Venice Blvd. Parking is on the street. Please keep the gate closed so our livestock doesn't escape and terrorize the neighborhood.

Please remember this close to the ocean, we often have very cool evenings even on very hot days. Please keep a sweater or a jacket handy. We, perhaps foolishly, do not expect rain.

Course Purpose

At the conclusion of this course, students will be confident in planting a multiplicity of containers with a wide variety of plants that will thrive in our unique climate. Students will be introduced to design principles applicable to container gardeners and will learn their care and maintenance.

Course Objectives

Students will be able to meet the following objectives by knowing:
Types of pots used in container gardens
Qualities of those containers to choose the correct containers for individual gardens and situations
The qualities of the components of potting soil and how to choose a good one
Color combinations and other basic design principles
Care of plants in containers over their life span
Appreciation of light and water in container gardens
Students should also be able to report that they’ve been inspired to find their own individuality in container garden design and to experiment with colors, plants or containers that had been off their personal radar before this class. Students are expected to share their experiences and knowledge with the class which guarantees an enhanced learning experience for all of us.

Application

This course is designed to be applicable for home gardeners whether they are in a house, a condo or a town home; as well as professionals that wish to incorporate container gardening as a part of their business’ offerings. Students should also find time to do some networking with fellow students.

Text for this course:

Sunset Western Garden Guide 8th Edition, Brenzel, Kathleen Norris, Editor, ©2007, Sunset Publishing There will be no specific assigned reading from this book, but it is the “bible” for gardeners in Southern California.

In addition, the following texts are suggested for your reference shelf:
The City Gardener’s Handbook, Yang, Linda, ©2002, Storey Books, Published first as The City Gardener’s Handbook and then as The City and Town Gardener and now back again under the original title and now I see it back as The City and Town Gardener – whichever title you get, it is the same book.

Potted Gardens, Cole, Rebecca, ©1997, Clarkson Potter/Publishers

The one field trip is on Saturday, as indicated below.
Date
Mtg
TOPIC
07-28
1
Lecture: Introduction – roll, Extension policy, meeting time and place, attendance and tardiness, office hours, expectations, objectives. Tools; types of containers; light; why containers, nuts and bolts of containers...
08-04
2
Lecture: types of soil; considerations of soil type and pot type relative to plant type, color and design; three demonstration containers
08-11
3
Lecture: planting containers – practical work/bring your own container and plants to plant!
08-18
4
Lecture: California Natives in Pots; demonstration
08-22
5
1:30 to 4:30 PM Field Trip Pottery Manufacturing and Distributing, 18881 S. Hoover Street, Gardena, CA 90248 Phone: 310.323.7772
08-25
6
Container maintenance, renovation, pests and problems, year round interest; Credit project is due
Credit Students: Your grade will be predicated on class participation and a design project assigned at the first class meeting.

Office Hours

I have no set office hours, however, I am available by phone (the number above is my cell phone) and by email. I am willing to meet with students almost any day of the week at my office at The Learning Garden or a mutually convenient coffee bar. It is my most sincere desire that you learn and you will find me very approachable. After class is usually not a very good time because that’s when all students vie for answers and we are all tired after a long day. You can net a more thoughtful answer by contacting me another time.

Updates and Handouts

For this course I will utilize my personal blog page at http://lagardennotes.blogspot.com/to post handouts and extra material for the class. There is an RSS feed through which each posting is automatically forwarded to your email so you can have access to handouts whenever they are posted. This approach is most handy when dealing with field trips because links to maps can be posted and any last minute updates are easily available. If this technology is new to you, another classmate or I will guide you through it. It is not difficult. If you miss a class or need an update, can't find your syllabus or whatever, you can find it here. You will need to, of course, bookmark it before you loose your syllabus...

Project Guidelines For Credit Students
Design a container garden with a minimum of five containers, any size (although five two inch pots won’t necessarily net a decent grade). Themed design.

Specify:
The purpose of the garden
Placement according to light
Other buildings or features that obfuscate or enhance light
Type of building; building color; building style
Interior style
Any particular facets of the owners’ personality that impact your design
How the owner will use the space
Plants used in each pot, by scientific name at least, indicate their water needs
What the pots are constructed of and their size (i.e. terra cotta) and design
How will they be watered?

Summary
I am looking for an understanding of what plants do well together (color, foliage, water requirements) and plantings that will enhance the building, style and owners’ lifestyle. I am also looking for appropriate design (i.e. no Phormium tenax in a narrow hallway). I have left this pretty open in hopes of accommodating a wide variety of interests and desires. If this is too open for you, I’ll be happy to fill in details that will narrow your focus.

I will endeavor to have tea or coffee available in the evening as there is no 'snack stand' near the garden. If you want to partake, bring your own cup and if you use sugar or cream, bring that as well. Occasionally there will be baked goods, but no guarantees.

Syllabus may be changed to reflect changes in reality. Although we do try not to.

Bibliography for Container Gardening


    Container Gardening, Elving, Phyllis, Editor, ©1998, Sunset Publishing, A small book with some good ideas and at least it’s a look at the West Coast.

Potted Gardens, Cole, Rebecca, ©1997 Random House – I love her attitude about gardening and how she approaches the whole thing with a strong sense of whimsy and joy. Her gardening philosophy fits very well with my own. She writes a lot like I do.

