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Perennials In Containers
When planting containers, there are no rules, unlike hanging baskets; they don’t have to be symmetrical so you can use different heights and forms in one container. I don’t just settle for using annuals either. Annuals give you an amazing colour palette to work with but who wants to wait until the middle of May to enjoy them or put my tubs away as soon as the first frost of the fall arrives? You can extend both sides of the season by using perennials and ornamental grasses along with annuals in your patio pots.
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Perennials and ornamental grasses offer different textures, foliage, colours, and the flowers are a bonus. Once the season really is over, I plant them into the garden where they will stay or be used again next year in another container. I also use vegetables, herbs and summer bulbs such as Canna lily in patio tubs as they add height, colourful foliage and fragrance.
Here is a list of some favourite planting combinations for easy, low maintenance, long lasting containers.
Phalaris arundinacea var. picata Dwarf Ribbon Grass Ht. 60-90cm. Sp. Invasive. Zone 2
This is a very vigorous spreader so a container is just where it belongs. This light green and white variegated grass looks beautiful partnered up with tulips. This is an early season grass, so you will be able to enjoy it very early in the season. Ribbon Grass looks very impressive in a fancy clay pot or teamed up with other pots containing ornamental grasses.
Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Burgundy Giant’ Burgundy Giant Fountain Grass Ht. 90cm Zone 9
This warm season grass is absolutely stunning all by itself! The wide arching leaves are deep beet red with rosy-purple flower plumes that appear the end of August and last until October. This plant requires heat to get going – if possible, I suggest growing it un the greenhouse until the end of June. It is well worth the wait! You must treat this as an annual or over-winter it inside.
Festuca glauca ‘Elijah Blue’ Elijah Blue Fescue Ht. 30-60cm. Sp. 60cm. Zone 3
This fine textured silver blue grass retains its colour all season long. This is an excellent ornamental plant for the garden or containers. It is clump forming so it won’t get away on you. For a silver blue combination, team this up with the larger blue grass Poa ampla ‘Service’ (Big Blue Grass), and Stachys byzantina (Lamb’s Ear) for its soft wooly grey leaves. Once the weather warms up, add some hot pink petunias and trailing pink verbena to give the pot some colour.
Athyruim filix-femina Lady Fern Ht. 30-60cm. Sp. 60cm. Zone 3
This is a very easy fern to grow in any shady corner. For an elegant green and white combination, pair this with any variegated white/green Hosta, let Hedera helix (ivy) or Vinca minor (Periwinkle) trail over the side and add white impatiens later on. Put a golden spin on this combo by using a golden hosta such as Golden Tiara, Japanese Golden Grass, the new Vinca minor ‘Illumination’ & yellow Delta pansies for fragrance.
Sedum x ‘Autumn Joy’ Ht. 45-60cm. Sp. Zone 2
In the centre, of a group of annual Slavia ‘Mini Victoria’ - these violet blue spikes never stop blooming. The intensity of blue makes all the other colours stand out. Alternating around the salvia: Sedum Autumn Joy with its ever-changing broccoli shaped flowers and Rudbeckia Becky Mix. For contrast I add a few Dusty Miller. These will take the frost and still look good in the fall, complementing the sedum. To soften the edge, I use the annuals white alyssum for fragrance and trailing Sapphire Lobelia