Container Tapestry

Tie your arrangements together with common threads of color, texture, and scale.
Ellen Riley

Every container needs a focal point, and many times it is the tallest element. This arrangement, designed by Russell Gandy of Planters Nursery in Atlanta, presents a massing of 'Victoria Blue' salvia that creates a point of interest. Its mature 24-inch height is the correct scale for the wide, shallow pot. Several plants are grouped together to draw the eye to that point.

The next tier fills the middle. Pink- and rose-colored pentas play together to give the arrangement plenty of flowers and bulk. When you plan a container, choose two colors, and work with assorted shades in those families. This prevents color chaos. In this case, the two pinks complement each other and keep the collection visually interesting, but not busy.

Russell mingles 'Blue Bells' browallia with the pink pentas to carry the thread of blue from the top tier down into the body of the arrangement. This technique weaves the dominant, cool shade throughout the collection, creating color continuity and pulling the grouping together.  

The final layer, around the bottom, softens the pot's edge and gently eases color downward. Here, Russell adds a deep pink ivy geranium to cascade and carry the trail of color with it. A 'Blackie' sweet potato vine picks up the blues and adds a large, broad leaf to the mix. It makes a good addition to all the frilly flowers above and around it. Green-and-white variegated ivy also tumbles over the side, giving the arrangement fullness and allowing just enough of the container to peek through.

Apply the same design principles for a shady container. Colorful caladium leaves work well as the tall focal point and come in a variety of summery hues. Use the leaf color as a guide for the middle tier, choosing appropriate shades of impatiens or begonias to fill in this level. Ivy fares well in shade, and a variegated selection will add sparkling foliage to cascade over the pot's edge.

When planning a container of your own, choose two colors, and work with their variations. Use one color as a focal point throughout. Let color and texture tumble down the side, and you've got a beautiful, carefully woven tapestry with an easygoing appearance.

BLOOMING GOOD

  • Take good care of your container, and it will bloom nonstop throughout the summer.
  • Water a full-sun container every day and a shady one about twice a week. Saturate the soil until water runs from the bottom of the pot.
  • Remove old blooms weekly.
  • Feed every 7 to 10 days with a blossom-boosting fertilizer. Moisten soil with clear water before feeding.

"Container Tapestry" is from the August 2001 issue of Southern Living.