Gardens - Container Gardening

Video: Plant a vibrant container step by step

Watch as Paul Zammit demonstrates his fabulous container planting tips


Video Transcript: Plant a vibrant container step by step

Hello and welcome to the Toronto Botanical Garden. My name is Paul Zammit, I’m the director of horticulture here and I’m very excited to prepare a summer planter for you!


Choosing a container
What I like to do first and foremost, before I select my plant material, is to start off with a very attractive container. I think you need to really love your container before you select the plant material that goes into it. I selected this beautiful English piece of terracotta, the key of course is making sure all of your containers have drainage holes. Once we’ve selected our container, I’m going to use a few broken pieces of pottery – not to plug the drainage holes, but to cover them up so that the soil does not fall through. 

In this case we’ve got a lightweight potting mix that has been pre-moistened. This is very important, you don’t want to take potting mix directly out of the bag that it has come in, because it’s usually quite dry. Also, I’ve made sure to water all the plant material that I intend to use in the planter.


Start with a focal point
The first item to go into the container is going to be my focal point, and I’ve chosen a wonderful fragrant cypress. It has a yummy smell to it, and I like to use them in areas where people are going to brush up against them, such as up front by a door or along a pathway. Rather than ripping apart the root system I like to encourage people to gently massage the roots to loosen them up. Remove the excess soil, and keep in mind that we are going to fill this container with quite a bit of plant material. This cypress is going to be our starting point, but don’t worry if it’s straight or not, we’ll definitely adjust that as we go along.

The next plant we’re going to use is a phormium, this particular one is called ‘Chocolate cookies,’ it’s a brand new introduction - nice dark burgundy foliage. The nice thing about phormiums or 'New Zealand flax', is that you can use them in multiple seasons: spring, summer, and even into fall containers. This phormium is also going to provide a new colour into the container and a textural change with the bold, dramatic leaves. 



I encourage you when you are designing a container, to think of how it’s going to be viewed, such as the direction people are going to be seeing the container - and then design from that standpoint. Today, the container we’re preparing is going to be viewed from one side, so we’re going to be building height at the back and then coming down as we progress. As you’re adding the material you’re going to want to make sure that you don’t have too many air pockets in and around the roots, you can do this by ensuring the soil is getting down around the root system and add more as needed.

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