March 3, 2009
DIY Spring Planter
Choose a container from a garden centre that you can move from place to place, to enjoy as a focal point from a window or as a welcoming note at the front door when company’s coming. Woven baskets are an ideal choice, but any type of lightweight container will work.
For spring, choose perennials with interesting foliage shapes, textures and colours — such as ferns, ivies, coral bells, foam flower and periwinkle — that can continue life in the garden when they’ve outgrown the container. Flowering plants are always hard to resist but try to keep the planter simple. Restrict your palette to two or three colours such as yellow, pink and blue. With these colours in mind, choose from pansies, heather, hellebores and primulas. All can withstand a little cold, but make sure the plants have been “hardened off” (slowly introduced to the outdoor climate) at the nursery.
In six easy steps, you can create this pretty seasonal planter — and accompanying whimsical “bird’s nest”.
Choose a container or basket with a tight weave so the soil won’t sift out whenever it’s moved or dry out too easily (the small holes throughout will provide excellent drainage). Fill it 3/4 full with a specially formulated soilless mix for containers; pat down the medium to fill in the sides of the container and remove any air pockets.
Add the largest plants first to establish the scale and form of the planter — play with plants to create a high point that is at least equal to the height of the container itself. These plants should have the most architectural interest. Here, the lacy leaves of maidenhair fern add a soft texture, while the heather adds a punch of spring colour.
Continue to fill out the sides with plants that contrast or differ from their neighbours. The dark burgundy leaves of coral bells are highlighted when contrasted with variegated ivy. The sunshine-yellow flowers of pansies are complemented by deep pink heather. Tuck more and more plants in until the planter is balanced and overflowing.
Spring is not a good time to be collecting a bird’s nest in the wild, so build your own using sheet moss, raffia and twine. Roll the moss into a baseball-sized ball and hold in the palm of your hand. With your finger, make a hole in the centre of the ball and start working the opening outward while packing in the sides.
Imitate the admirable engineering skills a bird must have to make such an intricate nest (that won’t blow out of tall, wind-blown trees) by weaving natural-coloured raffia and garden twine (jute) around the moss bundle to secure its shape.
Keep kneading the sides of the nest until you are happy with its shape (misting with water helps secure the loose pieces and keeps the moss a brighter green). For authenticity, add tufts of brown grass, mud and small seed heads of wildflowers. Finish by dressing with a dainty viola plant.
Watch this video for Suzanne Dimma’s tips on how to arrange spring flowers.