Winter's grasp has loosened it's grip and urns everywhere are being called on to showcase this anticipated climatic swing. Hydrangeas, ivy, boxwoods, geraniums, sedums .....too often, we rely on the safety net of these mephistos* to carry us through to first frost. My eye tends to gloss over these ubiquitous beauts just as quickly as my ear tunes out elevator music (unless of course, it's Babs). Attractive and catchy though they may be, but their overuse has sullied their value to subterranean servitude. Push up the daisies and dust off the millers. Reach for iconoclast status in the world of pot couture and oblige your nest with a new wave of planting proteges. I pursue undiscovered talent and plug untapped stars to ROCK my garden.
*mephisto: like the shoe, purely practical and comfortable but not at all innovative. Apologies in advance to my father.
1. Prior to lining your trunk with plastic sheeting and readying your hazard lights (garden smack for getting started), it is prudent to take stock of the existing conditions of the growing environment. Sun exposure is key in determining the type of plants that will thrive. Consider the scale of plantings you will need so that they can be appreciated from the approach and be proportioned to the vessel. Unless your house is down to the studs, texture and form of the plantings should not rival the architectural features of your home.
2. Your selection of container is just as important as the plantings. Keep with the pattern language of your home. Take cues from existing fixtures (lights, mailbox, fence detail) and maintain that style for continuity. Allow the plantings to take center stage and show your personality. I've got a crush on the traditional, classic and clean,white boxes used at Versailles. However, I'm a little more cape and a little less chateau. Yes, there is Restoration Hardware and you could blend in nicely with every other house on the block but check out these sites for something more je n'ais se quoi.
True artisans. The Farrow and Ball of potdome. You really can't go wrong.
Look for the funky high gloss containers in radiant colors.
Simple. Classic. Love mine.
This place looks like heaven and a flat in the parking lot would be a welcome excuse to linger longer.
3. Cue up the James Taylor because winter, spring, summer or fall you can increase your pot real estate with natural embellishments. Elevate the one hit wonder to stardom. Personally, smooth river rocks at the base of english lavender or scotchbroom with sheet moss looked great last year. Cocoa beans can infuse any approach. APPROPRIATELY shaded aquarium rocks (I shudder with relinquishing this artistic license) can add guts to a subdued color palette of green plantings . If your driveway is covered in pea gravel, consider extending this material to the bed of the pots. The same goes for crushed oyster shells. Sand and shells for the beach community are other alternatives. If you live where the sun don't shine think about growing your own moss collection. Look for the "Moss Milkshake", add pillow moss to an urn of interesting stones or craft them into bulbous forms.
STAR COMBINATIONS TO ROCK YOUR URN
1. Green Day: Color pairing inspirations can run the gamut. I cull mine from pages of fashion publications, Sotheby's catalogues and design magazines. Here are a couple of my favs that won't leave you tone deaf:
Red, Black and Grey
Black and Green
Purple and Red
Orange and Grey
Grey and Purple
Tone on tone with varying textures
2. Duran Duran: Just use ONE plant variety and plant it ad nauseum. This approach always registers a warm reception with me. A pot stuffed to the gills with either ichiban eggplant, purple headed cabbage, pony tail fern, kings gold cypress, artemesia silver mound, poker primrose, mugo pine, thistle sea holly, oh, and while I'm at it, may I also request brown paper packages tied up with string....a few of my favorite things.
3. Blackeyed Peas: Join Michelle Obama (and apparently the rest of North America) and nurture your own jardin potager. I find intrigue in purple headed cabbage, artichoke, lettuce and even broccoli. Burpee now sells vegetables and herbs that are "garden-ready" for instant gratification.
4. Men at Work: It's all about the nosegay. Consider using your urns as a cutting garden. Cultivate flowers that you would purchase for arrangements. Peonies look beautiful both in containers and indoors. Sow parsley, sage, rosemary and..... oregano to resource for your culinary creations.
5. Supertramp: If you are planting a hedge of smaller shrubs consider pimping a few extra out to your urns. In the event that you loose one from the row (a rogue lawnmower per se) you have replacements that will be guaranteed to match the size and species of the others.
6. Red Hot Chili Peppers: Rules are made to be broken and unexpected theatrics is fun. One of most favorite landscape architects at Harvard, Martha Schwartz once constructed a formal garden using bagels, colored pebbles and boxwoods. Brilliant! This is what I was thinking:
Paint large boulders high gloss silver, flame red or orange. Great conversation starters and extra seating at parties.
Fill a basket weave urn with river rocks and place a finial (my fav is the globe or acorn) or lantern atop (place an electric light within).
Pop Up Park: Fill galvanized containers with small fruit trees and create outdoor rooms. Construct a bosque or parterre. I'm entertaining this getup during the downtown sidewalk sale this summer. I'll take over a parking space, add some folding chairs and put up a business sign (or 2).
Topiary (everyone's a skeptic) check out what this guy can do with boxwood!
Let there be light! Stray from the traditional outdoor light selection and pick a new hue that adds punch to your tall urns....purple and lit from below?
The teach in is over. Enjoy your trip to the nursery and improvise. Please resist the hydrangea or at least pair it with a clutch of baby tomatoes. For the groupies (and you know who you are) who still have evergreen wreaths, white twinkle lights and red bows on display, some fodder to amp up your urning potential.
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