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Garden Design

Ideas for summer plant-filled containers

Maria von Brincken

Maria von Brincken

July 3, 2016

Sitting in Boston Public Garden I’m enjoying a special early-morning moment on a lovely summer-like day. Relaxing on a shady bench in front of an active fountain, I embrace its gentle sound – except when the tourist with the creaky wheeled cart goes by. I’ve rediscovered that when you have a house guest from out of town, you become, for a while, a tourist in your own town, and take a mini vacation.

Boston Public Garden

Boston Public Garden

While trekking about Boston city, I find myself noticing container plantings that I want to share with you. And, from a landscape designer’s point of view, these images also become photo notes for me to use in future garden creations.

After dropping my guest off at the airport at 6 am this morning, I realized I was up for an adventure. I thought a traditional breakfast in Boston might be a lot of fun. Especially since I had several hours until an event at 10.30 am on the North Shore.

After enjoying a delicious breakfast on Charles Street, I’m now in the public garden writing this (yes from my phone!) and thinking about some of the amazing annual containers that I’ve seen over the last two days. Rock Port, Back Bay, and Newbury Street selections are shown.

As a landscape designer, home gardener coach, and avid gardener, I’m reminded I can’t help to notice great design whenever and wherever. Enjoy the images!

Fake and real together - containers at 'Four Winds' a shop in Rockport, MA that sells the synthetic flowers shown. Only the green leaved plant is living

Fake and real together – containers at ‘Four Winds’, a shop in Rockport MA that sells the synthetic flowers shown. Only the green-leaved plant is living and it looks like some kind of succulent or sedum.

Close up of the Four Winds container with synthetic and living plant material

Close up of the ‘Four Winds’ container with synthetic and living plant material.

Custom metal trellis with hanging containers of yellow and orange black-eyed Susan

This shot intrigued me because of the interesting custom metal trellis and the way it was used to hang containers filled with the yellow and also orange black-eyed Susan annual vine. At the foot is pink mandevilla vine. I imagine it’s a living wall of color mid summer thru early fall.

Wisteria climbs the shingles, with pink and purple coleus soon to planted out. Great combination of textures

Obviously a planting in progress as the pink and purple coleus are still in pots. But the wisteria climbing the shingles, the granite steps, and the bird bath planter make a lovely combination of textures and simple color combinations.

Fancy handrail

I loved this art railing – especially paired with the generous granite steps, the green trim of door and window, weathered cedar shingles, and the variegated grass or carex.

Strong colour contrasts in this container with purple Strobilanthes dyeriana, golden Ipomaea and Solenostemon and blue-green succulent

Strong colour contrasts in this container with purple Strobilanthes dyeriana, golden ipomaea and solenostemon and blue-green succulent.

Roses and white picket fence

Idyllic cottage image of weathered shingles, white picket fencing, pink peonies, pink columbine, clematis climbing the trellis, and the purple tradescantia or spiderwort.

Container with petunia, verbena and penstemon

Lovely fence planter box with petunia, verbena and penstemon.

Colorful combo of violas, petunias, snapdragon and highlighted with variegated sage

Friendly pansy faces of purple/lavender, yellow/brown, and orange viola with yellow snapdragon, pink petunia, purple petunia, and a variegated sage. The planter box is the type with a metal frame with liner to hold the soil.

Containers in Boston with white mandevilla, purple angelonia and variegated lamium

Victorian urns in Boston with white mandevilla, purple angelonia and variegated lamium.

Container with pink mandevilla, lime ipomaea and pink petunia

Container with pink mandevilla, lime ipomaea and pink petunia. The green ivy mound growing at the base grounds the planter visually and adds to the composition. As well as the pinky-brown facade and the window box above in pink ivy geranium.

Container with white hydrangea trailing vinca and white-flowering bacopa

Container with white hydrangea, trailing vinca and white-flowering bacopa graces the entry steps in a charming manner.

Pussy willow branches, mandevilla, purple bacopa

I’m guessing that this combination started with a early spring combination of pussy willow branches that have now rooted and are leafing out. Mandevilla planted at base will climb the branches (I’m surmising) and bloom through the summer. At the rim, the silver plant will spill over, as will the purple bacopa. Clever. The yellow roses are lovely too.

Pelargonium x 'Persian Queen', calibrachoa 'Minifamous Orange' and variegated Felicia

This is one I created for a Back Bay client. Inspired by the client’s yellow ceramic container, I used the Pelargonium x ‘Persian Queen’ (the lime green leaf ), Calibrachoa ‘Minifamous Orange’ (the orange flower), and the variegated Felicia.

Pelargonium x 'Persian Queen', purple Setcreasea (syn. Tradescantia) pallida 'Purple Heart', and burgundy Solenostemon (syn. Coleus) 'Redhead', variegated Felicia, grass Pennisetum 'Skyrocket'

Lastly, also created for my Back Bay client, variegated Felicia, burgundy Solenostemon (syn. Coleus) ‘Redhead’, purple Setcreasea (syn. Tradescantia) pallida ‘Purple Heart’ as spillover, lime-green leaf Pelargonium x ‘Persian Queen’, the lime-green barley seen in the back, with the grass Pennisetum ‘Skyrocket’, and the lovely pinkish geranium. While I keep the plant tags in an envelope marked with year in the client file, the geranium variety eludes me as the tag just reads “zonal”.


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Balasubramanian Muthusamy

I came to know how ooty flower show was designed only after seeing this

Catherine Stewart
7 years ago

Yes the Ooty Flower Show in Tamil Nadu, India, every May has some spectacular and very colourful displays!