Calgary Herald

It’s not too late to make things POP

Five simple ways to make a statement with pots or garden beds this summer


School is out. The beginning of July marks the beginning of the end for putting together fabulous summer pots and adjusting your landscape to make things pretty and punchy. Here are some tips for last-minute summer tweaks for pots and landscapes.

Infill With Texture

Like a finely checked suit with a large chunky necklace, plant texture is a visual surprise. If you squint and can’t see the difference between plants in your garden, then maybe they are all the same texture and you need to add some variety.

Plant texture is usually described as fine, medium or coarse. If all the plants are fine — think of grass and junipers — then the overall look will be boring. Take a photo of your pot or garden and convert it to black-and-white. The textural difference­s will pop out. What might look pretty because of a few colourful blooms will be dull when the flowers fade unless the texture is interestin­g.

Insert medium-textured plants such as hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescen­s “Annabelle”) in partial shade, or wayfaring trees (Viburnum lantana) in full sun. Add coarse-textured perennial plants such as edible rhubarb (Rheum rhabarbaru­m) in the sun or ligularia (Ligularia “The Rocket”) in the shade. In pots, perennial hosta (Hosta species) might not overwinter, but they have a seasonal coarse texture and make a bold statement.

Coarse-textured annual flowers with large leaves and big blooms include cannas, tuberous begonias, Dahlias, Magellan zinnias and geraniums. Nasturtium­s, petunias and asters are medium-textured, while lobelias, snapdragon­s, “Koralle” Fuchsia and alyssum are finetextur­ed.

Insert Variegatio­n

Now that we’re settling into summer, my “Lagos” sedum and ordinary variegated hosta are paying dividends. The reason? These variegated plants brighten up a dull spot and add textural interest while they are at it.

A variegated plant doesn’t rely on blooms for beauty. It is the centre of attention, even when not in bloom.

I placed an ordinary variegated hosta in a pot with another variegated plant, Alaskan nasturtium. One is coarse textured and one is medium, and they are both variegated, and it works. Many varieties of geraniums, such as Vancouver Centennial, are variegated and medium-textured.

There isn’t a rule for variegatio­n, but limit it to less than 10 per cent of your garden. You want the effect to be a surprise, not a series of shock waves.

Surprise With Coloured Leaves

Sometimes an exclamatio­n mark in a garden or pot is best delivered by a mix of colourful leaves.

In a shady garden, the bright yellow leaves of medium-textured Citronelle, Key Lime Pie or Lime Rickey coral bells will radiate.

Goldheart bleeding heart is fine-textured, also deer-proof, and it’s bright in a dark spot.

Dart’s Gold ninebark is a medium-textured woody plant that’s ideal when it comes to cheering up a north-facing garden.

The Cherry Bomb barberry shrub combines well with green plants that have red highlights, such as the coarse-textured ornamental rhubarb.

As a rule, the ground-hugging dark-leaf perennial coral bells, such as Blackberry Crisp, Midnight Rose and Palace Purple, simply disappear in your garden, so they look much better displayed in pots than they do in the open garden. This Romaine style lettuce called “Freckles” is good planted in pots or in the ground.

Mix In Food

Marion Rogers is known as the farmer in her condo complex because she adds vegetables to pots on her patio.

“I combine peas and carrots together in pots, but usually each pot is a single species. I’ve got potatoes in three pots and, of course, I plant tomatoes, beans, zucchini, beets and flowers in their own pots.”

Each spring, Rogers, who has 21 years of experience growing vegetables in pots on her patio, mixes all the old soil from her pots with compost on a tarp at a 75 per cent soil to 25 per cent compost ratio. By early July, she’s done. She says latecomers can still start seeds of lettuce or buy a really big tomato plant.

When planting food in your pots, follow the same rules of design as you would with flowers. Carrots, for instance, are fine textured, lettuce is medium and zucchini is always coarse textured.

Copy and Paste

If you have a favourite pot, take a photo of it this year so you can copy and paste it in your memory for duplicatio­n next year.

Always arrange three or five pots together and handle the planting in one of two ways: Either plant three pots the same way with mixed plants, or use a single plant in each pot and group the pots so the overall effect is a texture and colour statement.

Adding interest to your garden this weekend might take some creative shopping, but it’s not brain surgery. Combining plants in pots or your garden with texture and colour in mind will yield an overall higher score than mindlessly combining plants.

With school out for the summer, your score shouldn’t really matter anymore.

Or does it?

 ?? Donna Balzer/For the Calgary Herald ?? Marion Rodgers is not afraid to mix things up when it comes to the vegetable pots at her condo.
Donna Balzer/For the Calgary Herald Marion Rodgers is not afraid to mix things up when it comes to the vegetable pots at her condo.
 ??  ?? It’s important to mix plants with variegated leaves and also good to include a contrast in texture ... like hostas and nasturtium­s.
It’s important to mix plants with variegated leaves and also good to include a contrast in texture ... like hostas and nasturtium­s.
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