It’s never too early to start dreaming about new spring planting projects, especially when a gem of a new book unexpectedly lands in your mailbox. Such was the case when Jessica Walliser’s “Container Gardening Complete” (Cool Springs Press, 2017) showed up last week. It is one of the best books on the subject I have seen.
Interest in container gardening has been growing rapidly as people move into smaller spaces or just want to liven up a deck or patio. Container gardening has also gone far beyond just planting pretty flowers to veritable smorgasbords of edible vegetables, berries and even fruit trees planted in pots.
In the opening chapter of the book, Getting Started, Walliser goes into solid detail about the three pillars of successful container gardening: picking the right container, the right potting soil mix and the right location for your container. She emphasizes that while there are lots of pretty containers on the market, picking the right size with the proper drainage first will go a long way to creating a successful planting.
Containers don’t always have to be round, glazed pots either. They can be rain gutters mounted on a fence or a toaster filled with water thrifty succulents (check out the picture on page 17). One section discusses the minimum soil volumes needed for different types of plants while another goes into detail about the different types of materials pots can be made of. This is the first time I have seen a discussion of this type in relation to container planting anywhere.
After setting you up for success, the book continues with a 60-page chapter on designing your plantings. Walliser discusses five planting styles using annuals, perennials, edibles and small trees in terms that even a budding gardener can easily understand. She then goes into detailed information on selecting plants for your containers. The lists of suggested plants include annuals, perennials, bulbs and tubers, tropical plants, small trees and shrubs, herbs, vegetables and backyard fruits. The plant lists even have a column that indicates the design use for the plants.
I’m happy to say that all the plants in the perennials list will grow here in the Inland Northwest and the bulb and tuber and herb lists indicate winter hardiness. This is one of the few nationally focused books I’ve encountered that gardeners here don’t have translate to our conditions.
The book goes on to discuss – in detail of course – caring for containers, troubleshooting growing and bug and disease problems, harvesting and seasonal management and a bonus chapter on container concepts that will get you thinking outside the box – pun intended.
Throughout the book Walliser includes many DIY projects you can easily build with common and uncommon materials or objects. Want a cedar planting box? That plan starts on page 33. How about a hypertufa planter? Try page 39. The plan for a DIY irrigation system is on page 132.
Enjoy this book. It will truly fire up your imagination.