Container gardens make a lovely gift for Mom — and Mother Nature

Flowering plants also provide a tasty treat for hummingbirds and butterflies.

AS AN AMAZING Mother’s Day surprise, team with the kids to create a container garden filled with plants that attract hummingbirds or butterflies.

More for Mother’s Day

(Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times)

Begin by buying quality potting soil and a large ceramic pot. They come in a wide variety of colors and will last a long time, as long as they’re frost-proof. Drainage is a necessity, so if the pot doesn’t have drain holes in the bottom, ask the nursery to drill them for you.

For the centerpiece, choose an architectural, upright shrub or perennial that is well-proportioned to the size of the pot. Look for a plant with special qualities such as colorful leaves, intriguing texture or showy flowers. Place it in the center if the pot will be seen from all sides, or in the back if the container is going against a wall or in a corner.

Next, fill in with a variety of midsized plants. Again, choose plants with interesting textures and colorful foliage or flowers. Cram them in closely. When you’re finished, the design should look lush and full. You don’t want to have to wait half the summer for the plants to grow and fill in the gaps. Finally, leave a little room near the edge of the pot to squeeze in some trailing plants to spill over the side.

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To keep the hummingbirds and butterflies hanging around, choose plants that bloom all season with nectar-rich flowers. Two centerpiece candidates that are highly attractive to hummingbirds are flowering maple (Abutilon) and hardy fuchsia. Both come in a variety of sizes, love sun and produce colorful flowers that hummingbirds can’t resist. Fill in around them with midsized hummingbird favorites such as Nicotiana (tobacco flower), Pelargonium (geranium), Heuchera (coral bell), Zinnia or Mimulus (monkey plant). Spice up the combination by adding spiky golden-leaved pineapple sages. The leaves smell like pineapple, and hummingbirds are gaga over the fiery scarlet flowers. Finally, pick out hummingbird favorites like nasturtium or ivy geranium to spill over the sides.

If Mom loves butterflies, there are plenty of plants with nectar-producing flowers that attract them, but each kind of butterfly has its own preference, so plant a variety of butterfly…

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