Container Style: How To Choose Plants For Your Patio

Container Style: How To Choose Plants For Your Patio

Anne Reagan
Jun 1, 2010

With the weather blooming from Spring to Summer it's a great time to start your container plants. Even if your outdoor space is a tiny fire escape a container can offer you color, privacy and even something to eat.

Planting a container, especially if you are a novice, takes a bit of planning. First, select your container to determine how many plants and how much soil you'll need to purchase. Keep in mind that your container style should match the overall look you are going for (i.e. modern, shabby chic, etc.). Second, assess your natural light so you'll purchase the best plants for your area. Lastly, take a trip to your local nursery and start designing. Utilize the knowledge of the nursery staff if you are overwhelmed by choices. It's helpful to understand the look you are going for and the overall color scheme – this will help you narrow down your choices. And don't be afraid to "stage" your plants at the nursery by grouping them to see how the overall design will look before bringing it home.

There are numerous style ideas for your container garden and it may help to break down container designs in three different ways:

Traditional Container: (see image 1) Traditional planter design incorporates the thrill, the chill and the spill. Tall plants or flowers are the "thrill" – something to give your container height. The "chill" are plants with medium height and the "spill" are the plants or vines that will spill over the container, softening the edges and elongating the height of the overall design. This design philosophy is easy to put together and nearly fool-proof. No matter what your overall style is, the thrill, chill and spill method works beautifully.
Image 1: Thomas J. Story

Minimal Container: (see image 2) For a really modern look think minimal: one plant or one singular grouping of the same plants. The design should read as structural and simple and works well for tall plants or sculptural shrubs. Because fewer plants are used most people choose to top the soil with decorative rocks, adding to the sculptural appearance.
Image 2: Jennifer Cheung

Edible Container: (see image 3) Fresh herbs and edible plants are great to place right outside your door for easy access. Depending on the size of the container you can fit a wide range of fruits, vegetables and herbs. It's a good idea to keep the "thrill, chill and spill" design even with your edibles as it will lend to a more balanced design.
Image 3: Thomas J. Story

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