Garden Photo of the Day

Kevin’s Garden Vignettes

Using containers to pull a design together

coneflowers and foliage plants next to large container

Welcome to Kevin Kelly’s garden, where containers are used as pieces of garden art to accent the plantings.

I have been gardening in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania (Zone 6b), for over 25 years. My garden is on a third-acre lot in a suburban neighborhood. I am not surrounded by any amazing vistas, nor do I have any borrowed views. Instead, my borders are designed to contain vignettes filled with lush plantings and often paired with a container, which may be planted or left empty. I find the eye often searches out these pops of color or structure and helps us to slow down and enjoy the vignette presented. Here are a few samples for your enjoyment.

vignette of unique foliage plantsI love this combination in a very shady part of the back border. Two colors of Heuchera (Zones 4–9) combined with Japanese painted fern (Athyrium niponicum var. pictum, Zones 3–8), the silver-spotted leaves of Pulmonaria (Zones 3–8), and a pretty container.

coneflowers and foliage plants next to large containerThis container works well with Weigela ‘My Monet’ (Zones 4–8), rudbeckia (Rudbeckia fulgida, Zones 4–9), and some annuals.

big dark red container surrounded by perennialsCrocosmia ‘Walberton Yellow’ (Zones 6–9) and Heuchera ‘Caramel’ (Zones 4–8) pair nicely with this container. Cephalotaxus harringtonia ‘Duke Gardens’ (Zones 6–9) and Pinus parviflora ‘Cleary’ (Zones 5–7) form a nice backdrop.

dark purple agave in front of large potThis early summer vignette includes a mangave (Agave hybrid, hardiness varies by variety). Soon the Echinacea (Zones 5–9) and cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus, annual) will become more prominent. The large container anchors this vignette.

evergreen shrub in a blue containerPlanting Thuja occidentalis ‘Golden Emerald’ (Zones 2–7) in a bluish container gives more height and accents the smaller perennials.

purple flowers with hostasAgave ‘Lavender Lady’ (Zones 8–10) stands proud in a container placed on a pedestal. It is surrounded by Diervilla rivularis ‘Kodiak Black’ (Zones 5–7), Itea virginica (Zones 5–9 ), and Penstemon ‘Husker Red’ (Zones 3–8).

variegated foliage plant above a blue and brown containerCallicarpa dicotomia ‘Duet’ (Zones 5–8), Asclepius tuberosa (Zones 3–9) and Rudbeckia hirta (Zones 3–7 or grown as an annual)

succulents in a elevated bowl surrounded by plantsA variety of succulents in a bowl are surrounded by Ageratum ‘Blue Danube’ (annual), dinosaur kale (Brassica oleracea ‘Lacinato’), and Phlox paniculata ‘David’ (Zones 4–8)


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View Comments


  1. Begonia155 08/16/2021

    Strikingly beautiful! So well done! You certainly have great taste in pots!

    1. imajayhawk 08/16/2021

      Thanks. I love looking through garden centers searching for just the right pot. Almost as fun as looking for new plants (well, not really).

  2. nwphilagardener 08/16/2021

    I enjoyed Kevin's thought-provoking intro to his handsomely composed photos. I think they demonstrate his perspective that with an absence of more compelling vistas, we can use the sculptural qualities of carefully selected pots to enrich a garden because the human eye seeks something more than plant material. It surprises me that empty containers can be so effective. And frankly I think those shaped more like urns or taller vessels work better empty, than shallower ones. Great GPOD!

    1. imajayhawk 08/16/2021

      Thanks for the kind words. When I started as a gardener, I was filling every container with plants, until I realized that they were very effective mixed in the border. It is a great way to slow the eye down in a busy border, much as we use repetition of architectural plants. A container with a pop of color also works very well in plantings that are predominantly green.

  3. Jay_Sifford 08/16/2021

    Very nice as always, Kevin.

    1. imajayhawk 08/16/2021

      Thank you, Jay.

  4. garden1953 08/16/2021

    Beautiful and creative. Love them all.

    1. imajayhawk 08/16/2021


  5. Rebeccazone7 08/16/2021

    Ok I'm back to not being able to pick a favorite. These all struck me as so calming.

    1. imajayhawk 08/16/2021

      That is so nice of you to say. Thanks.

  6. PattyLouise 08/16/2021

    Lovely! Very inspiring!

    1. imajayhawk 08/16/2021


  7. gardendevas 08/16/2021

    Absolutely gorgeous!!

