We tend not to think of the shrubby dwarf Japanese maple as a container plant -- in fact, it adapts well to life in a garden urn. Martha plants two urns with split-leaf dwarf maples surrounded by a variety of chartreuse-colored annuals. Though the annuals will die back at the end of the season, the maple trees will live on year after year.
Tools and Materials
Dwarf Japanese maple tree
A variety of annuals
Soil mix (see Resources below)
Planting Urns How-To
1. Working on a tarp will make cleanup easy when you've finished. Lay the tarp in a shady area so that the plants will not be stressed by the sun. Cover the drainage hole in the bottom of the urn with noncorrosive screening, and top with 2 to 3 inches of gravel to provide fast drainage.
2. When the tree is in its final position, the top of the root ball should be slightly above the rim of the urn. Positioning the tree this way will allow the soil to be mounded up to the trunk of the tree, which prevents the tree from being smothered. Follow these steps to position the tree correctly: First, estimate the size of the root ball and fill the urn with soil mix up to approximately the bottom of the root ball. Place the maple, still in its pot, in the urn; check the position of the root ball, the top of which should be slightly above the rim of the urn. Adjust the soil below the pot until the level is correct.
3. Remove the tree from the pot, and place it in the urn. Fill in the space around the root-ball with the soil mix until it reaches the correct height for the smaller annual plants.
4. Arrange the annual plants in the soil mix, adding additional soil as needed. (It is important to keep the soil level around the annuals just below the lip of the urn in order to prevent it from washing out during watering). Leave enough room between each plant for growth.
5. After all the plants are in place, move the planter to its permanent location. Gently give it a good watering. (Once the planter has been watered, it will be too heavy to move.) Keep the plants well-watered throughout the season.
To make the general soil mix, combine the following:
3 parts peat
2 parts perlite
2 parts soil
1 part vermiculite
1 part #3 coarse sand
1/4 part charcoal
To 2 gallons of mix add:
2 cups bonemeal
10 tablespoons Dolomitic lime
14-14-14 Osmocote according to package instructions
In this segment, we used a Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum), Dwarf Licorice (Helichrysum angustifolium nana), Golden Helichrysum (Helichrysum petiolare 'Limelight'), Golden Oregano (Origanum aureum), and Geranium (Pelargonium 'Crystal Palace Gem').