Pots in the Garden: Designing, Planting & Placing Containers in the Landscape… Part One: An Introduction to Color!

May 29th, 2012 § 7 comments § permalink

Weathered to Sweet Perfection: The Red-Orange Hue of an Old Terra Cotta Urn Complements a Carpet of Springtime Blues (Muscari armeniacum in foreground and Phlox divaricata in background)

Late spring is the time of year when I begin planting and placing pots in the garden. Over the years, I’ve amassed quite a collection of urns, vessels, second-hand terra cotta pots and various other containers. I find that even before they are filled with colorful annuals and exotic tropical plants, their shapes, hues and textures add a touch of beauty to the landscape. In my career as a garden designer  —using my own landscape as a design lab— I’ve created a wide variety of seasonal containers for my clients. And every year, right around Memorial Day, I head out to the garden center with an open mind, looking to try something new…

Colorful, Dramatic Pots Add a Welcoming Touch to My Studio Entry and Stone Terrace (Stonework by Vermont Artist Dan Snow, See Below for Complete Listing of Container Plants)

Earlier this month, I presented a seminar on container gardening,”Pots in the Garden: Designing, Planting and Placing Containers in the Landscape” sponsored by Walker Farm. Creating beautiful, annual garden displays with potted plants need not be difficult, time consuming or expensive. However, understanding the basic principles of design —as well as how to properly plant pots and follow-up with care and maintenance— is key to success with container gardening at any level. Balance and proportion, form and mass, texture and color, and line and repetition are some of the more important elements to consider whether designing a single pot, or large group of containers.

The Gardener’s Color Wheel

There are many decisions to make when designing a container garden, but color is always right at the top of my list. Color, like music, evokes feelings and sets mood. When designing a garden of any kind, I think about how the space will be used and what sort of feeling I want to create. If you are unfamiliar with how to work with color, the gardener’s color wheel (pictured above) can be a useful guide. When choosing a color scheme for a container garden, I keep in mind not only the foliage and flowers, but also the color of the pots, the surrounding space and nearby objects. Look carefully at walls, floors, arbors, shrubs, trees and furniture. Keep those hues in mind when designing containers for your outdoor rooms.

Monochromatic and Analogous Color Relationships Need Not be Boring. In Fact, By Working with a Limited Palette, a Gardener can Emphasize Other Design Elements; Such as Texture, Form, Mass and Placement. Here, a Mass Planting of Orange-Hook Sedge (Ucinia egmontiana) in Oxblood-Colored Pots, Creates a Soothing Screen in Bold Color. Notice How the Orange-Red Colors Bring Out the Rusty Undertones of the Steel Deck. Bold Harmony.

When I want to set a calm and relaxing mood, I usually opt for a monochromatic color scheme; using a single color on the wheel, playing with only a few, subtle variations of tone. Notice how each color on the wheel is shaded, working toward the center? A pot with foliage and flowers in only one color can be quite beautiful. To keep such an arrangement interesting, I would play with the other elements —like form and texture— to create a dynamic design. Analogous color relationships —side by side colors on the wheel above— such as green and blue or violet and red, are also quite soothing in combination, but offer a bit more design drama…

A Broken, Turqoise-Blue Vase adds a Bit of Drama to this Calm Arrangement. Quiet Harmony.

Things really start to get interesting in the garden when complementary colors are played off one another in a design. Opposites on the wheel, complementary colors tend to bring out the best in each other when placed close together. The more intense the hue —or strength of saturation— the more dramatic the result. For example, I like to play gold against violet. Purple, plum, maroon and lavender all look richer when they are placed near mustard, gold, honey and wheat. To bring out the beauty of violet hued foliage and flowers, I choose pots with mustard-colored glazing or add plants with golden foliage to my container design. Complementary color schemes tend to be bold and attention grabbing; use them to draw attention to an area or create a an energetic mood…

The Golden-Chartreuse of Lysmachia nummularia (Golden Moneywort) Enriches the Angelonia (A. angustifolia ‘Angelface Blue’) in this Arrangement, and Enhances the Purple-Hues of Nearby Stobilanthes dyerianus (Persian Shield) and Verbena (Glandularia canadensis ‘Homestead Purple’)

Simple, Mustard-Glazed Pots Work to Bring Out the Beauty of Lavender Colored Asters in This Cascading Group

Polychromatic relationships —or mixtures of many colors— create something of a pinwheel-effect. These arrangements tend to be very bold. When I want to really jazz up a space, I will reach for the most dramatic relationships on the color wheel and spin them into a frenzy. Think outrageous succulent arrangements, tropical plants with fabulous flowers and candy colored containers. Fun!

