Books in sync with nature.

The Joy of Container Gardening (from new book, Late Bloomer)

This is an excerpt from Late Bloomer: How to Garden with Comfort, Ease and Simplicity in the Second Half of Life by Jan Coppola Bills. To purchase Late Bloomer, click here.

Because of the huge variety of containers available today, containers are one of the most useful, effective elements of a small-space garden. They act to provide color, texture, dimension, elevation and even art. They can be arranged within a garden bed, on a patio or deck, at the front entrance – almost anywhere. A few more things I love about container gardening: the ease of moving them around (especially if they have wheels), and the ability to garden without bending or squatting. 

Combine colorful foliage with flowers in containers

Combine colorful foliage with flowers in containers

Garden Myth: Put small rocks in the bottom of your containers

Not true! Rocks act as a holding tank for water and will eventually rot the roots of a plant (it smells awful, too) – the complete opposite of the intent to create good drainage. The best and only planting medium you’ll need for your containers is organic potting soil. 

Container Tips

  • Before planting, gently loosen the roots of container plants.
  • Line the sides of your container with a disposal diaper. It will hold water and steadily release it to your plants.
  • Put a coffee filter on the bottom of your container to keep the soil from washing away through the drainage hole. 
  • You must have good drainage in potting containers or your plants will get root rot.
  • Protect porous outdoor containers from heaving and cracking in winter by covering with a plastic bag filled with mulch, straw, or leaves. It is also a good idea to raise them off the ground with bricks or wood.

screen-shot-2016-11-02-at-3-25-53-pmIf It Can Hold Soil, It’s a Planter!

One of my favorite things to do is to reuse whatever I can, whenever I can. Any day that we reuse something and keep it out of a landfill is a good day. This especially holds true for the garden. In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a new sensation that’s sweeping the nation: if it can hold soil, it’s a planter! Let’s hear it for upcycling.

Gone are the days of using only traditional “plant”containers. Selecting unexpected or found objects as planters adds fun, character and interest to the garden. Not only will your gorgeous plantings stand out, but so will the whimsical container in which they’re planted!

The world is your oyster when it comes to unconventional planting vessels, and I encourage you to use as many funky, madcap containers as you can get your hands on – within limits, of course! Once you’ve trained your eye and mind to think out of the box (literally), your creative juices will start flowing. In my ventures, I’ve stumbled upon quite a few eccentric receptacles, so I’ve complied a list of just some of the things I’ve seen (or used!) as planters. But let me warn you, the list of quirky planters goes on and on. Suddenly, before you know it, everything becomes a planter, in in- and outdoors.


Shoe, bathtub, wheelbarrow, toy truck, galvanized tub, baby carriage, toilet, vintage cans, sink, mailbox, tree stump, vintage kettle, tackle box, colander.

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