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Designing With Containers

Containers can be used creatively all round the garden aside from the patio. Here are some tips and suggestions on how to use them in the residential landscape.

Large pots can make an imposing architectural statement in you garden. A striking terra cotta pot makes a beautiful focal point at the end of a view. A pair of matching formal planters at the entrance creates an impressive entryway. Or in an informal setting, a clay pot lying on its side with plants cascading out of the pot’s mouth adds a whimsical touch to the garden. Use the pot itself as a focal point. The added height accentuates the pot and the plants inside. Picture a border of evergreens, now simply add a large shaped pot with red, upright geraniums to the scene and the picture changes. At times of the year when your garden lacks interest, place a brightly-planted patio tub to give it some new life.

Glazed pots are becoming more popular, attractively patterned and available in many colours. Choose pots with oriental designs and plant them using plants that carry the oriental theme: hostas, dwarf evergreens, ornamental grasses, Siberian or Japanese Iris. These glazed pots also work beautifully as water bowls. A blue glazed pot with a miniature water lily is a very easy water feature on your deck.

A group of similar containers grouped around a bench makes a good focal point when seen from a distance. It also adds to the intimacy of the seating area. Growing fragrant plants in these containers (See page 8 for info on fragrance in the garden) adds to this relaxing experience. Medium sized containers make the most impact in a large open space when several are grouped together. An odd number of 3-5 makes the best display. This grouping also makes the task of watering easier.

Pots arranged at the edge of a deck can help soften the straight edges. For a maximum impact, carry the same planting theme in the display. A group of ornamental grasses planted in containers of various heights looks simple yet effective. By repeating a colour theme, geometric shape or flower type, the display has harmony. For example, several containers planted with only hot colours – sunflowers, rudbeckia, helichrysum and coreopsis - will liven up the visual senses.

If you want to make a large deck appear smaller use hot colours in your planters. To make a small deck appear larger – use cool colours; blues, greys and white. If your planting combinations are very colourful, use a pot that does not distract from the plants. This works the opposite too – if using an elaborate pot, keep the planting very simple.

Use pots with interesting shapes. My favorite is a shallow, terracotta coloured plastic pot. I plant drought tolerant perennials and grasses in it. The shape allows you to view the plants from a different perspective. Another favourite is a small clay bowl that grows my ‘tough –as nails’ sedums, echerverias and sempervirums. It loves the hot sun and is small enough to be used as the patio table centre piece. I have placed rocks my children have collected around the plants – this makes it special for them too. Remember, terracotta does dry out quickly so use drought-tolerant plants. Also remove the soil and plants from the clay pot before winter arrives – the clay absorbs the water and will break when the temperature drops.

Unique containers give your garden character. The course we gave last spring on planting an ‘Old Boot’ with Hen & Chicks was very popular. Use your imagination when at flea markets and antique stores and keep your eye out for something ‘different’. That’s what makes gardening so much fun – you get to be creative. So think outside the planter box & have fun.

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