may 20 container workshop: win a ticket!

WE CALL IT ‘CONTAINED EXUBERANCE,’ the container-garden workshop that garden designer Bob Hyland and I do in May each year at my garden in the Hudson Valley of New York. You can buy a ticket for one of the two sessions on Sunday May 20 – or enter to win one ($45 value) by commenting on this story about the event, which always sells out….so hurry.

We’ll cover everything from what makes a good potting medium and how to read the labels of those bags at the garden centers, to why not just annuals but also perennials and even trees and shrubs belong in outdoors pots (a philosophy I call, “Hosta pot? Why not?”). Also on the agenda: overwintering tactics for “investment plants” so you can learn to extend your palette without breaking your budget. (Those are some examples in the photo shot by Bob, below, of Phormium and succulent pots in his garden. Want more pot ideas? All my container-garden stories can be browsed at this link.)

And, of course, design and staging of pots in the landscape—speaking of which, the workshop includes a garden walk-through at my place. Featured plants–really special things from Landcraft Environments–will be available for purchase as well, so that registrants can get the raw materials for their own home creations.

‘Contained Exuberance’ Details

SUNDAY, MAY 20, two sessions (9:30-12 noon, and 1:30-4 PM): Contained Exuberance: container-gardening workshop at my garden (Copake Falls, New York–about an hour from Albany, two and a half from Boston and two from the New York City metro area) in collaboration with Bob Hyland of Loomis Creek Gardens design firm. $45 includes beverages and snack. Registration and class details.

How to Enter the Ticket Drawing

WIN ONE OF TWO TICKETS we’re holding back from sale by simply commenting below and telling us one thing you’re planning to put in pots at your place this year. Note: If you want to guarantee a spot at the workshop, go ahead and purchase a ticket and we’ll refund your cost after the drawing, which will be held after entries close at midnight Friday, May 4. Winners will be chosen art random, using the tool from random [dot] org.

April 29, 2012


  1. says

    I am moving to my sweetheart’s house in June. He has a new house that has absolutely NO landscaping or beds of any kind. I would love to learn how to make beautiful and possibly edible planters since we won’t be able to put in the vegetable garden until later this summer/fall. I’d like to make the planters more exciting than just tomatoes in 5 gallon buckets! Hosta in a pot! What a great idea! I plan to do all of the garden in containers this year. I also just bought a shed and I want to hang window boxes on it with interesting annuals.

  2. MiSchelle says

    I’m making a couple of miniature gardens in hypertufa pots I made over the winter. The garden center across the creek from me has lovely mini alpine plants and even carries the miniature benches, arches, and fencing to create a perfect little landscape. I also like to use perennials in my outdoor containers, but have never thought of shrubs. Will definitely look into that.

  3. VALERIE says

    Hi Margaret,
    I have my big whiskey barrels on the deck that are always filled with herbs and veggies, but I really need help in filling pots with flower color. I can’t ever seem to get the combinations just right and they poop out before the end of summer. So I would love to learn more about how to do them right, as well as come and see your gardens (which I am planning to do sometime anyway!). Thanks.

  4. emily debruicker says

    I am going to be filling pots with herbs this summer. May sound simple, but last year I planted parsley, basil and chives together, and the basil I think was overcrowded and did not do too well. I am going to try again this year!

  5. Sharon says

    dichondra looks great in containers with almost anything – by the end of the summer it can become a veritable blanket covering the container and growing on the ground below

  6. says

    Hi Margaret,
    I recently learned the expression “thriller, filler and spiller” with regard to container garden design just before delivering a talk on native plants for small gardens and native plants for container gardening. I suggested that blueberry plants could be the perfect thriller and they would be hardy year round in frost proof containers. Your blog is the best – thanks.

  7. Sally Wilburn says

    Hi Margaret,
    I always plant annuals which is fine, but I long to be daring. Can you make a 50 something old woman daring?

  8. Jenny Stein says

    Everything is going in containers at the moment. I am moving out of my place in Northfield, MA end of June (returning to my garden in Ireland) and could not imagine a spring without plants. I am nearly finished planting up 1 Earthbox (rainbow lacinata kale, rainbow chard and rucola), 2 junior earthboxes (lettuces and sweetpeas) a few hanging ‘baskets’ destined for sweetpeas and other flowers as well as an old tool box and 3 wooden crates, all of which I have modified to be ‘earthboxes’ (aluminum lasagna tray, upside down plastic ‘mesh’ plant trays and pvc tubes for both the wick and the water in) – which will be planted up with a variety of herbs and flowers – getting morning glories and sweet peas started indoors in ‘pellets’.Plus 3 more (self-watering) containers planted with lavender –the whole lot nearly completely line the porch railings of my Little Yellow House. A fitting farewell to my little corner of the world (this last year and a half) and all the more reason why I should be lucky enough to win. Having broken my cherry 8 years ago with getting seeds started indoors and planting out, then being ‘forced’ by short timelines to begin broadcasting seeds and planting in situ, I am now back to where I was 30 years ago, when I put in and planted up window boxes in my teeny little San Francisco apartment. WOW! didn’t expect to make that mental leap in writing this ‘entry’ – what is it about these posts that makes me want to shout out my life story (re: gardens). Thanks, Margaret, for making a place that inevitably takes me other places (while encouraging my garden growth/knowledge).

