Creative plantings of bright flowers, arranged in containers ranging from a hollowed-out log to an oversized plywood artist’s palette to an armature shaped like a butterfly, are now on view at the Overland Park Arboretum as part of its second annual Container Garden Exhibit. “These are not your grandmother’s container gardens!” boasts the printed brochure. Installed throughout the gardens, the exhibit features 17 containers created by local garden clubs and arboretum volunteers.
“Many people didn’t buy containers, they were creative with what they had,” said special events and education coordinator Katharine Garrison. There’s one called “Get the Buzz on Recycling,” which shows a bee presiding over plantings in recycled containers.
For people inspired to create their own container plantings, we asked the arboretum’s horticulturalist, Anne Wildeboor, to share some tips and recommendations.
What are some plants that will thrive in containers?
It depends on the light exposure. For sun, great choices include vinca, verbena and lantana — there are now some smaller varieties of lantana that are better suited to growing in pots. I also like euphorbia Diamond Frost.
And for shade?
Coleus and torenia, also known as the wishbone flower. New Guinea impatiens come with green or burgundy foliage and are not susceptible to (downy) mildew. I also like using ferns and rex begonias.
Do you have some favorites?
Marigolds are great for our area. They like it hot and dry and last into fall. It’s still hot here in September and October, and you can put marigolds in with mums in your fall containers. I like the wave petunias — Vista Bubblegum is a great Pepto pink. Vista Silverberry is a lighter pink with a darker eye. Both are great performers. If they get leggy, give them a haircut.
The calibrachoas, that look like little petunias, seem very popular.
They are better in containers than in the ground. They’re heavy feeders. The Lemon Slice variety, put out by Proven Winners, is really great. It looks like a little pinwheel.
What foliage plants do you like to mix in with the flowering ones?
I like using basil, especially the Purple Ruffles variety, and miniature boxwood. You can also include parsley, thyme and rosemary, and then you have a great dual purpose container. Proven Winners has come out with a new sweet potato vine, Sweet Caroline, that stays compact. For bigger containers, I like ornamental grasses. They do well through fall, and you can add pansies and snapdragons. Do you have a few design tips?
Sometimes I go with a color theme, and pick a plant, like the rex begonia, to be the star of the show. Then I think about how can I highlight this to make it look amazing. Texture is really big. You want your container to have some movement. You want something to draw your eye, and for people to say “look at that!” Do container plantings require any special care?
It’s really important with container annuals to put a slow-release fertilizer in the soil. Osmocote is one. Miracle Gro makes one, too. It’s easy, because every time you water, some of the fertilizer is released. You can also go back in with a liquid fertilizer halfway through the season. I deadhead too. I don’t want them to set seed, I keep pushing bloom.
Tell me about some of the container displays you received this year.
There’s one called “Creme de la Creme.” It includes old milk canisters and cream separators found at an antiques shop. It’s planted with calibrachoa, geraniums, spikes and petunia. The hollowed-out log planter has succulents, pencil cactus and other plants and includes miniature Anasazi cliff dwellings made of mortar. One group used an old kitchen fire pit, a kind of cast iron drum; another used two pallets to make a waterfall. The sky is the limit.
The Container Garden Exhibit at the Overland Park Arboretum & Botanical Gardens, 8909 W. 179th St. runs through May 19. Hours are 8 a.m.-7:30 p.m. every day. Admission to the arboretum is $3; $1 for ages 6-12; free for children 5 and under and members of Friends of the Arboretum. Admission is free to all on Tuesdays. There is no additional charge for the container garden exhibit. For more information, call 913-685-3604 or go to OPKansas.org/