Design Tips for Container Gardens

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Our container designer, Barbara Libner, shares her tips for creating your own fabulous containers:


I think of planting a container as creating a living sculpture. I rely heavily on colorful, evergreen foliage and sculptural, unfussy shapes to create impact. Working with a limited color palette helps me create maximum drama. Letting each plant's natural form and texture contrast with its neighbors allows even the most common plants to look new again.


Both the setting and the container inspire my plant and color choices. Often one glorious plant catches the imagination and suggests companions. I am interested most in showing off the best qualities of each plant by pairing them with suitable, and often surprising, partners. Just walking past the flats of plants at the store, soaking in all of the wonderful colors, makes me want to start playing with combinations.

Tips for Success

Limiting your color palette is my best advice to new gardeners. It allows you to pay attention to the other important attributes of form, texture and scale. Your design will be much richer and more complex than a simple riot of color can provide. Also be sure to use plenty of plants...I consider containers to be instant gardening and pots should look full from the moment of planting. Tuck in a simple ground cover to provide a finished quality. Pebbles or glass mulch can not just cover bare dirt, but be an intriguing design element as well.

Favorite Plants

I look for slow growing evergreens to anchor my plantings, which can stay in place for several years while the annual color changes with the season. Conifers are a passion - I love using any variety of Hinoki Cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa), or Cryptomeria 'Black Dragon' for their elegance. Euonymus 'Green Spire' is my hands down favorite broadleaf evergreen. For daintier foliage, Heuchera provide indispensable color year round, and every year new varieties cry out to be tested. Simple violas provide many months of nonstop color in spring and fall.

Above all else, remember that your container designs need only please you! I still learn from every combination and am always analyzing combinations for improvements. The whole process of creation is such a pleasure that sometimes the journey is more important than the destination.

Written by Barbara Libner

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