david mcdonald


This photo from the book Shocking Beauty by Thomas Hobbs shows a combination anchored by canna lilies with brilliantly striped leaves.


We love planters on porches or decks. They’re a bright and lovely focal point on a concrete, stone or wooden surface. You can use a one-plant container, but personally, we adore planters with artistically arranged combinations.

When you create mixed floral containers, there are a few pointers to creating balanced and beautiful arrangements.

First of all, use plants that show a contrast — in height, in “habit” (upright, cascading or mounding), in textures, in colour, or in bloom time. You don’t have to include all of these contrasts, but try to include at least two or three.

For example, for a container that backs against a wall, put the higher plants in the back, and the lower ones or those that cascade prettily down the front of the container near the front.

This way, they are all visible and create a well-composed arrangement. If you have a round container that’s viewed from two or more sides, put the highest plant in the centre, and lower ones around the outside.

The size of the container will determine the scale of the arrangement. You may choose a four- to five-foot-high ornamental grass as the vertical plant in a large arrangement, such as one in a large concrete planter. For a small arrangement, think of smaller upright plants such as astilbe or pretty lavender.

Then choose a series of mounding or cascading plants with different foliage textures and colours to add interest. For example, fine and feathery asparagus fern adds a delightful airy accent, while other plants with larger leaves tend to anchor an arrangement.

When it comes to bloom colour, you could choose a monochromatic combo with colours in the same general family (i.e. light pink, rose, and purple-pink). You could also opt for intensive squirts of complementary colours directly opposite each other on the colour wheel, such as red, blue and violet. Or select a series of colours that are evenly spaced apart on the colour wheel, such as orange, purple and green, or red, yellow and blue.

Catch Arresting Design on W Network; see www.wnetwork.com.