Blue-Hued Mexian Rose, (Echeveria ‘Pearl’) Plays off the Orange-Red Pot and a Trio of Silver and Gold-Tinted Foliage. Also Pictured Here: Variegated Elephant Bush (Portulacaria afra variegata) and Kalanchoe ‘Pumila’ 

Read More about Creating Beautiful, Bold Succulent Container Gardens by Clicking Here

Colorful pots can accent outdoor tables and dress up stairs, change with the seasons or to suit special occasions. Container gardens offer great opportunities to experiment with design, and yet they require minimal investment in terms of time and money. Don’t like a particular arrangement? Remove a plant or two and try something fresh! Little garden design experience? Begin with a few, inexpensive annuals and a simple pot. Fill your container with soil, keep the plants in their original pots, and try various arrangements before planting. Have a great, colorful container? Try enhancing the hue with annuals in an analogous or complementary color. As you grow more confident, reach across the color wheel for more unusual combinations and visually stunning results.

Bright Orange Flowers Against Green Foliage are Mother Nature’s Finest Example of the Power Complementary Color Relationships. Here, My Mustard-Glazed Pot Provides an Analogous Backdrop to this Simple but Bold Display. Calibrachoa ‘Callie Orange’ Tops the Terrace Dining Table in Late May

For more inspiration, design ideas, maintenance tips and planting ideas check out some of these great, container gardening books…

Container Gardening A Great Guide Book with Useful Information & Beautiful Photos from the Editors of Fine Gardening

Pots in the Garden Beautiful & Inspired Design Ideas from Ray Rogers (Timber Press Publishing)

Photographs and Text ⓒ Michaela Medina/The Gardener’s Eden. All photographs, articles and content on this site, (with noted exceptions), are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Thank you!

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Gathering Beauty Before the Storm …

August 27th, 2011 § 2 comments § permalink

Riding the Storm Out: Fragile Pots & Plants Gathered Safely Inside {plants, clockwise from bottom left: Verbena canadensis with Stobilanthes dyerianus (Persian Shield), Asclepias curassavica ‘Silky Red’ (Butterfly Weed), Angelonia angustifolia ‘Angelface Blue’ with Lysmachia nummularia (Creeping Jenny) and repeat}

Sunlight & Calm Before the Storm {Asclepias curassavica ‘Silky Red’ and Verbena canadensis. Campo de’Fiori pots available at Verde Garden & Home and Walker Farm in VT and online at Terrain.}

Lovely Lavender Haze: Verbena speciosa ‘Sterling Star’ Beside the Door

With voluptuous hydrangea blossoms gathered by the armful, and fragile pots all collected safely inside, there’s little left to do but wait out the storm. It feels a bit eerie, looking out at the summertime terrace –dining table and chairs folded neatly away–  the empty expanse of grey stone, naked without its bright riot of floral color. But here inside –nestled in every nook and cranny– potted plants and freshly cut blossoms fill the house with beauty and fragrance. At the moment, I feel like a guest in an extravagant hotel conservatory, which gives me all sorts of delightfully outrageous ideas…

Freshly Cut Hydrangea from the Garden (H. paniculata ‘Limelight’)

Photographs and Text ⓒ Michaela Medina/The Gardener’s Eden. All photographs, articles and content on this site, (with noted exceptions), are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Thank you!

Do you enjoy The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through affiliate links (including Amazon book links). A small percentage of each sale will be paid to this site, helping to cover web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you so much for your support!

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Dramatic Darmera Peltata: A Native Beauty for Bog Gardens & Damp Shade…

May 26th, 2011 § Comments Off on Dramatic Darmera Peltata: A Native Beauty for Bog Gardens & Damp Shade… § permalink

Darmera peltata’s pretty, pink spray of airy inflorescence

Darmera peltata… What a lovely, musical name. Often the botanical labels for plants pale by comparison to their intriguing and creative folk monikers. But in this case, I think the name Darmera peltata is far superior to the common alternatives (Indian rhubarb and umbrella plant). Just look at this elegant beauty’s richly textured leaves! And the pink spray of blossoms on tall, elegant stems? Isn’t she gorgeous? The name Darmera is perfectly exotic sounding, even if she is an American girl.

