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The Art of the Container Susan Rehner

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n April 2, Paul Zammit treated a record crowd of GrassRoots Growers to an entertaining evening in which he illustrated how to create beauty and functionality with container gardening. His energy, enthusiasm, and humour were contagious as he strode about the auditorium explaining the science and artistry behind successful containers. Early in his life, Paul’s parents offered wise guidance: find something you love. And he found his passion – horticulture — which allows him to have gardening in his life every day. He is Director of Horticulture at Toronto Botanical Garden, and his awards and credentials are too many to relate in this short article. There are known health benefits – mental and physical – gained by connecting with the soil, growing plants, and strolling through a garden. Paul described how busloads of seniors, many of them struggling with pain and handicaps, visit the Toronto Botanical Garden and are all smiles as they tour the gardens. He noted that people with different challenges are finding container gardening therapeutic and easier to manage than garden beds and plots. Paul loves rocks as a garden component but has no patience with landscapes dominated by stone or brick. Where are the plants? He showed how container gardening beautifies the bleakest of spaces. If you don’t have a garden or have very little space –”no excuses” he proclaims — you can have containers. His photos of an urban café pressed up against the sidewalk showed how plants can climb up a wall and grow on a roof. It’s possible to transform any small space with containers filled with plants. While beauty is something to strive for, he emphasizes that it is not enough: gardens should have form and function. Use containers to connect with the garden, creating garden “rooms” by defining where to walk and leading the eyes to special features. Edibles for snacking and harvesting can be incorporated into plantings. Colourful flowers that attract and support pollinators by providing pollen and nectar should be included. Herbs such as thyme, basil, sage, and rosemary are wonderful in containers so that when you brush by them, the fragrance will delight your senses. He recommends African blue basil for its cold tolerance, and the flowers — edible in salads — also attract bees and hummingbirds. Plants of the parsley family (parsley, fennel, dill, etc.) are host plants for black swallowtail caterpillars,

In horticultural lingo, try to include “Thrillers, Fillers, and Spillers.” Some characteristics of a welldesigned arrangement are height, Paul worries that people are losing contact with the garden and are relying is drama, a community-based group located in Stone Mills Township. Our mission is to fragrance, on store-bought hanging baskets for encourage interest in local and organic gardening; improve our practical knowledge colour, texture, outdoor colour. He worries about the fate of and all aspects colourof plant life; support related educational initiatives both locally and of all those hanging baskets – more provincially, echoing. Plants and provide networking opportunities for gardeners. plastic waste at the end of the season. such as sweet Instead, carefully chosen and planned For more information potato vine visit our website at www.te-grassrootsgrowers.weebly.com containers can last for months and be or email us at tegrassrootsgrowers@gmail.com may used year after year. overwhelm the others because He showed how to reflect every season of their rapid simply by refreshing and adding to their growth; simply contents with seasonally appropriate prune them plants, foliage, twigs, and grapevine back to restore forms for support. (He slyly suggested balance. In hot, assembling winter arrangements at a Paul Zammit assembling a container arrangement at the April dry weather friend’s house since they would be 2 GrassRoots Growers evening. Photo by David Field. when water messy.) conservation is ...is is a community-based necessary, a group located in Stone The careful selection of containers Township. Our mission is to encourage Mills Township. Our arrangement mission is tois encourage succulent timely and crucial to their success. Containers must interest in local and organic gardening, eff ective. Container choices needn’t be be able to support a root system and interest in local and organic gardening; improve improve our practical knowledge of all confined to showy flowers, Paul loves to must have drainage holes. Stones at the our practical knowledge of all aspects of plant life; support related aspects of plant life, support related design arrangements of interesting bottom do not provide drainage, as the educational and provincially, provide educational initiatives both locally and foliage plants – Coleus and is a particular water cannot escape ifinitiatives there are noboth locally provincially, and provide networking favourite. networking opportunities for gardeners. drainage holes. Roots require not only opportunities for gardeners. We welcome water but also air, which waterlogged new members. Visit our website at www. One trick Paul shared with the audience containers will not provide. The soil Paul For more information visit our website at te-grassrootsgrowers.weebly.com or email was creating trailing parsley by planting uses in containers is triple mix, not sand www.te-grassrootsgrowers.weebly.com us at tegrassrootsgrowers@gmail.com. it on its side. At first, the parsley or garden soil, and for nutrition, he uses email us point at tegrassrootsgrowers@gmail.com attempts to grow vertically, but the organic fertilizers – anor important weight of the foliage causes it to cascade since edibles are included. down the side of the container. I plan to try this trick. Paul invests in beautiful containers, ones that can be left outdoors over winter At the end of his presentation, Paul with seasonal arrangements, and he quickly and professionally assembled a encouraged us to consider them a lovely spring container arrangement, worthwhile investment. He cautioned talking all the while as he merrily bashed against using containers that will end up pots to free their contents, vigorously in the landfill. His designs are inspired by flung soil into the container, the particular container used – its colour, enthusiastically shoved plants in, and size, and form. Terra cotta, iron, and cleverly assembled a little wattle fence of vintage containers are his favourites. dogwood at the perimeter. His Often, he will use sets of containers of arrangement featured sun star varying sizes, or if they are all the same (Ornithogalum dubium), Helleborus sp., size, he showed how he sets them at primrose (Primula sp.), Coleus, and a different levels or angles for contrast and variety of herbs with brightly coloured interest. They can also be moved around is a community-based group leaves. The final effect – achieved in (if not too heavy) to highlight certain located in Stone Mills about seven minutes — was so attractive elements, to vary the arrangement, or to Township. Our mission is to everyone in the hall was eager to win it. change their exposure to the weather in encourage interest in local and Deb Garrett was the delighted gardener different seasons. An added advantage of who took it home. containers is that they can be placed organic gardening; improve where it is not possible to dig, for our practical knowledge of all The evening concluded with example, on tree roots. aspects of plant life; support refreshments and a seed exchange. related educational initiatives Thanks go to Mountain Grove Seed When selecting plants for a container, Company of Parham and Bear Root hours of sun, the likelihood of strong both locally and provincially, Gardens of Verona for generously winds, and availability of water are and provide networking contributing packets of seeds. Judging by considerations. Try to combine plants opportunities for gardeners. the smiles and comments of audience that need similar growing conditions members, and the contents of the (shade, sun, heat, moisture) but have For more information donation jar which helped make the different bloom times and growth forms. visit our website at event possible, the evening was a great success. www.te-grassrootsgrowers.weebly.com which are a hard-to-miss combination of lime green, black and yellow. After the caterpillars have grown sufficiently they pupate and eventually emerge as butterflies, adding life and delight to your garden. (I always plant extra parsley, so I won’t miss the plants stripped by Black Swallowtail caterpillars).

GrassRoots Growers

GrassRoots Growers

GrassRoots Growers

Once again, our thanks to St. Patrick School in Erinsville for providing the spacious venue and for their much appreciated help with set-up and clear-up. Watch for news of our fall speaker event.

Standing-room only for the record crowd attending Paul Zammit’s container gardening presentation. Photo by David Field. 4

The SCOOP • June / July 2019

GrassRoots Growers is a communitybased group in Stone Mills

or email us at tegrassrootsgrowers@gmail.com

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The SCOOP // June / July 2019  

The SCOOP is an independent community newsmagazine. Since 2005, we have been covering rural life in the Ontario area north of the 401 and so...

The SCOOP // June / July 2019  

The SCOOP is an independent community newsmagazine. Since 2005, we have been covering rural life in the Ontario area north of the 401 and so...

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