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Home Designer's Tips For Using Containers
Designer's Tips For Using Containers PDF Print E-mail

It’s easy to just plant some pansies in a pot and place it in the corner of a patio.

But, when you understand a few concepts of design, you can make your container plantings an integral part of your outdoor rooms. Containers, like the decorative accessories you use in your home, can do a lot more than add color to your outdoor rooms.

From softening the hard floor surfaces of decks and patios, to adding that spark of whimsy, containers will brighten up a humdrum space.

Here are some design tips that will help you use your container plantings to achieve that special look that you find in home and garden magazines:
  1. Use container plantings to soften hard surface areas like:

    • patios and decks – container arrangements on patios and decks help to blur the boundaries between home and landscape
    • fountains – arrange containers around the base of fountains
    • walls and fences – hanging baskets, pots and window boxes can be combined to create a wall of plants
    • outdoor kitchen counters – a pot filled with a trailing vine will soften the expanse of masonry and stainless steel which typically make up outdoor kitchen units

  2. Use containers at your entryways to set your mood when entering your home. Pots filled with flowers in subdued colors will give you a sense of calmness when you come home. Brightly colored flowers will energize your spirits when they greet you.
  3. Containers filled with bright flowers can serve as focal points that lead your visitors through the garden. Our eyes naturally want to follow intense color against a backdrop of greenery. When looking out into your yard from the edge of your patio or deck, your containers will lead your eye to the view that you want to promote (instead of toward a view, such as an electric pole, that you don’t want to call attention to).
  4. Place pots in an arching sweep to reshape harsh corners in areas like entryways, porches or decks. Nature prefers curves and soft contours. A gentle curved line of containers will temper the hard line of architecture.
  5. Use the portability of containers to your advantage. Move some of your blooming plants from their place in the sun to a dark shady area that needs a splash of color. When they begin to lose their blossoms, move them back to a sunnier spot. A good example of this is to take a potted flowering Hydrangea from its usual spot in the morning sun and take it to your shady front porch.
  6. They say that “variety is the spice of life.” Arrange containers with other objects like stones or globes to create different “scenes” that are integrated with your plants in your planting beds and borders. Use the Japanese design principle of “heaven” (tall objects), “man” (medium-sized objects) and “earth” (low objects) to obtain a vignette that’s pleasing to the eye.
  7. Appreciation is heightened by the element of surprise. Take plants that you would usually find in the ground, such as miniature sunflowers, and put them in pots on your patio. The simplicity of their strong vertical lines will contrast with that of other container plants that are lower and horizontal.
  8. Keep winter in mind when planning your container garden. Hydrangea blossoms and grasses look stunning with a filigree of frost. Evergreens will give you that touch of green that you’re longing for, come mid-winter. A bright-colored container will be as welcome as that cardinal on the bare branch.
  9. Finely trimmed shrubs, such as boxwood or cedar, arranged in a symmetrical pattern will dress up any courtyard, patio or balcony and add a sense of formality.
  10. A tree in a container will add a sense of place to your patio or deck. Japanese maples are one of our favorites to show off the change in season.

The relationship between potted plants and outdoor rooms goes back centuries. Thousand of years ago the ancient Egyptians decorated with plants in containers. We’re rediscovering the possibilities now.


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