On our trip to Toronto at the beginning of August one of the things that I found remarkable about this lovely city on the lake is their love of flowers and the quantities that one sees around the city, simply amazing! Rather than just show you photos of some of my favorites I thought I'd use this opportunity to give some advice and point out why each of these examples is successful. Ready, this is going to be a good one. And if it weren't pitch black outside right now I think I might be inclined to run out and put some of my own advice to use, enjoy!
And now I present to you, Eleven Great Tips For Assembling Stunning Containers! Go for it!
1. One great container can do the job! This tall fluted container (above) works perfectly set against this historic brick building playing off the color of the darkened bricks, and the colors of the plantings work nicely with the blue door. Not something that makes you say wow, but something that has a unique personality and works scale-wise and interest-wise. This planter is a great example of putting the no-fail great looking container formula thriller,filler and spiller to use, right?
2. Consider The Setting: Think about container height and scale and how the container relates to the site. This large low planter is a modern touch that works well in a contemporary setting where a taller container would detract too much from the architecture or somehow look just too large! Don't put a formal planter next to a modern building and vice versa, unless you really know what you are doing! Take a good look at what designers have chosen to use in a setting similar to yours, and learn from their expertise. As far as the plant choice, tall hydrangeas work well with trailing geraniums and might be perrenial in your area (though not here in Toronto, except for the hydrangea.)
3. Think about practicality! If there are lots of dogs, or small children or crowds of people that could destroy your containers, hang them high! And of course a light post is the perfect place. In this case, as in many cities flowers are hung high on light posts as there is a watering truck that comes by each morning with a long extension hose, and these are easily watered from the street regardless of parked cars, which in a big city is also practical thinking.
And practically speaking, filling planters with plants that either are tubers (and thus reproduce themselves, like Canna and bamboo), bulbs, perennials, or from which you can take cuttings for over-wintering or propagating is very cost effective and a nice way to minimize having to just toss tired plants. Geraniums, begonia, coleus and or course most succulents as well as pathos are easily propagated from cuttings, so do consider using some of these. Spider plants of course make tons of tiny babies, foxtail fern can e cut apart to produce more plants, and hoya also is easy to propagate from cuttings (gotta try that soon, my hoya, who has been blooming non-stop all summer could use a haircut!)
4. Stage Your Containers. I'm sure you'll agree with me, this arrangement of wooden barrel planters is truly stunning! I love seeing one planter from the side and the overall proportions work really well on this corner site.Now of course, you may be looking to do something like this but on a much smaller scale, which could also work nicely, just keep the same proportions and consider the height of the plantings.
5. Simple and Sweet Can Do The Trick. This series of moss baskets that serve as a window box are sweet and inviting without overwhelming the window display within. Sometimes delicate and relatively small flowers that are enjoyed from close up can be wonderful, and in this case a mix of different petunia colors and sizes works like a charm.
6. Go Green. Containers, and even summer containers don't have to rely on beautiful flowers to be beautiful! I just love this mix of greenery with just a bit of color thrown in, and that all the greens are of the same value, lovely! Now if I could just have some luck with ferns myself, hmmmm.
6. Go With A Variety Of Leaves. Interesting mixed planters can also be created using a variety of plants with interesting foliage. This very giant planter painted bright yellow green is filled almost entirely with a selection of leafy plants and looks great.
8. Use Flowers All In One Color Range. Sometims a showstopper container garden may contain flowers in only one color range, which is the case in this outdoor cafe fence topper, and I actually saw the same idea repeated in many outdoor cafes, where too many colors might just ditract too much from the food! Or may just be too overwhelming for someone sitting next to them.
9. Don't Forget That Sometimes Your Plants Have A Mind Of Their Own. As you can imagine, the variegated Canna at the center of this planter filled with begonias was supposed to tower over the filler, but that didn't happen, and that is okay too, as it is still lovely!
10. Always Look To See What Does Well In Your Area, And Don't Be Afraid Of Repetition. What did I see in Toronto the city packed with flowers? Lots and lots of the same flowers over and over, as these species like Canna, begonia, hydrangea, geraniums, etc. do well there. I'll admit I was craving a bit more variety, as this was city-wide, but within one garden or porch repetition of plants that look great can be visually calming and unifies the space.
11. Do Realize That Containers That Look This Great Were Likely Replenished Once Or Twice During the Spring/Summer Growing Season. Most flowers have a time period over which they look their best. Don't assume that your planters don't look great because you don't know what you are doing, it is more likely (assuming you are providing enough water and maybe some fertilizer) that you simply need to start afresh. Things like petunias only look good for two or so months, and begonias can get very leggy and unattractive. Some of this legginess can be delayed with dead-heading and snipping of the growing tip to encourage branching, but I can assure you, no one is doing this for any of the containers that I've presented to you here! Enough said about that, when you see some lovely flowers in your area asks someone who knows (like if you run across a landscape person working) how often they are replaced!
Hope these tips have helped, now go plant some gorgeous containers yourself!