A simple strategy spotlights containers at their peak

Kathleen N. Brenzel,  – February 21, 2007

Container gardens are pretty and portable. But replanting them several times a year is labor-intensive. To simplify the process ― and have good-looking containers all year ― follow this time-saver strategy from the new edition of the Sunset Western Garden Book, available now.

To begin, plant a single perennial in a large pot to display in a high-visibility area. Choose one whose flowers or foliage look their best in spring. At the same time, plant perennials that peak in summer, fall, and winter, each in its own pot, and nurture them in a side yard that gets the right light. When one season’s pot stops blooming or goes dormant, replace it with another that’s starting to peak.

The following are some reliable plant choices. Choose ones that thrive in your climate zone; use rich, fast-draining potting soil.

Spring: delphinium (Blue Fountains or Stand Up strains), primrose (especially English or Fairy primrose or Primula obconica).

Summer: canna, dwarf Oriental lilies, geum, heliotrope, Origanum rotundifolium ‘Kent Beauty’ (blue-green leaves with rose pink bracts in summer), Shasta daisy.

Fall: asters, chrysanthemums.

Winter: cyclamen, Euryops pectinatus.


Among the new features in the completely updated eighth edition of the Sunset Western Garden Book:

Expert tips
Throughout the book, more than 30 horticulturists, growers, and other plant experts offer advice and insider tips in highlighted sidebars. Paul Bosland, director of New Mexico State University’s Chile Pepper Institute, recommends the most flavorful chiles, mild to wild. Gary Ibsen, founder of Gary Ibsen’s Carmel TomatoFest, suggests the most flavorful heirloom tomatoes you can grow. Tom Carruth, head of rose hybridization at Weeks Roses, recommends the easiest roses. David Fross, of Native Sons Wholesale Nursery, weighs in on natives for beginners; Jim Becker, owner of Goodwin Creek Gardens nursery, shares his picks for the most fragrant lavenders.

New plants
More than 8,000 plant listings, including 500 new ones, are keyed to Sunset climate zones. Among them: Brugmansia ‘Peaches and Cream’, a 5-foot shrub with fragrant pink blooms; ‘Mango Meadowbrite’ echinacea, a 3-foot perennial with light orange-yellow petals; and ox-eye sunflower (Heliopsis helianthoides), a perennial (‘Prairie Sunset’ has golden yellow flowers with dark red spots at the base of each petal, while ‘Summer Sun’ has bright yellow blooms).

New plant lists
The book’s popular Plant Selection Guides, compiled by Sunset’s garden experts, list the best plants for every garden situation, from dry shade to slopes. Among the new lists are plants to attract birds and plants for small spaces.

Practical gardening dictionary
Completely revised and updated, including a new container-gardening section, an expanded organic-gardening section, the latest information on plant pests and pest management, and more.

The new edition of the Sunset Western Garden Book (Sunset Books, 2007; $35 softcover, $40 hardcover) is available at bookstores and online at www.sunsetbooks.com now.