Now that we have a deck....container plants?

dyhgarden(7b)March 22, 2008

On the northside of our house, we now have a large deck. In the morning, it gets great east sun and some western sun in the afternoons. Against the house, it is always shady.

Zone 7.

I've got 3 potted arborvitae (for privacy purposes).

I have space and opportunity to use plants that deer would otherwise eat out in the garden.

At another home, I had a lot of hostas, but not in pots. Anyone here put hosta in containers? Got pics of your arrangements? I'd like to use some in the shady areas. What about heuchera in pots? Anything more exotic?

As for the sunny areas, anything really special that you recommend? I don't want a lot of leaf/petal drop because it's beside the pool. Bees are okay out in the garden, but some of our guests are allergic, so I need to probably be considerate.

If I put tomatoes in a pot...will squirrels be a problem?

Do the "rail saddle" planters work well?



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eduarda(Z10 - Portugal)

Cameron, on a North side, if you are not particular about deciduous/evergreen, I would grow a couple of hydrangeas. You will need really big pots for that, maybe even those which have a water reservoir (hydrangeas are very thirsty plants), but they do well in pots here, provided they are in the shade, and are really eye catching in the warm months.

Of course, if you use your deck a lot during the winter months you'll want some more evergreen types, so hollies (especially variegated), strawberry tree, if you can grow it in your area, and dwarf conifers should do well. I have also been toying with the idea of adding a red twig dogwood to a pot where I already have a strawberry tree growing. I think the red twigs would be a real eye catcher against the evergreen backdrop. Add red cyclamen for an additional burst of color.

In small round bowls I like to grow muscari, cyclamen and pansies. Easy care and they bloom for a long time. For the sunnier areas of the deck, again low bowls with kalanchoe and portulaca. Sunny areas and big pots are also a good spot for hibiscus and they are wonderful in Summer. I have also been thinking about growing a vitex in a big pot - not sure whether this would be successful, but I sure feel like trying (have run out of space elsewhere...)

Hope this helps

    Bookmark   March 22, 2008 at 6:15PM
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Vikki1747(z8 VA)

I keep lots of containers on my deck and I'm always playing aroung with planting combinations. Proven Winners has a wonderful site with oodles of container plantings for all kind of sun exposure. I'm never really pleased with how my container combo's come out, so I don't have any pictures, but I keep trying. Last year I made it a point to have 2 or 3 containers with herbs on the deck as it is right off my kitchen. It was great to be able to step just outside the door and cut fresh herbs for cooking.

I used to use the "rail saddle" planters but we replaced the deck a few years back and I haven't put planters on the new white composite (plastic) railings. I found that the saddle type planters worked okay but because they are limited in space they need lots of watering and feeding to keep the plants looking good. If you can find holders that will accommodate a longer/deeper container you will have more luck with less work.

I also have 2 arborvitae in large containers and I love how they look. You won't be disappointed in those. I think its fun to plan a container combo and see how it turns out. Good luck with whatever you decide to do and lets see some pictures of that new deck!!

p.s. Yesterday I dug out your recipe for turkey on the grill. DH is doing one tomorrow for our Easter dinner. We're having a crowd and the turkey done your was was so good at Christmas (and easy) that we both though it would be perfect for Easter. Thanks again for posting that recipe.

Here is a link that might be useful: Container combos

    Bookmark   March 22, 2008 at 6:26PM
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faltered(Hamburg NY Z5/6)

Squirrels are always a problem here, whether plants are in containers or not. They are evil little boogers eating and wrecking anything they can get to.

There are quite a few people in my neighborhood growing hostas in containers and they seem to fare quite well. I think as long as you keep them watered they will be all right.

If you want to stick with perennials, you could try daylilies, regular lilies, grasses, etc. They are all hardy and have worked well for me, although I am in zone 5/6.


    Bookmark   March 24, 2008 at 8:42AM
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Some good advice from folks. I do worry about another drought since that would do in any container plantings. I really loved the planter that I did last year for the waterfall patio, so I'd like to get creative on the deck to soften up the look.


