The Dirt

2012 Container Design Challenge Results: Fantastic Foliage

Last spring, we decided to revisit one of our most popular themes and challenged you to create a spectacular container that relies on foliage alone-no flowers allowed. The rules were to select three to five distinct varieties of plants and pot them up to showcase what colorful foliage and exciting texture could do on their own without the benefit of blooms. The results are in, and we couldn’t be more excited by what you created. Here are the top five that were featured in the magazine, plus nine additional finalists. Enjoy!


Moira McQuarrie
Hanson, Massachusetts

1. Dragon’s eye black pine (Pinus thunbergii ‘Oculus Draconis’, USDA Hardiness Zones 5–8)
2. ‘Dipt in Wine’ coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides ‘Dipt in Wine’, Zones 12–13)
3. Porcupine grass (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Strictus’, Zones 4–9)

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Photo/Illustration: Moira McQuarrie
Sheila Schultz
Denver, Colorado1. Variegated smooth agave (Agave desmettiana ‘Variegata’, Zones 9–11)
2. ‘Troy’s Gold’ plectranthus (Plectranthus ciliatus ‘Troy’s Gold’, Zones 10–11)
3. Sweet Georgia™ Purple Heart sweet potato vine (Ipomoea batatas ‘Sweet Georgia Purple Heart’, Zone 11)
4. Golden creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’, Zones 4–8)
Photo/Illustration: Sheila Schultz

Brenda Addington
Suwanee, Georgia

1. Graceful Grasses® Toffee Twist sedge (Carex flagellifera ‘Toffee Twist’, Zones 7–10)

2. ‘Caramel’ heuchera (Heuchera ‘Caramel’, Zones 3–8)

3. ‘Black Heart’ sweet potato vine (Ipomoea batatas ‘Black Heart’, Zone 11)

4. Burgundy Wedding Train’ coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides ‘Burgundy Wedding Train’, Zones 12–13)

Photo/Illustration: Brenda Addington

Cindy Young
Brewster, New York

1. ‘White Jade’ calathea (Calathea ‘White Jade’, Zone 13)
2. Sweet Georgia™ Purple Heart sweet potato vine (Ipomoea batatas ‘Sweet Georgia Purple Heart’, Zone 11)
3. ‘Raspberry Swirl’ Rex begonia (Begonia ‘Raspberry Swirl’, Zones 12–13)
4. Asparagus fern (Asparagus densiflorus, Zones 9–11)
5. ‘Albolineata’ Cretan brake fern (Pteris cretica ‘Albolineata’, Zones 9-11)

Photo/Illustration: Cindy Young
Todd Holloway
Vancouver, British Columbia1.Imperial bromeliad (Vriesea imperialis, Zone 13)2. Magilla™ purple perilla (Perilla frutescens ‘Balmagpurp’, annual)

3. ‘Aureola’ Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’, Zones 5–9)

4. Graceful Grasses® Baby Tut® umbrella grass (Cyperus involucratus ‘Baby Tut’, Zones 9–11)

5. ‘Goldilocks’ creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia ‘Goldilocks’, Zones 4–8)

Photo/Illustration: Todd Holloway

Carolyn Ordonez
Menlo Park, California

1. ‘Bloodgood’ Japanese maple (Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’, Zones 5–9)
2. Desana® Maple sweet potato vine (Ipomoea batatas ‘Desana Maple’, Zone 11)
3. ‘Licorice Splash’ licorice plant (Helichrysum petiolare ‘Licorice Splash’, Zones 10–11)
4. Kong™ Red coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides ‘Kong Red’, Zones 12–13)
5. Foxtail fern (Asparagus densiflorus ‘Myersii’, Zones 9–11)

Photo/Illustration: Carolyn Ordonez

Carol Guedalia
Hilton Head, South Carolina

1. Rex begonia (Begonia cv., Zone 11)
2. ‘Gold Tips’ trailing spikemoss (Selaginella kraussiana ‘Gold Tips’, Zones 6–10)
3. Black mondo grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’, Zones 6–11)
4. Elephant’s ear (Alocasia X amazonica, Zone 13)
5. Blue crisp fern (Polypodium aureum, Zones 9–11)