  9. Kris Nusskern says

    We have a lemon tree that needs a nicer pot and maybe some smaller plants to keep it company. Since we’re up north, it needs to be in a pot we can bring in for the cold months.

  10. KathieB says

    Can’t wait to attend this… some years I do pretty well, others not so much. I will be there whether I win a ticket or not! Thanks for the opportunity!

  11. says

    I’m thinking of moving some orange lillies into a container since they’re clashing with their neighbors, but I have no idea what to combine them with.

  12. benjia morgenstern says

    I am going to cheat a bit..I am heading up to CT. from Miami and I am going to bring with me some begonias and succulents….This will give me a start with my Summer pots.

  13. Jenetta says

    I like using pots and little micro-climates for new plants I’ve never dealt with before. I like being able to control the environment a little more until I really get to know the new plants. I’ve never worked with succulents before but I always love the interest they bring to landscapes. I would love to learn more about growing succulents in planters and get to know this fascinating line of plants more.

  14. Abby M. says

    Last year I planted several containers with various cultivars of coleus. Now I want to branch out into begonias, succulents and whatever else I come across. I think I may need to buy some more pots …

  15. Cathy says

    I had decided that I would add more containers to my yard simply because I like the impact they have in a small yard. Then when I worked in my garden yesterday and saw that voles had gotten most of my heucheras I realized I would need to grow them in containers simply for the protection. I have been puzzling out how to best do this, and would love to attend.

  16. Marie R says

    Hello Margaret,
    We plan on pots and pots of different types of herbs this year. We also want to try our hand at some dahlias, zinnia and dwarf cosmos.

  17. says

    I want to try something a bit different in a grouping of containers that stand out on a sunny, hot deck. I’m thinking of just planting local natives, grasses and flowering plants, as if they are in a country field, that can go a long way in taking care of themselves. I’m presently doing some research on which plants to choose and how they will look together…it’s fun and enlightening.

  18. Sheila Mitchell says

    I love container gardening and always enjoy trying something new. The past few years I have been incorporating herbs and other edibles into my pots. This year I plan to make some “all-edibles” containers and will be placing them on the stoop outside my kitchen door for easy access.

  19. Alexandra Scott says

    I’m always picking up previously loved containers big and small. I have two very large containers that are in desperate need of imagination and expertise. This workshop is sure to give me lots of ideas.

  20. Jan says

    I would like to plant some eggplant with some pretty annuals around them. Something to confuse the flea beatles that seem to find eggplant. Yellow, purple and white wouid be nice.

  21. Deborah Banks says

    I have two red cordyline plants that spend the winter at a friend’s house who has an indoor green room. This will be their 4th year, so this may be the last year they’re managable for me in containers. I plan to use them as the centerpiece in a pair of large box shaped containers I have – haven’t decided what to use with them yet this year. Last year I surrounded them with red-leafed begonias and put the pots at the edge of my shade garden. I’d love to come up with something less ordinary this year. My other containers tend to feature annuals, but I have used perennials or small shrubs that I wasn’t ready to plant yet. I’d love to learn more at your workshop.

  22. says

    I’d love to be there for the pleasure of seeing your garden, although truth to tell, it wouldn’t tell me much about my current gardening challenges. A couple of years ago I moved to Tucson after a lifetime of gardening all over the East, and let me tell you, it’s like trying to grow things on Mars. Nothing I knew from past experience is remotely relevant here. Things I *have* learned: (1) If the nursery tag says “full sun,” don’t believe it, not Tucson full sun; (2) drip irrigation is the only way to go, but it is hugely irritating, requiring constant monitoring and fiddling with; and, most important, (3) the desert is not barren in the least, but you have to start from scratch and learn an entirely new botany (and zoology, for that matter). I plan on a container with some Cordyline. Not a native, but it’s a bit of a stand-in for that Phormium in your pic. Succulents work fine here too, but, believe it or not, you have to keep them in the shade.

  23. Kelly G says

    I am planting lots of containers this year while we renovate our backyard. I would love to attend this workshop.

  24. Melodie says

    I’ve been overwintering red stemmed elephant ears for about 4 years now and every year i put them into two large cement planters outside my bedroom french doors. Then add some annuals around the base. There’s also some ivy that was a houseplant variety that has overwintered in the pots for four years! The elephant ears get enormous, and require very little care, just lots of water.

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