Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Tale Of Four Flower Boxes

We have four flower boxes that hang on the railings around our front porch. They provide eye-catching color which draws your eye up the ivy-covered hill and welcomes you to our front door!

A stunning planter has three key ingredients – a “thriller” for height and drama, a “filler” to bulk up the planter and create a mass of color, and a “spiller” to soften the edges of the planter and add interest. If you balance the colors and textures just right, it creates an eye-catching arrangement.

For the past few summers, I have added one additional requirement to designing my planters – I want my planters to contain primarily perennials, plants that I can transfer to the ground at the end of the season and enjoy for years to come.

Gardening and landscaping can be such expensive undertakings. I can’t bear to buy plants that live for one season, just to end up tossing them into the compost pile during fall clean-up. At the same time, developing a landscaping plan and filling in flower beds can be extremely expensive if done all at the same time.

Choosing perennials for flower boxes is the answer to both of these problems – I spend my money wisely, choosing plants that look great in my planters for one season and will have a permanent home in the flower beds come fall and winter. I have fewer plants to throw away, and the flower beds around the house continue to evolve through the years, while adding year-round color with very little maintenance.

This spring I found it particularly difficult to choose my plants. I wanted to do something different, and I also had a few problem areas around the yard that I wanted to spruce up.

At the edge of the patio and in front of the air conditioner and rain barrel, I’ve been nursing along an area of grassy groundcover to hide the ugliness…

And then there was a full sun area surrounding a stepping stone that needed some groundcover as well…

My spring and summer flower box formula…
Thriller: Ribbon Grass – to be transferred to the air conditioner/rain barrel flower bed
Filler: Dahlias in a bold deep orange – not a perennial, but I could dig up and save the bulbs if I was ambitious!
Spiller: Fireglow Sedum – good fall color to be transferred to the stepping stone flower bed

With a well-thought-out plan, I went to work and created a very balance and symmetrical arrangement, lining up each specimen in three neat rows.

One tip: Perennials in 4” pots go a long way. My flower boxes aren’t that big, and I like to save money, so I used a utility knife to cut each 4” plant in half for more bang for my buck!

Here’s what they looked like shortly after I planted them…

And after a summer of hot sun…

By the beginning of September, it was time to transfer the plants intended for flower beds in my back yard. They need time establish themselves and space to stretch their legs.

Less ugliness by the air conditioner and rain barrel…

Happy sedum by the stepping stone will spread and survive any mis-steps while adding deep pink fall color…

But there are still a few months of growing season ahead of us, especially for my south-facing flower boxes! I wanted bold fall colors – the kind of arrangement that reminds you of pumpkins, apple cider, and falling leaves. The plants have to have some nighttime cold tolerance and not mind the mid-day temperatures.

My fall flower box formula…
Ogon Grass (1) – a spiky dash of chartreuse for height and contrast to the deeper colors

Peach Melba Coral Bells (1) – unique color with fabulous texture

Ornamental Purple Cabbage (1) – more unique color with different texture and a little more height

Deep Fuchsia Mums (3) – nothing says fall more than a mum, they even smell like Homecoming!

Creeping Jenny (1) – quite possibly my favorite plant, for its bright color and trailing quality that fills in the nooks and crannies anywhere you plant it

I went with a less contrived arrangement this time, anchoring the box with the “thriller” in one back corner and the “spiller” in the opposite front corner. The bigger “fillers” (Coral Bells, Ornamental Cabbage) were placed for maximum contrast in color and texture to neighboring plants, and the smaller “fillers” (Mums) were tucked in between. With the exception of the ornamental cabbage, all of the plants are perennials, which will be transferred to the landscaping beds in late fall.

The result is quite pretty, and they’ll continue to look great all fall…

No comments: