It’s that time of year; not quite fall, summer not quite run-out, definitely not time to think about end-of-year seasonal decorating. Things look a little worn-out and frazzled. How do you keep your decorating and your pots of plant material looking fresh? One way is to think of a simple composition rule: Three is a much better number than two, or even one.
Instead of a lone plant, a forlorn piece of seasonal produce rolled into a corner, or a plain-vanilla terra cotta pot, you should jazz things up, create an unexpected pairing, and provide a sort of textured layering to it all. And use your equation in all sorts of places, inside and out.
The first element is a great pot. ‘Great’ doesn’t necessarily mean large or expensive. Use something you’re drawn to, something with a sensuous shape, good color and/or texture. Find the appropriate plant for your container, which means thinking about seasonal color and what’s available right now. Bumblebee orchids are a good bet with their ‘hot’ colors, mini pumpkins are coming to market, and an unadorned wall is a good place for a statement. With that pot you found on sale, the statement is complete. The color pops, the combination is unusual, and you’ve given an out-of-the-way location star treatment.
Move on to other pots and other locations. Nurseries this time of year will have hanging plants that might have been with them all season. They’re often lush and low-hanging. Bring one home, and find the right container for it.
You can leave these late-season additions in their plastic growing pots for easy removal, and place on top of existing soil in your larger, ‘featured’ pot. If you use something like a creeper, you get the effect of sprawling vines. And when you plunk down your third element, like this early season pumpkin, your foliage becomes a sort of necklace, or foamy collar. You’ve brought the pumpkin patch indoors, and created a happy combo.
Since we’re not into fall just yet, you’ll want to temper your hot color usage, and think about a color to complement the orange, crimson, or yellow blooms and pumpkins. Blue pots are soothing and provide a cool counterpoint. And your bloom color and pot will pick up other bits of comparable color in the room.
Don’t forget the appeal of texture. There’s nothing quite like a timeworn urn or pot with a glossy plant residing in it. The matte finish of your container is always good counterpoint for shiny foliage, and vice versa.
Gray is the ultimate neutral, and can be found in many areas, including plant material, like the tillandsia added to the pot here. Use the hue with confidence because it makes other colors sing out.
Also, since we’re not farmers, we shouldn’t want to see the soil the plant resides in. This time of year, make Spanish moss your ally, and stuff it around your plantings as a last step. And note you’re using the same color gray to strengthen your design.
Finally, step back and use more elements as needed. A few extras can be tossed underneath and around. And take a look at the surrounding walls. These nailed-up, sawed-off pumpkin halves are an amusing nod to the coming change of season.
Use of an uneven number of elements—a deceptively simple idea—can give oomph to your late season planting and decorating. Don’t be afraid to prove that one plus one plus one can equal a lot more than three, and show off your design prowess in a big way.
Chris H. Olsen is a nationally known home and garden guru, designer, author, TV personality and public speaker. In his book, Chris shares his landscape and gardening knowledge along with his unique flair for home decor and design.He is also a member of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers. Learn more about Chris and all of his work at chrisholsen.com.