Native to woodland streams and swampy wilderness areas in the western half of North America (Hardy in USDA zones 5-7) Darmera peltata prefers moist conditions, rich soil and filtered light. If she were to choose a home, she’d settle herself in dappled sunlight beside a pond, brook or bog at forest’s edge. However, this lovely, low-maintenance perennial will tolerate drier conditions —actually, she suffered mightily in my garden last summer during the drought— if she is placed in a cool, semi-shaded location. The more moisture she receives, the larger and more lush she will grow (3-6′ high is typical, with a similar spread).

I grow Darmera peltata (commonly known as Umbrella Plant or Indian Rhubarb) for her magnificent, textured-emerald leaves

I grow Darmera peltata for her large, dramatic leaves —lovely in combination with forest grasses and colorful Japanese painted ferns— which are stunning from spring through fall, when they turn a rich, bronzy color. But in a rainy year like this one, Darmera produces and abundance of delicate, pink flowers held high above the foliage on strong, narrow stems. I may be imagining things, but I suspect she wants to cheer this gardener up in gloomy weather with her pretty ensemble. And you know what? It’s definitely working…

Darmera peltata blooming at the foot of the Walled Garden with Moonlight hydrangea vine (Schizophragma hydrangeoides ‘Moonlight’) and a self-sown Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla mollis)

Darmera peltata offers a lovely contrast to smooth textured, contrasting foliage or —as shown here— the surface of a smooth terra cotta vessel

Article and photographs are copyright Michaela Medina at The Gardener’s Eden, all rights reserved. All content on this site (with noted exceptions) is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used, reproduced or reposted elsewhere without written consent.

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Behold the Brilliant, Jewel-Like Treasures! How Will I Contain Myself? Playing with Pots: An Annual Obsession

May 4th, 2011 § Comments Off on Behold the Brilliant, Jewel-Like Treasures! How Will I Contain Myself? Playing with Pots: An Annual Obsession § permalink

Echeveria ‘The Pearl’, Kalanchoe pumila and Portulacaria afra variegata – An indoor garden pot, slowly acclimates to the great outdoors on my steel balcony

It’s an annual question. How will I contain myself? Although the vast majority of my gardening takes place in the ledgy pockets of soil here on my land, every year I create seasonal, potted displays and vignettes to punctuate the landscape. I started moving my vessels, urns and bowls outdoors a couple of weeks ago… And oh, there are so many pots to fill! In addition to the container designs I will create for my clients, I have many garden rooms of my own to accent. There’s a steel balcony to drape, several stone terraces, walls, walks and stairways to soften, shady niches to illuminate, decorative chairs to adorn and dining tables to fill with color.

Ever on the lookout for fresh inspiration, this weekend I will be attending a seminar, “Succulent Container Gardening & Hanging Basket Design and Care”, at Walker Farm in Dummerston, Vermont. The talk is being presented by long-time friends and colleagues, Daisy Unsicker (head propagator) and Karen Manix (owner) of Walker Farm. For nearly a decade, I worked maintaining the mixed borders of trees, shrubs and perennials at Walker Farm. And for years, I have been admiring —and enthusiastically collecting— their gorgeous, nursery-proagated plants. This historic farm has long been a favorite horticultural resource for connoisseurs of unusual annuals, perennials, trees and shrubs. But this season, I have to say, Walker Farm has really taken its always-spectacular greenhouse to a whole new level with an amazing display of succulents, tropicals and unusual foliage plants…

Mixed Succulent Container Garden (Starring Aeonium ‘Kiwi’) – Designed by Daisy Unsicker for Walker Farm

Beautiful Succulent Bowl (Staring various colorful players; including Aeonium ‘Kiwi’, Cryptanthus acaulis, Senecio rowleyanus and Echeveria) Designed by Karen Manix for Walker Farm

Another Gorgeous Succulent Bowl (Starring several divas and supporting acts; including Sedum and Aeonium)  Designed by Daisy Unsicker for Walker Farm

In an earlier post, I mentioned Walker Farm’s talented, long-time head propagator, Daisy Unsicker. When it comes to raising young plants, Daisy really has a special touch, and succulents are clearly her passion. If a gardener truly loves plants, and dotes on them with tender-loving-care, they tend to show their appreciation in the most beautiful ways. I can’t wait to hear Daisy’s design tricks and maintenance tips for succulent-pots, and to see what she and Walker Farm owner Karen Manix have cooked up for this Saturday’s container gardening seminar. Walker Farm isn’t able to ship plants, but if you are gardening in the area, I hope you will check out their beautiful garden center and greenhouses, and join them for their fabulous —and free— garden seminars (click here for details).

Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to preview some of the gorgeous plants now filling the lovely glass greenhouses at Walker Farm. In addition to the extraordinary selection of exotic plants in nursery containers (see some unusual examples below), Daisy, Karen an the staff at Walker Farm have designed and pre-planted some gorgeous, ready-to-go succulent bowls and other to-die-for container gardens. With colors bright as gem stones and exquisite, jewel-like forms, these plant-filled pots are like living treasure chests. From hanging baskets dripping with ‘Strings of Pearls’ (Senecio rowleyanus) to sapphire blue bowls filled with shimmering Jade (Crassula ovata cvs.) to hand-thrown pots overflowing with faceted pink-tipped Aeonium and amethyst-tinted, silvery Echeveria, Daisy has truly outdone herself.  Can you imagine such a delightful accent to your entryway or given as an exquisite Mother’s Day gift?

Solanum pyracanthum would certainly look sharp in my sunny terrace pots!

And Ozothamnus diosmifolius ‘Rose’ would be dreamy on the balcony

This sensual-looking Carex comans ‘Bronze Curls’ would move beautifully with the summer breeze

If you’ve been following this blog for awhile, you know that I’ve been singing the praises of succulent container gardening —indoors as well as outdoors— for a few seasons now. In fact, much of my indoor garden is filled with these dry-climate, jewel-box gems. The container atop this article —as well as others on the Indoor Eden page— is literally packed with succulents from small, local greenhouses and online sources.

So then, how will I contain myself this year? Well, I haven’t quite decided. But, I do know that in addition to the usual urns and vessels overflowing with colorful blossoms, my garden will be decorated with a large number of succulent containers, grass-filled barrels and an assortment of what I like to call, ‘un-flower pots’. No matter what I end up planting, I’m certain that I’ll return back here with plenty of new design ideas and maintenance tips to share after the weekend workshop at Walker Farm

A planter of my own design, featuring Sempervivum hybrids ‘Purple Beauty’ and  ‘Kalinda’ with river stone mulch

An oxblood red container on my terrace provides a lovely color contrast to the ice-blue Echeveria ‘The Pearl’, here today with a shimmering rain drop

Sempervivum hybrid ‘Kalinda’ on my terrace

A Succulent Pot of My Own Design (plant details listed in text below photo at top of this article)

Article and all photographs are copyright Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden, all rights reserved. All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used, reproduced or reposted elsewhere without written consent.

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Dusting Off, Cleaning Out, Taking Stock & Getting Ready for Gardening Season… Plus Another Giveaway!

April 18th, 2011 § 33 comments § permalink

The bright gold of Kalanchoe blossfeldiana is a cheerful welcome in a chair beside my front door. I like using natural baskets as decorative covers for inexpensive, recycled plastic flower pots. I do a similar thing with plants placed outside in summer, using everything from wooden crates and baskets to tin cans and flea market finds to add color, texture and interest to plants with less-than-attractive interior containers.

Ah, fog, mist, sunshine and April showers. What a mixed jumble the forecast is this week! My schedule seems to be at the mercy of the elements lately. But, undaunted by the moody weather, I’ve decided to take advantage of the unpredictable situation and use any rainy days or hours this week to sort through and give a spring cleaning to the growing collection of baskets and pots in my Secret Garden Room.

