Monday, May 23, 2011

My container Garden Revisited

It is that time of year again and we are planting the containers for my front courtyard. Last year, I posted a step-by-step procedure, however, it was early on in my blogging career, so I'm guessing most of you have not read it. I really loved the plant combinations, so we are repeating them this year. Here is the end result from last Summer. The Leagrave bench is one of my favorite garden items on our website. Click here to learn more about it. 

I combined Plumbago "Auriculata", Cleome "Royal Queen" mix, with a trailing Verbena "Lanai Peach." I also experimented with some orange Portulaca as a more drought resistant alternative to the Verbena. It turns out, that the Portulaca fared better with the Mediterranean plumbago. Cleome can really take abuse, and I love how it towers and gets a little wild and wooly.

I am in the process of building up my container garden. My dream was to create a terra cotta hedge of lavender, but my plants needed some maturity. They thrive in the full sun and reflected heat of the courtyard. This fall, I transplanted them to a nursery bed, to survive the bitter weather we've experienced lately. Here they are, in moderate transfer shock, ready to complete my vision. 

Gardens are all about anticipation. It is hard to buy lavender this size, and in N.C. zone 7, they will not make it through the winter in pots. In year two, I'm on my way to a fragrant and soft accent to my annuals. Cleome, that tall wooly plant in the previous pictures, reproduces like a good Catholic and reseeded themselves in all the pots, not to mention the cracks in the bricks. Container gardens can actually be somewhat perennial.  However, all flower arrangements, landscape, or container gardens require the same design elements of a home, or music. There must be a refrain, a chorus and a little mischief in between. I add some tropical elements and succulents to pull it off. Here is my chorus: 

My favorite color combinations are blues, purples, corals, pinks and white. The plants are selected for their compatibility with sun and water requirements. I shop at a favored Greenhouse and attend farmers markets. Note my window box. I buy Hydrangeas at the grocery store for almost nothing and enjoy them in the house. I re-plant them everywhere.  I never met a hydrangea I didn't love and I collect all varieties. 

These hydrangeas cost about $19.00 and are about 4 years old. I let them turn any color they want to. The pots at the breezeway are in their full glory. I began by planting the tallest plant (Cleome) in the center of the pots. 

My Plumbago comes in hanging baskets and I carefully separate them for the containers. 

I then plant 3 in a triangular pattern, leaving space around the edges for the verbena or portulaca to cascade over. 

The Verbena is pretty, but the Portulaca proved to be a better choice for the full heat and sun in my courtyard. 

It can rain and blow with ferocity in the South, as you have heard on the news lately. Until the flowers take root in the light soil, I shelter them in the breezeway and water them very gently, so as not to created gullies and expose the roots. 

It really helps to take photographs of the process and the end results, as a reminder for the following season. I really liked the softness of the Perestroika Sage, combined with the spiky Cleome. It can really take the full sun and heat of the courtyard as well, so I plan to add more this year. I added some Star Gazer lilies to the window box last Summer and hid the pots behind the lush hydrangeas. I've added them to my shopping list, as they were a gorgeous and unexpected fragrant addition. 

For the sake of conservation, I planted the lilies in the winter nursery beds and two made it. I added them to the center of the containers this year, for a little variety. I cannot resist including some bouquets from my hydrangeas and a few gardens from Summers past. 

This was a wedding bouquet for my friend's 80 year old Mother's hasty trip to City Hall. Her fiance would not wait!! I am mixing (something blue) Hydrangeas with some really pretty, dribbly Lace Caps. I had to add some Katherine Hepburn Calla Lilies, and a touch of peach stock for counterpoint. I can report that the bride and groom are blissfully happy. 

In case you haven't seen my ultimate garden. I planned, personally planted, watered and weeded this "Bit of Earth." Sadly, the deer found it. The least obtrusive, electrified deer fence was erected. They still leaped in, and the fence is not beautiful. Because of the steep hillside, in the glory days, it was visible from all the front windows of the house and gave us a great deal of happiness. On a last, sensible note, I will show you a great way to keep your garden tools handy and available. 

I buy river rocks and pebbles that are cleaned, and spray them with a bit of WD-40. I shove my tools back in the basket, after a good rinse from the hose, and a wipe from a rag. They are lubricated and handy for their next chore. If you have any photos of your container gardens, flower beds or gardening tips, please send them on. I'll create a post around your ideas and images. Happy Spring!! 
Send images and ideas to


  1. Liz,
    So beautiful! Love your plant and color choices.
    Hope that your week is off to a great start.

  2. Great idea with the basket, rocks, and WD-40. On my list to do now!

  3. How beautiful!! I have a total brown thumb so can't really relate to being able to create something so lovely in the garden. Your house looks beautiful as well - love the shutter color! And how great it was to see your fabulous basket weave ceramic containers in the new issue of Rue - I LOVE them!!

  4. Stunning! LOL...plumbago is sold in my neck of the woods as 5-gallon or 1-gallon...they grow fast and furious to about 5' in no time. I love the blue flowers but don't think I could grow them in containers.
    Karen in Sunny Southern California

  5. Liz I love the plants you have chosen and especially the gorgeous color palette. That bench is my favorite of all time!! Also the way you store your garden tools is genius!

    Art by Karena

    Do Come and enter my Great Giveaway from Serena & Lily! Ends 25th at midnight est.

    You will love it!

  6. Hello,

    I'm your newest follower! I love your blog and also your garden, It's just superbe.

    Greetings from Belgium and thanks to be a follower of my blog.


  7. Well, this post has me WISHING I was outside gardening all day. What a beautiful garden! I am glad you found me through Maria because now I have found your beautiful blog as well!

  8. Wow how stunning! Love the blue!

  9. Love your pots and garden! We have plumbago in the ground here, almost year round. I've never done it in pots before. You've inspired me!

  10. I really loved all the traditional terra cotta pots. They really look good in large numbers :) Your home...seriously....looks great and I wanted to see more! Hope you are well, time flies doesn't it?! XO, Kelly

  11. This is my week end project...unfortunately, my lavenders did not make it through the winter ..hoping to come your way very soon.
    have a great week end, francine

  12. Your 'little gardens' are are the grounds they are sitting on and the home they are sitting in front of...I love your window boxes as beautiful!
    Happy gardening...
    xo J~

  13. This was a real feast for the eyes. The wedding bouquet is gorgeous!

  14. Everything is gorgeous! Love the hydrangeas in the window box and your plant mix in the pots.
    I enjoyed reading the post about your dear Margie, you are a wonderful writer.


  15. Your garden as always puts my to shame.


We love your comments and hope you will join the conversation! Please do not use this forum for advertising.