This year, I've had success growing tomatoes in containers on my patio. Now that those plants look like skeletons, it's time to dig them up and replace them with new greens. I went on a hunt to fill four containers with plants I might enjoy this fall and winter.
In North Park, I spent time at Pigment's (3801 30th St.) build-your-own-container-garden workstation, adding a variety of succulents to a new container I picked up. The succulents here range in price from $1 to $10, depending mostly on size, and the staff was available to help me create something cohesive and artistic. Pigment offers a variety of sands and pebbles to complement your arrangement and containers to put it in. I chose a chartreuse square container for $14.95 and spent about $20 on plants and rocks to pull it all together. The store also had several books on succulent gardens and a big selection of air plants.
Next, I visited City Farmers Nursery (4832 Home Ave.). Tucked in a rural part of City Heights, this eclectic nursery had great deals on herbs and vegetables and a large selection of native and arid plants, including exotics like Bees Bliss Sage, Common Rush and Woolly Blue Curls. The selection of containers was mostly terra cotta, but it also included glazed pots and some bright-colored vessels in funky shapes and sizes. This nursery seems almost untouched by time and uninfluenced by trends; you get to walk among goats, chickens, turtles and a pony on your way to finding plant treasures. Bring your appetite, too—Nate's Garden Grill, just next to the nursery, offers a selection of organic and gourmet food, plus a well-curated craft-beer list.
At Mission Hills Nursery (1525 Fort Stockton Drive), I concocted an idea for a large-mouthed container filled with edible greens. I had at least a dozen lettuce varieties to choose from—some in crazy colors and shapes that would also be beautiful in a flower arrangement along with greens. Mission Hills has an impressive collection of pots, as well as hand-thrown ceramics. There's also an assortment of large succulents and aloes for a big impact in a small space.
It was recommended that I stop by Canyon Pottery (8575 Aero Drive in Kearny Mesa) to check out its pot selection. Canyon has, hands-down, the best selection in town. Even though signs say prices are 40 percent off retail, I still found most items to be a bit high-priced. I combed through the enormous warehouse and even bigger outdoor space and found painted Mexican pottery, Grecian urns, geometrical vessels, basic terra cotta and glazed pots in every color. The store also sells fountains, if your container garden needs a water feature.
The French Garden Shoppe in Little Italy (2307 India St.) is a chic stop for smaller plantings and tabletop gardens. It had a wonderful selection of clay pots covered in chicken wire with added wooden handles, ranging from $9.95 to $14.95. Large cedar boxes with metal trim for $20 could hold up to a 5-gallon single pot or several small plants. I fell in love with a medley of small, rustic terra-cotta pots for a table garden. The day I visited, the shop didn't have any fresh plants but was expecting a late-fall / holiday shipment of French-inspired plants any day.
Walter Andersen Nursery (3642 Enterprise St. in Midway, with a second location in Poway) really got my container-gardening thumb twitching. It has an assortment of medicinal herbs mixed with savory fall herbs to choose from—like milk thistle, clary sage, rose-scented bergamot, turmeric, cardamom, St. John's wort, absinthe, epazote and sour gherkin. I spied a whole section of mint—pineapple, Moroccan, ginger, lime and banana mint, among others—that got my mojito senses stirring. The Midway location also had a ton of containers in mostly classic shapes and sizes.