Garden Pots in Herbal Landscapes

Not only can potted herbs line the kitchen windowsill or claim a place on the patio, but sometimes they nestle into the garden proper and add a welcome element of beauty and versatility to the landscape.

| April/May 1994

In which to garden, containers provide a practical way to use a few square feet on a balcony or the front steps. In my case, my enthusiasm for herbs is so great that I’ve filled every inch of planting space in the garden and still want more. Containers allow me to create new outdoor tableaux when­ever I please, and I use them in all parts of my garden. Placed on a platform on wheels, large containers may be moved about at will; it’s pleasant to wheel them over to the barbecue or picnic table for meals outdoors. In a yard that’s short on sunshine, container herbs can even be moved during the day to catch extra rays. They can come inside, too, for a fragrant table arrangement designed to whet appetites. Try putting small terra-cotta pots of lush herbs on the table as decorative fresh seasonings; you can clip the tender tips over salads and other dishes.

Position containers at a height that minimizes kneeling and bending for easier tending. By tailoring the potting mix in each container to suit the herbs you plant in it and moving them to where they get the proper amount of sun, you optimize your chances of growing them successfully. And a container garden is virtually weed-free.

Gardeners can try out unfamiliar herbs in pots to test their flavors and evaluate their growth habits before putting them in the ground. I also enjoy having the option of creating change in the garden continually, just as I can by rearranging the furniture in the house.

The art of creating a container herb garden involves not only a knowledge of cultural requirements, but also an eye for combinations of flower, foliage, and form, the visual relationship between pot and plant, and the arrangement of plant groupings around a dramatic focal point. That’s easier than it sounds because if you don’t like the result, you can just move things around until they suit you.

Endless Choices

Options for containers are almost unlimited, and in my garden they range from the familiar terra-cotta to a stone urn for a special lavender plant. A formal garden might feature a grouping of miniature or standard herbal topiary in graceful stone or cast-iron planters. Rustic baskets or a strawberry jar with herbs spouting from its pockets create an informal country effect. Herbs look wonderful in container collectibles such as whimsical clay pots fashioned into animals or ceramic pots in a vibrant confetti of primary colors. Wine crates and barrels, wooden planter boxes, and large tile drainpipes make attractive homes for herbs. Commercial lightweight hypertufa troughs can hold a collection of miniature herbs (or make your own as described on page 38). Hollow logs and stumps can serve as rustic planters for shaded woodland herb gardens.

One friend of mine, author and photographer Rosalind Creasy, who lives near San Francisco, uses potted herbs very effectively in her ever-changing suburban yard. Leading the visitor to the front door in a welcoming way is a collection of colorful Italian tin cans planted with various herbs. The large tins, once containing olive oil, amaretto cookies, and coffee, now hold Italian parsley, Spicy Globe basil, oregano, rosemary, and silver thyme.

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