Tell The Story

May 21, 2014 (2)Any seasonal planting begins with an idea.  An organizing metaphor.  That collection of ideas and the resulting metaphor makes for a story.  A story you wish to tell with plants. Plants are one thing, but the plants you choose for a particular container should live together in a meaningful way. The design of in ground annual plantings and container plantings takes many formal design issues into account.  Color, texture, mass, line-these are formal elements of design that apply to any creative expression. The deliberately chosen relationships between all of these elements tell a story.

May 21, 2014 (44)Some containers I plant, the color is the story.  Others, the texture and mass is the story.  Others echo or repeat a story about loss, or love.  Others recreate a moment from the past.  Some stories are about joy. Those stories may be on fire. Some stories are pastoral, or a longing for another place and time. Other stories echo a family history.  Another story may be about refuge. Some stories have to do with agriculture and farming. Important events have stories attached to them.  Some stories are witty, saucy, or funny.

May 21, 2014 (5)All of my clients have their own particular story. Their likes and dislikes.  How they would choose to represent the beauty of a garden is particular to them.  For those with whom I have a long history, I plant in service of what I know of their story. I may not be dead to right in every regard, but a client who returns year after year must feel that I hear them.

May 21, 2014 (38) A plant is a thing of wonder in and of itself.  But a great container planting is not a collection of plants.  It is a community of plants that when planted in a confined space creeate visual and emotional meaning. This client likes green above all. She likes a planting which is serene and quiet.  She likes the relationship between old plants of formal shape, and meadow like plantings which include lavender and other herbs.  She likes plants that remind her of a conservatory, as in ferns.

May 21, 2014 (41)This stone wall/planter has had a lot of things in it over the year.  One year, Chicago figs.  Another year, white nicotiana.  This year we have sky blue Cathedral salvia, icicle helichrysum, variegated licorice, and strawberries.

May 21, 2014 (16)This variegated boxwood also has variegated licorice, as it is near by. And the coloration of the leaves echo one another, and contrast in size and shape.  The little pot-a single Spanish lavender plant.

May 21, 2014 (15)The double ball boxwood topiary in the corner is quite old.  The lavender topiary is new, and beginning to bloom.

May 21, 2014 (40)The long troughs have a mixture of blue green leaved plants, and silver leaved plants.

May 21, 2014 (26)The pool yard is a little less quiet.  A duranta on standard is under planted with surfinia sky blue petunias, and artist ageratum. A rosemary topiary is under planted with a variegated sage.  The center pot has 3 elegant feather plants, surrounded by lime green spikes and bicolor angelonia.

May 21, 2014 (36)White lantana on standard, and polka dot plant. The low planters have green echeverias.

May 21, 2014 (4)4 hanging baskets for the porch are planted with a white variegated plectranthus, and a gray plectranthus, mixed.

May 21, 2014 (32)The far pots are planted with white mandevillea, and a host of attending white flowered and gray leaved plants.

May 21, 2014 (52)The plant stand is planted with white caladiums, bird’s nest ferns, white non stop begonias, Jayde pepperomia, and maidenhair ferns.  The big lead pot is planted with a single Kimberly fern.  Very quiet, and peaceful.  Hopefully the story of these containers is evident in all of the choices.  We will see how it reads in August.




  1. Hi Deborah,
    Interesting and insightful as always. I like how you used the spikes around the edge of the container — different from how spikes are so commonly used.

  2. susan konkel says

    Will look forward to update in August…this was so peaceful!

  3. I have always admired your containers planting. You do a great work! Thank you for your generosity in sharing them with us and good luck with your work!

  4. Lynn Fiorentino says

    Love your containers!!! I always pick inspiration from the combination of plants you use. Lynn

  5. Thank you for your inspiring plantings, I have passed your blog to many a gardner. Any tips on planting to punch up a yard to help with street appeal?

  6. Hi Deborah,
    I am amazed and in awe of all aspects of your design. This post as so many others is magnificent. I wish i could go on a garden tour of this property!

  7. Beautiful! (as always)
    I’m unfamiliar with feather plant. If and when you have time, what’s the scientific name?

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Mark, I only know it as elegant feather. Let me know if you cannot get a scientific name. Best. Deborah

  8. Heather Burkhardt says

    Wow, the trough with the silver and blue green plants is poetry. A white lantana standard, how very cool, I have never seen one, and the polka dot plant underneath is charming. I have admired the delicate wire plant stand from an earlier photo. Beautiful this year. I bet your client is thrilled. I certainly am.

  9. Susan Hauser says

    Such an eye for color and composition. I eagerly await each new post. The work you do has perfect rhythm and makes so much sense, yet always comes as a surprise with each photo. Glorious. Simply glorious.

  10. Thank you for the concept and another way of looking at container plants!

  11. I LOVE this quote from you!!!! We are about to dive into container gardening heavy at my landscape company and this sums up how I feel about it completely! I’ve printed it and taped it by my computer so I will see it often!
    “Container planting is not a collection of plants. It is a community of plants that when planted in a confined space create visual and emotional meaning.”

Leave a Comment