Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Summer's Prettiest Container Plantings

I can't remember a summer when I have come across so many pretty container plantings. Today's post takes a look at some of the creative handiwork of local gardeners.

I'm beginning with several containers from the garden of Wayne and Carolyn Luke in Uxbridge, Ontario. This creative couple makes whimsical birdhouses using reclaimed materials as well as creations in iron, wood and concrete. From a charming little store on their property, they also sell garden artifacts and antiques (find contact information and directions to the store on their website: 

The whole garden is filled with artwork they've made themselves. There is also an array of container plantings including the one you see in the opening photograph.

Carolyn and Luke have a great eye for antiques. This white plant stand, filled with colorful annuals, sits adjacent to the walkway at the front of the house.

Blue-green is a terrific color choice for this metal urn at the side of the house. Filled with petunias, it looks fresh and attractive.

Full sun urn:

1. & 2. Petunia 3. Trailing Verbena, Verbena x hybrida white and mauve. 

One trend I keep seeing over and over again this summer is not just large, but positively huge container plantings like the one you see here.

The rusted metal pot belonged to Carolyn's uncle in Nova Scotia and was once used to tan fishing nets. Now it has a second life as a planter.

Full Sun Container:

1. Canna Lily (tall plant in the previous picture - sorry Carolyn and Luke were uncertain of the variety) 2. Swedish Ivy or Spurflower, Plectranthus forsteri Variegata (houseplant) 3. Ornamental Cabbage 4. Ivy (not shown)

Another antique urn and stand.

There are so many fabulous varieties of Coleus to choose from these days. Who needs flowers when foliage provides this much color?

Part Shade/Full Shade Container Planting: Assorted Coleus flanked by Canna Lilies. The decorative white object in the background is another of Carolyn's vintage finds.

Top Left: Coleus, Solenostemon, 'Campfire' Top right: Coleus, Solenostemon, 'Flame Thrower Spiced Curry' Bottom: Unknown variety

It seems too early for this gardener to use the "f" word, but it has to be said that Coleus's fall colors make it perfect for autumnal container plantings. 

This urn was the dominant feature in a tiny front garden of a older home in Hamilton, Ontario. It's hard to give you a sense of scale, but the black urn on its decorative stand was massive. With its crown of curly branches, it was taller than I am (putting it in around 6')! 

The backdrop is dark and as theatrical as a stage curtain. The surrounding plantings are minimal allowing the huge urn to steal the scene.

Full sun container planting

1. Creeping Jenny, Lysimachia nummularia 2. Purple Heart, Setcrsea purpurea (tender perennial or houseplant)  3. Verbena 4. Purple Waffle Plant, Hemigraphis alternata 5. White Geranium 

Container planting in a private garden in Hamilton, Ontario

Another trend I noted gardeners embracing this summer is mixing traditional annuals with houseplants. I have two examples. 

Part Shade to Shade container planting: 
1. Alocasia 'Low Rider' 2. Wandering Jew, Tradescantia albiflora or Zebrina pendula (houseplant)  3. Sweet Potato Vine, Ipomoea batatas 'Blackie' 4. Spider plant, Chlorophytum comosum (houseplant)

Urn at Brockroad Nursery

My second example is an urn I saw at Brock Road Nursery in Guelph, Ontario. I visited the nursery for the first time recently and came away very impressed with the range and quality of the nursery stock. A place definitely worth checking out if you are in the Guelph area!

I really liked this urn with its minimal palette of greens, white and deep chocolaty-mauve.

Part Shade/Full shade urn:
1. Alocasia 'Low Rider' 2. Hosta 'Island Breeze' 3. Caladium spp. 4. Purple Waffle Plant, Hemigraphis alternata 5. Scotch Moss, Sagina subulata 'Aurea' 6. Button Fern, Pellaea rotundifolia 

I asked the nursery for a few tips to keep a container planting like this one looking great all summer long. Here's what Tania Marthaler, Director of Operations and Creative Development at Brock Road Nursery recommends:

• Make sure it is in the proper exposure: Indirect, Low-Medium Light
• Make sure it has adequate moisture: Moist, but not wet.
• Remove any spent leaves or flowers as they occur.

What happens to a container with a mix of perennials and tropical houseplants at the end of the gardening season?  Tania offers some excellent advice how best to repurpose the plantings:

To overwinter this container we will dismantle the planting. We'll plant the perennials in the garden in early fall to give them time to establish before the first frost, repot the houseplants and take them indoors. The urn planter is not easily moved, so it will stay in place throughout the winter. We have it on a stone base, so it will not have moisture from the soil seeping into it. This helps to prevent cracking in winter."

