Bring The Greenway Home: Planting Container Gardens

21, Apr, 2020

Written by Darrah Cole, Senior Horticulturist and Designer

As spring blooms begin to emerge, May and early June are the perfect time for planting container gardens. These gardens will often last through the whole season; many holding right up to Thanksgiving!

The Conservancy has a number of containers plantings on The Greenway, over 85 of them in fact! We love that these plantings can add a bright focus of seasonal color, show off fun, unusual foliage, and display unique plants in the park. 

Interested in planting your own container garden this summer? Our horticulture staff are here to help #BringTheGreenwayHome with some helpful tips and tricks to get started, whether you’re planting in your garden, on your deck, front stairs, or fire escape! 

Please note that while many nurseries, greenhouses, garden centers, and agriculture supply stores are open as essential services and may offer curbside pickup (or online ordering and delivery), we remind you to practice safe physical distancing at this time.


Select your container: 

  • On The Greenway, we have a variety of containers but like having the same style throughout the park as it provides a sense of unity and identification.
  • Take a look at your space first. Is it filled with light or shade? Is it a large space for multiple pots, or a small space perfect for a dramatic statement?
  • When it comes to choosing a pot, consider your style. Do you like minimal and sleek, contemporary and lush, tropical and colorful, fun or traditional? Will your pots match? Are they eclectic? Are they repurposed? 
  • Helpful Hints from our Horticulture Team
    • Plastic pots retain moisture better, but may not breathe and provide needed oxygen to the plants. 
    • Stone, pottery, and cast concrete pots all work.
    • New felted and cloth pots are great too but last only a season or two
    • Keep in mind roots need space to grow in; you want a pot that is at least 4 inches deep, no matter how wide. For trees or shrubs, you want at least 15” of depth.

Choose your plants: 

  • On The Greenway, we like to keep to 3 or 4 different elements. This allows for contrasting and complementary foliage, with at least one long-blooming plant and a cascading or vertical growth habit. 
  • Your plants will grow over the summer season; the 3” pots of summer annuals should fill in quickly and bloom most of the summer. It is also fun to go with larger perennials and grasses. Even small shrubs and ornamental trees will fit in larger containers, adding a nice vertical element.
  • Helpful hints from our Horticulture Team
    • Seeds can be a great choice as well; I have known folks that throw a packet of seeds in a pot to see what happens, often to great results. 
    • Some say one plant per pot, others cram them full with 5 or 6 different items. Plants like living in a community, just like us. They will adapt and find their space if you put many in the same pot.
    • If you use a short blooming plant look for one that retains interesting leaves or seed heads. 
    • Check your space; choose sun loving plants for sunny locations and shade tolerant plants for corners with less light.

Assemble your materials:

  • At the Conservancy, we manage all of our horticulture organically, and we encourage you to do the same when possible. We recommend using organic potting soil with good drainage and some compost incorporated.
  • We like to put gravel or stone first for added drainage, but it is not a requirement. Make sure your pot has drain holes for water. If you have deep pots you may want to fill the bottom 1/3 of the pot with gravel or sand to use less soil. 
  • Use a tarp or newspaper when planting, or work on your lawn or driveway; it can be a messy process. Clean the pot, add gravel or stones if using them, and fill about halfway with soil. 
  • Helpful hints from our Horticulture Team
    • You can put a layer of newspaper over the holes inside the pot to keep soil from falling out – the paper will rot away in a few weeks and your pots will drain perfectly. Don’t use material like wood chips, that will break down over time, robbing your plants of nitrogen in the process.

Ready to Plant!

  • Follow depth guidelines for each plant and water well. Water should drain out the bottom. Wait 15 minutes and water well a second time. Let drain thoroughly before setting in its place.
  • Most plants will need water once a week at least. In warm summers, especially in sunny locations, it may need water every day. Watch carefully for wilting leaves. 
  • Helpful hints from our Horticulture Team
    • Plant the largest plant first, backfilling with soil, then add in the other plants until the container is full. 

Having problems with your container, not sure about your plants? Share a picture and tag us with #BringTheGreenwayHome and we will see what we can do to help!