Imagination Needed Here!

Sometimes there are just too many choices. You know the scenario: there is an opportunity to buy a new plant (or three) but you are dizzy with all the possibilities and can't seem to settle on a final decision. Well that's me right now – so I'm inviting you to share your ideas.

The Challenge


What shall I use?

To add plants to surround– and fill this new planter that I purchased at Chuckanut Bay Gallery and Sculpture Garden recently. It is 27" square and 12" deep.

The criteria

Plants must be:

  • Deer resistant
  • Rabbit and vole resistant (yes – I'm dreaming….)
  • Tolerant of summer dry-winter wet conditions
  • Tolerant of full sun and fertile, amended clay soil
  • Preferably evergreen or at least have winter interest
  • Hardy in zone 6b


and should not;

  • Visually block the sculptural planter.
  • Rely on flowers – foliage is more important

My color scheme

Spring 2017 gives you a sense of what this will look like

Spring 2017; this gives you a sense of what the border will look like in a week or so. The new planter sits where the tall deciduous tree (golden locust) used to be. (That tree became diseased so was removed)

  • Sunset colors (oranges, reds, golds, with burgundy, purple and blue for accents).
  • A little silver and white here and there also.
Imagination and ideas needed!

The tree trunk (of the now removed golden locust tree) and surrounding Siberian bugloss (Brunnera m. 'Jack Frost') mark the site of the new planter. Photo from 2016

The bigger picture


Adjacent plants that are still leafing out include Lime Glow barberry (cream and green marbled leaf), a golden yellow Exbury azalea, northern bush honeysuckle (Diervilla lonicera) that has orange toned foliage in summer, and Rose Glow barberry (burgundy, pink and cream variegation)

The planter is a secondary focal point to the archway and cabin yet still holds a prominent place. The square motif plays off the cabin windows and a grey cube planter opposite (not shown)



There is space to plant around it as well as the top of the planter – I thought of using the same plants for both but am open to ideas. In such a big space it is imperative not to use tiny blobs of color but larger swaths.


Orange hair sedge seems like an obvious choice - what else could I use though?

Orange hair sedge seems like an obvious choice – what else could I use though?

Orange hair sedge (Carex testacea)  – actually I can't get past this idea which is why I'd love you to help me see other possibilities!


I have also considered but dismissed:

Pheasant tail grass (Anemanthele lessoniana); not reliably hardy

Autumn fern (Dryopteris erythrosora): unlikely to cope with this much sun without irrigation

Goldfinger libertia (Libertia ixioides 'Goldfinger'); not hardy for me

Variegated yucca e.g. Color Guard; wouldn't like my soil (amended clay)


I can't think of any golden grasses that would cope  with the sun, deer would eat succulents…… what am I missing?

Leave me a comment below – or email if you prefer! I'm excited to hear from you.





  1. Marilyn on March 20, 2018 at 11:37 am

    Orange sun rose- Helianthemum nummularium ‘Henfield Brilliant’ might work? Euphorbia is also drought tolerant and low maintenance . Planning is so much of the fun in gardening!

    • Karen Chapman on March 20, 2018 at 5:02 pm

      Love those ideas! I tried an orange Helianthemum in another border but the soil was too clay-ey: I might be able to make it work here. Mmmm

  2. Christina Salwitz on March 21, 2018 at 11:04 am

    How about Oregano 'Hopley's Purple' and Allium 'Millenium' with the orange carex and a 'Helen Von Stein' Lambs Ears? Maybe a little Cerinthe major too?

    • Karen Chapman on March 21, 2018 at 1:52 pm

      I was hoping you'd chime in!! Love your usual total lack of restraint 🙂 Although that is at first glance way more varieties than I want to include in this small space (I know size is relative, but this is a BIG border as you know first hand and this is only s secondary focal point), you've made me consider the idea of a mono-planting at the base (Stachys would be more rabbit resistant than Carex) and a mixed planting that includes at least one of those in the planter itself. I love the idea of an ornamental oregano dripping down the edges – they would go a few days without water – and rabbits couldn't get to the Allium up there (they wouldn't stand a chance in the ground). Great feedback – thank you!

  3. Lori Poliski on March 22, 2018 at 2:25 pm

    Maybe too big but in the cool art container it would be contained – Stipa gigantea. Or Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’ or Yucca filamentosa ‘Bright Edge’ or Carex oshimensis ‘Evergold’

    • Karen Chapman on March 22, 2018 at 3:06 pm

      Delicious ideas! I feat that Stipa would be too large and the Hakonechloa would dry out but the Yucca would be gorgeous for sure. Thanks for your thoughts Lori.

  4. Mary B Perez on March 23, 2018 at 3:02 pm

    I would like to see some type of weeping conifer…not too large…maybe a golden color with a grey/brown trunk– an asymmetrical shape draping over the left side, but not covering the square in the middle of the container, adding a really cool fairly large rock or rocks in the container, mounding up the soil a bit, and then using some black mondo grass and sun friendly moss to fill in…a faux bonsai look…For the ground, grasses that complement the fantastic conifer you find.

    • Karen Chapman on March 24, 2018 at 10:33 am

      That would be STUNNING Mary!!

  5. Jennifer Taylor on March 27, 2018 at 6:25 am

    What a great post Karen. And you sure have knowledgeable readers! Very fun to read, especially since I have a new garden bed to plant and similar conditions. Can’t wait to see what you decide!

    • Karen Chapman on March 27, 2018 at 8:03 am

      I've had lots of ideas emailed to me also Jennifer! I think it will partly come down to availability. I did start looking for a suitable conifer as per Mary's suggestion but didn't find one yet. However I'm also drawn to a simplified version of Christina's design ideas – yet yesterday discovered that both the lambs ears and the Carex were out of stock at my wholesaler! I did get some Allium 'Millenium' to play with but may use those in my front garden as I'm not sure they would be showy enough when viewed at a distance in this area. I also want to determine if rabbits leave them alone – we'll see! Such fun brainstorming with you all.

      • Jennifer Taylor on March 27, 2018 at 9:02 am

        Thanks for sharing your thought process! I learn so much from you.

        • Karen Chapman on March 27, 2018 at 11:51 am

          You are a great student!

  6. DONNA FREEMAN on March 27, 2018 at 10:02 am


    • Karen Chapman on March 27, 2018 at 11:51 am

      I think it's important to always love the container even when it's empty don't you? I think of all containers as pieces of art

  7. Kathy on March 28, 2018 at 5:48 am

    Ha, I was going to suggest Carex testacea – Orange Sedge! But that would pair beautifully with variegated yucca next to the container.

    • Karen Chapman on March 28, 2018 at 8:19 am

      Great minds! Yes I have seen those two in combination with Verbena 'Homestead Purple' and they looked stunning.

  8. Lori Poliski on March 29, 2018 at 1:11 pm

    I thought of one more that I saw in a magazine. Lemon-lime heavenly bamboo (Nandina Domestica, lemon lime. Full sun.

    • Karen Chapman on March 29, 2018 at 1:13 pm

      I love that shrub – but sadly Duvall deer do too and eat it down to the stalks overnight….