Photo/Illustration: Carol Guedalia

Deborah Trickett
Milton, Massachusetts

1. Caladium (Caladium bicolor cv., Zones 10–11)
2. Alternanthera (Alternanthera cv., annual)
3. Coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides cv., Zones 12–13)
4. Asparagus fern (Asparagus densiflorus, Zones 9–11)

Photo/Illustration: Deborah Trickett

Jane Horn
Prior Lake, Minnesota

1. ‘Triostar’ stromanthe (Stromanthe sanguinea ‘Triostar’, Zones 10–11)
2. ‘Lady in Red’ lady fern (Athyrium filix-femina ‘Lady in Red’, Zones 4–9)
3. Bauer’s dracaena palm (Cordyline ‘Baueri’, Zones 9–11)
4. Fiber-optic grass (Isolepsis cernua, Zones 8–10)
5. Chicken gizzard plant (Iresine herbstii, annual)

Photo/Illustration: Jane Horn

Susan Markey
Lebanon, New Jersey

1. ‘Black Magic’ elephant’s ear (Colocasia esculenta ‘Black Magic’, Zones 8–11)
2. Dragon tree (Dracaena marginata, Zone 11)
3. Boston fern (Nephrolepis exaltata, Zones 10–11)
4. Umbrella plant (Schefflera arboricola ‘Compacta’, Zone 11)
5. Arrowhead vine (Syngonium podophyllum, Zone 13)

Photo/Illustration: Susan Markey

Heather Sazama Geiser
Charlotte, North Carolina

1. Cardoon (Cynara cardunculus ‘Gigante’, Zones 7–9)
2. ‘Lana’ angelwing begonia (Begonia ‘Lana’, Zones 10–11)
3. ‘Sweet Caroline Bewitched’ sweet potato vine (Ipomoea batatas ‘Sweet Caroline Bewitched’, Zone 11)
4. ‘Baroque Sword’ elephant’s ear (Alocasia lauterbachiana ‘Baroque Sword’, Zone 11)
5. ‘Silver Falls’ dichondra (Dichondra argentea ‘Silver Falls’, Zones 10–11)

Photo/Illustration: Heather Sazama Geiser

Judy Dean
Centralia, Washington

1. ‘Green Spice’ heuchera (Heuchera ‘Green Spice, Zones 4–9)
2. ‘Brise d’Anjou’ variegated Jacob’s ladder (Polemonium ‘Brise d’Anjou’, Zones 4–8)
3. ‘Mosaik Thin Mint’ coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides ‘Mosaik Thin Mint’, Zones 12–13)
4. Golden creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’, Zones 4–8)
5. ‘Atropurpureum’ white clover (Trifolium repens ‘Atropurpureum’, Zones 4–8)

Photo/Illustration: Judy Dean

Pam Watkins
Independence, Kansas

1. ‘Ace of Spade’ sweet potato vine (Ipomoea batatas ‘Ace of Spades’, Zone 11)
2. ‘Wabashi Lime’ coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides ‘Wabashi Lime’, Zones 12–13)
3. ‘Mrs. Arno Nehrling’ caladium (Caladium bicolor ‘Mrs. Arno Nehrling’, Zones 10–11)
4. ‘Red Flash’ caladium (Caladium bicolor ‘Red Flash’, Zones 10–11)
5. ‘Coffee Cups’ elephant’s ear (Colocasia esculenta ‘Coffee Cups’, Zones 8–11)

Photo/Illustration: Pam Watkins
Ellen Mann
Fox Point, Wisconsin1. Elephant’s ear (Colocasia esculenta cv., Zones 8-11)
2. Coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides cvs., Zones 12-13)
3. Golden creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’, Zones 4-8)
4. Rex begonia (Begonia cv., Zones 12-13)
5. Sweet potato vine (Ipomoea batatas cv., Zone 11)
Photo/Illustration: Ellen Mann
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  1. jacksonlisa 03/07/2013

    Fantastic idea... Really it looking so nice and beautiful. It gives the different looks to our garden. I like your idea very much and i will try it in my garden plans. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Deziner 05/15/2013

    I feel the winners this year really brought the bar up ! Very creative and inspiring design compositions. It is always a joy to see how people are making their 'garden goodness' and that Fine Gardening magazine is providing a venue to showcase their talents and passion. We all benefit from their efforts.

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  4. Liberty4ev 09/15/2015

    These container designs are stunning! Congrats to all.

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