Gossip in the Garden

Harmony in the Garden's Chattier Side

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Garden Designers Round Table – Creative Containers

‘Containers’ is the topic for this month’s Garden Designers Round Table post.  Choosing and planting containers is one of the most fun topics of all to write about, as it’s a great way to inject some personality into your garden.

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This is especially important for people who have an established garden – one that’s already beautiful and ‘done’.   I hear this request from many people who have just purchased a new home.  They end up calling me NOT necessarily to re-design their garden, but because they’re not sure how to go about making it ‘their own’.  Creative containers are a relatively low-risk solution for punching up your garden and giving it personality.

The number one question I hear is ‘How do I choose a container’?  One way you can choose a container is by keeping in line with the style of your home.

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For example if you have a mediterranean style home, you might choose a mediterranean style pot filled with succulents…

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Or, if you have a modern style home then you might stick with structural plants in a contemporary pot…

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Casual home in the country?  You might choose an old aluminum watering trough filled with cheery coreopsis for a container…

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You get the idea – matching the style of your home with the style of your container.

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But my own personal taste in containers sometimes goes way beyond traditional ones, preferring instead to ‘mix it up’ a bit.  The way I look at it, this is one of the easiest ways to put a little ‘funk’ in your garden.  To create a garden that’s totally ‘yours’.  One that you won’t see copied anywhere else!

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This is also one of the ways I begin to ‘hand off’ a garden that I’ve designed back to the homeowner.  At some point they need to begin taking ownership of their garden, implementing their own touches here and there. I encourage them to choose their own containers, taking risks if necessary.  If they love it, then by all means let’s find a way to incorporate it into the garden!  Of course I’m always happy to offer my suggestions and advice should things really start to go down a wrong road but the point is to have FUN with this part of adding personality to a garden.

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I equate the containers in your garden with the accessories of your wardrobe.  Sometimes they make a HUGE impact, and sometimes they’re more subtle and as such, need to be thought through.  Don’t just rush down to the local nursery to buy whatever’s available at the time.


What I’d like to do with this post is:

………………………………………1) show you examples of containers in my own garden

……………………………………...2) why I’ve chosen them, and

……………………………………...3) why I placed them where I did.

Some of them you may like, some you may not like – but the point is that they’re mine and they’re part of what makes my garden unique.

For example, these two antique urns are very meaningful to me.  We found them buried under mounds of overgrown ivy, juniper and vinca that were on a piece of property we bought for our retirement.  This property was neglected for the past 40 years and was truly a junkyard.  Clearing the brush from this property was overwhelming to say the least, so to find such treasures offered a glimmer of hope.  Apparently there was beauty there at some point, and with hard work it’ll be there again!  However, I’m not really a ‘classical’ style of gardener so in an effort to ‘funk ’em up’ a bit, I put in plants that are a somewhat unexpected – like the Agave and Phormium.

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My brick patio is a little more formal by design, so the pots here are as well.  Not only does their style blend with my patio, but the color does as well.  But you know what’s really great about these pots?  It’s the fact that my husband found them at a garage sale for $20 each!

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Again, in an effort to mix it up a bit, I planted them with traditional rose standards but underplanted it with a mass of succulents.

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And since my patio is a little more ‘Old World’ in style, most of the pots on it are as well, such as these…

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What’s ‘Old World’?  It’s containers covered in moss that look like they’ve been around for a long, long time.  It’s containers that look like they’re hand-made, or containers that look like you might find them on an old European estate…

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As you leave my patio and wander towards the back of my garden, it begins to change it’s ‘character’.

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Because of my very rustic office, my garden begins to take on a casual, cottagey and somewhat ‘funky’ feel, and therefore the pots reflect that change.

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In this area of my garden I prefer using containers that have a more ‘naturalistic’ feel – containers that look like they’re made out of wood (‘faux bois’), embedded with stones, or made out of earthy clay…

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Around the perimeters of this part of my garden is where I start to really have fun – incorporating a wide range of containers tucked into various planting beds, hiding some here and there, each one holding a special meaning for me.  The head given to me by my husband, the shoes were planted in honor of my daughter who was in France (and who I was missing terribly), the cupcakes given to me by a dear friend, the frog was one of the first garden purchases I made as I began to make this garden ‘my own’, and the heart made for me by my mother.


 

 

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And the chair?  I found it on a garbage pile 20 years ago and thought it was too beautiful to throw away so I made a wire base for it and planted it! (click here to watch a video to see how it’s done!)

 

So I guess what I’m trying to show you with all of these various types of containers is it’s important to pay attention to the feeling of your home and surroundings, yet don’t get too bogged down by worrying if things ‘match’ or not.  Gardening is supposed to be FUN!

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For other perspectives on Containers and all things container-related be sure to stop by my other fellow Round Tablers to read their posts on this topic:

Christina Salwitz : Personal Garden Coach : Renton, WA

Debbie Roberts : A Garden of Possibilities : Stamford, CT

Jenny Petersen: J Petersen Garden Design : Austin TX

Jocelyn Chilvers : The Art Garden : Denver, CO

Laura Livengood Schaub : Interleafings : San Jose, CA

Rebecca Sweet : Gossip In the Garden : Los Altos, CA

Rochelle Greayer : Studio “G” : Boston, MA

Lesley Hegarty & Robert Webber : Hegarty Webber Partnership : Bristol, UK

Scott Hokunson : Blue Heron Landscapes : Granby, CT

Shirley Bovshow : Eden Makers : Los Angeles, CA

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38 Responses to Garden Designers Round Table – Creative Containers

  1. Rebecca…I just discovered this discussion on containers. They are all gorgeous, of course! Where is a good source for the succulents? Did you get some photos this am? I would love to see them if you did. Thanks for your continuing advice and ideas!

