Not all of us have the luxury of living with lush lawns sweeping to the horizon or deep flowerbeds that contain lots of color and beauty almost every day of the year. Many of us reside in urban areas, where space is at a premium, and plantings are used as simply a border–an afterthought. But you can use pots—and potted plantings—as a possible space usage solution, as well as that “what the what” factor for design, and even a focal point in an existing landscaped space.
In terms of design, what I’m talking about here is creating and using vertical emphasis in your plantings. You don’t need a towering palm tree or garden sculpture to create height appeal. One interesting pot—or several—full of foundation plants or a seasonal color mix will give any area that bit of pop and wow that will bring the eye up, rather than being focused on the ground.
First, use one or more good-looking pots. You have two choices here; go with something in a dark color like charcoal, which will recede into the architecture and design, or go with a bright, almost eccentric color choice to really create an unexpected, happy space. I always say to think big and streamline. A large pot will not only make your design more sophisticated; it will also mean you don’t have to worry about watering all the time. Take an under-used, blank space or corner and line up some pots. Then add some seating. You’ve just created another ‘room,’ which you probably didn’t even know you would have. One design trick here: uniformity. Use the same planter in matching color, as well as the same plants. Repetition of elements will mean the space appears larger. And isn’t this blue against the white walls cool and refreshing?
You can feature one large pot raised on a simple platform of stacked rock and fill it with something hardy for a really effective use of space. Using rock as a base for your pot means you won’t have to worry about the pot shifting in the garden soil. And you’ve created something special out of what was just an ordinary planting space next to a walk. Notice the pot isn’t overly dramatic, nor is the plant material overtly bold. It’s all in the presentation.
Or you can get adventurous and use a bright color for your pot(s). And bear in mind that you won’t have to use orange-blooming annuals in an orange ceramic pot. (Although you can, if you wish. No one will ever condemn you for using color. Certainly not me.) The idea here, however, is emphasis is placed on the pot itself, so more green than color is used in our planting. And a word about planting these featured pots; place as much into them as you can. Like I always say, “Shove it and Cram it”! More plants in tight spaces means more drama.
And a reminder: Repetition of pot shape, color, and planting material will be your ally in this kind of design. Use more than one pot, and use the same type pot and color.
Using potted plantings in various ways to augment borders, walls, or corners will mean your landscape takes on further dimensions and another bit of sophistication. While gardening in the ground is wonderful, using pots as further expressions of your taste will mean you can enhance what you already have, and create something unexpected.
Chris 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.