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The Container Garden...No Yard? No Problem

Small Spaces can still have a lush look.

With a little ingenuity, a container garden can do wonders to spruce up a lackluster dead space. Dirt patches under a big shade tree, concrete jungles around the pool, drab front landings and puny balconies all benefit from artful placement of these handy gardens-in-a-box.

Anything that provides proper drainage can serve as a container. Picturesque candidates range from windowboxes, urns and milk crates to metal stands, old pitchers, barrels and pots. Drill a hole in the bottom of the object as needed, and presto: instant drainage.

It’s Bulbs Gone Wild season, so display a trio of blooming tulips, daffodils, or hyacinths in a rectangular container.
If you’re a fan of the grow-your-own movement but live in an apartment, you can still get your groove on with a self-watering, five-gallon pot. Place a saucer underneath to spare any cleanup costs and you can cultivate spearmint, chard, and mini pumpkins.

Window boxes can be affixed to mid-century apartments, installed at a second floor window of a new Cape Cod or screwed in at a hacienda courtyard.  The window box charmer of the moment: Ivy geranium in shades of hot pink or red.

Studio City residents in multi-unit buildings overlooking the LA River have greened up otherwise pedestrian terraces with containers of bougainvillea, potted palms and vines that spill over the railings.

Small patios are the perfect place for dwarf citrus trees, banana plants. Even Japanese maples can survive in large pots.

Hanging baskets make use of vertical space. Just make sure they’re low enough for you to water the plants.


Unlike in-ground gardens, density is good when it comes to container gardens. When combining plants, consider foliage, height and sun exposure. For example, to create a romantic, cottagey vibe, you may want to mix tulips with English daisies and red lettuce, since they all love the sun. For a drought-tolerant approach, select succulents—bunch hens and chicks (Echeveria secunda glauca) and trail with string of pearls. For shady areas, try big urns of maidenhead fern or terra cotta pots of philodendron Xanadu.


Just remember, “The choice of plants depends most on the person who’s going to water,” says Deborah Fox of Fox Hollow Garden Designs. “If you don’t want to check the water all the time, go drought tolerant.”

Fox rattles off a few basics for pots and windowboxes: “always have a hole in the bottom, drill one if you must, gravel won’t do it. Add organic fertilizer, remember water only in the morning and keep a turkey baster at your side.”

Turkey baster?

“It’s a great way to remove standing water from saucers. You don’t want root rot.”

She suggests using a drip system to calibrate the water supply “because each plant is different.” And for ultimate impact, Fox says, you should be using at the very least “a 2 gallon, one gallon, and several 3-4 inch containers.”

“When they get too big, I tear ‘em apart and put them in the ground,” she says.

Growing up in Kansas, Fox learned at the knees of her grandmother and mother. They came from a farm with fruit trees surrounded by flowers. If we didn’t help out, they’d take a switch off a peach tree and spank us. I thank my mother for that because I really learned to love flowers.”

After stints at Valley florists and nurseries, Fox studied horticulture at Pierce College. She now runs her own hands-on garden design with her three daughters on board.

Above all, Fox says her rule of thumb for beginners is “Enjoy your stuff. Get your hands dirty.”


To determine if it’s time to water container plants, stick thumb down three inches in dirt.

Use saucers and a cork mat underneath pots to keep stains and dirt from patio or pool areas.

To remove root-bound plant from its pot, water really well take a big long knife loosen soil also use a trowel tip to side and have someone hold pot while you pull.


Just about anything can work as a container use old galvanized metal garbage cans for a container,

Deborah Fox can be reached through her website foxhollowgardendesigns.com or at 818-736-2525.


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