  2. Hi

    Love, love love the rustic hoop, basket? in the top image….are they available to the greater unwashed?

    Bryn

    • Thanks Bryn – I love that basket, too. I found it at Cornerstone Gardens, in Sonoma, CA. Not sure if they’re still for sale – but am glad you liked it!

  3. Beautiful and informative post Rebecca! I love how you use found items to create a sense of yourself in the garden. I have been on a journey to do the same, and someday I hope to be as successful as you at turning my found items into art. Great video on the chair also!

  4. So many pretty containers, so little time. I love the trough one and the chair and the head and well, all the others too. But, the funky ones steal my heart.

    Thanks for all the nice things you said on Sharon’s blog. You’re one of my all-time favorite writers too.~~Dee

  5. You are an artist Rebecca. I love your creativity. The thoughts about encouraging clients to make their space their own is so true and an important point. I love your video! You are so natural and pace yourself beautifully… the chair is charming and joyful. Thank you for sharing your wonderful garden with us… and as Christina said, seeing it in person is even more amazing.

    Hugs, Judy

  6. I just CAN’T STAND how beautiful your garden is! I mean REALLY!!! I WANT IT ALL!!!
    I love how you incorporate your containers into your planting beds – I tend to separate, which is weird since I HATE segregation! I am going to go stick some of my containers inside my planting beds right now!

    OMG – the hakonechloa next to the agave desmetianna varietata! INSPIRED!!! I could go on and on…

    J’Adore, Sweet!
    XOXOIvette

  7. I absolutely love all the unique and creative things you’ve done with the containers! the shoes…LOVE that, i think i’ll plant in pairs of shoes my kids have outgrown…i think that is so inspiring, a little piece of them in my garden, maybe even let them do the planting….better than handprints in cement! thanks so much for the idea!

  8. Oh YES! I love these. What an amazing story that you found those two buried planters on your “RETIREMENT” property (as if you’ll EVER).

    I like the FUNKY look you do. So Rebecca.

    Love,

    Sharon

  9. Rebecca,
    Great examples of “personality in a container!” I relate to your, “handing off” the garden to your clients by encouraging them to personalize containers and such.

    Hey, I noticed that you have a succulent muffin pan too! Great minds think alike.

    Beautiful work Rebecca.
    Shirley

  10. Rebecca, I don’t think there’s a bad spot in your garden! I love how your containers are tucked in here and there–they are as much a part of your garden as the hardscaping is.

  11. Of all the posts I read so far you have the widest variety of actual containers…from funky to funny to found to elegant classics. Thanks for showing so many options!

  12. Totally enjoyable blog post.
    One of the best of the bunch, .. appreciated your view about coordinating the style of the pot with the style of the architecture.
    Loved Gary Rattways’ metal container from the Mendocino coast that he brought down to Sonoma.
    Would love to have a fence around my property made with those !
    The pots around your property are so charming and inviting.

  13. Ain’t that so!! Gardening IS supposed to be fun, and your garden certainly is fun! If I hadn’t seen it in person for myself, I’m confident that I couldn’t say that these wonderful pictures do not do it justice! Your container style is inspiring and elegant while being uniquely you – classy AND funky!

  14. Rebecca,

    I love how you equate the idea of homeowners’ choosing their own containers as part of the ‘hand-off’ process. I never thought of it that way but of course that’s exactly what’s happening. Thanks for the tour through your garden and the look at all your eclectic containers.

    • Thanks Debbie, Robert and Kerry – I’m definitely not the type of designer who stays around with clients for years….I really like to hand off projects so they can start injecting their own ‘love’ into their garden! Lucky for me, it’s always worked out great and my clients have been eager to start their own gardening journey….

  15. I always love seeing more of your own garden, Rebecca, which is stunning AND fun, and you have so many creative containers that it makes a great tutorial on container style as well. Fantastic post!

    • Thanks for the love, Pam and Andrea! I wish I could say I was the designer for the first photo (metal strap container), but alas I was just the photographer for that one!

  16. Your containers are totally fabulous! And I love your idea of helping clients take ownership of their gardens with containers. It truly is a great way for people to experiment and push their gardening envelopes.

  17. i really like the metal strapping container in the first photo – what a unique idea. and i’m with you on selecting a container to go with the theme of the house/garden.

  18. As per usual, I’m totally in love with your garden. I think that the cottage/studio area was my favorite from our tour. I always like little hideaways.

    It is neat that you wrote about what makes your garden YOUR GARDEN. You’ve obviously been caring for it and building on it for a long time.

    You could probably write an ENTIRE book about your garden! I’d read it 🙂

    • Katie – I’m with you. Give me a good hideaway and I’m in heaven! I’m so glad you could see my garden in person – I’m not writing a book about it…YET! 😉

  19. So many great ideas here.
    I especially liked your approach at the start to clients and containers-such a good idea to start them off on taking ownership that way!
    Best Wishes
    Robert

  20. As always, Rebecca, great advise accompanied by wonderful illustrations. For folks who love container gardening, these are all excellent examples of how to keep your collections working well together.

  21. Such clever, innovative pots, Rebecca, and—as I would expect—great plant combos. You have such style! Of all the photos, I think I like the first one best. Really eye-catching and unusual. But they’re all good.

    • Thank YOU, Debra (or should I say ‘Succulent Container Queen’)! Such a compliment, coming from you…..I very much appreciate it!