Container Gardening of Atlanta is a budding business started by two sisters with a passion for planting. Anne Bolling Gaines and Mary Delia Poynter’s love for flowers and plants was shaped by time spent gardening with their mother. After their mother’s passing, they started Container Gardening of Atlanta as a way to honor and remember her and share their love and gift for gardening.
Anne Bolling and Mary Delia, tell us the about the services that you provide and your inspiration for going into business together.
AB – Our inspiration, for both of us really, is our mom. We grew up gardening with her and worked at Boxwoods Gardens & Gifts (www.boxwoodsonline.com) in high school. Later we worked with Mom in her own business in Savannah and then at Sea Island, as well. We had always talked about the three of us starting a business together. After our mom passed away, it ended up being natural to start a business together, kind of in her honor. They say that gardening is therapeutic, and it really was. It was like therapy after that happened, and we feel so close to her while we are planting.
MD – We specialize in potted arrangements, both indoor and outdoor. For interiors we use flowers such as orchids, hydrangeas, ferns—all planted. Exterior projects include containers, flower beds, and event design. Anne Bolling has a landscape degree and has drawn some landscape plans too. We really enjoy working with clients and determining their various needs, we have grown both as artists and gardeners through that.
Your mother was a gifted gardener as well. Your family has obviously been blessed with green thumbs! What are some of your earliest memories of working with plants?
AB – I remember when we were little, impatiens are annuals in Atlanta but Mom’s acted like perennials, and her garden was full of them. I actually grew up thinking they were weeds because they came back year after year and I remember Mom so frustrated, sitting in the garden pulling impatiens…looking back I would kill to have a garden like that! But they would spread like ivy, they were everywhere. I have great memories of just sitting and watching her garden when I was little and dreaming about gardens. I have always loved gardens.
MD – A particular plant is my earliest memory, a beefsteak begonia that we actually still have. Mom started the plant from a clipping from her mom, and her from her mom. This beefsteak begonia actually came from our great grandmother. Every winter we moved it inside and then moved it out into the shade in the summer. When she died I took over Mama’s beefsteak (that’s what we call it). It is just the happiest plant—it has honestly tripled in size! It is comforting because in the winter I have it in the house, and in the summer I can look out the window and see it. Anne Bolling actually has a baby clipping of Mama’s beefsteak begonia. We have taken a lot of clippings and rooted them and given them to friends. Mama’s beefsteak is all over the southeast now—in South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi.
What aspects of your mother’s legacy and reputation as a businesswoman and a designer do you most hope to carry over into your own business?
MD – Her talent, which I guess we have been blessed to inherit—and we are constantly learning. We can definitely make things grow! She was always learning and trying new things. She was so creative, and we hope to keep that going.
AB – Our mom was great with people from all walks of life and great at making anyone feel comfortable. This is very important when starting your own business. You have to be adaptable to everyone, and Mom was definitely that!
As young women, and sisters, starting your own company, what have been some of your greatest challenges, blessings, and accomplishments thus far?
MD – Starting a gardening business in the middle of a recession is a challenge in itself. The fact that we are here a year and a half later is both a blessing and an accomplishment.
AB – We are blessed to have the most incredible family, friends, and clients that helped us start and spread the word. A lot are clients still. It is amazing how fast news travels. Each job and client is a blessing in itself—we are learning from each one. It has been an incredible experience so far.
And each other! We are really lucky to work together and be so close, and be able to support each other.
What are your favorite types of projects?
MD – Jobs where clients are really excited. We have found that excitement is contagious and inspires us to do great things. Having clients come back season after season for exterior installations and seeing how happy they are with our work.
AB – It is so fun planting something and having your clients water it and care for it, then come back each season so pleased with how it’s grown. That’s the best feeling.
What kinds of containers do you prefer to use?
Outdoor we use a lot of aged concrete, and terracottas are beautiful. For interiors, it is fun to plant in people’s silver bowls—in things they already have in their home, just sitting there that you can turn into something beautiful. We can take someone’s heirloom bowl and make it something living. It is always nice to liven up your house with a little greenery arrangement.
Are there specific materials that you most enjoy working with?
AB – I love—well, we both do—planting shade plants. Everyone thinks you can’t have something fun in the shade. We love to mix caladiums, angel wing begonias, and Kimberly Queens. There is nothing better to brighten a shady spot. They kind of just mesh together. It’s like nature takes its course, and it is the prettiest combination after a month or so. It’s beautiful! Inside, we love to stake orchids with ornamental willow then put moss on the bottom—it just looks so good inside. We have also done arrangements like this for events like rehearsal dinners and parties. People can give them away as hostess gifts. This is a great alternative to cut flowers, and very economical.
MD – I love mixing herbs and flowers in containers, particularly for clients who enjoy cooking. Rosemary and lavender live year-round. Rosemary topiaries are so fun, and you can underplant them with seasonal color. I do a lot of that at my house.
Lastly, do you have any tips for gardening novices who are interested in learning how to plant their own containers?
MD – We always think it’s a good idea for novices to start with an evergreen plant, like boxwood, cast-iron plant, or rosemary. You can put it in the middle of the pot and underplant it with color each season. This cuts down on the work you need to do each season and cuts costs. We use a lot of boxwoods, which give height in the middle, and we add color around the outside.
Or you could just call us!