    Bookmark   March 24, 2008 at 1:10PM
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midnightsmum (Z4, ON)

Hi Cameron - all of the above!! I was trying to find a link to a Toronto page, but Hostas and Heucheras in pots are quite common there - I will keep looking for pic for you. Also, succulents, like hens and chickens!! ttfn.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2008 at 9:02PM
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girlgroupgirl(8 ATL)

Ohh, I wish I could design your containers for you! It sounds like you have some great container gardening conditions!!
I would consider hooking up a drip irrigation system for your pots. It's fool proof, low water usage and hooked to a timer, you can all but ignore your plantings!!

How about a nice lime green heuchera, some of the newer ajuga "black Scallop" with HUGE ruffled purple leaves, beautiful lime-green acorus,
trifoium "Dark Dancer" & creeping jenny cascading out of your pot.

Or try black mondo grass, a hunk of lime green thyme to cascade out, a purple leaf sun coleus like Palisandra and a hot pink or orange new guinea impatience.

For a real shady spot, some variegated cast iron plant - the ones with polka dot leaves are smaller in stature would be pretty with a variegated ivy spilling out of it and some piggy back plant stuffed in between the two as an annual (or perhaps a green heuchera or some white flowering need something with a rounded leaf).

There are so many endless combos!!


    Bookmark   March 24, 2008 at 11:15PM
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aftermidnight Zone7b B.C. Canada

Cameron do you use those plant gel crystals in your containers? I can't remember what they're called but I believe they're pretty good for retaining water especially in drought conditions. DS1 grows a lot of things in containers on his decks of his condo, Hostas, Clematis, Grapes, Daylilies, Grasses etc. He even has a Gunnera and Wisteria in pots which blooms beautifully for him every year. Of course Vancouver is a lot different climate-wise to you but if your containers are big enough there should be no end to what you could grow. DS1 has a monstrous big glazed container for the Gunnera and this when it leafs out gives quite the tropical look to the deck. Then there's the ornamental Rhubarbs but there again I don't know if they're suitable to your climate. What about Canna's, Alocasia or Colocasia, there again I don't know if those are suitable in your area.


    Bookmark   March 25, 2008 at 3:59AM
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GGG -- I have about 7 'Lime Rickey' heuchera in my patio gardens. the deer eat those in winter, but leave them alone in summer once my colocasia have blocked the way! I love lime green. The idea of black mondo is great! My garden drip hoses are on battery operated timers attached to my faucets, so I know how to hook up irrigation. I'll look into the tubing/hoses for pots. Sure, come on up and visit me and create my containers! LOL

Annette, I use moisture-retentive potting soil, but I've not tried the gel crystals. DS1 works part-time at a garden center so I will ask him about the additive. I love canna and colocasia and have those in other places in my garden. The tall cannas will make a nice screening at the one end where we need a bit of privacy and they will grow up straight and narrow. I love the really gaudy colors! I think gunnera or colocasia will overhang the pool too much.

The accent color scheme that I've started on our screened porch (throw pillows) and deck (pool towels) and outdoor shower (stepping stones) is paprika (deep orange). Our wicker and metal furniture colors are bronze/brown/tan.


    Bookmark   March 25, 2008 at 8:38AM
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I found a couple of pictures taken right after the construction was finished last summer (in the drought).

The main sitting/lounging area is in the shade up against the north side of the house:

The far end/sides of the deck won't be used so much for seating. Those chairs are blocking our neighbor's view when they use their driveway in the far distance. I'd like to use plants there, maybe tall cannas.

The only other place that needs screening is the open end where you see the 3 arborvitae (blocking the view from the road 250 feet away...which is above us). The fragrance garden and butterfly garden on the east side will block the view once the shrubs and trees are mature (maybe another year or two).

