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Accessorize: Finalist Photos from the 2011 Container Design Challenge

Let inspired container creations from readers inspire you this gardening season

Fine Gardening - Issue 145
plant container accessories

For the 2011 Container Design Challenge, we asked you to add a little something extra to your container designs. Just like the perfect purse or a snazzy tie can make a ho-hum outfit sing, an extra object add some pizzazz to a planting. We left the concept wide open, inviting you to interpret it as you wished—and you certainly were inspired.

We’re sharing with you here the winning photo, along with photos of all the finalists’ entries.

And the winner is …

A walk in the woods

container with white flowers and foliage

Cindy Young, Brewster, New York

Accessory: Deer antlers


  • ‘Moonlight’ caladium (Caladium bicolor ‘Moonlight’, USDA Hardiness Zones 10–11)
  • African mask (Alocasia amazonica, Zone 11)
  • Elephant ear (Alocasia lauterbachiana, Zone 11)
  • Impatiens (Impatiens walleriana cv., annual)
  • English ivy (Hedera helix cv., Zones 5–11)



Once upon a time …

container with bright flowers and foliage with ceramic mushrooms
Photo: courtesy of Ellen Mann

Ellen Mann, Fox Point, Wisconsin

Mushrooms often bring to mind fairy tales, and these colorful mushrooms, combined with an abundance of cheerful flowers, are sure to spark anyone’s imagination.

Accessory: Ceramic mushrooms


  • Cordyline (Cordyline australis cv., Zones 10–11)
  • Ageratum (Ageratum houstonianum cv., annual)
  • Angelonia (Angelonia angustifolia cv., annual)
  • Sweet potato vine (Ipomoea batatas cv., Zone 11)
  • Calibrachoa (Calibrachoa cv., annual)

Plants out loud

container full of cacti and decorative gramophone horn
Photo: courtesy of Moira McQuarrie

Moira McQuarrie, Hanson, Massachusetts

Succulents are the perfect match for this vintage gramophone horn—especially the agave, which mimics perfectly the horn’s shape and colors. A dash of red flowers highlights the rusty accents on both the gramophone and the container.

Accessory: Gramophone horn


  • Happy crown agave (Agave ‘Kissho Kan’, Zones 7–10)
  • Blazin’ Glory senecio (Senecio cephalophorus, Zones 9–11)
  • Thornless prickly pear cactus (Opuntia cacanapa ‘Ellisiana’, Zones 7–10)
  • Burro’s tail (Sedum morganianum, Zone 11)
  • Madagascar palm (Pachypodium lamerei, Zone 11)
  • ‘Golden Glow’ sedum (Sedum adolphi ‘Golden Glow’, Zones 10–11)

A trip to the tropics

container with colorful foliage and decorative gold peacocks
Photo: courtesy of Cindy Voigt

Cindy Voigt, Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin

Cindy set out to create a design with tropical flair—a challenge in central Wisconsin. She started with two jeweled golden peacocks and filled in with lush, bold, and colorful plants. Dark, dramatic leaves and dashes of hot red turn up the thermostat.

Accessory: Decorative metal peacocks


  • ‘Coffee Cups’ elephant’s ear (Colocasia esculenta ‘Coffee Cups’, Zones 8–11)
  • Purple sage (Salvia officinalis ‘Purpurascens’, Zones 5–8)
  • ‘Sweet Caroline Bronze’ sweet potato vine (Ipomoea batatas ‘Sweet Caroline Bronze’, Zone 11)
  • ‘Gartenmeister Bonstedt’ fuchsia (Fuchsia ‘Gartenmeister Bonstedt’, Zones 9–10)
  • ‘Mosaik Lava Red’ coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides ‘Mosaik Lava Red’, Zone 11)
  • ‘Gay’s Delight’ coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides ‘Gay’s Delight’, Zone 11)


Other Finalists

container with dark foliage and tiny lights

Michelle Baldwin, Bluffton, South Carolina

Accessory: Garden lights


  • Norfolk Island pine (Araucaria heterophylla, Zones 9–11)
  • ‘Blue rows’ rush (Juncus inflexus ‘Blue Arrows’, Zones 5–11)
  • Breathless™ Blush euphorbia (Euphorbia Breathless™ Blush, annual)
  • Silver drop eucalyptus (Eucalyptus gunnii, Zones 9–11)
  • ‘Redhead’ coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides ‘Redhead’, Zones 12–13)
  • Sweet potato vine (Ipomoea batatas cv., Zone 11)


