Design a Garden Container – How to Use Texture and Shape for an Interesting Garden Display

When you design a garden container, you should choose your plants carefully. It is important that you have your finished design in mind before you plant your garden container.

Your first consideration should be the light needs of the plants. Is this garden container located in full sun or dense shade? Perhaps there is a mixture of light throughout the day. When you buy plants or seeds, the light requirements are usually listed on the label or seed packets. In order to produce a thriving garden that will bloom throughout the growing season, get off to a good start by choosing the proper plants for the light available to the garden container. If you are unsure of the light needs of certain plants, consult a reference book, the internet, or question the sales clerk when you purchase the plant about the plants needs.

Choosing Plant Colors

Your next choice will be colors. Do you want to create a country garden look? If so, a wide variety of colors will help you achieve that look. If you have a more formal garden, plan on a container showcasing one or two plants with coordinating colors. Perhaps you want to match your home colors. If you are having trouble deciding on your color scheme, here is a Gardener’s Color Wheel that you can use for reference.

Another aid to helping you decide on colors for your garden container is to cut pictures from seed catalogs and arrange them on paper in the way you would like to plant your container. This will give you some idea of how your colors will look in the final planting.

When thinking of your color scheme, be sure to repeat the color throughout the length or the circumference of your container. It is not necessary to use the same plant, but by repeating the color you bring balance to the planting and it is pleasing to the eye. Whatever your goal, decide on the colors you want before you go to the garden shop. Once you get there, it’s difficult to make good choices because you’ll probably want one of everything whether it fits into your color scheme or not.

Plant Growth Pattern is Important

Next consider the plants natural growth pattern. Is it vertical or does it creep out horizontally? Does is like to hang down and trail or is it a plant that stays in a neat little clump? It’s important that you know the growth pattern so that you can design an interesting garden container.

Consider Plant Textures and Form for an Interesting Container

When you design a garden container, another plant attribute to consider is texture. The size of a plant’s foliage often gives the impression of texture. Large leaf plants such as caladiums and coleus are considered course textured. Small foliage such as the asparagus fern and cosmos are considered fine textured.

Form is also a consideration when you design a garden container. There are spiky plants such as dracenas, grasses and salvia. Then there are airy,feathery plants like asparagus ferns and coreopsis. There are plants that can be planted densely for a color focal point like marigolds and daffodils.

A variety of plant textures and forms makes for an interesting container garden. Use tall plants for height, mounded dense plants for mass and focal color, and low creeping or trailing plants to add interest and soften the edges.

How Many Plants to a Garden Container?

The number of plants you can get into a garden container obviously depends on the size of the container and the plant size. Since you will be watering and feeding regularly, you can put in as many plants as you can fit in for a bushy, luxurious look.

Avoid overcrowding. Some plants can’t compete when they are fighting for space and will never thrive in a crowded space. As a guideline for avoiding overcrowding, rootballs can touch when you are design a garden container, but don’t cram them in just because you want to use all the plants you bought.

Just as important is the effect you are looking for. Are you trying for a formal look? If so, plant a single elegant plant that makes a statement. Don’t cover the ground with vining plants or ground cover as this will spoil the effect you are trying to achieve. An important, imposing plant needs space and isolation for real impact.

On the other hand, if you are planting spring bulbs, they should be planted as close together as possible to give the impression of an established clump. Even with close planting the effect can look sparse until the bulbs come into full bloom. For this reason, violas and forget-me-nots can be planted at the base for a more filled in look.

One of the main points to keep in mind when you design a garden container is to be mindful of the types of plants you are using. Some gardeners like to use as many different plants as they can get into the pot. This is fine if you are looking for a very casual, country, wild look. On the other hand, planting in this way can make your container look “fussy” and overblown. Often a container with just one – three different plants can make your container look more artistic and planned, while containers with only a single type of plant can often be very striking.

Every Planting Needs a Focal Point

It is important to have a focal point that draws the eye in every container planting. The focus is usually the center of the planting. This is where you will place your most important plant or color focus. All other plants should be supporting of this focus and radiate out from there. Odd numbers of plants are more interesting than even. Try it yourself. Plant or visualize 2 plants. Then do the same with 3 plants. Which do you find has more appeal?

Have a Final Shape in Mind When You Design a Garden Container

Designing a garden container is much like flower arranging. The best looking containers have a definition and shape that makes them stand out from the average and ordinary. Here are some things to keep in mind as you design a garden container. The shape of the pot and plant should look comfortable together. Plants in containers should not be twice the height of the pot, or more than half again as wide. To achieve pleasing proportions, it is helpful to keep in mind the six basic shapes of container plantings:

Design a Garden Container Using These Reference Photos

Fan Shaped Arrangement

Plants that spread out into an attractive fan shape work well for this type of planting. Select plants that grow to about 1 1/2 times the container height for a balanced display. This shape works well in pots that are conical in shape.

Vertical Arrangement

Grow several tall plants together in a single container. The height souls be 1 1/2 times the container height and the width of the plant should equal the width of the pot. Plant low growing annuals or foliage around the base of the pot.


Horizontal Arrangement

Avoid planting horizontal arrangements in straight rows when you design a garden container. Vary the height of the main plants to break up the horizontal line. Soften the overall effect with filler plants and cascading or airy plantings. Horizonal arrangements can also be of one type of plant material. This arrangement gives the impression of a horizontal line.

Oval Arrangement

Oval shaped containers are often low level and most often viewed from above. Smaller shaped plants that have a spreading or trailing growth pattern will be the best candidates for planting in an oval container.


Domed Arrangement

Many plants grow in a domed pattern. These plants are great for cauldrons and barrels. Soften the domed effect by planting cascading or trailing plants around the edges of the container.

Asymmetrical Arrangement

An asymmetrical planting is one of the hardest patterns to achieve as you design a garden container. It is an excellent way of projecting movement and is exciting to view. The plant material is not equally balanced but has the same visual weight so it has a vitality that is often lacking in traditional balanced plantings.

Both oval and domed shaped arrangements work well in low level containers where they can be viewed from above. Containers in the open should be planted so they look good from all angles. It may often be necessary, if possible, to rotate the containers so the plants grow evenly and not be leaning towards the sunlight.

How to Design an Herb Container Garden

There are a few other facts to be taken into consideration when you are planning and designing an herb container garden. If you grow herbs, check out this section for help on How to Design an Herb Container Garden.

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