If you are investing in a large ceramic or concrete containers, you want them to last for years. I asked Tania for some general guidelines on seasonal care.

"Caring for containers over the winter depends on the container. Some containers cannot be left in the garden in the winter. If a container is not frost proof, they should be emptied and over-turned or stored in a shed or garage or garage for the winter. "

On to Carrie and David Brandow's garden in Guelph, Ontario. Carrie is a gardener who brings her work home with her: she makes a living growing annuals for the wholesale trade. Her own personal garden showcases the annuals she grows along with a array of perennials, trees and shrubs. David, a blacksmith who makes custom artwork and hand-crafted tools, has created all the metal work you see in the garden.

I promise to show you more of their garden in future posts, but as today's topic is containers, and I am going to focus in on a few of the many containers Carrie has scattered throughout the garden.

Morning Sun/Part Sun:

1. Lantana 'Evita Red' 2. Coleus 'Marble Red' 3. Floss Flower, Ageratum 'High Tide Blue' 4. Nemesia nesia 'Sunshine' (seen below)

A closer look at Floss Flower, Ageratum 'High Tide Blue' &  Nemesia nesia 'Sunshine'

Seen here in the early morning sunlight is one of my favourite containers. It's a large wooden box filled with Coleus and other annuals.

Part shade wooden box container planting:

1. Coleus 'Wasabi' 2. Coleus 'Saturn' 3. Begonia boliviensis 'Bossa Nova Red' 4. Pansy 'Cool Blue Wave' 5. Fuchsia 'Autumnale' 6. Fuchsia 'Marinka' at the sides of the box (not shown)

Isn't this trio of pots terrific? 

That Carrie used three identical pots and repeated the plants creates impact. Together the three containers become one big, bold statement.

The ceramic pots are an attractive mix of minty-green and brunt terra cotta colors.

Full sun container planting:

1. Petunia littletunia 'Purple Blue' 2. Lantana 'Evita Red' 3. Nemesia nesia 'Burgundy' 4. Begonia boliviensis 'Million Kisses' 5. Dwarf Egyptian Grass, Cypress papyrus 6. Alternanthera 'Little Ruby' (dark purple foliage just barely visible at the back of this container)

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I hope you've found some inspiration for your next container planting!


  1. I have always loved the blue/peach and purple/orange color combos. You have a great talent in find beauty in the garden.

  2. Thanks for all the fabulous inspiration! Happy Sunday!

  3. These are beautiful but when I see a container so stuffed with plants, I always think it must stunt their growth since they don't have the space they need to reach their potential. But maybe I'm just not really seeing how large the planters are. The combos are definitely very pretty. :o)

  4. This is a wonderful post - full of beauty and inspiration. Thanks you so much for taking the time to list the plant names . I will be saving this post for next summer.

  5. Well that has given me inspiration for spring and summer. I'm never sure about putting too many plants into a pot, here in Canberra (Australia) they need a lot of water in summer, so I like to give each plant a bit of space, but I'll try those colour combinations together.

  6. Wow! What wonderful combinations. Thanks for listing all the plants. I know that was a lot of work!

  7. So much inspiration here. Beautiful plantings. I'm glad you included the names of the plants so that I will know what to look for at the garden center. I will be referring back to this before planting my containers next year.

  8. Jennifer, the plant combinations are amazing, I love to see the imaginative designs people come up with. So many lovely urns, too; I have a 'thing' for urns and covet every one I see. :-)

  9. All these containers are beautiful Jennifer, I prefer your first example with dark red leaved cannas. Their leaves go well to hot days, but we have no hot weather here, so I like to watch your photos, thanks for ideas.

  10. Gorgeous colors and texture in all those containers! I love how creative people are repurposing items into container plantings. Mine are never so full looking. One thing I learned at the Toronto Botanical Garden at last year's Fling was that I am not putting enough plants in my containers.

  11. Doesn't this just make you want to go rummage around in storage and see what fancy containers you have in there! You can make your garden look great this year with these tips I think!

  12. Great examples! I particularly like the part shade/full sun planting with the Alocasia. Greens and whites mixed with a deep purple is one of my favorite color combinations. There were some great containers too - perhaps I should get some larger ones!


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