Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Container Gardening - Inspiration from Rick Bayless Garden, Chicago

Architecture: containers
adding height to the garden
In an earlier post I highlighted the urban agriculture and leisure areas in Chef Rick Bayless' farm/garden in downtown Chicago.  I was also very pleased to see all the containers used in the garden.

I've captured a few of my favorites here for your consideration and inspiration.  I use quite a few containers in my own garden and teach others on the subject. So I'm always on the look out for tips, examples, and motivation. 

One thing that I find interesting in this case is that many of the plantings seem to stay consistent over the years - as I compare photos from prior tours and blogs.  Hitting on something that works and sticking to it is not a bad thing at all! I'm still in trial and error state in many parts of my garden. 

Some interesting aspects of the use of containers:

Architectural elements along pathways and within/raised gardens. For example the raised pots in the photo just above right. We were told that the sun hits the top of the garden much more than the floor - hence the high sun items raised up to greet the day.   Another interesting use of containers was to add strong vertical structure to the porch area. These large containers create an effective screen from prying eyes looking into the house, beautiful colors, and vegetables too. The climbing vine is a spinach variety!  This photo also transitions well to my next point which is clustering more than one container together in one vignette. 

Rick Bayless Container Garden Inspiration - August 2014
Nested or grouped to create depth and more visual impact - for example, in the photo to the right, there are at least five containers. There are three large containers with the sweet potato vine, coleus, and spinach climbing vines. Note that on the right is a smaller container with red impatients (?) another one flanked the other side of the porch.  All of these taken together create a wall of awesomeness. Imagine if it was only one large container - just not the same feeling at all. 

In the next photo there is another example of clusters of containers. The container shown below the banana is the high impact plant in the middle container, however, clustered around it are several smaller pots with sanseveria (mother-in-law tongue).  The height of the sanseveria effectively block out the larger container creating a more visually appealing cluster of containers.  The growing characteristics of the sanseveria and the tropical banana are very different from a water perspective - but with these in containers they can live happily side by side. 

Container Groupings
Softening hardscapes - containers are great to extend the garden into a living area,  to extend the garden and softening edges of  walls

In the Bayless garden there were several entertaining areas as well as the vegetable growing area. You can get a sense for that in my prior post - there is an aerial photograph of the layout

To that end, in a nutshell, the middle of the plot is the garden and all around the edges are the cooking areas, work spaces, and entertainment/seating areas. Thus they have made good use of containers to soften the hardscapes, extend the garden into these areas, continuing the visual interest and mood :)

The photos immediately below highlight a few examples from the garden.

Containers softening a garden wall

Large Tropical sheltering the cooking area from view

Look at these great succulents - not that A/C Unit 
Containers transitioning around a water feature

Creating perfect growing conditions with containers, tropicals above, and as shown below a large collection of succulents.  I was told that the succulents are meant to be an homage to Mexican growing environment.  Regardless of the reason, I thought this collection of containers was amazing! First because I just adore succulents, then because of the sheer volume of them, then upon reflection on the organization and juxtaposition with the evergreen and Spiderwort planted just in front of them. Many of the succulents are slow growing and not well suited for a cold climate garden - the containers make them portable and easier to overwinter indoors.

Container gardening for fun!

Happy gardening;

Teresa Marie

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