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Containers allow year-round variety

Once we get into the summer months, it can be hard to plant and be successful with in-ground landscape beds. But I’ve found that putting together container plantings gives me a way to add variety to my garden and landscape, even when it’s really hot.

Once you start gardening in containers, you’ll find it’s never too late in the season to try something new. You may even join me in doing most of your gardening in containers all year.

But let’s just start with one container and see how it goes.

Since I’m the Southern Gardener, I get the opportunity to try plant varieties before they’re released to the general gardening public. This spring, Proven Winners sent me some outstanding plants that you need to look for next spring. I planted them all together in an interesting combination container.

Salvia Playin’ the Blues produces beautiful blue flowers all summer long. It’s interesting that the calyx remains blue after the flower falls off, making it look like flowers are lasting longer.

My affection for Supertunias is well known, and Supertunia Bordeaux doesn’t disappoint. The flowers are attractive, with their soft, plummy pink and deep, rich plum-purple veins. This selection spreads to about 30 inches by the end of the season.

The other Supertunia I put in this combo is Lovie Dovie, a great pink and white bicolor that spreads up to 24 inches in diameter. I’m impressed with Gaura Karalee Petite Pink. This selection produces loads of pink flowers all summer on wand-like stalks that quiver in the slightest breeze. They resemble small butterflies flitting above the dark-green to burgundy foliage.

This grouping provides everything needed for a nice combination container.

I’ve started planting into larger containers, and in this case, I’m using a 15-gallon nursery container. Larger containers give the root systems plenty of room to spread out, and they maintain a more consistent root zone moisture for optimum summer growth.

When you’re putting your containers together, never, ever fill them with native soil. I use commercially available potting mixes comprised of peat moss, bark and forest byproducts.

You must maintain an adequate level of fertilization for best flowering performance. I use a controlled-release fertilizer at planting. These formulations release their nutrients over a three- to nine-month time period. To feed your combination containers, I suggest using a three-month fertilizer variety, but you must supplement these every couple of weeks with liquid fertilizer as part of your normal watering.

Although the weather has heated up, it’s not too late to get your summer combination containers planted. The key is selecting plants that will tolerate our hot and mostly dry summer conditions.

So visit your local garden center this week and be creative.

Gary Bachman is a professor of horticulture at the Coastal Research and Extension Center in Biloxi.

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