Monday, June 18, 2012

Patio planters

I love planting patio pots with a mixture of annuals, and several people have asked me lately how I decide what to put in them.  So I thought I would write out my tips, though none of them are earth shattering or new.

The advantage of patio pots is I can change them every year.  So much of my yard is perennials, and I actually like making new gardens better than I like gardening, so mixed pots give me that creative outlet.

The first thing to consider is form, I generally plant one tall thing, one or two draping things, and then the rest to fill in.

I think texture, scale, and shape are important, so I try to have some different kinds of foliage texture and shape, like long blade like leaves from spike or an ornamental grass, bigger leaves such as sweet potato vine, and some finer textures like asparagus fern.

Next I consider color, and I focus on foliage more than flowers.  Your options are pretty much dark green, chartreuse, silver, variegated, and purple.  And of course coleus, which I always use, because it's as good as a flower.  Variety is good, but chaos is bad.  Unity is good, but too much and it's boring.  And in addition to each pot having a good composition, I like all the pots to go together, but be different.  I don't cram every foliage color in each pot, too chaotic, every pot will end up with normal green, so I pick one or two other foliage colors for each pot. This year all of my pots have some chartreuse, and some dark red and chartreuse coleus to create unity.  Then some have variegated foliage as well, and some have purple as well.  I skipped anything silver this year.

Flowers are actually the last thing I think of.  I created unity among my pots by using dark red and purple snap dragons in all of the pots.  Each pot has one different kind of dark red or purple flower that's a focal point, and several of the pots have peach colored petunias as filler.  I didn't really pick the flower color scheme this year because I got a purple, scarlet, and peach mixed pot as a gift, so I just made the rest go with that.  But I use purple and peach a lot, so it's no hardship.  The flowers match the foliage and coleus too.

I have two lovely cobalt blue planters and would love several more in different sizes and shapes, but until I can afford that I make due with a few big terra cotta pots too.  I just can't afford to go too crazy with the pots, but whimsical interesting containers are half of the fun.  Fine Gardening magazine has lot's of fun ideas in this regard.

Finally, this year most of my pots have different scented geraniums, don't forget scent and feel too.  I often will put Rosemary as the vertical element, mint, fuzzy plants, etc.  The planters are in high traffic areas and are easy to touch and smell.  Herbs do great in mixed pots.

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