The word “landscape” may conjure visions of sprawling yards and expansive flowerbeds, but how often does it make you think of pots and planters? If you think of them at all, it’s probably as a bit of décor or a pleasing addition to your porch or patio.
Yet containers can create a landscape all their own, in small spaces and large, on patios, decks, porches and even within the broader landscape itself.
They give you an added flexibility when it comes to planting, too. You can grow flowers or plants that may not survive in the ground, whether because the soil or the water conditions are unsuitable. And you can customize the environment for your plantings and still grow them right alongside hardier plantings that can live in a less-hospitable ground.
Containers can move where you need them to be, from shade to sun and from outdoors to in during cold months. They add curb appeal, create an inviting entryway along paths and on porches and let you put your own personal touch on your landscape in myriad, seasonal ways.
A container garden is really its own unique landscape design. Here are some of the ways that containers can be used to enhance yours.
Mix & Match Containers
As bits of artwork and sculpture, containers bring their own style to your landscape. They can be round or oval, rectangular or square, even geometrical in shape. You can create interesting effects by clustering containers of the same shape together, or by intermingling different shapes.
Combining containers of varying sizes will let you design a unique look and showcase plants more effectively. Larger containers surrounded by smaller ones of diminishing size will add height and visual interest. You can even create your own height by placing containers on various surfaces – on benches, steps or shelves, for example, to build a truly dimensional garden.
Large containers work especially well for creating a focal point, especially in small spaces where they can help to draw the eye and make the space appear larger. They’re versatile enough to work with both large and small plants, or even no plants at all!
Tall containers bring foliage up to eye level and make good use of dimensional space.
Small containers are ideal for creating groupings. You can fit many into a small space, especially if you add dimension through varying surfaces – shelves, tables, ledges, window boxes and even hanging baskets.
But size and shape aren’t the only ways to get creative! Try containers of different materials depending on where and how you’re using them. Clay makes a good choice for shady areas, wood adds a rustic touch in flowerbeds, stone gives you an antique look, and metal offers a sleek, modern appeal. If your container landscape will live on a deck or porch, you may want to choose lighter weight synthetics, while natural stone pots may be the perfect option for a sturdy patio or walkway.
Mix & Match Plants
Once you’ve had a chance to explore the possibilities that the containers themselves hold, try contrasting container shapes and sizes with the plant material inside them – for example, tall, stately stems in a squat, round pot, or low-lying ground cover in a tall, narrow one. Grasses add height to small pots; cascading plants ground large ones.
Tall, container-friendly trees, like Japanese Maple, look elegant in pots on your patio. Colorful flowers overflowing wide planters, or cascading down the sides of tall ones, are picturesque additions to a porch or walkway.
Mix plants of different types and heights in the same container for some of the most stunning effects – tall plants surrounded by smaller ones with hanging plants or flowers around the edges. Start with a bold focal point: Aster, Dahlia and Salvia all make good choices. Fill with mid-sized plants like Begonia, Coleus or Gerbera Daisies. Add the finishing touches with cascaders around the edge. Ivy, Alyssum and Nasturtium are perfectly suited for the role.
Choose plants that complement each other in style and color, and have similar growing cycles and habitats so they’ll be easy to grow and maintain.
As you get comfortable experimenting with plant types, you can begin to play plants and containers off each other. Set snow white flowers in a bright red container, or explore how the red of a Japanese Maple works with the cobalt blue of a glazed planter. The possibilities are endless.
Enjoy The Fruits Of Your Labor
Containers make ideal environments for herb and vegetables gardens, too, not only because you can bring them indoors and enjoy them during colder months, but because you can typically begin to grow (and harvest!) cool weather vegetables earlier than you could in the ground, which may still be frozen over from a cold winter.
Build an edible landscape by mixing and matching simple containers of varying sizes and heights and choosing the right plants for your environment. Tomatoes are a popular container choice, but they require a full seven to eight hours of sun to thrive, and will need attention during the summer months to ensure the soil doesn’t dry out beneath the hot sun. If you’ve got the right spot, give them a try.
Lettuce, Swiss Chard and Kale are born for container gardens and grow nicely in cooler weather. Basil, Mint, Rosemary and Thyme each have a unique look – and taste! – and are ideally suited for small containers that are easy to move from porch or window box to kitchen table.
Watch out, though, because aphids love herbs almost as much as we do. If you find them in your garden, try natural remedies like attracting ladybugs, to keep your garden healthy and chemical-free.
Save The Pieces
Garden pots and planters can not only be used to design lovely landscapes but they are works of art in themselves. If you’ve ever found the perfect planter, you probably also know the pain of seeing that first hairline crack turn into a wider fracture until finally your planter meets its demise.
Before you collect the pieces for the garbage heap, consider how they might become their own works of art. After all, broken pottery is often used to create the most stunning mosaics, so why not use broken planters to the same effect?
Sink large pieces into the ground to create layers, then fill in gaps with plants like succulents, which look charming in a garden and thrive in little soil with minimal care. Experiment with pieces at different angles and with different plant materials in between, and you might just find that the pot you thought destined for the dumpster has become the most original reflection of your personality and creativity.
So next time you’re browsing a garden shop or nursery and your gaze lands on the humble pot or planter, stop to consider how it might just become part of your landscape design. Linger for a moment and imagine how the colors, sizes, heights and textures can add the perfect touch to your space.
If you’d like to explore how containers can work for your space, let us know. We’ll visit your home and create a personalized outdoor plan to help you realize your vision.