    1. imajayhawk 08/16/2021


  8. User avater
    treasuresmom 08/16/2021

    Kevin, I adore that vignette with the Weigela. It is just outstanding. Well, all of them are outstanding.

    1. imajayhawk 08/16/2021

      Thanks. That is one of my favorite containers, and I also love how that came together. The Rudbeckia seeded itself there this year on its own, so I had help from Mother Nature on this one.

  9. coastalgardener 08/16/2021

    Love your use of pots as accents. They're all so unique and beautiful. Wonderful vignettes indeed!

    1. imajayhawk 08/16/2021

      Thanks. When I started gardening, I was filling all my containers, but now I realized how to effectively use them empty. In addition to providing a bold element, or a pop of color, they also function as a plant support.

  10. nicki_s 08/16/2021

    These are wonderful vignettes and definitely an idea I want to try. What do you do about the water that collects in the containers? I don’t want to provide any more mosquito breeding grounds.

    1. imajayhawk 08/16/2021

      I have drilled holes, or sometimes, more holes, in all the containers to get good drainage. I also sit them on 2 inches of pea gravel. Not only does that keep soil from clogging the drainage holes, but the gravel makes it easy to level the containers. Thanks.

      1. nicki_s 08/16/2021


  11. annek 08/16/2021

    Beautiful vignettes, Kevin. Your pots and selection of plants to accompany them are outstanding. I’m going to try some of your wonderful ideas!

    1. imajayhawk 08/16/2021

      Thanks. If I have inspired you, I am a happy gardener.

  12. User avater
    simplesue 08/16/2021

    Very artistic focal points- so sculptural with the Agave in a pot on a pedestal!
    Just a gorgeous garden!
    When you have no view (neither do I in Pittsburgh, PA) then make the garden the view and you did just that perfectly!

    1. imajayhawk 08/16/2021

      Thanks so much. Using a pedestal is a great way to create an exclamation point with a small plant. The pedestal is molded resin, so very lightweight. Since it is placed in the middle of the border, you can't get close enough to it to tell it is not stone.

  13. sheila_schultz 08/16/2021

    Kevin, I am lusting after some of your pots, they are so much fun. Is the succulent bowl set at an angle, or is that an optical illusion? It's stellar! Once again, the view into your lovely gardens is a treat for the senses. BTW, if I were in your area, I might just have to 'borrow' #1, 4, 9 & 10. Haha!

    1. imajayhawk 08/16/2021

      Thanks Sheila. I will have to set up cameras, just in case you come by (Ha-ha). The succulent bowl is one cement structure with 2 cones all sealed together. The lower cone is level, but the upper cone with the plants is tilted. It is perfectly balanced, so no tipping. I have had it for 5 years. I don't remember where I found it, but it is perfect for succulents.

  14. btucker9675 08/16/2021

    Would you be too upset if I made a road trip to PA and your gorgeous agave and container mysteriously disappeared? I love containers also and yours are each perfect for their locations. Everything is lovely!

    1. imajayhawk 08/16/2021

      Thanks so much for your wonderful compliments. Maybe I will have to attach tracking devices on my pots :)

  15. imajayhawk 08/16/2021

    Thanks so much for your wonderful compliments. Maybe I will have to attach tracking devices on my pots :)

    1. imajayhawk 08/16/2021

      Oops. Meant to reply instead of comment

  16. User avater
    meander_michaele 08/16/2021

    Ha, Kevin, your garden and your gardening aesthetic does this to me every time...yep, I'm publicly confessing to committing 2 of the 7 deadly sins...hello to envy and lust. Your vignettes are positively intoxicating.

    1. imajayhawk 08/16/2021

      Thanks so much, Michaele. I have a lot of fun creating these vignettes within the larger borders.

  17. User avater
    musabasjoosue 08/16/2021

    I know I've lusted after your garden before on GPOD, Kevin and these vignettes are just fabulous! My mind is in overdrive trying to think of ways to recreate similar beauty in my own garden.

    1. imajayhawk 08/16/2021

      Thanks so much for the kind words. If I have provided an inspiration, then it makes me so happy as a gardener. I found it easiest to look at an 4-5 foot space within a larger border, and then find a container that complements the plants. Good luck.

  18. User avater
    cindijacobs 01/20/2022

    love the way you stage the space and the plants thrive. Good vibes all around and you can feel the love.

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