When I signed on to write about containers for this month’s Garden Designers Roundtable topic, I have to admit I thought, ‘this will be a piece of cake’. But, as is the case with every topic GDRT has addressed so far, once I started really thinking about containers as a topic, I realized it was fairly complex and the possibilities were endless. I could blog about how to combine plants in containers – you know, the filler, thriller, spiller technique, or about some of the different types of plants that can be grown in containers but are often dismissed as not being container-worthy, or all the non-traditional ‘containers’ that can be used in the garden to add a sense of fun and whimsy. Instead I decided to start with a single plant and look at how the selection of a container significantly changes not only the look of the plant but also the story the plant is telling. And since the setting of that story is your garden, it’s important to make sure all the story elements are working together.
I started with a peach drift rose bought a few weeks ago at a local nursery. Here it is in the ‘decorative’ plastic container it came in. Obviously the container is meant to look like a terra cotta container and, truth be told, would be quite serviceable over the course of the summer. It doesn’t seem to add much to the appeal of the rose but it also doesn’t seem to detract from it either. The roses are the star of this container story, just as they are meant to be, but it’s hard to tell where the plot is heading.
Here’s the rose in a different container, let’s call it the daisy container. Yikes! This looks does not work for me at all. Seems like we’re in a ‘How To’ (or more appropriately a ‘How NOT To’) story. This container is too tall and the bands of daisies around the container make it too informal for the roses. My eye goes right to the container, not the roses. The brownish-yellow color of the container is detracting from the tale the roses are trying to tell. The roses, which are actually at their peak, look tired and washed out. This combination is not really telling a cohesive story at all, the two main characters seem to be fighting over whose story is going to be heard. I’d forgo this combo and look for a better supporting cast.
Here’s our star ensconced in a simple pale blue container. This container has a bit of a rustic and hand-me-down feel to it. It looks like a beloved piece that has seen it’s fair share of summers out on the terrace. The washed-out shade of blue of the container helps the peach color of the roses pop, they immediately look fresher and more vibrant than they did in the daisy container. This container looks like it has a few of its own stories to tell and would be equally at home in a light-hearted caper, drama or comedy. This may be a good choice for a spot in a garden that serves lots of different purposes from intimate dinners to family BBQs to a quiet hideaway to sit and read.
Here’s a container that absolutely screams romance. Imagine our roses in this footed metal urn container in the background of a scene when the hero dashes in and saves the heroine from certain death. OK, that may be a bit melodramatic but you get the picture. This container is at home in an intimate garden setting where it can be admired up close. While my garden is not at all romantic and this combination would stick out like a sore thumb, there is something sweet and sentimental about it that definitely appeals to me. And I love the old-fashioned feel it lends to the roses. It’s almost as if these two characters were made for each other.
And here’s one last story line that could unfold for our roses, maybe sci-fi, a tale of espionage or the remake of an old classic. The clean lines of this tapered black container give the roses a more updated and sophisticated feel. The romance seems to have faded away. We now have a new look for an old classic. The vertical ridges give the container a modern air and keep it from being too simple and boring. Think of this container as the strong, silent type that is at home in a variety of garden settings. Confident enough to virtually fade into the background but also able to take center stage when the time is right.
Who said choosing a container was simple?
For more thoughts on Containers, click on the links below to read posts from some of the other Roundtablers…