Garden Designers Round Table: 5 ‘Keep it Simple’ Container Garden Combos

It’s that time of year when spring has most definitely sprung and there is a flurry of activity in my garden and my clients gardens,  lots of new business, –and not to mention the end of school year busy-ness that comes with children.   I am slammed and I don’t need to make anything harder than it needs to be….which as I started thinking about this post, applies to containers too.  So in the spirit of  simple and straightforward without sacrificing style, I set myself the challenge for this post:  Develop 5 options.  One Pot + One Plant = Huge Designer Style.

So, I’m keeping it simple and encouraging you to try the same.  It’s two elements but the combination is magical…reminding me that alot can be accomplished if you cut the chase and don’t try too hard.  You can let me know if you think these hit the mark…

Fern image by Tony Rodd

Lush ferns that are happy with a little dry shade can fill a shiny metal bucket or a black one (I am not sure which look I like better) and give an opportunity for surrounding yourself with the fresh rain-forest garden feel that only ferns can give.  (Buckets from Ikea for only $8.99)

Grass image by dogtooth77 container found at Garden Studio.

Pink is usually a soft garden color that makes me think of grandmas cottage….but this pink container filled with Pink Muhly grass asserts a strong modern sensibility that is really the opposite of faded blossoms, and rather a standout feature that sets the scene.

Castor Bean image by Eric in SF

To say I am obsessed with Ricinus is an understatement…for me it is a case of wanting more the thing I can’t have.  Here in New England, I have never once seen it in a nursery…I know down on Long Island there are lots of places that I can find this ‘dangerous’ but stately plant.  But, you know, — New Yorkers — and their fashionable ways.  I think this combo of exotic and exciting Castor Bean with the Moroccan Planter from Terrain is a dangerous and sexy mix. Other less controversial plants that I think could be substituted here…Amaranth, Quinoa, or maybe rhubarb, though I have read that many people struggle to keep this heavy feeder happy in a pot.

Image by Miek37 and Wood planter image from Garden Studio.

Clean and bright and cheery, it is the Pollyanna of my little collection.  I can see this container nicely paired with perhaps another wooden vessel (of different size, shape or height) similarly filled with white daisies.

Lotus image by Charles Stirton

And for an eye catching Mediterranean look, perhaps a combo of Golden Parrots Beak with a classic olive oil urn (from Seibert and Rice).  It is timeless and traffic stopping.

So which is your favorite?  Are you going to give any of these a try?

Check out my fellow GDRT bloggers and their posts about containers today…I know I am looking forward to it.

Christina Salwitz : Personal Garden Coach : Renton, WA

Debbie Roberts : A Garden of Possibilities : Stamford, CT

Jenny Petersen: J Petersen Garden Design : Austin TX

Jocelyn Chilvers : The Art Garden : Denver, CO

Laura Livengood Schaub : Interleafings : San Jose, CA

Rebecca Sweet : Gossip In the Garden : Los Altos, CA

Lesley Hegarty & Robert Webber : Hegarty Webber Partnership : Bristol, UK

Scott Hokunson : Blue Heron Landscapes : Granby, CT

Shirley Bovshow : Eden Makers : Los Angeles, CA

Spread the love


BACK ISSUES of P+V Newspaper Are Available in the FREE Resource Library

Please enter your name.
Please enter a valid email address.
Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.

Get A Prettier, More Organized Garden in 10 Days


Get your garden in shape so you can enjoy some peaceful & nourishing time in your own piece of the great outdoors.

Sign Up Now!

Please enter your name.
Please enter a valid email address.
Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.

Join the 10-day Garden Design Challenge

container garden collage by rochelle greayer

Let's get your garden in shape so you can enjoy peaceful & nourishing time in your own piece of the great outdoors.

