Update a container with the elegant twist of an herb topiary. Plant it in a galvanized pail combined with single herbs in tiny terra-cotta pots. Not only will the display be party-ready, but also you'll have fresh herbs at your fingertips.
To get this look, gardener James Cramer of Keedysville, Maryland, combined three kinds of basil with sages, thyme, and oregano. Moist, well-drained soil and six to eight hours of full sun are key to keeping these herbs happy in pots. To ensure roots have good drainage, punch three to five holes in the bottom of the bucket using a large nail and hammer. Fill the bucket with premoistened potting soil, mixing in a couple of handfuls of compost, and then plant, positioning the tallest basil first. Feed twice a month with Bonnie Herb & Vegetable Plant Food. Once temperatures are between 80 and 90 degrees, basil will grow fast, so don't be shy about snipping, sharing, and using your bountiful harvest.
Creating a Basil Topiary
While topiaries often consist of clipped boxwood and holly, you can also use one of the South's favorite herbs trimmed in a standard lollipop shape.
Look for basil selections that have smaller leaves and tight or upright forms, such as 'Boxwood,' 'Greek Columnar,' and 'Pesto Perpetuo. Normally, compact and bushy specimens are preferred, but for topiaries, leggy is best, as you'll get a head start on your form.
Remove soil from one side of each root-ball, and place plants close together in the center of the bucket. Tie stems together in three spots with twine. Use sharp snips to remove lower leaves. Shape the top into a ball with clippers.