CON­TAIN your ex­cite­ment

Take weather, weight into con­sid­er­a­tion when de­cid­ing what planter to use

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - HOMES -

IF the sight and scent of all the fresh greens, boughs, birch poles, mag­no­lia leaves and stems of red berries at your lo­cal gar­den cen­tre is enough to in­spire you to cre­ate a sea­sonal con­tainer dis­play at your front en­try, take time to con­sider the type of con­tainer you will use. With the ex­plo­sion of in­ter­est in con­tainer gar­den­ing, home­own­ers to­day are able to choose from a range of con­tainer styles rang­ing from tra­di­tional to con­tem­po­rary. After all, the pot you choose makes a state­ment all on its own, en­hanc­ing the ex­te­rior of your home while wel­com­ing your guests in style. Apart from the over­all at­trac­tive­ness or ar­chi­tec­tural style of your pot, there are other prac­ti­cal con­sid­er­a­tions. Too short and it could be buried after just one heavy snow­fall. Too large, and the sheer weight could make it dif­fi­cult to move if you are stag­ing a dis­play in another area in your land­scape. Worse, the freeze-thaw cy­cle that causes wa­ter to ex­pand and con­tract in damp soil left inside con­tain­ers or wa­ter that has seeped into the cracks of con­tain­ers such as glazed ceram­ics can re­sult in dam­age or break­age.

Why risk your in­vest­ment? Rais­ing the base of your con­tainer and slid­ing two strips of wood un­der­neath so that it is not in di­rect con­tact with the ground or a hard­scap­ing sur­face will help to ex­tend the life of your con­tainer.

If a con­tainer is too heavy to move, such as a thick-walled ce­ramic con­tainer or a con­crete planter, and you are not plan­ning to cre­ate a hol­i­day ar­range­ment, re­move any soil, en­sur­ing that the drainage hole is clear of de­bris and that no wa­ter can re­main in the planter. As an added mea­sure, you can cover the con­tainer with a layer of green­house poly or a black garbage bag, se­cur­ing it with duct tape. Smaller con­tain­ers can be emp­tied and turned up­side down onto a piece of wood or Sty­ro­foam. Apart from man­u­fac­tur­ers’ rec­om­men­da­tions for car­ing for a spe­cific type of con­tainer in a cold cli­mate, many gar­den­ers de­cide on what works best for their con­tain­ers based on trial and er­ror. On an over­seas gar­den tour some years ago, Mar­i­lyn Dudek, an East Kil­do­nan gar­dener, vis­ited a terra cotta fac­tory in Im­pruneta, Italy, and pur­chased a pal­let of over­sized, hand-moulded Tus­can clay planters. Each year Dudek stores the con­tain­ers, filled with soil, in her un­heated garage for the win­ter. So far they have sur­vived beau­ti­fully, says Dudek. Meth­ods vary, too, when it comes to prep­ping out­door con­tain­ers for hol­i­day ar­range­ments. While some rec­om­mend re­plac­ing the moist soil left over from a sum­mer­time con­tainer dis­play with fresh, dry soil, oth­ers such as Shar­lene Nielsen, Front Door Sto­ries, who cre­ates count­less out­door con­tainer de­signs for her clients, sim­ply re­moves the top layer of soil (30 to 35 cm). Nielsen roughs up the re­main­ing soil, a method she has found helps to avoid the freez­ing and thaw­ing pres­sure caused by com­pacted soil. Ide­ally ar­range­ments should be cre­ated out­doors be­fore tem­per­a­tures drop so boughs and other dec­o­ra­tive el­e­ments can freeze into place. Con­tainer classes abound, though, at this time of year and it’s easy enough to cre­ate your own clever DIY con­tainer de­sign in the warmth and com­fort of your near­est gar­den cen­tre. Start with a plas­tic in­sert filled with soil, ar­range stems, ev­er­greens and other ac­cents, then add to your wait­ing pot. Carla Hrycyna, co-owner of St. Mary’s Nurs­ery, says that birch poles con­tinue to be the hottest item for lend­ing both height and a chunky look to hol­i­day con­tain­ers. Also trend­ing for this sea­son’s con­tainer, says Hrycyna, are red dog­wood twigs and red berries. Hrycyna ex­pects the twiggy look to carry over into sum­mer con­tainer de­signs with an em­pha­sis on the use of grapevine orbs. If you have any con­cerns about the win­ter dura­bil­ity of your favourite ce­ramic or older-gen­er­a­tion con­tainer, the sim­plest strat­egy might be to switch to a light­weight, weather-resistant ma­te­rial that is in­dis­tin­guish­able from the more tra­di­tional ma­te­ri­als that you are fa­mil­iar with. The sleek styling of Capi Euro con­tain­ers, on dis­play at La­coste Gar­den Cen­tre, gives ev­ery im­pres­sion of heavy gran­ite but is much lighter and un­break­able. Jor­dan Hiebert, co-owner of La­coste, says that this best-sell­ing line made from fi­bre­glass, mag­ne­sium or a com­bi­na­tion of the two prod­ucts, pro­vides the large size and mod­ern look that cus­tomers want in a light­weight, low main­te­nance con­tainer and works well in a res­i­den­tial set­ting or on a condo bal­cony. While neu­tral colours dom­i­nate, Capi Euro sur­prises with a new retro line that fea­tures a bright orange in­te­rior. Hiebert de­scribes the colour as royal Hol­land orange. Wrapped in neu­tral tones on the ex­te­rior, one can’t help but com­pare the ef­fect of the colour­ful in­te­rior to that of the in­stantly iden­ti­fi­able red-lac­quered sole that so dis­tinc­tively adorns the footwear by de­signer Christian Louboutin. Not all fi­bre­glass is cre­ated equal and some fi­bre­glass con­tain­ers should avoid the win­ter al­to­gether. A prod­uct ma­te­rial that is es­pe­cially durable though in freez­ing tem­per­a­tures is fi­bre­glass re­in­forced with a ce­ramic blend, says Hrycyna. Bark­man sells a se­ries of light, strong, weather-resistant con­tain­ers called Con­tem­pra which is made from glass fi­bre re­in­forced con­crete (GFRC). I saw a gor­geous ex­am­ple in a St. Vi­tal gar­den that is a low bowl no less than 2.4 me­tres in width. Erna Wiebe, owner of Oakridge Gar­den Cen­tre in Stein­bach, says she con­tin­ues to sell more ce­ramic con­tain­ers than fi­bre­lite prod­ucts (poly resin), even though the lat­ter is weather resistant and won’t crack in win­ter or fade in sum­mer. Some of the fi­bre prod­ucts con­tain con­crete and some are a syn­thetic wicker blend with a plas­tic in­sert. They can be top heavy, though, says Wiebe, who sug­gests putting a weight at the bot­tom be­neath the in­sert or filling with soil all the way down to the bot­tom of the con­tainer. Light enough to be eas­ily moved around the gar­den, fi­bre­lite prod­ucts are avail­able in fewer colours than ceram­ics, mainly dif­fer­ent shades of grey or neu­tral tones such as ivory, black or tan — all colours that are com­pli­men­tary to most home ex­te­ri­ors. Wiebe says, among her cus­tomers, the most popular con­tainer shape re­mains tall and nar­row. Dou­ble walled plas­tic con­tain­ers from Cres­cent Gar­den come with a 10-year war­ranty. Jor­dan Hiebert has 6 scat­tered through­out his gar­den and de­scribes them as a year-round work­horse. They don’t come cheap, though. In con­tem­po­rary styles that are tall, square or ta­pered, they are durable enough for our harsh win­ters, re­sist fad­ing from UV rays and even break­age if a strong gale-force Prairie wind knocks them over. Hiebert also car­ries the el­e­gant Lechuza self-wa­ter­ing con­tain­ers for in­door use in the win­ter. Lechuza is Span­ish for owl. Pre­vi­ously avail­able for com­mer­cial use ex­clu­sively, the back story to Lechuza is one that you might not ex­pect.

