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!

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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Snip, Snip Here & Snip, Snip There: Mid-Season Container Taming Tips …

August 4th, 2011 § 3 comments § permalink

Pots Filled with Vibrant Annual, Tropical & Tender Perennial Plants Accent the South-Facing Stone Terrace. The Sun & Moon Urn is a Long-Time Garden Favorite I picked up in Mexico. Empty Pots Make Great Accents Between Lush Plantings.

Having recently completed a whirl-wind maintenance tour of the Wildflower Walk and Secret Garden, my critical gaze took note of some annual containers in need of deadheading on the stone terrace, and tiny little weeds popping up between the decorative stone mulch in my succulent pots out on the steel balcony. By mid-season many containers and hanging baskets in the garden begin to look a little worse-for-the-wear. A phrase used by my friend Daisy earlier this year —at Walker Farm’s container garden seminar— immediately sprang to mind: “You control your plant, your plant doesn’t control you”. Well, then! Out come the garden scissors, fertilizer, and work tote. It’s time to bring those annuals back in line with their containers!

Calibrachoa ‘Callie Orange’ Tops the Terrace Dining Table

Although I don’t have hanging baskets in my garden this year, I do have cascading Calibrachoa ‘Callie Orange’ spilling from a table-topping pot on my front terrace. Much like a hanging basket, this tightly planted container requires weekly fertilizing, pruning and daily watering to look its best. By mid-summer, dense root systems in pots and baskets can create an impenetrable, water-resistant web. When root-bound, container plants can remain parched while water pours over the top of the plant and down the sides. How to solve this problem?  I picked up another handy tip from Daisy at Walker Farm this spring: use a wooden dowel to punch holes through the root systems of annual baskets. Simply push the dowel in the dense tangle of roots and wiggle it a bit. Do this in several places between plants and water will find access to the center of tangled root ball. Thanks, Daisy!

Succulents, Tropical Plants and Ornamental Grasses fill Containers on the Steel Balcony Above the Secret Garden

Overall, the succulent containers on my steel deck need little attention, save occasional dead-heading. Still, air-born weed seeds do manage to lodge themselves between the stone mulch and must be gingerly removed to keep things looking tidy. I avoid fertilizing indoor-outdoor succulent pots in order to keep their growth in check. And pots filled with colorful companion plants, such as the Purple Heart (Tradescantia pallida ‘Purpurea’) often need a bit of pruning to keep them in balance with their neighbors. The ornamental grass pictured above, Carex comens ‘Frosted Curls —and many of the other non-succulent plants on this hot steel deck– seems content with little more than good quality potting soil, daily watering and weekly fertilizing.

Regularly Watering, Fertilizing, Cutting Back Foliage and Deadheading Spent Blossoms Keeps Container Plants Looking Their Best. I Fertilize Potted Plants Weekly and Water Daily (looks like I missed a few brown leaves there on the right, didn’t I?).

Some containerized annuals and perennials, like the Angelonia angustifolia and Lysmachia nummularia pictured above, need occasional deadheading or leaf pruning throughout the growing season. Others, such as the neighboring Verbena on the left in this vignette, need less frequent attention. All plants in this grouping were chosen for color, texture and season-spanning bloom. An added bonus? Regular pruning and deadheading promote an extended and generous display of blossoms, attracting all kinds of dinnertime guests …

A Hummingbird Moth Visits a Pot of Annual Verbena on the Terrace 

Callie Orange Makes a Pretty Centerpiece on the Weathered Cedar Table all Season Long

Monarch Butterfly Sampling Nectar from Potted Asclepias curassavica ‘Silky Red’

Looking for more container garden maintenance and design tips? Below are a couple of my favorite resources for container gardeners at all levels. For more design ideas/care information on succulent containers, check out previous posts for ideas from Walker Farm’s spring workshop and books I love on the subject. Enjoy the beauty of annuals, tender perennials, tropicals and succulents up close, all season long with lush, healthy, well-maintained container plantings …

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!

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!

shopterrain.com

Gardener's Supply Company

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