Creating Your Relaxing Outdoor Living Space

Inspiration / Gardening Advice

Thanks to Willoway Nurseries' Danny Gouge for sharing his expertise on container design.

Container gardening can add that finishing touch to your outdoor living space and give you a great place to relax and reduce stress. Having plants in and around our work and living area is an important component of creating healthy minds and bodies. Recent studies show that plants stimulate both a physiological and psychological relaxation response.  We tend to be more relaxed in areas with plants because they psychologically link us to nature. 

Container gardens offer a solution regardless of size with color that can tie in with your home décor.  There has been a recipe out for years that will get you off to a good start if you want to plant combination pots. The easy guideline for choosing the plants to combine in a container is to include "a thriller, a spiller, and a filler." That translates to at least one focal-point plant (the thriller) combined with several plants that spill over the edge of the pots. The fillers, which are plants with smaller leaves and flowers that add color and fill in the arrangement all season long.  

There is also the option of a single focal plant in a container.  This plant can be anything that you have room for on your patio.  I would suggest that you select plants that blend into your areas requirements of sun or shade.  I have seen wonderful results with patio trees, evergreens and blooming shrubs that really look great in containers. Generally, if you can grow it in the ground, you can grow it in a container.  You are only limited by the size of your space.  The Hand Picked For You®selections are a great place to start selecting plants. These plants have been tested to perform in your garden region to give you the best success.   Click here to check out the plant search feature on our website and you can select form the many wonderful plants in our collection.  

It's important to decide what plant you want to grow before purchasing your container. Several factors help determine how large and deep the container must be. Consider the size and shape of our plant, how large it will get and also the sun/shade requirements.  Your local garden center can help you in this selection process.  It's easier to grow plants in large containers than in small ones.  Large containers hold more soil, which tend to stay moist longer.  Planting larger plants in small containers tend to make plants get rootbound plants and then they will dry out quicker and will not grow as well.   Give your plants some room to grow.


Selecting a container

I like to select a mix of pots with thick walls that are light colored. The lighter colors tend to reflect heat and keep the soil cooler while providing a pop of color to the patio. The thicker side walls also help keep the plants from drying out and require less watering.  

I have a few notes below that may help you in selecting the right container for your plants. Whatever container you choose, drainage holes are important. Without drainage, soil will become waterlogged and plants may die. You can always add water but it is hard to take it away without good drainage. If your container does not have drainage holes just a few small holes will be enough so that excess water can drain out. 

  • Clay or terra-cotta containers are attractive but need to be stored in a frost-free location to prevent cracking.
  • Cast concrete is long-lasting and comes in a range of sizes and styles. These can be left outside in all-weather, however they can be quite heavy so check the weight restrictions if placing on a deck or balcony.
  • Metals are strong, but they conduct heat, exposing roots to rapid temperature fluctuations.
  • Plastic and fiberglass pots and planters are lightweight, inexpensive, and available in many sizes and shapes. Choose sturdy and somewhat flexible containers and avoid thin, stiff ones—they become brittle with cold temperatures and age.

  • Polyurethane foam containers resist chipping and cracking and also can insulate roots. These may be more expensive but they protect roots are against both hot and cold temperatures,
  • Self-Watering pots are new double-walled containers that are again more expensive but require less time to water. 


It may sound complicated, but it is really easy to get started.  Visit our website, pick outstanding Handpicked For You® selections (click here to find a retailer near you), select a container with good drainage, and you're well on your way! 

This is a great start to creating your own relaxing garden to enjoy and regenerate yourself.  Plants used as part of room décor reduce stress and lower your blood pressure and help you to enjoy nature.