At A Glance: Dog Days

 Rob has put a great collection of vintage and contemporary concrete garden dogs together.   

This live wire is all mine.

Susie’s Pots


Making a move to renovate a landscape usually begins with some fairly compelling idea. Who would take on the mess and expense, unless there is some imagined outcome that will make for a decidedly better experience? As much as my daily routine has to do with tearing up people’s yards and putting them back together in some other way, I personally find change to be unsettling and difficult.  Maintaining the status quo has its attraction. I am likely to dig in my heels, and hang back until something throws me in another direction.  An appreciation and interest in the out of doors was a given for this client, but other issues were getting some play.

She had raised three girls, and was toying with the idea of moving to a smaller place, and making some time for travel.  Her decision about an outcome had to do with a few basic things.  She could not imagine a place she would like better than the one she already owned free and clear.  She had already spent a lot of time and trouble furnishing the inside of the house to suit herself.  In the end, she decided to stay where she was, and create a beautiful space outdoors that would make her feel like she was on vacation.  She is very happy with her own private vacation spot-I attribute that to her clear idea of what she wanted from her landscape. �
Everyone’s defining landscape decision is different.  Every committed gardener asks for something individual from their garden.  The important thing is to think through what it is you need and want before a shovel goes in the ground. Figuring out what you really want is not always so easy.  I might in casual conversation say I want vast perennial borders, but in truth I do not.  I work on perennial borders every day.  What I want when I go home is peace, quiet, and order. My landscape has lots of evergreens; they are very low maintenance and are beautiful all year long.  My container gardening is a foil for all of that-each one gets a new outfit every year.  They are my idea of fun.   

Susie’s pots are bold in color and form.  All of that resort style turquoise blue water asks for a strong color statement.  She enjoys taking care of her pots as much as she likes swimming in the pool.  The care of the pots is an everday pleasure, not a burden.  

Our late June and early July have been scorchingly hot.  The annual and tropical plants thrive in that heat much better than I do.  Susie is poolside every day, enjoying the weather as much as her plants do.  I can tell at a glance that they get daily care.  Anyone lacking the drive or time to look after containers every day can still be successful with them.  The installation of automatic watering and the planting of drought resistant plants can go a long way to help with the maintenance. A care plan is as important as the design. 

Three of her steel boxes have boxwood in them that live there all year round. The variegated licorice thrives on the boxwood watering schedule.  She does see this particular spot looking out the window in winter.  There is always something there for her to see.     

A pair of Belgian boxes were moved to the driveway.  She not only sees those boxes coming and going, she can see them from a window in her living room. My guess is that we will fill this box with something good looking for the winter months.

The dining table bakes in the sun all day long; the trailing verbena Lavender Star thrives in this environment.  The yellow glazed pot from Cliousclat in France, and that lavender provide a lot of color in a very small space. 

The apple espalier is now on its 4th year, living in a large steel box.  I had my doubts that it would live over the winter with its roots above ground, but she was willing to risk it. It is doing well enough that we need to install another wire up top, to keep the branches growing vertically.  An espalier grown in a heart shape-we both fell for it. 

This pool yard would be every bit as beautiful without the container gardens, but such a landscape would not suit my client.  She truly enjoys making plants grow.  The responsibility is great, but the rewards for her are greater.  

What makes people happy-it makes the gardening world go round.

Container Plantings For Shady Places

No shady spot need be a sleepy spot.  The combination of these old red spikes and variegated licorice entirely satisfy my eye.  The dark purple blooms on the tibouchina-astonishing.  White caladiums and a white fuchsia on standard-pale colors are great in the shade.  I take no credit for these containers-my client keeps them beautifully. 

A window box at the shop is in fairly deep shade.  A group of caladium cultivars are dramatically light in that shade.  Caladiums are as easy to grow as they are satisfying.  The frilly leaves have a dressy and insouciant look.  Who could tell it was 96 degrees when I took this picture?  

The begonia Madame Queen is new to me.  This plant has every visual hallmark of a difficult to grow plant; I do not know how to explain this.  After many years of gardening, I can tell the fussy plants from the easy going plants.  Madame Queen says it all.  I know the watering will have to be perfect.  I am game-given how much this plant could dress up the shade.

Who knew Kong coleus came in green?  The leaves are richly green, and velvety.  I am expecting this Kong to grow large.  The strap leaved yellow and green coleus will  provide a vivid and vocal supporting cast.  The Jayde pepperomia-frosting on the cake. 

This odd spot happens to be underneath a second level deck.  An old copper washtub filled with sanseveria, calathea, and creeping jenny makes something of the space.   

I love leaves.  I have never seen one I did not like.  Leaves can provide color every bit as good as the color from a flower.  If you garden in the shade, consider leaves.        

Tropical plants get a new lease on life, once they are moved outdoors.  They thrive in the shade outdoors.  I would guess they are a dracaena cultivar, and a grey pilea, but I am more interested in how they look in this container.  No gardener really needs to know the botanical names of plants.  What makes a gardener is experience. 

Rob has a love for weedy and fern like shady container plantings. As I like color in the shade as well as I do the sun, I am dubious from the start about his shade pots. His shade plantings are subtle and sensational.

The lime green dracaena Janet Craig is anything but subtle.  The curly liriope and lime licorice dance around those large stiff leaves, and loosen up the entire composition. 

 Shady spots can be strikingly good looking spots.

Hooray For Shade

Shady garden spots have that quiet and peaceful feeling about them-but that does not mean they have to be to uneventfully green.  Sum and Substance hosta is notable for its lime green color; that bold chartreuse looks like someone turned the lights on.  Container plantings in shade can have just as much punch.  This pepperomia is a vibrant shade of green; the intensely pebbly surface reflects light, and attracts the eye.  Pepperomias are small growing shade loving tropical plants that can brighten a shade garden in the summer, and keep you company indoors over the winter.     

There are plenty of tropical plants that are completely happy in shady places outdoors.  These bromeliads are anything but shy in appearance.  I wanted to planty some pots I could keep in the shade of the lindens at the shop.  This red/orange and green duo is just the sort of plant that will brighten that very shady spot.

This pepperomia Jayde features deep green, glossy, and perfectly heart shaped leaves.  It looks juicy enough to be a water plant.  It will make a great companion plant in a container.

This black leaved Calathea is an attention getter.  The shape of each leaf is described by a simple outline and midrib in hot pink.  The green blobby flowers you see pictured here cannot hold a candle to those strikingly beautiful leaves.    The surface of these pale green lance leaved Calathea leaves look as though they had been hand painted.  The pattern reminds me very much of rustic French or Italian china.  Where did I find these plants?  Telly’s Greenhouse, of course.  George has a great eye for unusual and beautiful plants. 

This particular green caladium glows white in the centers of the leaves, and is puinctuated with terra cotta colored blotches; it shines in the shade. 

Putting it all together is the fun of summer container gardens.  A window box in a shady spot can be very lively indeed.