May 23, 2019

Container Gardening 101

You are in for a treat, 5 bloggers share their tips for brilliant container design. These ladies are uber talented in the world of design, 3 are my friends, Cindy, Mary Ann and Annie. Kelly is one I would love to know having watched her for years
Last minute there is a bonus, Janine, six bloggers!

No longer do I personally go to clients homes to fill their containers, well maybe a few, my talented team does that for us and our customers are thrilled. Lead by Gerrit Husar with a strong assist by Kim Fuller, we are deep in about now.

Where to start? Hoping my formula provides a strong assist

Three things in Container Planting……

1.  Match your containers, to your homes architecture, in color and style

2.  Match your choice in plants to the style
     and color palette of your home

3.  Remember the adage…..
#1 matching your homes architecture.....
Even though this is a winter composition, this helps in defining what I mean. The container matches the shutters and the accent plants match the brick. For this clients home we designed the landscape to place a pair of extra large urns/plinth in the garden vs the front door. By making these such a focal point they can be enjoyed from indoors too

As if this stunning door needs more attention... but by adding the verdigris copper pot, enhances the setting even more

When I first saw this image, my initial impression was why not black containers? Upon further inspection and noticing the brick wall, I found this to be brilliant. Take note of the size next to the chairs!

TIP..... Always error on the side of overly large containers. Make a statement with your containers! Far too often planters are too small in proportion to the structure

Oh yes! A London townhouse perfectly turned out. The setting is formal, and the box planters, in the matching lacquer finish enhances this view. The Bay Laurel topiaries nook in this composition

#2 Matching Colors
Once you master the containers let's do the same with your plant selection. In this instance, the simplicity heightens the effect and the choice of chartreuse pops 
Oh yes! The pots, the plant choices, a strong understanding of these principles.
Now imagine if the choices were pastel colors....what a clash!

See what I mean? 

TIP.....I always use a slow release fertilizer which will direct you to sprinkle on top of the soil. In addition to that, add several tablespoons at the rootball, that will produce extra large and strong plants

#3 Thriller, filler, spiller

Thriller Height. 
Filler  Mid/Center plants that link the high with the low.  
Spiller.  Spilling over the rim

In the above image, the white Caladium leaf lends order and interest. Too many small leaves reads as messy

TIP...When plant shopping at the nursery, take a wagon around with a particular planter in mind, designing as you go. Place plants you are considering in the center of the wagon, placed as you would imagine planting, step back and evaluate, what should I add, remove.......

Window boxes! Look around, where might they be added, such a softening effect

Roll this up to a window for a 'window box'

 Hanging Baskets.....

Yes, lettuce!
 TIP.... Learning how to plant containers, and most of gardening, in England. We were taught to plant root ball to root ball. Instead of the thick liners that can only be planted from the top, we used moistened sphagnum moss so we could punch holes in the sides for that overfilled look. After planting we always tucked in seeds, nasturtiums were a great choice
Let's explore other uses, and placements for your containers. How about this? Eliminate a banister utilizing containers
Marking an entrance
For privacy and safety. This setting is a 4th floor balcony
Not all planters need to be at front door or on deck, place them in the garden.This is my favorite when I get the opportunity to design a space with the containers in the garden which often allows the homeowner to look outdoors and view the planters
While taking a group on a garden tour in rural England I spied this very cracked, stunning planter far out into the garden, empty. Now that is low maintenance.
I asked the lady of the house the history of this vessel noting it was very old. 'Oh what a nuisance!''
'There were nine, this is the last and I backed my car into it, bloody family pieces from Egypt, 500bc or some such nonsense!'
A client called in dismay, her fountain did not endure the winter and had a big crack in the bottom. It was vintage, a one-of-a-kind piece. Let's redirect I suggested, we can turn it into a planter!
Have fun, experiment, think outside the pot!
Want more? Head to these talented ladies!


Happy Planting!


  1. Well I couldn't wait to learn from the master. Our tips are similar but you go so much further in depth. I had some hanging baskets on my balcony before one of our more recent droughts. Darn those buggers are hard to plant. What a great idea to add seeds! I have never used slow release fertilizer. Most of my pots are drip irrigated so I wonder if it would be effective. We need to have a pow wow! Maybe when we go to Scotts. I have it on my calendar if you are still game! Thank you so much for joining us. You are the bomb!!

  2. Committing this to memory: THRILLER FILLER SPILLER... THRILLER FILLER SPILLER! Thanks so much for doing this with us, Debra. I learned a lot and enjoyed the visuals!!

  3. Debra, you always have the best tutorials about container gardening. I have linked to several of your other posts in the past about containers and people have always come back to tell me how helpful your tips are. I love the story about the Egyptian pots! So funny.

    Have a great weekend.

  4. What a great post of wonderful and inspiring garden container ideas! Loved all the photos and now I have to get busy in my garden!

  5. Debra,
    You never disappoint. There are some wonderful ideas and inspiration here. Hope spring in your area is coming in like a lamb. Our weather has been so different from what this Southern California girl is used to!

  6. Everything! I love the big verdigris pot with the tulips especially. Great advice and inspiration Debra. xo Kelley

  7. Thanks for the helpful information. Gorgeous containers! How often do you use the slow-release fertilizer?

  8. Wow Debra, what great inspiration! Right now I am enjoying the Japanese tree peony by my front porch and 3 large bowls of pansies. Now on the the window boxes and deck/patio pots! I'm planting later this year, as our weather has been very iffy in Lake County. Time to "get in the dirt"! Thanks for the inspiration!

  9. Spectacular displays. I had forgotten the root ball-to-root ball plantings from when I lived in Washington state. Can't wait to try them when it cools down again here in Arizona--November!


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