Roof Gardens, Balconies and Terraces, Stevens, David ©1997, Rizzoli International Publications, Another ‘east coast’ book, but again the ideas and creativity are worth consideration as a starting point.

    The City Gardener’s Handbook, Yang, Linda, ©1995 Storey Publishing, Although written for the east coast, this book’s ideas and principals are so clear and valuable, it stands out as one of my favorite references.

The Complete Container, Joyce, David, ©1996 Reader’s Digest Again, another focus on the east coast, but the ideas and plant lists in this book are better than most. It has pretty definitive instructions and is full of good clean photos. A good book to have – especially if you only buy one.

The Terracotta Gardener, Keeling, Jim, ©1990, Trafalgar Square Publishing, Not really a design book, but a historical perspective of terracotta used in English gardens and some background information on terracotta.
    The New Sunset Western Garden Book, Editors of Sunset Magazine, ©2012, Sunset Publishing All of the recent editions have their merit, but each successive edition has more plants and updates the scientific undergirding of gardening, so I encourage you to invest in the most recent edition you can afford (used copies are usually easy to find, either locally or at Amazon.com). This is the number one go-to book for horticulture in Southern California; no other book is as authoritative as this one for our area. We cannot take advice from most gardening books and apply it to what we do in Los Angeles because our climate and soils are nothing like the rest of the world – especially those on the east coast and England where most books about gardening originate.




Container Gardening!

From the whimsical to the formal, we'll
cover different styles and different planting pallets.  
Starting this coming Tuesday (July 28th), I'll be teaching a container gardening class at The Learning Garden for UCLA Extension.  It's only a six meeting class, 6:30 to 9:30 at the garden (on the campus of Venice High School) and is a great introduction to the art and science of container gardening. We cover all the different materials containers can be made of, go over plant choices for many different kinds of gardening and designs for different lifestyles and decor.  

Whether you want to make the entrance to your home or your balcony a new "happy spot" in your life, or you want to feel more confident in your choices for other people, this is a great starting (or restarting) spot for you.  

If you have tried containers and failed, your questions will be answered.   We cover soils and the science of soils in containers - what to do and what to not do with soil, drainage, attaching to drip systems and all those other noodgy technologies to integrate into a whole for a great container garden.  

As usual, the same up beat, engaging instructor at your service.  Guaranteed to keep you off the streets 6;30 to 9:30 PM Tuesdays for a couple of weeks.  

  
david

The Three Minute Shower

I started teaching a class called Greener Gardens for UCLA Extension's Gardening and Horticulture Certificate program over five years ago.  The gist of it has been to have gardens that were less extractive on the ecosystem (a perfect example of this was from an essay written by Own Dell) by choosing plants and practices that use fewer resources.  

A big part of the course is conservation of water - hopefully in a way that does not include creating heat sinks and gravel lawns, ala Turf Busters.  Most of that work is just plain awful, without any kind of design. They seem to be in the business of creating barren front yards that pull in and hold heat which will result in homeowners running their air conditioners more.  Actions like this are poorly thought-out and merely provide cover for those unwilling to actually learn about our environment and the quality of life we lead.  IF that quality of life is to be maintained, we will have to give it a lot more thought and accept compromises that actually work.

When there were only  a few million folks in the Golden State, it was much easier to wiggle by without paying attention.  Now that we are considerably more than the population in the 1930's, logistics demands that we all take notice of the amount of water supplied and how we will allocate it.  

The whole water issue is poorly handled at the state, county and city level.  We also are cursed with those communities that think just throwing money at the problem will make the problem go away. But, while we wait for government to do something intelligent like ban fracking and force Nestle to stop its destruction of our water resources (write your state assemblyperson and your state senator; boycott all things Nestle - and there are a lot of products and product lines owned by Nestle), we all need to do what we can.

These actions, even if small, engender a sense of connectedness and responsibility in those that do them towards our water and it's use.  When we first stated Greener Gardens course, I urged everyone to aim for five minute showers. As the drought has worsened and gone into its fourth year, we now speak of three minute showers.

If you decide to reduce your water footprint with your showers, start with a bucket in the shower to catch the water while it warms.  I removed my round water control handles in favor of handles that are shaped more like an exclamation point.  If I turn the hot water handle to the 'noon' position and the cold to a 5 o'clock position, in a few seconds I will have pretty close to a good showering temperature for me.  As I wait those few seconds, most of the water is caught in the bucket and will be used on my container plants.  

Because not all water is caught in my bucket, I start the timer right after I start the water.  


It is important to use shower heads
that save water too.

With the water with the handles in the right place, I hit the timer button and in a few seconds, I jump in.  Under the water, I shampoo my hair first, leaving the shampoo in, while I soap up my body, scrubbing my face last before I rinse.  Water off, reach out of the shower to the timer: two minutes and ten seconds! I admit, because I knew I was being timed, I worked a little more quickly than I would have normally - on the other hand, when I became aware of that behavior, I consciously slowed myself to make this measurement more valid. 

I don't believe that everyone can shower under three minutes.  Still it's a good goal and we should all work towards it.  If we make water-saving part and parcel in our lives, when we approach government officials and bureaucrats of the water companies, we will do so from the place of someone already participating in the solution.

david