Summer Story Starters

June 17, 2014

Take three minutes to scan through these summer story-starters. That’s three stories, at just sixty seconds each. They’re sure to spark some ideas . . .


Story Starter 1: Fool-proof fab pots


Container gardening

This is the shape pot to work with – a bowl – because it’s fool proof and filled in this case with Begonia Bonfire

This isn’t about how to plant a pot. This is all about two magic tips that will have you creating fantastic looking containers from now on . . .


  • Tip one: It starts with the pot. Shape is everything as some shapes work with you and others work against. Most professionals steer well clear of anything that’s tall and narrow for this reason. (They may look impressive, but from the plant’s view point, they don’t offer up much growing space and no, plant roots don’t need that much soil depth.) The fool-proof shape is a bowl, and in the same way fruit (or potatoes for that matter) will look good in a bowl, so will your plants.


  • Tip two: It’s also about plant choice. Again, think about shape in the way the plant holds itself, the way it grows. Does is stick straight up, flop along the ground or sit somewhere between these two options? A mix of all three is usually a bullet-proof combination and will produce something that looks like a living still-life painting – something high up the back or in the center (often called the thriller), something to fill up the middle space (filler) and a floppy one to break and spill over the edges (spiller). Another attack is to fill the pot with only one type of plant and because this looks intentional, the result will come off looking edgy and fabulous.
Container gardening

Yes, the Flower Carpet roses are the hero but the spill of the strappy foliage transforms the whole into something very special.



Story Starter 2: How to block-plant


Landscape ideas

Ridiculously easy to grow Blue Storm adds linear oomph to an extraordinary building.

Why more people don’t mass plant is a mystery. It’s so easy. You pick the right plant then plant not just one or two, but 30 or 40. Job done and it always looks good. The alternative is endless fiddling with bitsy plantings that – unless you’re a gifted legend – often end up looking pretty ordinary. Two points to consider regarding planting in large blocks . . .


  • The advantages are many. You need only research long enough to identify one candidate, but be sure it’s a tough, easy-care plant since you are putting all your eggs in the one basket. Ask your garden center to order all your plants from the same source to make sure they are identical. Order enough so that they’ll grow together quickly which makes things look fantastic and it helps keep the weeds down.


  • Massed planting is a powerful design tool. It is intentional and bold so use it freely to make the most of often overlooked sites – along a drive or path, a dull area beneath a stand of trees. The trick is to keep the planting dense and defined. If it’s linear, keep the lines strong and the shape clearly defined. If you wedge one massed section against another filled with another color or even different plant variety, keep those lines firm. If you do want to soften the effect slightly, you can always be firm along the leading edge where the plantings lie along the path (or whatever) but allow them to feather out after a while into existing planting towards the back of the bed.
Snow Storm agapanthus

This rectangular chunk of Snow Storm agapanthus boldly marks the entrance



Story Starter 3:  The narrow bed solution


Container gardening

A tight spot has been beautifully filled with Tropicanna canna

Every garden has them, the narrow garden bed that desperately calls out for some greenery, but is really tough to grow things in. Here’s a solution . . .


  • Just because the bed is only two hand spans deep doesn’t mean you should fill it with a line of marigolds.  After all, that will do nothing to hide the fence that’s usually sitting right behind it. Instead you want to plant something with a bit of height that isn’t going to snag your clothes as you walk past. You also want something that looks terrific, something tall and narrow that will be bushy from the base up, like Tropicanna canna.


  • Narrow beds are often hostile to plants which is a fancy way of saying they are filled with tired old soil and, depending on how they’ve been constructed, sometimes very poorly drained. So before you plant, do a bit of preparation. Dig over the soil and add in compost. Wet it all down a day or so before you plan to do your planting and check that the water is managing to drain away. Then tuck in your plants, sprinkle some slow release fertilizer around to give everything a good start, mulch the surface to keep the weeds away and keep up the water while everything gets established.
Filling tight garden spaces

There’s not much room to fit anything in beside these enchanting stone steps, but a tight spot has been beautifully filled with Tropicanna canna



Need help? For free downloadable images to accompany this story or questions, please contact Judie Brower

Previous post:

Next post: