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Northeast Gardening: An Elegant Evergreen Container

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

Wondering what to put in your planters this spring that look good all season? Irene Virag offers an evergreen suggestion for the Northeast region.

A sun-loving container with dwarf evergreens, succulents and thyme.
Lowe's Northeast Region gardening expert Irene Virag plants an evergreen container to enjoy season after season.

When it comes to pots and planters, it's hard to contain myself. The possibilities not only verge on endless, they also extend beyond spring. This time of year ranunculus, pansies and primroses are all the rage. But I'm trying to think outside the pot and plant beyond the obvious. So I decided on a sun-loving all-season combination of dwarf evergreens, succulents and a little thyme.

Here are the plants I'm using:

Golden fernleaf Chamaecyparis

An elegant shape and eye-catching golden foliage make the slow-growing Hinoki cypress dwarf cultivar the focal point of my container. Putting out about 2 inches of new growth a year, it should stay happy in this pot for some time. Chamaecyparis tops out at about 5 feet, so eventually it needs a larger container, or a spot in the landscape. The cypress is hardy in USDA zones 4 to 8 and likes full sun to partial shade. It needs about five hours of sun a day to keep its glossy golden shine.

A miniature spruce can really spruce up a container planting.

Miniature bird's nest Norway Spruce
This wee gem offers finely textured green needles in a little, flat-top globe that can take a decade to reach 18 inches high. It's a low-maintenance, long-lived shrub that is at home in rock gardens and along garden paths in Zones 2 to 8. As its low-maintenance evergreen companions in this container, it likes full sun to partial shade, and once established is drought tolerant.

Sedum's plump evergreen rosettes soften the edges of pots.

Sedum laconicum
This succulent sedum looks like a bowl of tiny, green jelly beans. In midsummer it shows off with dainty white flowers, and later in the season its foliage turns a stunning coral color. In the ground its creeping foliage forms a low-growing mat that cushions beds and borders and rock gardens. Plump green rosettes spill over and soften the edges of pots. Sedum laconicum is hardy and evergreen in Zones 3 to 9.

Hens-and-chicks offers a bit of botanical whimsy.

The botanical name of this easy-care, drought-tolerant succulent "Sempervivum" means "live forever." That's an exaggeration, of course, but the plant does seem to go on forever because the parent rosette produces smaller plantlets on short stolons that look like a brood of baby chicks nestled around a mother hen. The hen dies after flowering, but the chicks take its place.

Hens-and-chicks are conversation pieces tucked between pavers on patios and walkways or in crevices of rock walls in Zones 3 to 11. They star in rooftop gardens and trough gardens. And they deserve applause for their supporting roles in pots.

Sweet alyssum is sweet indeed with fragrant white flowers that go till frost.

Sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritime) is the Energizer Bunny of annuals. It's easy to grow from seed, and blooms in record time, with a froth of tiny, fragrant white flowers that go till frost. Sweet alyssum is the only annual I put in this otherwise cold-hardy planting because it can take the still-chilly days and nights of early spring and late fall and provides a bright spot amid the evergreens.

It's about time you tried thyme as a container plant.

This aromatic Mediterranean herb doesn't just jazz up sauces and stews, it adds pizzazz to your garden pots with its tiny, gray-green foliage and charming flowers. Thyme can get woody after a few years, so cut it back or put in new plants. Otherwise keep this perennial content in a sunny spot and don't overwater it.

The work is done. Now I can enjoy this container - for years to come. If you’d like to see more about this, watch my how-to video.

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