    Bookmark   March 25, 2008 at 9:00AM
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I also found that deck rail pots or saddle pots dry out way to quickly...sometimes here in the heat you need twice a day even. It does help I think, tho some disagree to use the water moisture beads. I personally think they help, but do not over use....or your plants will rise right out of the pot and die of wet feet in a week with a heavy rain.

One thing I like to think of in container planters is to watch the smells..:) Marigolds I do not put near my pool pots...I cant stand the smell in the heat, and even if I learn to ignore it, others will remark who are less use to it. Post some pics when you plant it up...I love to learn from everyones efforts.
In our zone, I have good luck in very small or dry pots growing various creeping seedums, the various varities of annual begonias are basically maintance free...needing little water in comparision to other annuals and yet continous bloom. Begonias especially do well here in August and Sept when everything else has shriveled in the heat, they smile even bigger and offer their best show yet. When it frosts, they are still so beautiful I want to cry with they turn brown. They do have some petal drop, but most of my container flowers do and most are worse than the begonia. Portulaca is also a very good container plants...there are some pretty colors available and they drape so if you want the saddle planters, portulaca will drape..Coleus also has many heat tolerant varities and they do fantastic in the heat, sun, draught and in containers. I almost always try to mix them into my containers in key places where I want flash. Especially if I am going to use pansys or petunias that tend to get leggy and spindly in late summer. Then I can pull those out and still have late summer and fall show with some coleus and begonias. My family calls me the container queen. I have way to many...and my pocketbook reminds me of that each spring when I plant them. Grasses are good for height in the back or middle of a container planter. Another thing I do that I especially like for size on my deck is stack similar pots in stacks of very very large one, middle,size and then a smaller one. I fill the large ones with dirt within inches of the top then add the middle size pot right in the middle of the large pot leaving you several inches completely around the pot to plant in, I like to put impatients in these pots, but they are not in strong sun. Then on top of the middle pot, do the same thing and top with the smaller pot. Planting again around the several inches left at the base of each pot. The plants fill in and cover the second and third pots completely and if you flip colors in each layer, the pot looks like a flower tower of color with the ONLY pot showing the large bottom one.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2008 at 9:11AM
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Cameron, squirrels don't like thorns. When I lived in California, I used to cut my pruned rose canes into 3-4 inch lengths and place them on top of the soil of my potted plants. The squirrels quit messing with those plants.

Since you have trouble with the critters eating your dianthus, you might want to do a few pots of dianthus. I love having petunias on my deck because they have such a wonderful fragrance and they produce a lot of blooms. There are trailing petunias, as well as the regular variety. I usually do geraniums, pansies, dianthus, chrysanthemums, and petunias in large pots for my deck. The bees seem to prefer the garden to the potted plants; I haven't had trouble with bees around my deck.


    Bookmark   March 25, 2008 at 2:29PM
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girlgroupgirl(8 ATL)

WOW, that is absolutely a fantastic deck and pool! Ohh, la la, I love it!!
If you get super hot there, you could even rig up a misting unit to your drip system for yourself and the plants!!
The photos give me a much better idea for containers. You need some height there!!
Is rosemary hardy for you there? I think some very large pots with some upright rosemary in them might be really nice too. Thyme planted around it would be pretty and you'd get blue flowers in the winter on the rosemary. Those could be in the full-hot sun.


    Bookmark   March 25, 2008 at 3:08PM
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faltered(Hamburg NY Z5/6)

Love your deck & pool. I can see many hours being spent on a hot summer day, especially in the evening with friends.

Forgot to mention earlier- bamboo! They work well in containers, if you stick with a clumping variety. I have fargesia murielae in a container, mostly because I didn't want it to get established at my old garden only to have to dig it up. It stayed relatively small in a container. But many other varieties will get quite large.

They would look wonderful draping over your deck.


    Bookmark   March 25, 2008 at 3:26PM
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Lorna, have you ever heard of using those wooden skewers (like for grilling) in pots? I don't have the right type of roses to use canes. The squirrels bring the nuts up onto the deck to use the hard surface for cracking open the shells!