Sign up below to get started:

rochelle greayer

Hi, I'm Rochelle and for 18 years I have worked as a landscape designer, author/writer, and design teacher. I've designed residential and hospitality (for hotels, restaurants, and spas) gardens across the USA and in the UK, Europe and the Middle East. After many years of teaching garden design topics in person, I launched the PITH + VIGOR Boot Camp series in early 2018. Through my blog, social media, and online courses (Garden Design Bootcamp and Planting Design Boot Camp) I aim to help homeowners learn how to confidently design and create home gardens that reflect their own personal and unique style.


  1. Debra Lee Baldwin on May 25, 2010 at 1:26 pm

    That muhlenbergia made me catch my breath. I love the way you use color. Nothing boring about your suggested combos! Clever way of suggesting plant/pot pairings. Enjoyed your post, and your design aesthetic very much. I’ll be back.

  2. Robert Webber on May 25, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    My goodness you have good taste and great style!
    Best Wishes

  3. Laura Schaub/InterLeafings on May 25, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    Love your pairings! And I have a narrow-topped urn to plant that Lotus will be perfect for. And that Castor Bean/Moroccan combo is killer. Thanks!

  4. Katie on May 25, 2010 at 1:56 pm

    SUPER idea: I enjoy gardens put together as you describe. It’s a way that gardeners without a lot of space can emulate a “real life garden” in real size.

    Also, the way you prepared your pics was super cool! Neat technique.

  5. andrea on May 25, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    love the singular plant/container combinations – i often find that containers have too many things – too many different plant types – in them. a statement is so much louder when it is simply made!

  6. Pam/Digging on May 25, 2010 at 3:40 pm

    Those are all pretty fantastic. I like the black bucket with the ferns, picking up the dark stem color. But my overall fave is the last image.

  7. Kari Lønning on May 25, 2010 at 3:46 pm

    Beautiful color pairings!

  8. Susan aka Miss R on May 25, 2010 at 8:30 pm

    Rochelle you hit it out of the park. Single specimen containers are the thing right now and you showed hos to do it with panache!

  9. ChickDigtheDIrt on May 25, 2010 at 5:32 pm

    I love the way that you broke this down for us novices… good to keep it simple sometimes…

  10. Louise on May 25, 2010 at 6:15 pm

    by far the most visually interesting post , R, Again thanks.

  11. Denise on May 25, 2010 at 6:21 pm

    Really beautiful containers and wonderful to pair each one with just the perfect plant.

  12. rebecca sweet on May 25, 2010 at 7:08 pm

    I LOVE your take on this post! My favorite? The muhlenbergia for sure (maybe it’s because I just returned from a huge installation where we planted 15 of them!). I love your pairings – you’re an amazing designer as well as blogger!

  13. Jenny Peterson on May 25, 2010 at 10:57 pm

    I love the one plant/one pot concept–simple yet striking! And, I would kill for the terra cotta olive oil urn–seriously, kill. Well, maybe just maim. Awesome post!

  14. Shirley Bovshow on May 26, 2010 at 1:49 am

    Hi Rochelle,
    I like your “Serving suggestion” approach to container gardens. Very original, just like you. Always enjoy your wonderful taste.

    Shirley Bovshow

  15. rochelle on May 26, 2010 at 5:05 am

    thanks everyone — I am glad you all like the post!

  16. Germi on May 26, 2010 at 10:24 pm

    Let’s see… the muhly … but wait…
    I also loved the fern in the bucket …
    but then there was the CASTOR BEAN!!!!

    DING DING DING!!! The winner!!! (for ME, that is!)

    LOVE IT, gonna TRY IT … whenever I can afford a pot like that!

  17. Susan Morrison on May 27, 2010 at 7:12 pm

    Love them all, but the parrots beak in the terracotta pot is genius! I do a lot of mediterranean gardens and am always looking for ways to stay within that theme but give them a bit of an unexpected twist (enough with the lavender already!) Will be stealing that one for sure.

  18. Scott on June 5, 2010 at 8:32 am

    To have to choose which of the combos is my favorite, just might cause a system overload, as they are all beautiful. I think for a traditional New Englander, the Felicia in the wooden container first grabs my attention, but I would love to have the Muhlenbergia as well. Great post!

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.