Container Gardening Ideas: Themed Herb Pots

Discover fun gardening ideas for container herbs in pots themed by use, color, texture or scent.

| June/July 2001

  • a grouping of combination containers includes a few examples of a perfectly simple duo: curly parsley and bright pansies.
  • an arrangement in the top of a birdbath features dwarf versions of culinary favorites such as dwarf sage and silver thyme, along with ‘Renzels Irene’ rosemary.
  • the purple of viola blooms is echoed by ‘African Blue’ basil leaves and ‘Godwin Creek’ lavender in bloom
  • an arrangement in the top of a birdbath features dwarf versions of culinary favorites such as dwarf sage and silver thyme, along with ‘Renzels Irene’ rosemary.
  • A fairy garden combination features ‘Pink Ripple’ thyme, Costa Rican mint, ‘Lady’ lavender and Roman chamomile, arranged along a miniature fence and gate.

When is herb gardening like painting? When it’s in the hands of someone who combines an artistic eye with sound knowledge of the plants’ requirements. Approached artfully, herb gardening in containers can go way beyond the usual strawberry pot with a different species planted in each pocket. Combination containers can bring herbs together in a way that highlights each herb’s color, texture, flower, and growth habit. They’re a perfect way to experiment with the elements of garden design on a small scale and for a relatively small investment.

They’re also one of the hottest-selling items for spring and summer at Rabbit Shadow Farms, a greenhouse in Loveland, Colorado. Well-known for years for its topiaries, Rabbit Shadow began selling containers with herb combinations four years ago, and over the last two years has seen an increased interest in them. Head gardener Kristie Janes designs the containers to delight the eye first, though many of them are also planted around various themes—herbs for Italian cooking, for example, or herbs that flower in white and yellow.

At the entrance to the garden center’s greenhouse, container herbs and topiaries cluster around a pond, fountain, and wrought-iron garden bench, inviting visitors to sit and admire them. Bright pansies peek from pots of dark green curly parsley; the tiny, pale blue blooms of rosemary draw the eye into a backdrop of basil and oregano.

Rabbit Shadow co-owner Jeff Sorenson has seen interest in container gardening steadily increase. At the Denver Botanic Gardens’ spring sale this March, orders for Rabbit Shadow’s combined containers quintupled. The majority of people who come to the sale are knowledgeable gardeners, he says. They use the containers and plant arrangements that they buy as patterns for others they plant themselves.

Popularity aside, Janes says she finds the containers so much fun to design that they’re addictive. “They are an artistic release, and I am not really artistic,” she says.

Inspiration in a pot

Which comes first, the pot or the plants? Great containers often announce themselves to the eye at a flea market or garage sale, or call to you from the corner of a friend’s planting shed. It’s the imperfections that inspire, Sorenson says. Old toolboxes, pails, cans—anything that is recyclable that you can add drainage holes to and fits the style of your overall garden will do. Janes likes to add trellises to pots for climbing herbs such as nasturtiums.

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