Container Creations – inspiration for Spring!

The nurseries are filling with the colors and scents of spring, the birds are singing and I find every excuse to be outside working in my garden rather than sitting at a computer. It's a time of anticipation – what 2015 new releases will growers ask me to trial this season? What color combinations shall I try in my containers this year?

Containers are such an easy way to experiment. If something works especially well perhaps I'll use those colors/plants in my landscape? If I decide to have a more refined color palette in 2014 I don't have to redesign my entire garden, just a pot or two. So it's a good time to review my containers from the last couple of years and take note of what I liked and what was a disaster  – and yes there are always a few that I don't share!

Color Schemes – some like it HOT

Sizzle Factor!

Sizzle Factor!

This orange pot has become one of my favorites. It is unapologetically bold and as such calls out for juicy foliage and fiery colors. The combo above was from 2012 and I love the way the dahlia and canna compete for 'thriller' status with those Mango Popsicle dwarf red hot pokers exploding like fireworks from a variegated abelia.

 Version 2 introduced succulents

Version 2 introduced succulents

Same pot, different look – this was 2012. I liked the contrast with the succulent and conifer, both sharing the soft blue-green tones but overall this wasn't as balanced as the original design. No matter how I tried it seemed top heavy on the right side.

– some like it cool


I just love these two cube containers and their fun colors. In 2012 I planted them as a pair and kept to the colors of lime, black and white – very simple yet effective.


For our daughters wedding last year I did something a bit different and added coral tones as this was part of her color scheme.


We used the pair to flank the entrance to the vegetable garden; well we had to dress it up somehow!!

A tropical punch


The best part about waiting until early June to plant my containers is that I can raid the indoor plant section at my favorite nursery and include great tropical foliage such as this wildly variegated croton . As you'd expect I love the focus on foliage with the couple of wild splashes of color from the flowers.

Get creative and make the most of brightly colored foliage

Get creative and make the most of brightly colored foliage

In super shady places I can rely on the tropicals to give me the most color – Kong coleus and bromeliads look fabulous.

A softer look


Maybe you're more of a pink person? Here's a way to update the look – add black and white for a dramatic punch. Notice the feathery Ghost Japanese painted fern that is adding  height to the combination – an unexpected addition to the  plant selection.

And finally….

Fun - succulents planted in fire pit

Fun – succulents planted in fire pit

When you run out of containers try this! Our succulent fire pit was a big hit in 2013 so I plan on doing something similar this year although I've moved it to a different location.


The succulent hanging basket was a last minute addition when my traditional basket failed! I'm definitely going to do this again and love the combination of fleshy succulents with feathery lotus vine. All drought tolerant and low maintenance too. Plus the deer couldn't reach them!

If you live in the Seattle area why don't you join me for one of my Spring Container Workshops next month? They are always lots of fun but there are only a few spots left so don't delay!

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  1. Crys Stewart on April 15, 2014 at 7:36 am

    Your planters are amazing! Thank you so much. Can't wait to see what you have next to inspire us all.

    • Karen Chapman on April 15, 2014 at 8:40 pm

      Nor can I!! I never know from one year to the next 🙂

  2. pam on April 15, 2014 at 8:05 am

    Your container combinations are amazing! I love how you bring in the unexpected like using crotons and bromeliads. A question: was that a lantana in your first container? Lantanas don’t start blooming for me in Auburn till late summer. When I bring them home from the nursery, they just sit there. The first pot was my favorite, too. I also love the hanging succulent basket. Very cool. Thanks for always inspiring me!

    • Karen Chapman on April 15, 2014 at 8:43 pm

      Hi Pam, yes that is a lantana in the first photo and it boomed from mid June onwards. Just good soil and a slow release fertilizer.

      S oglad you feel inspired – you're not too far way to join us o the 31st. (The 24th is now full)

  3. Mike the Gardener on April 15, 2014 at 11:20 am

    Amazing photos of some wonderful work!

    • Karen Chapman on April 15, 2014 at 8:43 pm

      Thank you Mike, but its really just good soil and years of trial and error

  4. Henk Rozendaal on April 15, 2014 at 5:32 pm

    Amazing! Bringing the beauty of mother nature together in a container. So inspiring. Thanks

    • Karen Chapman on April 15, 2014 at 8:44 pm

      Hi Henk, I look forward to bringing a little container magic to your neck of the woods in August

  5. debsgarden on April 18, 2014 at 7:41 pm

    Hi Karen, I have been thinking about you. I bet your garden this year is amazing! All of the pots you have shown are fabulous; I especially like the first one and the fire pit full of succulents! I admit I have made little effort to do anything special with my pots, but you have convinced me I am waisting a great opportunity to add pizazz to my garden. I do have some pretty pots. Now I have to decide how to fill them. I will look to yours for inspiration!