Evergreen boxwood ball topiaries might be classic exemplars of container plants, but there are other woody plants that will thrive in large pots and delight the senses with comely flowers and tasty fruit. Skilfully placed on balconies or terraces, container plantings can serve as a privacy screen and wind shield that also provide color, fragrance, and enjoyment to every spot.
In sun and shade
The dwarf lilac (Syringa) reaches 4-5 feet. Place it in a sunny area to enjoy the very essence of spring from its fragrant purple blossoms. Gardeners who don’t have acidic soil can acheive great results with rhododendrons in containers. The compact purple-blooming variety Rhododendron impeditum will stay under 2 feet. The slow-growing, large-flowered Rhododendron williamsianum will grow well in a potting mix rich in peat, producing ruby red, pink, and white flowers. In addition to classic rose varieties, there are now a number of winter hardy, standard-cultivars with lovely blossoms – mallow or Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) and wisteria. If you have a spot protected from frost for overwintering try such beauties as Lycianthes, angel’s trumpets (Brugmansia), or oleander (Nerium). White flowers will brighten darker corners. Very popular here are shade-tolerant hydrangeas with their lush blossoms; new varieties are always being made available. Viburnum will win you over with its delicate filigree of fragrant blossoms, also available as high-stem varieties. For low-growing annuals to fill out plantings, try white begonia or impatiens.
Ready-to-eat fruit is a real experience for kids
Nursery centers carry container varieties of fruit plants for just about every taste and preference. Dwarf or columnar types of apple, pear, and cherry are particularly fun for kids, since the fruit grows within their reach. If the container is large enough, plant strawberries underneath. Some other great container fruits for munching on: low-growing bushes such as red currant (Ribes), raspberry (Rubus idaeus), and blueberry (Vaccinium). If you like blackberries (Rubus sectio Rubus), try a thornless variety. Tender fruit types will do particularly well on a protected terrace or in a sunny corner of the balcony. The blossoms of peach (Prunus persica), for example, won’t come under threat of frost so easily in such a spot. Lemon (Citrus x limon), fig (Ficus carica), olive (Olea europaea) and other Mediterranean trees will also get enough warmth over the course of the season to ripen fruit.
Choose a pot that’s large enough
Woody plants will often happily inhabit pots for years, as long as their roots have room. If you’ll be leaving your containers outdoors over the winter, ensure they’re made of a frost-proof material. The pot is also important as a water reservoir for hot days, which is why they should be as large as possible. The absorption capacity of the substrate will also play a part in container selection. Specialized potting soils have a specific consistency. Since an excess of water will damage woody plants, there should be allowance for runoff. It’s advisable to fill the pot with a 2-3 inch layer of gravel or expanded clay pellets, at the bottom. First cover the drainage hole with a tile or potshards to prevent it from getting clogged.