January 21, 2012

Salad Bowl

This wide, shallow bowl is my favorite container planter.

It is big, 26 inches across, and it is light, made from fiberglass and sand blended together.  I can lift it, empty or filled with potting soil.

Even though it is fiberglass, it has a rough texture and mossy patina that gives it an aged look of old concrete.  Nicer than hypertufa, but nowhere near as cheap.

It did not come with drainage holes so I had to spend an afternoon with Jim's drill and the biggest bit in the case, drilling holes in the bottom.  Why would an expensive plant container not have drainage holes?

Originally I put a rosemary plant in the bowl, so that I could bring it into the closed porch for winter, protecting it from cold and wind outside.

The rosemary plant is Rosmarinus officinalis 'Madeline Hill', which is one of the hardiest, surviving temperatures down to 0 degrees F. (-18 C.), if you can imagine, but it is still a Mediterranean sub shrub that doesn't like winter wind.

I loved the look of the rosemary in the bowl, sharing the edges of the container with an ornamental oregano Origanum "Kent Beauty'.  Loved it.  But you know where this is going . . . . the rosemary got too big, and the oregano did too.

They outgrew the container, and I could barely lift the bowl to bring it in each winter, it was so heavy.  It was time to plant Madeline Hill outside in the garden, let her hunker down in the cold of winter and see how she would do.

The rosemary looked good after transplant this summer.  She can billow and bulk up out there, as rosemary should. 
Madeline Hill transplanted well
It is January now, and we finally have a little snow cover after a month of wind and sun.  Temperatures this month hit 6 degrees F. one night (-14 C.).  She still looks good, but the real test will be how this plant actually looks in March.
Madeline soldiering on in the dead of winter

The Kent Beauty oregano has also been planted out in the garden, but it's a zone 6 plant, quite tender, so I don't expect to see it next spring, but you never know, right?

Now . . . what to plant in the bowl?  Annuals, I think.  Not large permanent things like a big shrub this time. 

Violas or pansies would be lovely, and make a big statement, especially against the neutral cement color of the pot.  A whole bowlful of these beauties, filling the entire big container, would make me happy.  But kind of predictable.  I've done pansy containers before. 

I might plant a trio of lettuces instead, using green and red leaf varieties, to get foliage contrast and salad fixings to boot.

Lettuce is often used as bedding plants, massed for great color effect.  I could do a mini mass in this container and keep it on the deck outside the kitchen door.  (Do you think it would be safe from rabbits so close to the house, in a container, elevated on a deck?)

Whiteflower Farm has a trio of lettuces that are ornamental and edible and would look nice massed together in the bowl, but any combination of several lettuces would work.

I don't like fussy container constructions with spillers, fillers and thrillers.  My containers are usually just one plant or two, and I like to keep things simple.

And what could be simpler than a big bowl of lettuce on the deck?  Or more convenient for dinner? 


  1. I agree, why do so many containers for plants not have drainage holes!? it's an obvious necessity one would think. Had I known there was a rosemary that could survive to -18!!! I definitely need to find some of that this year. I tried to bring my rosemary into the house and promptly forgot to water it. Died within a month. One I could leave outside would be a godsend.

  2. A big bowl of lettuce on the porch sounds perfect. It looks like the perfect pot now that you've added drainage holes.

    I didn't realize there were any Rosemary that cold hardy! That's good to know. The NC Botanical Garden has a collection of Rosemarys in tall raised beds and lost a bunch one year several years ago when temps got down to zero for a few nights. No snow cover though.

  3. I love the lettuce idea. When I first saw the bowl I thought it was concrete. Primroses would be cute, too. But planting lettuce is my favorite idea. :o) I'm adding trailing rosemary to my pots this year. I had a rosemary plant for years that I had grown from a cutting that never bloomed. I'm hoping for better luck this year.

  4. Marguerite, this is the first winter I have had Madeline Hill rosemary outside in the garden. I'll have to post how it survives the full winter when spring comes.

    Sweetbay, this rosemary is fully cold hardy, but I don't know yet how it will look in March. I worry it will survive but look frayed. We'll see!

    Tammy, doesn't that bowl look like aged concrete? But it's a total fake : )

  5. I read a blog post this week about only using one plant in containers. I think I've never really done containers because more than a couple of plants feels to ornate for me. Lettuces sound good and tasty, too.

    1. For so long we have heard about massing at least three plants in containers, or more, but mine never worked out. Like you, I think they are way too ornate and overdone!

  6. I'm with you, I appreciate simplicity in container plantings. I saw a citrus tree under planted with lavender and rosemary that was striking. I'm thinking I'll add some trailing rosemary to my Meyer lemon tree this spring. The lettuce combinations look really pretty together and how nice to step out and gather enough for a salad!

    1. Cat, I am getting a theme here that most people like the simpler containers with just a plant or two. Post a picture of your lemon with the trailing rosemary when you plant it up.

  7. This is such a great idea. Homegrown lettuce is the best.

    1. Heather, thanks. Homegrown anything is always better I think : )

  8. I also love the look of single plant containers. They give onlookers the opportunity to really appreciate the plant's attributes. I think you'll enjoy a container full of lettuce but keep some flowering annuals available to replant if/when your lettuce bolts. This will give you the best of both ideas.

    1. Joene, I will have to come up with a late summer plant for the bowl, as the lettuce won't go all summer. Same thing when I planted violas, they were pretty until mid summer, then had to go. I had such luck with nasturtiums last year (for the first time), maybe those sprawling all over the bowl would look good?

    2. Nasturtiums would look great unless it's a bad aphid year. Only one way to find out, though. You could also try different types of coleus. I've had great luck with them in similar planters. They are quite striking when underplanted with lime-green sweet-potato vine or a similar low-growing spreader. Not quite the single-plant idea you are looking for but still great color.

  9. I think the salad bowl planter will look great even on a deck or patio.


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