El­liott Ben­nett, vice pres­i­dent of Win­nipeg-based Air Strength which spe­cial­izes in com­mer­cial in­te­rior land­scap­ing, shares that Lechuza orig­i­nated in Ger­many. Its par­ent company is Play­mo­bil, the toy company. When cur­rent owner Horst Brand­stat­ter couldn’t find a suit­able planter, he de­cided to de­velop his own. In­tro­duced in 2000, Lechuza is now sold world­wide and is one of the top sell­ing planters for in­door com­mer­cial use. The high qual­ity coat­ing of the planters is sim­i­lar to an au­to­mo­tive paint fin­ish with a clear coat. The Cu­bico 40 model can only be de­scribed as stun­ning, its high gloss black colour and stream­lined shape rem­i­nis­cent of a black lac­quer baby grand pi­ano. More im­por­tantly, it per­forms, de­liv­er­ing just the right amount of wa­ter and nu­tri­ents to the plant’s roots when needed. A gran­u­lated drainage ma­te­rial reg­u­lates the amount of wa­ter that plants re­ceive. Ben­nett says it takes roughly 90 days for a plant’s roots to grow into the sub-ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tem. After that, up to a month be­tween wa­ter­ing is all that is needed de­pend­ing on the type of plant and where the planter is po­si­tioned. Both Ben­nett and Hiebert uti­lize the Lechuza self-wa­ter­ing con­tainer in their homes. Hiebert adds that it can be used out­doors, too, in the sum­mer time. Sim­ply re­move the drainage plug at the base of the con­tainer in case of ex­cess rain­wa­ter. While the Cu­bico 40 model in the larger size can start at $450, Lechuza has made the crossover to a more af­ford­able line for res­i­den­tial use. No mat­ter your style, new-gen­er­a­tion con­tain­ers prom­ise a rein­ven­tion of your gar­den­ing space, in­doors or out­doors.


The beauty of glazed ce­ramic con­tain­ers doesn’t al­ways match their prac­ti­cal­ity in a cold cli­mate. Stand the con­tainer on two strips of wood so that it is not in di­rect con­tact with the frozen ground.

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