During Jefferson’s life, a common Colonial garden would be contained and situated close to the kitchen for easy access. Herbs for healing, vegetables for meals and flowers for enjoyment would be planted all together. Heirloom flowers, which are still popular today, would include hollyhocks, foxgloves, daylilies, irises and peonies.
In the 21st century, container gardens welcome visitors at the front door, provide texture to a smooth concrete deck and infuse color into an already established garden. They are the specialty of Adorn OKC, owned by Elizabeth Richardson, which has designed and maintained container gardens for residential and commercial properties since 2014. Many clients are seasonal and continue the services from year to year, while others are occasional clients who need the services for special events such as a wedding. “I’ve always loved container gardening and gardening in general,” Richardson says.
In the beginning, Richardson, who has four children, was looking for a way to make a good living while keeping a flexible schedule. Not an easy find. She enjoyed gardening and began researching her options, and found that there were no businesses that catered to creating and maintaining container gardens. She believed she had found her ideal job. “Nobody just did container gardening,” Richardson laughs. “It is a niche market.”
Since 2014, Richardson has built up her client list — “I have clients all over,” she says, “but mostly in Quail Creek” — and she has found that many people do not have (or don’t want to spend) the time to decorate and change their garden pots. Clients love the results and tell her how it “perks them up.”
For the seasonal client, Richardson will change their garden pot – on the front porch, for instance – in early May. In June, flowers will be added for the summer, which Richardson says is the longest growing season. The flowers will bloom and bloom until fall. In September, Richardson will plant fall flowers to replace summer’s fading beauties. After Thanksgiving, the container will be changed to holiday décor with plants, such as evergreens and ivy, to last the winter.
Richardson said she loves how each container garden is a completely custom design. Sometimes a client may want a certain color or theme incorporated in the design, and she enjoys the creative process. “It is not boring,” she says. “Every situation is different. It is like a blank canvas.”
No project is too small for Precure Nursery and Garden Center, which opened in 1959 and is still family owned, with two locations in Oklahoma City. Landscape Designer Veronica Mills focuses on residential clients and spends her time between consulting, design and managing projects. “Definitely, design is my favorite,” Mills says. “That’s what I went to school for. I’m more of a creative mind.”
Mills earned a master’s in landscape architecture from the University of Oklahoma. In addition to working at Precure, she has taught at OSU-OKC for four years – sharing and also absorbing information about the gardening industry. “With this business,” she says, “you are constantly learning.”
Container gardening’s popularity, according to Mills, is due in part to it being easier for people than a ground-level garden, as many cannot physically get down to the ground. Also, it gives people another outlet to be creative. Mills enjoys working on container gardens because of the assortment of choices.
“I love the pots,” Mills says. “Pots come in a variety of colors and glazes.”
When choosing a pot, Mills pointed out, elements to consider include size, color and form, as well as the style of the home. “You want to keep in mind the architecture of the home,” she says.
Next is picking out the plants, which is also fun. Color combinations are key to the mood of the container garden. “A lot of work is based on the color wheel,” Mills says. “Complementary colors are nice.” For example, purple and yellow work well together.
Planting is the next step. Mills suggests planting a boxwood or small juniper in the center of the container, then adding verbena, which is a naturally trailing plant, around the base. Next, fill in the pot with rose moss or petunias, both of which are heat tolerant. “We’ve got a large inventory of plant material,” Mills says. “I’m always checking to see what we have to get, the pick of the tree, so to speak.”
Mills, who works all over the metro including Nichols Hills, Choctaw and Harrah, talked about how each project has its own design challenges, owner requests and last-minute plans, but that is what she was trained to do.
“There is individuality in every design,” Mills says.
► Plant Speak — Thriller, Filler, Spiller
Elizabeth Richardson of Adorn OKC gives advice for creating a garden container through combinations:
Thriller: One big plant in the container that gives height, such as a small evergreen.
Filler: Plants that fill in the gaps, such as impatiens or a similar annual.
Spiller: Plants that cascade over and soften the edge of the container. For example, sweet potato vine.
Color: Use a combination of at least two leaf colors, along the lines of dusty miller’s silver leaves paired with the chartreuse of moneywort.
Texture: Try using a combination of different textures, too — grasses, which have skinny leaves, pair well visually with plants such as moneywort, which has tiny leaves.
In 1891, the first garden club in America was founded by The Ladies Garden Club of Athens, Georgia. In 1929, 13 federated states became charter members at a meeting in Washington, D.C. In 1935, National Garden Clubs authorized headquarters at Rockefeller Center in New York City, and a permanent headquarters building was established in St. Louis in 1958.
Today, National Garden Clubs Inc. is a nonprofit educational organization made up of 5,000 garden clubs and 175,000 members – including Oklahoma Garden Clubs Inc., organized in 1929 and located at the Rubye Atkinson Garden Center at 1441 N. Key in Midwest City.