Spring Container Gardening for Beginners and Pros

Brown and tired…that’s what your winter pots say. No time like spring to ditch the pine needles and winterberries for tulips, pansies and pussy willow.

“Spring is the perfect time to revive your outdoor garden containers with bright colors and verdant foliage,” says Laura Szyjka, a garden/floral designer with Rocco Fiore and Sons. “Regardless of how simple or sophisticated you go, it’s easy to create a refreshing, vibrant spring pot.”

Start with the container. It’s finally warm enough to bring out ceramic planters and many local garden centers offer a variety of sizes, styles, and colors.

Pasquesi Home and Garden, located in Lake Forest and Barrington, has a large selection to choose from – everything from weathered iron urns to colorful glazed ceramic pots. Next make the choice: do it yourself or contract it out.

Do It Yourself
If you’ve got a green thumb and the desire to dig in, Szyjka suggests some simple guidelines (and shares her own creations for inspiration):

Beginner (You want to plant something with your 4 year old)
For a fool-proof approach (and inexpensive option), pick one flower variety and mass it together. Nothing says spring like pastel pansies. A pot-full adds the color you crave and beautifully weathers spring’s drastic temperature changes. [photo 1]

Intermediate (You’ve done planters, but want a new look)
Follow the formula: tall, short and trailing. Visit your local garden center and pick a plant from each of these three shapes. (At Pasquesi like most garden centers, you will likely only find plant varieties hearty enough for the season.)

Go for a single color or complimentary hues. Here Szyjka has placed Dutchmaster Daffodil with white tulips to lend height, adding yellow with blue wing viola for textural leaf difference and complimentary color. [photo 2]

Just because it’s edible doesn’t mean it’s not pretty. Chives, onions, radish, leaf lettuce and beets are just some of the edibles with beautiful foliage and colors that compliment spring flowers.

Garden Lover (You belong to the Chicago Botanic Garden and couldn’t wait for your seed catalogs to arrive this year)
Choosing perennials as well as annuals lets you experiment with different textures and colors. Perennials are also sustainable and can be used from season to season in the same container. For this container, Szyjka paired hot pink Ranunculus and perennial Heuchera to compliment pink Hyacinth and Opal Nemesia. Perennial Fescu adds texture and an extra pop at the rim. (For an example, look at the top photograph.)

Pair two pots for asymmetry, carrying over the color and texture (but not necessarily the same plants) from the larger container to the smaller one. Here Szyjka joins pink Hydrangea and plum Helleborus for a contrast in textures, and adds continuity with the yellow Osteospermum and yellow pansies. [photo 4]

Finish with a vertical element. Nothing says spring like pussy willows or yellow curly willow. [photo 5]

Bring in the Experts
If you lack the time or desire, there are numerous resources available for that perfect pot. Most landscape design companies offer container gardening as a service, and many garden centers, including Pasquesi, sell ready-made spring containers.