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“Spring is the time of plans and projects”

– Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

There is a sense of enthusiasm, an eagerness to grow, to create and to plan in and for the Spring. While the start of the season is about a month a way, you can already feel the stir of change. Maybe a minor rise in temperature, smells and sounds that have you counting down the days. As we patiently await the commencement of the season, what better way to prepare than to create a Spring Container Garden, to herald the 2023 gardening season?

Potentially you’ve never associated the Spring with container gardening. If that’s the case, you’re in for a pleasant surprise and the most colourful and beautiful welcome you’ve ever given a season.  While the ground typically is still too cold, many plants can handle the cooler temperatures of the early Spring in potting soil. The potting soil can absorb the day’s warmth and oftentimes a cover of burlap can protect against dangerous temperatures or light snowfall.

Emerson Wild | Spring container garden favourites, tulips, hyacinths, dusty miller & pansies.

Spring Container Garden(s) Essentials

Spring Bulbs

Versatility and plethora of colours, we look to bulbs that are in early stages of development (4″ to 6″ pots) to ensure a long-lasting bloom that will gently open on it’s own. We opt for two classic bulbs:

  • Tulips (genus Tulipa): with over 100 species and thousands of cultivars and varieties, tulips define the sights of Springtime 
  • Hyacinths (Hyacinthus orientalis): if tulips are the recognizable sights of Spring, hyacinths define the smell of the season. And did you know that this sweet smelling flower has colours that range from deep indigo to bright magenta, light pinks, purples and whites?

Hardy Annuals

Hardy annuals are capable of surviving the fluctuations of temperature that we often see during this time of year, specifically being able to tolerate minor frost for short periods of time. Their bright and cheerful blooms will warm you up even before the chilly temperatures dissipate. With these annuals, we’re again looking for early stages of development, so aim to find 4″ pots.

  • Buttercups (genus Ranunculus): These cool loving flowers do best when purchased with blooms that are just beginning to open. Once blooming you’ll have a striking floral feature that will have you swooning.
  • Pansies (Viola tricolor var. hortensis or Viola x wittrockiana): A strong contender with tulips for the flower of the season, pansies are an easy-to-grow option that is perfect for hole-filling within your container garden. If you’re looking for ruffled flowers, whiskers, or blotches look to the Frizzle Sizzles series. For small-flowering and trailing gracefully over containers, look to the Ultima series.
  • Primroses (Primula vulgaris): Providing one of the first punches of colour following the winter, their name “prima-rosa” translates to “first-flower” and has long been associated with the end of the Winter season. While primroses are stunning, the most-show stopping varieties include multi-petalled double primroses. One of our favourites is the the Belarina series.
  • Sweet Alyssum (Lobularia maritima): The name is a giveaway as to why these are Springtime favourites: the sweet fragrance, which pairs ever so well with soft colouration.
  • Dusty Miller (Senecio cineraria): Almost a nod to the silvers of winters, this lacey foliage brings architecture and a design aspect to any container garden.
  • Golden Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’): One of our favourite spillers. It’s foliage ranges from a lime-like green to chartreuse to a gentle yellow in the right light.

Perennial Branches

  • Curly Willow (Salix matsudana): bringing a structure and a interesting design, the “corkscrew” branches of the curly willow add a pleasing element of architecture to any spring container garden
  • Pussy Willow (Salix discolor): symbolizing new life, these branches transform when their wooly buds of soft silvers begin to bloom, a perfect metaphor for the Springtime

Materials Needed

  • 16×16 container, with 15×15 plantable space
  • Potting soil

4″ to 6″ pots:

  • Tulips – 4-6 bulbs,  (1-2 colours)
  • Hyacinth – 4 bulbs (we recommend 1 colour, and love the beauty and simplicity of white)

4″ pots:

  • Buttercups – 4-5 (1-2 colours)
  • Pansies – 4 (2 series recommended)
  • Primroses – 4 (1 variety – your pop of yellow can be found here)
  • Dusty Miller – 2
  • Sweet Alyssum – 2-4 (we love the combination of the mixed lavender/purple & white/purple and all white
  • Creeping Jenny – 1 (optional)


  • Curly Willow – 1 bundle (where possible select branches that have a natural shade, green rather than orange)
  • Pussy Willow – 1 bundle (select bundles where the buds have yet opened)

GENERAL NOTES: If you’re hoping to achieve a fresh look, utilize whites (we love the white hyacinth). A touch of silver provides grounding, and we look to the Dusty Miller. And we welcome a beautiful chartreuse via the Creeping Jenny.

Planting Method

  1. Start with adding fresh potting soil to your container, all the way to the top. We love to start the new planting season with fresh soil that will last us through the summer plantings.
  2.  Display your curly willow branches towards the middle of the planter.
  3. Plant 4 buttercups (ranunculus) as your middle base on a slight angle. Pro tip: The blooms should face the exterior view looking outwards, rather than inwards. If you’ve selected 5 plants, add one on the middle, we love to see a buttercup popping through the middle between all the bulbs. While planting, be sure to keep all the leaves of the plant as they end up being a good space filler.
  4. Next, plant the tulip bulbs on the outside and in between the buttercups (ranunculus). The bulbs become the space fillers.
  5. For the hyacinth bulbs, plant in between the buttercups (ranunculus) as the bulbs become space fillers.
  6. When adding the Dusty Miller, plant 1 on each side, going towards the outside of the planter.
  7. Plant 2 primulas in the front (each side) and 2 in the back, on each side
  8. Pansies can be planted close to the edge of the planter. Keep in mind that if you have any smaller holes, pansies in cell packs are a great option for the holes.
  9. Next add sweet alyssum at the very edge of the planter as they will they will begin to spill over the container as the season continues.
  10. If you’ve selected creeping jenny, tuck it into the front center of the planter, either by a pansy or a sweet alyssum to have it cascading over.
  11. Finally, you can gently insert the pussy willow branches.

Et voilà, you’re done!

CONTAINER CARE TIPS: Grow your container in full sun to part shade and keep the soil moist, but not too wet. You always want to allow it to dry out between waterings. Finally, snip off any wilted flowers to prevent decay and rot, but leaving the leaves for coverage.

May your Spring be filled with an explosion of colours and beautiful smells, and of course, a stunning Spring container garden. Are you also excited to start planning your 2023 garden? If you’re looking for more inspiration read about the 2023 Pantone Colour of the Year, and how we are using it in the garden! And if you haven’t already, be sure to sign up to receive our 2023 Trend Report which includes our predictions for all things home, garden and lifestyle in 2023.  Ps. We’d love to connect, be sure to follow us on Instagram and Pinterest!

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