Monday, June 30, 2014

Landscaping made easy, Part 12: Incorporating planters

I take the idea of incorporating "large planters" to an extreme in our landscape plan, using stock tanks for vegetable gardening in our tiny subdivision back yard.
One of my favorite stock tank pics from 2011 before we stained our fence and incorporated stone edging around the mulch beds.    
But this is not a landscaping aspect where you need to "go big or go home".  Smaller planters of the type that are found in any home improvement store make wonderful additions to the landscape, especially when grouped together.
Here is an example.  To the left of this waterscape are hibiscus, asparagus fern, and a strawberry cultivar spilling out of that pot in the foreground.

See this post for information on constructing the waterscape, which includes the basalt fountain visible in this photo and a kettle pond to the right of this photo.  
You can see that this available space would be too small to hold multiple in-ground plantings.  Furthermore, from an artistic standpoint, a couple of rounded containers are helpful in softening the hard stone edges of the house corner and waterscape.  

Here are a couple of things to keep in mind from a design perspective when arranging a planter configuration:
  1. Remember the rule of cross-referencing (repetition of elements).  In the example shown above, there's stone in the waterscape and also stone "mulch" surrounding the planters.  The color of the fountain is very close to the color of the strawberry pot, which is an ordinary $17 Mexican-style clay vessel from that I got at Home Depot and spray painted with a metallic Rustoleum to make it look more modern.  The form of the large hibiscus flowers is repeated in the art glass flowers in the middle of this grouping.   
  2. Plants in close proximity look best if they incorporate extremities of color and texture because otherwise, they blend together and don't look distinctive.  In the grouping above, you see a strawberry plant sending runners over the side of the pot, an upright, dark-leaf'd hibiscus with bright red flowers, and a light green airy asparagus fern with tiny white flowers.  Furthermore, there's an extremely tall bamboo in the background.  These plants could scarcely be any more diverse.  
  3. Particularly in greater Houston where the land is flatter than a pancake, the attractiveness of any given grouping is maximized when the heights of the plants are staggered.

It creates interest because your eye moves from one level to the next.  And again the cross-referencing - the staggered heights of the plants repeat the staggered height of the chopped stone in the waterscape.  
There's another advantage to using pots.
Keeping plants within pots initially can help you to determine if they are going to do well in your chosen locations.  This hibiscus is really too large for a pot like this, but with the tall bamboo behind it, I wasn't sure if it would receive enough sunlight to thrive.  But after a month of being plopped in this location, it is still showing good form and good flower production.  Therefore I will go ahead and plant it in the ground here (after our daytime temperatures fall by about 30 degrees, that is).  The other two of this grouping I will retain in planters to maintain the visual interest.  
The only downside to using planters in a landscape setting is the degree to which they dry out in hot weather.  In greater Houston, you're basically on the hook for watering planters daily in the summer months, unless they contain cacti or succulents which can withstand our temperature extremes.  If you don't water daily, your plants simply won't survive.  
But there's always room for hibiscus, isn't there??  Potted or ground-planted, they are worth the maintenance hassle.  Nothing else has quite the same visual impact.  They are relatively hardy and flower readily if they are given proper soil, fertility, sun exposure, and watering.  

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