Container Gardening Under the SoCal Sun Cliff May style

Creating a stylist Garden for your Cliff May

Container Gardening Under the SoCal Sun!

Container gardening is a fun and fresh way to grow your own vegetables, flowers, and herbs. The moveable containers used for this method of gardening grants you the flexibility of making the growing spaces work for your lifestyle. Light-weight containers that look like they’re made from terra cotta and planters made from natural materials give you the flexibility to customize your backyard garden space to your needs. Smaller containers are easily moved out of the way for parties, and larger containers can be used to form outdoor “rooms” for multiple purposes. Follow these tips to create a container garden that is the perfect complement to your Cliff May home.

Cliff May and the Great Outdoors

Homes designed by Cliff May testify to his love of the outdoors. The shape of the homes as well as their large expanses of windows looking out onto the lawn make these homes a real joy to design outdoor spaces for. Designing the garden goes way beyond just the lawn furniture selected. Container gardening gives the lawn an instant focal point to enjoy from in or out of the home. The containers themselves allow you to bring vibrant pops of color to the yard and customize the space to complement your personal style.

Choosing Containers

When choosing containers for gardening, consider what you are trying to accomplish. Do you want to create a divider of sorts between outdoor spaces? Is a waterfall-like focal point your goal? Pick rectilinear planters in lieu of a wall to separate the patio from the rest of the yard, or stage a collection of round planters at various heights and in various sizes to achieve an artistic, tiered look.

Start with a few basic terra cotta pots. You can either paint these a fun Mid-Century Modern color like lime green or red, paint them fresh white, or leave them in their natural burnt orange color. Then, select a few sculptural pieces to create an interesting garden vignette. We love this Bullet Planter from Design Within Reach:

Bullet Planter

The design hails from the 1950s, but no one is really sure who created it first. The “legend” is that they were the brainchild of a couple living in the San Francisco Bay Area. The husband worked at a factory that made fiberglass pieces for satellite dishes. According to the story, his wife saw a sample of one of the parts and declared it perfect for planting flowers in. Whether or not this is what really happened, one thing is for sure: the planter is out of this world.

Here’s another gem from Design Within Reach: the Geometric Terra-Cotta Pot by designer Nick Fraser.

Geometric Terra-Cotta Pot

Although the design itself is modern—as in from 2011—the pot offers a bit of the unexpected and at its small size, you can grab three or four of them to plant your favorite herbs in.

For a wide variety of designs, check out San Diego-based VesseL USA Architectural Pottery. They’ve been around since 1950 and feature a large catalog of luxury pottery for home and garden. Just look at this matte black planter:


Other designs come in conical and cylindrical shapes for some great vertical lines. Whatever design you pick, though, be sure that the pot provides the plants some drainage. One of the easiest things to overlook when container gardening is the lack of a drain hole at the bottom of a planter. The last thing you want to do is drown your newly-planted flowers.

Planting Your Container Garden

Get out under that California sun to plant veggies, herbs, and flowers in your fancy new planters, because this could get messy. Large pots are best for things like tomato plants, pepper plants, and garlic, while smaller planters can more easily accommodate herbs and succulents. Don’t get too hung up on size though. A large pot can be absolutely filled to overflowing with ornamental grasses and flowers. Other planters, like the one above from VesseL, are perfect for a pretty row of basil plants or fun cacti.

Use potting soil for your plants, rather than regular top soil that you’d typically use in a flowerbed. Make sure the soil is moist—most of the time this isn’t an issue with fresh, unopened bags of potting soil. Take the opportunity to try some green fertilizing alternatives, like crushed eggshells or used coffee grounds, to add extra nutrients to the soil. Then plant your plants high in the soil, with just enough dirt to cover the top of the root clump. Be sure to water all of your plantings once they’re all in their new pots; they’re likely to be thirsty.

Be sure to fertilize your container plants every couple of weeks and never let the soil dry out completely. Container gardening takes a little more attention than traditional gardening practices since the plants are not in the ground where more water and nutrients naturally occur. Despite this fact, container gardening has its rewards, including giving you the opportunity to carry the interior theme of your Cliff May home out into the yard.

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Megan Winkler

Megan Winkler is a professional writer, editor, and author with an extensive portfolio. Her works include interior design coffee table books and advice articles on the best ways to turn a house into a home. She credits her master’s degree in history and her relationships with professional designers for providing historical and philosophical context to her design pieces. Megan is passionate about Mid-Century Modern and historic homes, and believes they provide modern generations with a glimpse into the past.

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