Spring preening

  • By Debra Smith / Herald Writer
  • Wednesday, April 26, 2006 9:00pm
  • Life

A spring container can be as simple as a terra cotta pot filled with a few summer bloomers.

But why stop there when so many interesting plants and containers are available, said Julie Davis, a Snohomish County master gardener who runs her own landscape and container design business.

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Julie Davis, a Snohomish County master gardener, runs her own landscap… [ view gallery ]

Containers of every shape, size and style are available at garden centers and nurseries. When it comes to plants, she’ll use dwarf trees, vines and even houseplants in designs along with favorites such as begonias and pansies.

Not only can these container designs last for years, they look sophisticated and elegant in the landscape.

Using plants from Emery’s Garden in Lynnwood, Davis designed three spring pots. These arrangements combine beautiful containers with interesting foliage combinations and subtle colors.

Planting the pot

Gather all the supplies you’ll need and plant the container where you plan to leave it.

Don’t put anything in the bottom of the pot such as shards of pottery or gravel. It’s not needed and can inhibit drainage by trapping water, Davis said.

Davis finds that once the soil settles, she has little problem with it coming out the bottom. If you’re concerned about soil crumbling out the drainage holes, try placing a piece of fine mesh window screen at the bottom of the pot. Fill the pot with at least the same depth of soil as the largest plant was potted in. If the soil feels dry, water it.

Use a good quality soil labeled “potting soil.” Never use soil from your garden, which can be too dense and doesn’t drain well in a container, she said. Garden soil also can harbor diseases.

Choose which part of the pot will be the front of the design. Although containers can be viewed from any angle, Davis finds it is easier to design a pot with a front in mind.

Start with the anchor plant, generally the tallest. The anchor plant will be the focal point of the design.

Slide it out of the container and tease out the roots. Place it in the pot and work outward, nestling the plants and adding soil as you go.

Plan to fill the pot to about 1 1/2 inches from the top of the container. The crown of the plants should be level with the soil.

Mix in a balanced fertilizer to the top 4 inches of soil. She recommended Osmocote, a slow-releasing fertilizer activated by warm soil temperatures.

Container care

Other than that first dose of well-balanced fertilizer mixed in the soil, containers don’t need any other fertilizer for the rest of the season, Davis said.

If you plan to pot a container with lots of showy blooms, you could use a liquid fertilizer every two weeks, but it’s not necessary.

Summer rainfall isn’t enough water for container plants and even a heavy rainfall might not penetrate heavy foliage. Check containers frequently to make sure the soil isn’t getting too dry. Water all the way around the pot, pushing aside foliage to make sure all the plants get water.


Julie Davis Design, LLC, landscape and container design, 425-743-9373.

2829 164th St. SW




21031 76th Ave. W



Choosing a container

Edmonds container designer Julie Davis gave some tips on selecting the right container.

Size: When it comes to choosing a pot, go big. A container 18 inches or larger will be easier to plant and make more of a visual impact. Avoid lots of little pots, which dry out faster and look busy.

Color: Cobalt blue is a popular color for pots right now, but Davis is drawn to reds, greens, browns, oranges and yellows. These colors tend to blend better with a wider variety of plants, she said. Plants with variegated foliage can look striking in the cobalt blue containers.

Pattern: Pots with patterned glazes can be interesting and fun but they also visually fight for attention with plants. If plants will be the focus of the arrangement, choose a plain pot.

Shape: Circular pots tend to be easier to design and pot than square, Davis said. Round pots generally cost less than geometric shapes because they are easier to manufacture.

Style: The container should fit with its surroundings. If you plan to buy a pair of pots to flank an entryway, for instance, they ought to fit with the home’s architecture. Davis’ Edmonds home is contemporary so she chooses pots with simple, clean lines. Someone with a 19th century Victorian might opt for a more classic style.

Adequate drainage: Make sure the container has drainage holes: several holes for a large pot and at least a dime-sized hole in smaller pots. Ask the nursery to drill a hole in the bottom; most will do it for free.

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