A lot of what has been mentioned will work here...
My petunias seed out and I've got a lot of seedlings coming up.
I have a lot of rosemary, thyme and lavender. The bees do flock to the lavender, though. (DS1 carries an epi-pen)

I have 3 fargesia clumping bamboo in the ground, so those work here, too. They are difficult to find for a cheap price. One of my providers had these and I snatched them up to try. There aren't any on his availability list so far this year.

Notice the unsightly heat vent on the back of the chimney? I'm thinking of hanging a "decorative" bucket over that during the summer since we won't be using the fireplace inside.

I just got a bronze thermometer and bronze clock for outdoors -- large, round, "iron" looking. I'm trying to decide if I want to hang those on the screened porch or out on the side of the house by the pool.

I must confess that I was against DH's pool idea (since it had to be above ground). However, I found that I enjoyed it immensely for the short time we could use it last year (it was completed in August). It's a salt water filter and maintenance is so simple. The water chemistry was balanced every week without any adjustment after the first testing and correction...pretty amazing to me.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2008 at 8:41PM
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BecR(zone 9 CA 19)

Hi Cameron. One thing I've learned re heat and potted plants is to place a pot within a pot for better insulation against temp extremes (works equally well in hot and cold temps), and conserves water too. If you will be using wooden planters or cocoa fiber ones, line them with perforated plastic (a trash bag works well) before filling with planting soil---this will keep them from drying out too quickly. Make sure you poke holes so they can drain!

Some additional plant ideas are ferns, heavenly bamboo, dietes (fortnight lily), iris, and camellias---if they grow in your area-- check first as I am not familiar with your zone. You could underplant with miniature ivy--there are some pretty variegated forms---you will bea ble to keep them in bounds by pruning once a year once they reach maturity. Impatiens (annuals) and vinca minora are also great for underplanting in mostly shade with morning or late afternoon sun (keep moist). You could also add some spring or summer bulbs to the mix. Becky

    Bookmark   March 25, 2008 at 9:46PM
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Those bamboo skewers would be worth a try, Cameron. You'll have to remember they are there, so you don't nick yourself. BTW, I have also used pieces of blackberry cane to foil squirrels.

I love watching squirrels, even though they are garden pests. There aren't any native trees on the mesa, because it is a desert environment. I've only seen one tree squirrel here in the five years I've been here.

Sounds like you have a very big gardening project for yourself this spring. Will you be using colorful pots? I have some dark blue pots on my deck. I love the vibrant color, very eye-catching. I turned a small, tiered fountain into a planter after the dogs chewed up the solar pump.


    Bookmark   March 26, 2008 at 10:26AM
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faltered(Hamburg NY Z5/6)

If you're looking for bamboo, I've used Tradewinds in the past. Great service and they had the best price when I bought mine. Not sure how they rank now.


    Bookmark   April 2, 2008 at 12:17PM
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aftermidnight Zone7b B.C. Canada

I also grow Brugmansias in tubs, these if on the ground I drive a bamboo stake down through the top and through one of the drainage holes into the ground to stop them from toppling over, I usually double pot these with wood shavings between the two pots to keep the roots cooler. If grown on a deck double potted again but with a layer of heavy rocks on the bottom of the outside container so the darn things don't keep blowing over. Although these are water guzzlers one would be nice for that wonderful fragrance.


    Bookmark   April 2, 2008 at 12:36PM
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I will look into the Garden Ideas reference.

I wonder how hard it would be to divide clumping bamboo? We have three hardy ones out in the garden that were just planted last spring. If it's like the big running bamboo, yikes!

I have two yellow brugs that I can move to tubs. Although I have them in a drip irrigation location right now. I do love them. Very tropical look for a pool area.

I dug out last year's FG container plants special edition mag.


    Bookmark   April 2, 2008 at 12:45PM
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Here some of my hostas in pots this summer, sorry very late to your original post!
My backyard is all hardscaped so containers are easier for me.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2009 at 6:41PM
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