Container gardening: From an all-white moon garden to herbs that pack a punch, here are some trends for the 2021 growing season


The COVID-19 gardening boom that started last summer is going strong for 2021 as gardening centers are seeing people starting earlier and not letting limited outdoor space get in the way of planting.

“Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve seen a huge uptick in people wanting to garden,” said Andrew Balfe, manager of annuals at Gethsemane Garden Center in Chicago. “A lot of industries were hard hit, but I think that garden centers across the country had a record year because people were trapped at home and they were either gardening more than they used to, or people were trying something new that they had thought about and now had time to go out and try.”

If you’re feeling the urge to get back to the garden but don’t have a yard, Balfe suggests planting a container garden and letting nature take over your porch or balcony. “We know that many of our customers don’t have space for a big garden. You’re working on a balcony but there’s a lot that you can do. A lot of plants, especially annuals, do well in containers,” he said.

“There’s an old adage about container gardens: thriller, filler, spiller,” Balfe said. “When you’re doing a container, you want to have something that catches the eye, something that fills in, and something that trails over.”

To get the most out of your container garden, create a grouping of flowering annuals and fragrant herbs in mixed sizes of pots, from tiny to oversized. A raised garden planter on wheels is another option to maximize space with a planting bed on top and storage underneath. These can easily be moved to follow the sun and many designs have self-watering systems to keep things growing if you miss a day.

On color trends, Balfe said it’s a personal thing: “Some people are very picky about the colors they choose, and other people just like a rainbow; but I will say that white is always big.”

“A moon garden is an old-fashioned thing that disappeared for a while and has been rediscovered,” he said. “You plant a lot of white flowering plants in one spot so that at night it’s illuminated by the moon or an outdoor light and you can enjoy it after the sun goes down.”

A few lesser-known white flowers that Balfe likes are nicotiana, mandevilla, cosmos and moonflower, a plant that only blooms at night.

“There’s no right or wrong when it comes to container gardening,” he said. “It’s supposed to make you happy; it’s supposed to make you feel good when you look at it, so have fun with it.”

A movable feast

Raised planters on wheels work well if you have limited space, and can easily be moved to get maximum sun. Shepard Elevated Planter $205.99,

Plant an herb garden with bold flavors

If you want to wake up your summer menu, John Diversey, the herbs and vegetable manager at Gethsemane recommends herbs that pack a punch, such as red rubin basil, with its dark purple color and intense, spicy flavor. He also suggests epazote, an herb that’s often used in Mexican cooking and has a grassy flavor with notes of oregano, anise, citrus and mint, and perilla, a fragrant herb used in Asian cooking that has a licorice and basil-like flavor.

Keep a natural vibe

Terrain’s handmade Earth Fired Clay herb pots and saucers have a beautiful aged patina that looks like they have been in your garden for years. $24,

Garden classics with a twist

Cesun’s painted galvanized steel watering cans bring retro charm to your garden. The one-gallon cans have removable spray spouts and movable handles for easy filling. $25,

Plant an all-white moon garden

White begonias and nicotiana are easy-to-care-for white flowering plants that thrive in part sun and part shade container gardens.

Tools as beautiful as the flowers

The acanthus leaf and floral design of Mystic Garden’s fork and trowel set is based on a wallpaper print from the William Morris archives of London’s Victoria & Albert Museum. $34.95,

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