container with red flowers and small, yellow birdhouse

Deborah Trickett, Milton, Massachusetts

Accessory: Birdhouse



container with pink and green foliage

Alice Dann, St. Cloud, Wisconsin

Accessory: Perfume bottle


  • Rex begonia (Begonia cv., Zones 12–13)
  • Coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides cv., Zones 12–13)
  • Asparagus fern (Asparagus densiflorus ‘Sprengeri’, Zones 12–13)


container with dark purple foliage and pink flowers

Sherry Schmidt, Shaker Heights, Ohio

Accessory: Candelabra and white candles


  • ‘Purple Flash’ ornamental pepper (Capsicum annuum ‘Purple Flash’, annual)
  • Persian shield (Strobilanthes dyerianus, Zones 9–11)
  • Rex begonia (Begonia cv., Zones 12–13)
  • Petunia (Petunia cv., annual)
  • Purple heart (Tradescantia pallida ‘Purpurea’, Zones 8–11)
  • ‘Mona Lavender’ plectranthus (Plectranthus ‘Mona Lavender’, Zones 10–11)


container with orange foliage and yellow flowers

Susan Bautsch, Edwardsville, Illinois

Accessory: Metal crane


  • Yellow mandevilla (Mandevilla urchites lutea, Zones 12–13)
  • Crotons (Codiaeum cvs., Zones 12–13)
  • ‘Saturn’ coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides ‘Saturn’, Zones 12–13)
  • ‘Black Velvet’ petunia (Petunia ‘Black Velvet’, annual)
  • Lemon thyme (Thymus × citriodorus, Zones 6–9)
  • ‘Silver Falls’ dichondra (Dichondra argentea ‘Silver Falls’, Zones 10–11)


container with pink flowers and Pink China plate

Brenda Addington, Suwanee, Georgia

Accessory: Pink China plate


  • Dragon Wing® Pink begonia (Begonia Dragon Wing® Pink, annual)
  • Persian shield (Strobilanthes dyerianus, Zones 9–11)
  • Petunia (Petunia cv., annual)
  • Tuberous begonia (Begonia cv., Zones 12–13)
  • Impatiens (Impatiens walleriana cv., annual)


container with purple flowers and wine cork decoration

Carol Corbin, Troy, Michigan

Accessory: Wine bottle corks


  • ‘Cora Burgundy’ vinca (Vinca ‘Cora Burgundy’, annual)
  • ‘Sangria’ ornamental pepper (Capsicum annuum ‘Sangria’, annual)
  • ‘Dipt in Wine’ coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides ‘Dipt in Wine’, Zones 12–13)


container with pink flowers and blue glass bottle decorations

Roxane Hutchins, Marshfield, Wisconsin

Accessory: Blue wine bottles


  • Red Abyssinian banana (Ensete ventricosum ‘Maurelii’, Zones 9–11)
  • Dusty Miller (Senecio cv., annual)
  • Purple heart (Tradescantia pallida ‘Purpurea’, Zones 8–11)
  • Sweet potato vine (Ipomoea batatas cv., Zone 11)
  • Petunia (Petunia cv., annual)


container with a green glass orb and moss

Altha Brooks, Van Wert, Ohio

Accessory: Blown glass sphere


  • Spikemosses (Selaginella cvs., Zones 6–10)


containers with succulents growing under a glass top

Shannon Lester, Bend, Oregon

Accessory: Glass tabletop


  • Cobweb hens and chicks (Sempervivum arachnoideum, Zones 5–8)
  • ‘Red Rubin’ hens and chicks (Sempervivum ‘Red Rubin’, Zones 4–8)
  • ‘Angelina’ sedum (Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’, Zones 6–9)


container with red, orange, and yellow flowers and decorative metal cats

Linda Procker, Columbus, Ohio

Accessory: Decorative metal cats


  • Callie® Deep Yellow calibrachoa (Calibrachoa Callie® Deep Yellow, annual)
  • Bonfire® begonia (Begonia boliviensis Bonfire®, Zones 10–11)
  • Bacopa (Sutera cordata cv., annual)
  • Geranium (Pelargonium cv., annual)
  • Charmed Wine shamrock (Oxalis ‘JROXBURWI’, Zones 8–11)
  • MiniFamous™ Lavender Blue calibrachoa (Calibrachoa MiniFamous™ Lavender Blue, annual)
  • Wandering Jew (Tradescantia zebrina, Zone 11)

Michelle Gervais is the associate editor.

Previous: 2012 Container Design Challenge Results: Fantastic Foliage Next: Fire and Ice: Finalist Photos from the 2009 Container Challenge
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