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by Pernell Gerver

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"Tips for Successful Container Gardening"

Container gardening is a great way to garden, especially for those who have little or no space or time for a garden. Just about any plant can be grown in a container garden. I like to use containers as accents in the garden. Because they’re in containers, the pots can be moved around and placed where color is needed. I also like to group containers of different sizes together for an even better display.

Regardless of the size or shape of the container, the three main design elements in any container garden are upright, mounding, and trailing plants. By combining a plant or two from each category in a container garden, the results will be a beautiful and appealing display that will look good all season long. When it comes to gardening in containers, a full container right away is the desired effect, so don’t be afraid to put in as many plants as possible. You can always come back later as the plants grow and trim back, or remove altogether, if necessary.

Upright plants provide height in a container garden. As a general rule of thumb the tallest plants should be about twice the height of the container. This provides good visual balance to the container garden.

Placement of the upright plants varies, depending on the container. They can be placed in the center of the container and surrounded by mounding and trailing plants or they can be planted towards the back and side of the container with the other plants in front. In a container that is viewed from all sides, the upright plants look best planted in the center. In a container that is viewed from just the front like a windowbox the upright plants should be planted in the back.

Mounding plants are used to fill in the center of a container garden. Not as tall as the upright plants, mounding plants, as their name implies, form an attractive mound of foliage and/or flowers depending on the plant.

There are many different plants with a mounding habit that are good container plants and I like to include at least one in every container I plant. If the container is large enough, I’ll plant several different kinds of mounding plants.

Trailing plants are used in a container to help soften the edge and draw the eye downward. These types of plants have long stems that drape and trail. Many can grow to several feet long or more. Trailing plants are planted right along the edge of the container either in the front in a container that’s viewed from just the front or all around the edge in a container that’s viewed from all sides.

Pernell Gerver's Gardening Q & Aby Pernell Gerver

"Damage to Trees is Cumulative"

Q. A couple of weeks ago I noticed that several trees on my property didn't look too good, so I called a tree expert to come and examine them. She told me that eight red pine trees that are lining the fence in my backyard are diseased. She also told me that a blue spruce by the side of my house appeared to be dehydrated. I have watered it every week, but the top half of the tree is already dead, and the tree continues to lose needles every day. I suspect that this tree is diseased, too.

Now I have just learned that the beautiful dogwood tree on my front lawn has a disease which causes the lower branches to die first. I planted all of these trees 17 years ago and up until last fall they were all doing fine.

How could diseases strike almost every tree on my property at once and is there anything I could have done to prevent it? More importantly, should I go through all the expense to have the trees removed and replaced, only to have my new trees contract a disease at some point?

A. This is a good question. You've already taken the first step by consulting a professional arborist to see what the problem is. The arborist can do a close-up inspection and assess the health of each of your trees.

For anyone with trees on their property it's a good idea to have them checked out every now and then. Oftentimes a problem can be averted or prevented. An arborist knows what problems certain trees are prone to and can treat problems such as insects and diseases if they're caught early enough.

However, if it's too late and the tree is in such bad condition that it can't be saved, in the interest of safety it would be in your best interest to have the tree removed. Dead or dying trees pose a significant threat to people and property. Any dead branches or dead trees should be removed as soon as possible.

When the arborist identifies what killed your trees and if you decide to replant with the same trees you will need to practice preventative medicine to protect the new trees from whatever the problem was.

Each spring I check the trees and shrubs in the area and also ask readers to give me lists of their plants that did not make it over winter. Last winter there were many trees and shrubs that died, including some that have never had problems before.

Droughts in years past have also contributed to stress on trees and shrubs. Because the damage of winter and droughts and other factors like diseases and insects is cumulative oftentimes the damage doesn't show up on trees and shrubs for many years.

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