Contemporary Container Plantings

mirror in the garden

I do have clients whose taste in furnishings, art, architecture, design, and landscape is thoroughly contemporary.   Thoroughly contemporary? What that means exactly is subject to endless discussion and interpretation.  But I find as long as I devote the lion’s share of my attention to form, shape, mass, volume, color and texture in a simple, even austere way, I will be well on my way with a contemporary landscape.  Contemporary container plantings?  I don’t know exactly what I mean by this, but they are much more about the abstract elements of design, and only lastly about the plants.         

contemporary concrete planter

This very simple vintage concrete contemporary bowl is placed so it intersects with the boxwood.  This gesture is much more about creating a certain emotional tension between a living plant and an object.  This gesture has an edge.  The choice of container and the placement are critical to a planting with a contemporary feeling. 

contemporary container planting

I planted it with cirrus dusty miller, and succulents all of the same color, but with very different textures.  The planting is in a spiral pattern-definitely out of the round of the container.  The planting features the dirt – the empty space – as much as it does the plants.

 contemporary gardens

This pair of tire planters are planted with flowers of very different size and habit.  The red leaved America canna was underplanted with red threadleaf alternanthera.  The Caliente geraniums are the same series of plants, with the same growth habit, in a mix of dark red and bright orange.

contemporary container plantingA A long curved bed is planted with red cordyline-spikes.  In traditional plantings, a spike might be the centerpiece of a pot.  Here they are planted in rows, like crops.  A dark pennisetum of similar color but different texture is planted in the same pattern.  To finish, black red sweet potato vine.  The monochromatic color scheme is dramatic, but austere.   The planting is more about the shape of the bed, and an unexpected mass of color, than it is about the individual plants.   

An utterly simple concrete bowl is planted a larger version of that red cordyline.  Each plant was deliberately planted straight up and down.  Had the outer plants been turned out to the side, the result would have been vaguely reminiscent of a topiary sphere-a very traditional shape in the garden.  The interior is planted with black sweet potato.  I’ll see how that grows, and what it does.  I might intervene, and shape that vine, or I might never touch it. 

elegant feather

These tall simple concrete pots encircled by snakes make quite a statement, planting or no.  I filled them with elegant feather grass.  This plant will grow straight up and skyward.  That long look is a compliment to the shape of the pot.  The relationship of the container to the planting is especially important in contemporary plantings.   

millet "Flashlights"

This mid century modern fiberglass and concrete container is home to a mass planting of the millet “Flashlights”.  Its vertical habit will not obscure the interesting shape of the container. 

dark foliaged heuchera

The dark leaved heucheras are moody.  This ruffly variety has a deep purple obverse.  Those curly leaves make the subtle vertical lines of the pot much more visually important.  This cylinder is not really round. It is a subtle approximation of round. It is comprised of many straight sections joined together-so say all of those curly leaves.   


These succulents on stalks have an exotic, and otherworldly appearance.  Baby versions of the same plant carpet the bottom of a very detailed black cast iron planter I would guess is the work of Carl Milles when he was at Cranbrook. 

contemporary garden containers

This concrete container with a roller coaster edge gets a lime planting-angelina, gold marjoram, and some tropical succulent whose name I do not know.  I imagine it will have a very lively texture once it is grown in.

red foliaged plants

The red cordylines and threadleaf alternantera have an entirely different appearance in a sunny location.  Will I keep the alts trimmed?  I can’t tell yet. 

planting contemporary containers

This is a container planting of a different sort-as it should be.  Any garden should reflect the taste and sensibility of the governing gardener.  That is the best part of a garden-you get to be the guv, and you get to be surprised by what nature has in store for your efforts.  I will be interested to see what the future holds for this planting.