Planting The Summer Pots

The opportunity to suggest a collection of pots to a client is pleasure indeed. We looked at lots of them, but she kept coming back to these Belgian stoneware pots. This was no surprise, given that the architecture of her house is contemporary. And dramatic. The roof combines a large curved window with strongly angular geometric shapes set in a variety of planes. The overhangs are substantial. A pair of large brick planter boxes and an over scaled walk to the front door contribute even more in the way of hard surfaces. It was a given that my client was interested in multiple pots. They would provide a vehicle for introducing some green to the front entrance. Three pairs of pots, different in size and color, would provide lots of opportunity to soften all of the hard surfaces. It took a while to arrange the pots, but both of us were happy with the outcome. The planting design came next.

The planting design of an associated group of pots takes some thought. They needed to relate to each other in color and feeling. They also needed to be of a scale appropriate to the size of the pots. A pair of  lemon cypress almost 5 feet tall would provide strong color and texture on either side of the front door. That color would set the stage for all of the other plantings.

As much as she was interested in contemporary pots, she was likewise interested in contemporary plantings that had a simple and architectural feel. Many of the plants chosen were green plants of various colors and textures. A mix of lime and variegated licorice provided a wide spectrum of shades of green.

To follow are pictures of the planting. Yellow flowered cannas have bold leaves, and the color repeated the lime of the licorice and ginger.  A pair of Limelight hydrangea topiaries will bloom a greenish white later in the summer.  In the meantime, the spherical shape of the head echoes both the roof windows and the steel spheres.

White petunias and euphorbia Diamond Frost will repeat that hydrangea white on a lower level.

A sudden and strong wind and rainstorm interrupted the effort, but on the upside there was no need to water when we finished planting.

Shrubby plants – both hardy and tropical – are great in large scale pots.  The variegated shell ginger, or Alpinia zerumbet “Variegata” features a variety of greens, much like the licorice cultivars. They are a perfect scale for the large Belgian cylinders. In a perfectly hot summer, they will bloom with racemes of white fragrant flowers.

A great planting not only involves a group of people with a respect for plants and transplanting, but a group that understands how to arrange and face them in the pot. Though these containers are a long way from attaining their eventual size and stature, there is no reason why a new planting shouldn’t look beautifully presented.

A sense of humor about rain has been helpful this spring. Wow, we have had a lot of rain.

This is a very inviting entrance now. And strong evidence of how much a container planting can alter a landscape for the better.


  1. Linda DePersis says

    What a gorgeous grouping of plants and vessels! I love all of the details that make it come together so beautifully. I’m curious about what mechanics you use in the large pots so that you don’t have to fill completely with soil? Is there a false bottom, or do you put something inside of it and build up from there? I’m itching to plant out a few on my deck and I get so much inspiration from you. Thank you for sharing your blog!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Linda, the very tall cylinders are filled better than 1/2 way with gravel-for ballast. The smaller pots have cypress bark mulch in the bottom. best regards, Deborah

      • Eileen Ripp-Emerson says

        Yikes, you need to empty them to plant for the next season or this is pretty much the way they will stay?
        I’ve used mulch [not cypress bark], but when i water what runs out the bottom discolors the concrete it is setting on.

        • Deborah Silver says

          Dear Eileen, this is a summer planting. We use cypress mulch, as it does not stain. We also elevate the containers just slightly so water can drain away. best, Deborah

  2. I love these pots too!! Dying to come visit from Florida

  3. Linda DePersis says

    Thank you so much for taking time to respond! Looking forward to your next post!

  4. Eileen Ripp-Emerson says

    Are these trees in their own pots set within the planters, and could they be left there permanently? Love the lime and licorice combination! I’m always looking for the variations of green for planters.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Hydrangeas are hardy in pots, but I would not leave these for the winter. They are up too high, and not sheltered. W@e would plant them in the ground for the winter. best, Deborah

  5. Kathy Larson says

    What is in the brick planters?

  6. Lorelei Stinson says

    I love that you have staff who truly understand not only plant material, the planting of plants but also the design elements. You are truly blessed! A beautiful job.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Linda, I do a sketch of the design on a picture of the pot. I do not go to the installations very often – my crew does not need me, once the design is done. If they have a question they will call. But this was my first planting of these pots, and I wanted to be there in case I wanted to make any changes to the design. best, Deborah

  7. Deborah, I always enjoy seeing pictures of the fruits of your labor and these are no exception. May I say that I love the 2nd to last picture of the young man looking directly into the camera. It’s obvious that he loves what he does.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Linda, he does love what he does. He’s incredibly good at it. He is a gifted horticulturist, as well. best, Deborah

  8. Michaele Anderson says

    Were the airy spheres provided by your shop as well? I can imagine them decorated with your preferred brand of outdoor lights for the holiday season come December.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Michaele, yes the spheres are made by and come from Detroit Garden Works. best regards, Deborah

  9. Rochelle Rietow says

    Oh gosh! You did it again! This is fabulous! I can’t wait to see those hydrangea topiaries bloom 🙂

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