My summer driveway garden has only one flowering plant-a white sunpatiens with a variegated leaf. Lots of them. I am astonished at how well this plant has performed, given less than ideal sun, chilly temperatures, and relentless rain. The plants have grown at an astonishing rate, and shrug off troublesome weather. The Japanese beetles did not touch them-I like to think that is because they wouldn’t dare attack a plant this robust. The white mandevillea vine is not flowering profusely, but it is flowering enough to suit me. All of the other plants are various shades of green. Green plants in pots have one big visual advantage. They never look like they are missing something.
The flowering plants on my deck are making a strong comeback from the cold and torrential rains. A big pot of lilac New Guinea impatiens is budding-but is missing all of its flowers. Likewise the pots of geraniums. Both geraniums and New Guineas have beautiful foliage, but I do not grow them with that in mind. I grow them for the flowers-the color. They been missing flowers for several weeks now. The driveway garden looks perfectly happy.
These green plants took the hostile weather in stride, and have grown steadily. No rotting flower heads to contend with. Every one of the plants in these pots is a different shade of green, a different texture, and a different shape. I have not touched these pots except to water when necessary. The pots are large, and the soil is completely shaded by plants. I have watered twice in the past 2 weeks. Now that our temperatures are climbing into the 80′s, I will water accordingly. I suppose I could pinch the plants in these pots, but I am more interested to see how they will sort things out for themselves.
Plants in annual contrainers should be planted with an eye to the eventual overall shape. The lower pots do not have a vertical growing centerpiece. This pot looks like a big salad-delicious enough to eat. Like all of the plants in my landscape, they have appreciated the cooler weather and ample rain. No pouting going on here.
This planting looks good with my butterburrs, the Princeton Gold maples in the background, and hosta behind me. The choice of plants for these containers has a lot to do with the plants in the vicinity. The drive court is large; the plant palette is limited to the moss between the bricks. These green plants recall and reinforce the overall landscape.
An errant nicotiana mutabilis in a sea of green and gold plectranthus, and some nicotiana alata lime has a few pink flowers. Should it grow strongly over the fall, I doubt I will mind the interruption. A plant that would breach the strongly horizontal lines would be welcome.
In a spot where five different hard materials come together-the wall stone, the limestone cap, the wood, the wall brick, and the driveway brick – the repetition of a limited number of plants is a softening gesture.
Greens done well are hard to beat. The three plants in the above picture, though formally arranged in rows, contrast in shape, surface, form, mass and texture. Variation on a green color scheme provide plenty of visual interest.
A friend traveling in France a month ago sent me this picture of a formally pruned juniper hedge, under planted with a skirt of trailing rosemary. The pairing of two needle-foliaged plants of very similar color and form is taken to another dimension all together by a decision to selectively prune. There is a gardener with a point of view at work here. The elements of good design may begin with the shapes of spaces, and architectural elements, but a green vocabulary never hurts.
We have had a long run of cold and rainy weather. As in overnight temperatures in the high 40′s and low fifties, and close to 6 inches in one day, last week. I don’t think the pink fittonia has grown an inch.
The Persian Shield on this north wall is such a beautiful iridescent purple. In full sun, the leaves green up-the resulting purple/green mix is a muddy color. This pot is holding its own. I have had the Persian Shields grow 3 feet in a single season. Not this year.
The nicotiana has had quite a bout with white fly. I can’t remember ever dealing with that before. I sprayed the foliage with water every day. Who knows if that helped. The cold may have slowed them down. I don’t see them anymore, but the nicotiana were damaged. The coleus is filling in for them.
The cool and rainy weather has not fazed the heuchera one bit. They have put on some weight. The geraniums have not been happy. They like it hot, and on the dry side. But these Caliente geraniums are bravely budding up. It is hard to keep a good plant down.
Container plantings are a joy, and a trial. Our summer has been cold and cool-no tropical plant loves this. I keep hoping for that warm up that never comes. By this time of year, my deck pots are usually overflowing. Do I have any complaints? Not really.
Every gardener is used to seeing containers placed on hard surfaces. On either side of a front porch. On a set of steps or walkway. On a terrace. But containers can fit right into a spot in the landscape. We have worked in several places this week where containers were placed in the midst of the ongoing landscape. I like what I am seeing. Placing pots in the garden is an unusual placement, but unusual can be a good. The first rule of good design is to not take any rule as set in stone. Some of the most beautiful landscape designs I have seen break every rule. By this I mean, they break every rule, but do it convincingly. A great heart, and sure hand always trumps following the rules. I worried myself for days, given the decision to place this pot in the middle of the lawn in the rose garden. Once the deed was done, I wondered why. The placement seemed right.
This container is set in a landscape bed. A clematis has climbed and wound itself around a tall steel container. A bed of pachysandra, angelina and hens and chicks has been inter planted with with Persian Queen geraniums, euphorbia, and trailing annual verbena. The look of this garden is better than good. I like how the introduction of annual plants into the landscape, and the perennial clematis climbing the side of a container have created a look in which the container has become an integral part of the landscape. The annuals planted in ground-so charming, and so successful. This planting is not mine-it is all Jane’s. Clients can be a great source of inspiration. They know their gardens backwards and forwards. Their decisions are based on a daily exposure. This corner is invariably burned by salt in the winter, so a summer/seasonal planting helps keep this spot luxuriant.A container set in a landscape bed is one way to create a focal point. This tall concrete pot planted with a lemon cypress, euphorbia, and petunias gives meaning to a landscape comprised of arborvitae and pachysandra. I like the ground cover growing up over the base of this planter. It looks as though the container has been there a while, and belongs there. A pot gracefully placed in a landscape can add another dimension to an outdoor space. Landscapes which offer many dimensions continue to interest the viewer. A pot placed in the landscape is a mark made by a designer. That said, I treasure the individual statement of a landscape above all. Some landscapes I see are all about a gardener in charge with a strong point of view.
We usually remove the grass underneath a container, excavate the soil, and replace that soil with gravel. The insures that the container drains unimpeded. Trimming the grass around the container is an extra step, maybe even a nuisance. But for the gardener that appreciates the small details, a placement like this is a pleasure. A pot placement in the landscape can be a temporary solution to a bigger problem. In this case, a tree directly behind this group of containers died this past winter. The tree, and its stump was of a size that replacement will not be easy. The pots draw one’s eye away from the empty space. Given this placement of pots, a much smaller tree could be planted which would eventually fill that void.
A container in the landscape takes on the same sculptural quality as a birdbath, armillary, or sundial. The small footprint of any of these ornaments makes them easy to tuck into a small space that needs some visual interest. This client has a particular fondness for pots in her borders. This pot is set on a short concrete plinth. That small amount of additional height keeps the bottom of the pot in view, despite the ground covering geraniums.
This French glazed pot is of considerable size and stature. It has been placed in a bed of myrtle facing down a stand of mature trees. Pink and red mandevilleas growing on a simple trellis made of bamboo stakes makes a considerable statement by late summer. This spot, minus the pot, would be too sleepy looking for this client. Every gardener wants something different from their garden.
The landscape in the front of my house features two fairly large patches of herniaria. This spot asked for something short that would require little maintenance-it has done very well there. Years ago I set a pair of French glazed pots at opposite ends. A garden ornament which represents the end, or boundary of a garden is called a Herm, 0r a term-as in terminus. Though I have since moved the Russian sage in favor of a simpler arrangement, and switched out the French pot for a concrete pot with a yew topiary that can sit in this spot all year round, the idea is the same. The placement of containers can be anywhere there is a need.