Designer Tips : How to Choose the Best Plants for your Container

Like many people, I have a variety of different containers, collected over the years. It is tempting to buy a plant that you like and plant it in the most convenient container to hand. This can often result in an unsatisfactory marriage where neither plant nor planter are shown off to their best.

In order to make the most of your containers you should look for a plant or plants that complement the colour, shape and size of the planter.

There should also be a balance between the size and proportion of the pot and plants. This tall narrow urn (above) is balanced by a wide, overflowing and exuberant display of plants.

This terracotta oil jar is a difficult shape to plant into and often this type of pot is left empty, as a decorative feature in its own right. However at Sissinghurst, where this photograph was taken, an inspired gardener has used a purple Clematis, to emulate flowing water tumbling out of the urn, to great effect.

Wide shallow planters lend themselves to low growing plants with small leaves. Here at Canary Wharf, Heather has been used as a mass planting in a huge bowl. The colour of the plant has also been chosen with care to tone with the pink granite paving.

Following this principle but on a smaller scale, the spiky texture of the Sempervivum leaves complement this chunky rough granite planter.

Whereas large pots can be used singly, smaller containers look better as a group. If you are planning to have lots of pots in your garden you should try to use those which have a common theme, such as shape, material or colour.

In this example, grouping a large number of matching pots together has created an interesting visual display even though some of the plants are only seedlings.

In this group just two pots, of differing height, create a dramatic statement.

If you want to create a bold colour statement then bulbs can be useful. They come in such a wide range of strong colours that it is easy to find a plant that perfectly suits your container.

These yellow tulips look great in this blue ceramic planter, the flowers and foliage complementing the colour beautifully and sticking to a single species really heightens the impact.

Finally, if your pot is large and attractive, you could consider leaving it empty or, as here, filling it with water, which will reflect the sky.

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© 2014 Fenton Roberts Garden Design