Themed Container Gardens


| December/January 2004

Over many years, I’ve seen herb gardeners plant a delightful variety of themed gardens and have planted quite a few myself. For those with the luxury of big yards to play with, it’s great fun to create a new bed and group together plants that share some characteristic, flavor or use. But there’s no reason a container gardener can’t do the same thing on a smaller scale.

Regardless of his or her imagination, no gardener can afford to sacrifice function for form, so when you choose a container for a themed garden, be sure it provides adequate drainage. If the container doesn’t have drainage holes in the bottom, drill some or find another container. If the garden will stay indoors, be sure to include a tray underneath it to catch water overflow. Make sure the container is large enough for the plants you want to include, with room for growth. The plants that make up your theme also can be planted in separate pots, which then can be grouped together for effect. Choose herbs suitable for pot culture.


For an Italian friend who loves to cook, I once put together a little garden of the main herbs he uses in his wonderful spaghetti — basil, oregano, parsley and garlic chives. At a flea market I found a large, old copper kettle (which I promptly ruined by drilling holes in the bottom), and once I’d planted it, I inserted a wooden spoon on which I’d written his name.


The bright, cheery flavor and fragrance of lemon is found in many herbs, including some that are more adaptable to climate variations than citrus trees. Some suggestions: lemon verbena, without question one of the finest lemon scents; lemon balm, which is foolproof; lemongrass; lemon thymes, which come in both creeping and upright varieties and are easy to incorporate into plant-ings. You’ll also find lemon-scented varieties of mint, basil, catnip, scented geranium and others.

The lemon garden can include lemon colors as well as scents. Many plants’ leaves have yellow or golden variegation, and many boast lemon-colored flowers (‘Moonbeam’ coreopsis and ‘Lemon Gem’ marigolds, for example).


Several years ago, an Herb Companion reader sent us a picture of a large, teapot-shaped container he had made for his yard, then planted with herbs for teas. He’d started with the drum of a washing machine, then used hypertufa on the surface and to fashion a spout and handle. (Hypertufa is a porous concoction of peat moss and cement that can be used to make your own pots. For instructions on how to make your own, please check our website at It was an adorable garden, and quite a conversation piece, I’m sure. The herbal possibilities for a tea garden are myriad: the many mints, chamomile, sage, pineapple sage, basils, and all those lemony herbs.

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