Which plants to choose
First, I didn’t want anything that had to be staked or fussed with. Then I looked for plants with interesting textures and colorful foliage. Finally, I wanted to be able to reuse these plants in the garden. Some of the plants had to be able to withstand the relentless heat and sun of a southwestern exposure. Others needed to flourish in the shady conditions of the north side of the house. The containers needed to be planted by mid-May and still look good by the end of the summer.
My choices for that first season were a bit cautious, but they were successful. For the sunny side, I chose groupings of fountain grass, tickseed, tricolor sage, and aster. Because I planted in early May, I decided to use the annual white alyssum to spill out over the edge of the container, to give it interest until the perennials kicked in. On the shady side, I used ‘Frances Williams’ hosta, bleeding heart, and spotted deadnettle, with the annual blue lobelia as an edging.
By the time I had finished, the containers looked respectably full, although a bit quiet. By mid-June, the perennials were so full that they almost covered up the alyssum and lobelia on the edges. The foliage colors of the hosta and lamium were cool and soothing on the shady refuge of the north-facing terrace, and the flowers and foliage of the bleeding heart lasted well into early fall. The tickseed beamed its pale yellow lights starting in July and was a handsome companion to the fountain grass. In August, when most containers are looking weary, mine were fresh and lively.
To see these plants identified, click the images to enlarge them.