|photography by Dave Shafer|
Belinda Stuart, Dallas County Master Gardener class of 2005, believes that container gardening is a way to add color, beauty, and life to small areas. Because the eye naturally travels to focal points such as front steps, side porches, poolside patios, and even balconies, these spots should be especially pleasing. Her knack for arranging striking containers initially caught the attention of members of the Junior Charity League, to whom she made many donations. “All of a sudden I started getting calls from people asking me what to do when the plants die,” she says. Shortly after showing a few how to replant and manage their containers, her reputation took off. Today, she designs, produces, and manages seasonal color in containers for a number of clients. Raised in Hope, Ark., Stuart grew up working in the dirt (digging potatoes, actually) and credits her love of gardening to both her immediate family as well as the one she married into. It was the year she spent renovating the beds and gardens at her in-laws’ farmhouse in France that cemented her devotion.
“I had to become a Master Gardener to keep up with all the questions my friends ask,” she explains. “The program is an endless source of information and inspiration.”
Stuart’s Tips for Beautiful Potted Gardens
• The best pots to use are ceramic. Plastic and lightweight pots that look like terra cotta dry out too easily. Terra cotta holds in more moisture, but it may chip and break over time.
• Understand the difference between sun and shade plants, and watch for changing patterns in light. Most plants do well with consistent light, but over the seasons, the amount of daylight fluctuates.
• Use an irrigation line that is connected to your sprinkler head to automatically water your pots. You can run as many as eight connectors on a sprinkler head, so you may run that many small lines into your pots. Ask your local garden center about irrigation lines.
• Plant spring containers in the fall. Use a variety of bulbs and establish greenery. Try using plants that will make it through the winter and look prettier in the spring, such as kale, cabbage, snapdragons, dianthus, violas, and pansies.
• During cold snaps, do not use pillowcases and sheets to cover containers. These may absorb moisture, become heavy, and damage plants. Most nurseries and gardening shops sell material that breathes well and is safe to use.