Tom Karwin, On Gardening | Container Garden in Progress

Peninsula Premier Admin

Care for your garden

A recent column outlined the development of a container garden, defined as a display of an accumulation of plants in containers. The principal steps of the process are:

• Decide on a location that is both visible to visitors and convenient for the gardener.• Determine the location’s exposure to sunlight, on a range from very sunny to very shady.• Select plants that you wish to display and that prefer the location’s exposure to sunlight.• Adopt a thematic approach, based your preference: plant genus, blossom color or color combination; complementary forms, etc.• Simplify maintenance by grouping plants with similar moisture needs.• Select containers with similar or complementary colors and forms.• Elevate the container garden to add importance to the collection, and another dimension to the design.

This first draft of a new container garden shows the simple structure and initial plants. (Contributed)

In today’s column, we share a container garden development project. For openers, we offer these ground rules: (a) this project is in an early and incomplete stage; (b) the project is only one implementation of the concept (your ideas will be different); and (c) the project, like all gardening will evolve.

The location

This container garden will be in a patio under small deciduous trees (Chitalpa ‘Pink Dawn’) that provide filtered shade.

Plant selection

Given an existing collection of plants in containers, this display emphasizes succulents that prefer partial shade. The initial grouping includes these plants:

Aechmea gamosepala (Matchstick Bromeliad)Agave attenuata ‘Variegata’ (Foxtail Agave)Billbergia nutans (Queen’s Tears)Clivia miniata (Bush Lily) (planned addition)Haemanthus coccineus (Blood Lily)Mangave ‘Bloodspot’Mangave ‘Macho Mocha’Mangave ‘Moonglow’


Using existing containers, this display’s foreground favors dark green glazed pots, and the background includes terra cotta pots.


This site has two basic levels: the patio floor and an 18-inch wall. This display creates two additional levels by placing recycled boards (from an old compost bin) on common bricks (leftovers from a forgotten project). These height options allow placing containerized plants for presentation at desired heights. This three-dimensional array will evolve as the display gains additional plants in containers of various sizes.

The long-term goal: create a tight grouping of similar plants with compatible cultural requirements. The ultimate effect of this display ideally will be attractive and satisfying to both the gardener and visitors. A friend’s initial reaction was “too many plants,” but time will tell.

The underlying messages: gardening designs reflect the gardener, and ideas change over time.

Advance our gardening knowledge

Now that we are well into the new year, the hosts of garden-related webinars have announced new opportunities to advance your gardening knowledge. As before, we recommend an open response to unfamiliar and advanced topics, with the objective of learning “new stuff.”

The University of California Botanical Garden presents a diverse series of webinars.

“Mushrooms of the Garden with Tom Bruns.” Botanical gardens are obviously known for their plants, but with plants come fungi. In fact, the diversity of plants and fungi are coupled through their many ecological interactions, 1-2 p.m. Saturday. Go to /

“South Asian Tea and the Making of Global Market.” This talk illuminates how between the late nineteenth and the mid-twentieth century the British-dominated tea industry based in South Asia invented the technologies and methods of global advertising that are still with us today, 1-2 p.m. Jan. 28. For more information on this free event and to register, visit

“Birds of the Garden and Their Nests.” Winter is a great time to see old nests revealed in trees that have lost their leaves. Join Garden education staff over Zoom for a cozy morning finding out more about some resident Botanical Garden birds and their unique nests, 10-10:45 a.m. Jan. 30. For information on this low-cost event and to register, visit

The Cactus & Succulent Society of America will present “Taxonomy for Succulent Growers” at 10 a.m. Saturday. The scientific classification of plants (and animals) is important for several reasons. Perhaps most important to collectors is that understanding the taxonomic level of a name (genus, species, hybrid, or cultivar) enables buyers to obtain exactly what they want. The presenter, Mark Dimmit, has a Ph.D. in Biology from the University of California at Riverside. For info and to register for this free event, visit

The American Iris Society has launched its 2021 Winter Webinar series with two presentations by Professor of Biology Carol Wilson:

“The Philosophy and Methods of Discovering and Naming New Species: An Example from the Irises of China” at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 3.

“Our Desire for Order: Historical Taxonomic Understanding of Iris and Current Hypotheses of Evolutionary Relationships (phylogenies)” at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 10.

For information and to register, go to . These events are free to members of AIS. Non-members can request access.

Enrich your gardening days

Gardeners often have access to new project ideas and learning opportunities, adding interest, challenge, excitement and satisfaction to the gardening experience. Seize the day!

And, while you’re doing that, keep your emotions positive and your viruses negative and enjoy your garden.

Tom Karwin is past president of Friends of the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum, Monterey Bay Area Cactus & Succulent Society, and Monterey Bay Iris Society, and a Lifetime UC Master Gardener (Certified 1999–2009). He is now a board member and garden coach for the Santa Cruz Hostel Society. To view daily photos from his garden, To search an archive of previous On Gardening columns, visit

Contributed by local news sources

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