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  • Writer's pictureCenter for Rural Culture

A Bountiful Container

By Jaqueline Murphy of Semperflora

When you think about container plantings you might envision a classic ornamental combination. Maybe you visualize a half wine barrel overflowing with lipstick red geraniums and variegated ivy. And that’s a perfectly lovely recipe for lasting color and visual interest.

But maybe you’re interested in benefits beyond beauty. Perhaps you have a hankering for a container garden that provides fresh herbs or vegetables or edible flowers that’s also pretty enough to sit on the back patio or next to the front door. An ornamental edible container garden would be a satisfying solution.

You’ll find one container planted with five different ornamental edible designs below.

Choose Local Plants

With almost 200 locally grown plants to choose from at Fall Line Farms and Local Roots, the most difficult task is going to be exercising restraint. Or, if you have the space, you could plant up multiple containers and toss self-control to the compost heap.

One big advantage to using locally grown plants is that they’re acclimated to our growing conditions. That translates to healthier plants that will be easier for you to maintain.

Planting Recipes

These recipes include plants grown by Fall Line Farms and Local Roots producers and are designed for a single half whiskey or wine barrel planter or a comparable container 26–28 inches in diameter. A half barrel holds about four cubic feet of soil and you can find bags of soil for sale at Fall Line Farms and Local Roots, too. Each design includes a mix of edibles that are also ornamental.

1 Borage 1 Bronze fennel 3 French marigold 3 Nasturtium, yellow and orange

Plant the borage and bronze fennel toward the center and edge the container with a combination of marigold and nasturtium. If you’re placing the planter against a wall, place the taller plants, the borage and fennel, toward the back of the container. If you prefer, you could use all marigolds or all nasturtium as edging plants instead of a mixture.

1 Hyacinth bean 5–7 Nasturtium, yellow and orange 1 Teepee or spiral trellis, approximately 6 feet tall.

You can buy a trellis or make your own teepee trellis by lashing together three bamboo poles with wire. Sink the trellis about 12 inches deep into the soil and plant the bean at its base. Edge the container with nasturtium.

1 Tomato ‘Black Plum’ 1 Basil ‘Amethyst’ 3–5 French marigold 1 Trellis or teepee, approximately 6 feet tall

Make your own teepee trellis by lashing together three bamboo poles with wire. Sink the trellis about 12 inches into the soil slightly off center in the barrel and plant the tomato at its base. Place the basil to one side of the tomato and arrange the marigolds around the edge of the container.

1 Rosemary, upright form 1 German chamomile 3 Nasturtium

Place the rosemary slightly off center and the chamomile next to it. Edge the planter with the nasturtium.

1 Lemon balm 2–3 mints (spearmint, peppermint, apple, pineapple) 3–4 Terracotta or plastic pots

Lemon balm is a member of the mint family. All mints are aggressive growers and will quickly crowd out other plants. If you’d like to try growing several types of mint together in your half barrel, keep them separated by sinking smaller pots into the larger container.

Place your container garden in a location that gets about six hours of sunlight per day for the most bountiful harvest. The exception is the mint garden, which will be happier with some shade in the afternoon. You might also be happier if you place a table and chairs near the mint so you can easily pluck leaves for your iced tea or other libation.

(If you're not already a member of Fall Line Farms and Local Roots, our nonprofit online local food market, you can try us free for a month by using the promo code "One_Month_Free" when you register.)

Jaqueline Murphy earned her MFA in Literature and Creative Nonfiction at Bennington College in Vermont. Semperflora offers garden coaching and design consultation that harmonizes with nature. Visit or find Jaqueline on social media at Instagram @semperflora_virginia or Facebook @semperflora. Roughly translated, semperflora means “always plants.”

About Fall Line Farms and Local Roots


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