Container Design by the Numbers

Thursday was the opening day of the St. Paul Home and Patio Show so I dropped by to catch a talk by Northern Gardener columnist Don Engebretson, a.k.a, the Renegade Gardener. Don was a pioneer in putting garden knowledge on the Internet and speaks at a variety of home and garden shows each winter. (He’s also a landscaper and writer.)

This container stand alone, looking regal.

This container stand alone, looking regal.

This year, his topic is Cool and Creative Containers. I’m not going to go through everything he said because he’ll be speaking again every day of the show, along with all these other great speakers, but there were a couple of points worth noting. I love that container design has a lot of its roots in geometry. So, even if you are not super visual or artistic, you can create a stunning container design by following some numbers-based rules. Here are a couple of “container formulas” worth remembering.

Before 7, Go Odd

One container alone looks good. A single, dramatic pot with one kind of plant is especially stunning. Three pots together also look good. Two and four — not so much. Don recommends using odd numbers of containers in groupings up to seven pots. After that, your eye can’t tell what’s going on, so you could use eight pots in a very formal looking design and it would be soothing to the eye.

2 Flowers + 1 Foliage = Pretty

Two foliage plants (the grass and heuchera) combine well with one flowering plant (calibrachoa).

Two foliage plants (the grass and heuchera) combine well with one flowering plant (calibrachoa).

Don has been a long-time proponent of using foliage plants for texture, color and interest in gardens. Because many blooming plants — especially annuals — tend to have dull, green foliage, it’s a good idea to add one foliage plant for every two bloomers. A coleus, a succulent, a grass, even a perennial with unusual foliage, such as a heuchera will take your container from bland to beautiful in seconds. A grouping of containers with only foliage plants is also gorgeous and looks good all season. (See the photo below.)

Plants Should be Twice as Tall as the Container — at least

If you buy a beautiful, tall pot, you need beautiful tall plants in it. Generally, containers look best if the plants are at least twice as tall as the pot itself. So, if you have a large pot, consider adding a tall grass or even a small tree to it. Containers that are wider than they are tall can handle much more than twice their height in plants and still look good.

A grouping of all foliage containers adds interest all season long.

A grouping of all foliage containers adds interest all season long.

For even more information on container gardening, plus other topics, be sure to stop by the MSHS booth at the St. Paul Home and Patio Show.

 

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