I love accenting my garden with colorful pots and overflowing baskets, but moving containers in and out every season results in a bit of wear and tear. Each year a few woven baskets are retired to the compost pile, and I lose one or two clay pots to a ‘whoopsie’. For the most part, I’ll replace those containers with new ones found at flea markets, tag sales, curb-side freebies and recycling centers. But sometimes a special handmade vessel catches my eye and I will add to my collection of beautiful clay pots, ceramic urns and stoneware containers. Right now I am admiring a few gorgeous pots I spotted at the lovely online garden store, Terrain, and last fall I also spied a bunch of fabulous pieces at Virginia Wyoming’s pottery studio in Westminster, Vermont. There are so many wonderful handmade pots on Etsy and local craft fairs. I like supporting independent artists when I can, and I always encourage others to do so as well…

Sometimes an Empty Vessel is as Lovely as a Container Filled with Plants. Here, a Cracked, Old, Clay Pot Adds Character to a Shady Nook Filled with Perennials (Including Kiregeshoma palmata and Astilbe) in My Garden

I Like to Create New Container Garden Vignettes Every Year. Here in Front of My Painting Studio, a Collection of Pots, Urns and Vessels Brings Color and Life to the Stone Terrace and Tobacco-Stained Barn Siding. All of these pots came from local, Vermont sources like Walker Farm and A Candle in the Night

Here’s Another Empty Vessel in the Walled Garden. I Love Contrasting a Smooth Surfaced Pot with Intricately Textured Foliage. Here, Indian Rhubarb (Darmera peltata) Provides a Lacy Skirt on this Beautiful Piece of Pottery.

Like many gardeners, I’ve recently become enamored with succulent container gardening. And why not? Succulents –and their close relatives, cacti– are so easy to care for. Last year, my studio’s steel balcony was filled with all sorts of dramatic pots (including the one pictured below), crammed with outlandish, colorful beauties and textural curiosities. Like ornamental grasses, succulents make great container plants for hot, dry spaces; think stone terraces, decks and windy balconies. Of course not all succulents are cold-climate hardy, so they must come inside if you live in a wintry region. But some cacti and succulents –including many sedum, sempervivum and others– are quite tough, and can be overwintered outdoors. Most of these fleshy, shallow-rooted plants are easy to propagate, and in cold climates, cuttings can be taken indoors before the frost in autumn and saved for next year’s container display. If you live in New England, I recommend signing up for Walker Farm’s free, succulent container gardening seminar on May 7th (click here for details). Daisy Unsicker, who will be leading the seminar with owner Karen Manix, propagates some incredible succulents at Walker Farm. Daisy creates gorgeous and inspirational succulent containers. Click here —or on the photo below— to see my previous post on “Un-Flower Pots”, for more unconventional, lower-maintenance, container gardening ideas.

A Collection of Plants (including Sempervivum and Haworthia) From Last Year’s Succulent Container Garden – Click Here for Post with More Details, Photos and Plants

A few years back, The Jewel Box Garden, one of my now-favorite container gardening books by Thomas Hobbs (author of the also gorgeous garden book, Shocking Beauty), inspired me to look at unconventional ways to use pots and vessels in my landscape. And more recently, I’ve found some fabulous ideas in Debra Lee Baldwin’s book Succulent Container Gardens from Timber Press. If you’ve been following this blog for awhile, you may remember that I’ve mentioned this title before; both here and over at Barnes & Noble’s now-archived Garden Variety. This is a fabulous book, and a real must-have for any cacti/succulent lover or container gardening enthusiast.

Order Succulent Container Gardens by Debra Lee Baldwin from Amazon.com image courtesy of fabulous publisher, Timber Press

Because I love this book so much, I’ve decided to purchase one to give away as part of this blog’s second anniversary celebration. To enter, simply leave a comment on today’s post, and in your comment, tell me what you like to grow in containers: ornamental plants, vegetables/herbs, or both. Be sure to correctly enter your email address so that I can contact you if you win the giveaway (your email won’t be visible to others, nor will it be shared or sold). Your entry must be received by 11:59 pm Eastern Time, Friday, April 22nd. A winner will be randomly chosen from the entries received in comments, and announced 4/25 here, on this site’s Facebook page, and also on Twitter. Due to shipping restrictions, this giveaway is open to readers in the United States and Canada only.

Good Luck! xo Michaela

The Winner of Debra Lee Miller’s Succulent Container Gardens is Lisa N. Congratulations Lisa!

Thank you to everyone for playing. If you didn’t win, please stay tuned for another chance this month!

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Article and Photographs (with noted exception) ⓒ Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

All photographs, articles and content on this site, (with noted exceptions), are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced or reposted without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Thank you!

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