Potty About Pots by Nicki Jackson

There are any number of reasons why you might choose to put plants into pots but for the purposes of this article we’re going to be coming at the wonderful world of container planting from a garden design perspective.

With more and more people having a no-soil outdoor space, container plants may well be the gardens of the future for many, but for most of us with gardens right now plants in pots, rather than being the whole thing, can add a number of extra dimensions to a garden design. Used with garden design principles in mind plants in pots can be used to great effect to add a touch of flair to a space.

In no particular order here are some of our favourite uses for plants in pots:

Leading lines – pathways often act as leading lines anyway, but sometimes hard landscaped pathways abut hard landscaped other areas and planting into the ground isn’t practical. Lining pathways with plants in pots is a great way to elevate the plane of interest and lead the eye along a sweeping line. Repeat the same plants in the same style of pot along the route to add uniformity and harmony.

Focal point – plants in pots can be used brilliantly as a focal point either at the end of a pathway or beneath an arbour or pergola. Match the style and size of pot and plant to its surroundings so usually ‘going large’ is the key to being most effective in this instance.

Framing – using plants in pots to frame a doorway or gate works well with symmetry – using the same but single plant and pot style either side of the door or gate is a tried and tested way of doing this, but don’t be afraid to mix things up a little too. Still using symmetry; a cluster of 3 (or more) different sizes of pot with different plant shapes and textures either side of a door can look really effective. Without symmetry a single large pot with a climber in it can create a stunning frame for a gate or doorway.

Transition – as with framing, plants in pots can be used to great effect to signify a transition point in a garden where there is no gateway, or permanent physical boundary, as such. In such circumstances we often use different hard landscaping materials to imply change but plants in pots can be used in a similar fashion. The benefit of them is that they also add height to a change which brings a more striking aesthetic.

Scale & proportion – however plants in pots are used in the garden their effectiveness is influenced by scale and proportion; not only of the pot itself to the plant its holding and vice versa, but of the plant and pot combined, to its surroundings. Getting this wrong can create a jarring effect to the eye. For example, putting a large, spreading plant into a pot with a narrow base will look imbalanced to the eye – subconsciously, or not, the viewer thinks the pot is likely to tip over so a sense of unease will be created rather than one of balance and harmony.

Colour – as with any use of colour, choosing pot colours for plants will influence how they are perceived. Neutral coloured pots for instance tend to allow the plants to shine and will accommodate a variety of plant foliage and flower shades and hues; whereas brightly coloured pots can often become the star of the show themselves and are a little more difficult to match plants to, though can make a great colour pop when needed. A repeated and limited colour of pot will also allow for a variety of style, for instance, different sizes and shapes of pots can still look harmonious if they are all the same colour.

Style – separating colour from style for a moment, the style of pot used can either add or detract to a feeling of balance and harmony within a garden. Materials can be influential in style – stone, granite, metal, terracotta, wood, all can lend themselves to different aesthetics, as can a particular shape. Consistency or similarity of style throughout helps maintain the balance.

Repetition – as with many elements in garden design repetition is a principle that plays well with plants in pots. Repetition can add drama, consistency, harmony, balance, cohesion and more. We often use it in planting designs so adding a pot to the mix can add even more drama, consistency, harmony… you get the picture!

Plants in pots, definitely worth getting potty about!

© Nicki Jackson, Blue Daisy Gardens 2020