Off The Beaten Track

pot-in-the-lawn.jpgEvery gardener is used to seeing containers placed on hard surfaces.   On either side of a front porch.  On a set of steps or walkway.  On a terrace. But containers can fit right into a spot in the landscape.  We have worked in several places this week where containers were placed in the midst of the ongoing landscape. I like what I am seeing. Placing pots in the garden is an unusual placement, but unusual can be a good. The first rule of good design is to not take any rule as set in stone.  Some of the most beautiful landscape designs I have seen break every rule.  By this I mean, they break every rule, but do it convincingly.  A great heart, and sure hand always trumps following the rules. I worried myself for days, given the decision to place this pot in the middle of the lawn in the rose garden.  Once the deed was done, I wondered why. The placement seemed right.

pot-in-the-garden.jpgThis container is set in a landscape bed.  A clematis has climbed and wound itself around a tall steel container.  A bed of pachysandra, angelina and hens and chicks has been inter planted with with Persian Queen geraniums, euphorbia, and trailing annual verbena. The look of this garden is better than good. I like how the introduction of annual plants into the landscape, and the perennial clematis climbing the side of a container have created a look in which the container has become an integral part of the landscape. The annuals planted in ground-so charming, and so successful. This planting is not mine-it is all Jane’s.  Clients can be a great source of inspiration. They know their gardens backwards and forwards.  Their decisions are based on a daily exposure. This corner is invariably burned by salt in the winter, so a summer/seasonal planting helps keep this spot luxuriant.lemon-cypress.jpgA container set in a landscape bed is one way to create a focal point.  This tall concrete pot planted with a lemon cypress, euphorbia, and petunias gives meaning to a landscape comprised of arborvitae and pachysandra.  I like the ground cover growing up over the base of this planter. It looks as though the container has been there a while, and belongs there. in-the-garden.jpgA pot gracefully placed in a landscape can add another dimension to an outdoor space. Landscapes which offer many dimensions continue to interest the viewer.  A pot placed in the landscape is a mark made by a designer.  That said, I treasure the individual statement of a landscape above all. Some landscapes I see are all about a gardener in charge with a strong point of view.

Chicago-figs.jpgWe usually remove the grass underneath a container, excavate the soil, and replace that soil with gravel.  The insures that the container drains unimpeded. Trimming the grass around the container is an extra step, maybe even a nuisance.  But for the gardener that appreciates the small details, a placement like this is a pleasure. A pot placement in the landscape can be a temporary solution to a bigger problem.  In this case, a tree directly behind this group of containers died this past winter. The tree, and its stump was of a size that replacement will not be easy. The pots draw one’s eye away from the empty space. Given this placement of pots, a much smaller tree could be planted which would eventually fill that void.

shade-pot.jpgA container in the landscape takes on the same sculptural quality as a birdbath, armillary, or sundial.  The small footprint of any of these ornaments makes them easy to tuck into a small space that needs some visual interest.  This client has a particular fondness for pots in her borders. This pot is set on a short concrete plinth.  That small amount of additional height keeps the bottom of the pot in view, despite the ground covering geraniums.

in-the-landscape.jpgThis French glazed pot is of considerable size and stature.  It has been placed in a bed of myrtle facing down a stand of mature trees.  Pink and red mandevilleas growing on a simple trellis made of bamboo stakes makes a considerable statement by late summer. This spot, minus the pot, would be too sleepy looking for this client.  Every gardener wants something different from their garden.

herniaria.jpgThe landscape in the front of my house features two fairly large patches of herniaria.  This spot asked for something short that would require little maintenance-it has done very well there. Years ago I set a pair of French glazed pots at opposite ends. A garden ornament which represents the end, or boundary of a garden is called a Herm, 0r a term-as in terminus.  Though I have since moved the Russian sage in favor of a simpler arrangement, and switched out the French pot for a concrete pot with a yew topiary that can sit in this spot all year round, the idea is the same. The placement of containers can be anywhere there is a need.




  1. Your pot in the 1st pic, fabulosa, is following rules. It’s on axis and cross axis, dinky is stinky, is it so wonderful it will be fought over at your estate sale, will the pot be perfect when it is empty, does it have the deborah silver silhouette,

    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

    you have ruined me for pots. they are now all subject to the deborah silver rules !!!

  2. pure inspiration

  3. My pots will never be the gorgeous works of art that yours are, but I agree–pots in the landscape can really “make” the border/bed/etc.

  4. These are all enchanting!!

    Wonderful ideas!! Copying!!!

  5. Heather Burkhardt says

    I love the tip on replacing the lawn with gravel under the pot so it drains! That is a gem for me.


  6. how do you get your nicotiana to grow so wildly? Tried it for the first time this seed – august already and it hasn’t taken off. (in RI)

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Sophath, I cannot grow nicotianas from seed in pots-I plant 4″ pots. It could be that your plants have not had enough time to grow. And the season has been cool. best, Deborah

  7. Judy Cornellier says

    Love your placement in the gardens of those incredible pots. Several years ago I started to play with pots in the garden. Soon I found myself beginning a garden section with the size and color of the pot and then planted the perennials to complement these pots. Next I filled the pot with annuals to accent it all. What fun as the colors of the perennials, each in their time, changed the view.

  8. Have your mandevilleas grown this high in this season? i also planted mandevilleas for the first time this summer and mines aren’t nearly as high as yours.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Agi, mine might be growing in an area that retains heat. Yes, this is one season of growth. I know they like heat, and dry-ish conditions. But who knows! Best, Deborah

  9. Wow! I’m amazed and yes I’ve pondered about putting pots in lawns but these work brilliantly! Now I’ll have a bit more courage to do this. Do you clear the ground first and put on an anti-weed sheet before laying your pot on top of it?

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