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GardenSMART Episode

Show #42/6603. Designing With Containers

Summary of Show

Michael Carr - Container Design
Eric welcomes Michael to the show, it's so good to see you again. Michael is glad to be back, he enjoys it every time. Eric is pleased that we're talking about one of his favorite subjects, garden design, and we're talking about that in the context of GARDENING WITH CONTAINERS and how we design plants in containers. There's a lot that we've got to think about. Michael's world revolves around conceiving what the next great container going to be. And that entails different kinds of textures, colors - what is going to excite people? Tell us about that process. In running Michael Carr Designs he has a lot of different responsibilities but nothing is more fun and more enjoyable than creating new colors and new designs, new textures and stuff like that.
For More Information Click here

Pamela Crawford - Overview Of This Garden Design
Eric next welcomes Pamela back to the show to share with us her decades of knowledge and experience designing great gardens and containers. She'll also share with us some of the designs from her upcoming book on container design. Eric is loving watching this garden come to together and today we're talking about garden design as well as designing with containers and containers in the garden. Eric would like to start with Pamela providing an OVERVIEW OF THIS GARDEN. Talk about what you were thinking about from a design and design theory standpoint when you approached this open space and made it into this beautiful garden. The purpose of this garden is color overall.
For More Information Click here

Design Elements Of The Four Different Quadrants
Eric would like to talk about the DESIGN ELEMENTS OF THE FOUR DIFFERENT QUADRANTS. We see something new or different in each one. There's a formality to this, but there's also this really whimsical fun element to this garden that he thinks the containers bring in as well with all of these really, really bright colors. The formality is the Touch of Gold that frames each one of these four gardens. Talk us through the design elements of each one of the quadrants if you don't mind. Pamela explains, we have four color schemes. The first one is pastels. It has colors that are purple, white, pink, and blue, which are very soft.
For More Information Click here

The Paths
Eric thinks one of the most important things to contemplate when looking at designing a garden is the way that humans are going to interact with that garden. And a huge part of that experience is through THE PATHS. They instruct people as to where one is going to walk as well as instructing what the views are going to be from the path. Imagine a garden like this if all of these quadrants ran together. Then the only way the garden could be experienced would be from the perimeter and you would miss out on these beautiful elevation changes that creates a much, much wider canvas. So the paths are super important.
For More Information Click here

Include Circles
When we look at, especially some larger gardens, there are some really neat elements that we can add, like this circle. Eric would like for Pamela to talk about this design element. Pamela always likes to INCLUDE CIRCLES if she has the space where two paths intersect. One reason for that is when you're standing at the beginning of the path, it gives you something that pulls you along, it's an accent that you see and it makes you want to walk to get closer to it to get more information. Once again, the circles could be a lot of different sizes. One is about six feet wide, another circle is larger, it's about eight feet wide, but when you get close to it and you see the beautiful pottery that's in it, then you can see why they put that much space into the circle. It's a wonderful way of creating that focal point.
For More Information Click here

Containers To Mark An Entryway
This garden does a wonderful job of demonstrating what containers can do. There are so many different ways that containers can be used in the garden. Where Pamela and Eric are standing now is a wonderful example of how containers are used to MARK AN ENTRYWAY. It's kind of this grand gesture of - come see my garden, look at how amazing this is. It's a wonderful way of using containers. Pamela feels you have two options. You can keep it simple and that would go particularly with gardens that are a little bit more modern. Here, because this was a very informal garden she decided to just blow it out with very, very strong containers at each entry. There are four different entry ways to this garden and each one of them is different and kind of gives a nod to what the experience is going to be walking through these different quadrants.
For More Information Click here

Containers As A Garden Accent
Eric would like to talk about using containers as a GARDEN ACCENT. That’s the way he uses them in his garden. Oftentimes he likes to use a container that's almost like part of the landscape or the garden, just perched out there. It's something that draws the eye into the middle of a planting. Eric thinks those accents are equally powerful. Pamela agrees, here where they have the apex of the curve, where the curve is the curviest or where the curve goes in the most amount that's where Pamela put the planters. They have a sense of fit there, and she was not shy in this garden with any of them.
For More Information Click here

Containers To Accent A Garage Or Corner Of The Home
Eric would next like to talk about using containers to accent architectural features like say a GARAGE OR CORNER OF THE HOME. He thinks that they're also super impactful in that setting. Pamela agrees, the first place she likes to see them in every house is on either side of the front door. That provides a big welcome. And she likes to see those tall columnar pots there she thinks they just look better than the really short ones. It's proportion, they look better.
For More Information Click here

Containers On The Porch, Patio Or The Courtyard
Finally Eric would like to talk what he thinks is one of the most practical and pragmatic uses of containers. And that's the use of CONTAINERS ON THE PORCH, PATIO OR THE COURTYARD. Not everyone has four acres like Michael does. Many homeowners have just a very small area or they're in a condo and what they have is a little courtyard or maybe a little front deck. And that's where containers are a lifesaver, in many cases, it's the only way that you can garden and bring nature closer to your dwelling space thus a very, very important category for sure.
For More Information Click here

Go Big With Containers
Eric loves Pamela's point about GOING BIG WITH PLANTERS. From a growing standpoint there's enormous benefit in having a larger soil reservoir. The smaller the container, the faster it's going to dry out and if you get a container too small it becomes impractical to manage. Not only do the big containers make a bolder statement there's so much more that can be done from a design and planting standpoint. And, importantly you save yourself a lot of potential headache having to water that planter constantly.
For More Information Click here

Choosing Plants For Containers
Last but not least Eric would like to talk about designing with PLANTS IN CONTAINERS. We've talked about containers and all the amazing things that can be done with them and how they work as accents and focal points. Let's talk about approaching the plant design side of working with containers. This is something that Pamela has done for her entire career, she's written many, many books on it Eric would like for her to demystify it. When we go to our garden center, we find this beautiful container, next we're looking to select some of our favorite plants and make them work in a dynamic combination. What do we need to be thinking about?
For More Information Click here

LINKS:

Michael Carr Design
Home - Michael Carr Designs | Wholesale Pottery and Decor

Pamela Crawford
Container Garden Photos | Pamela Crawford | Landscapes

Color Choice Flowering Shrubs - Proven Winners
A Better Landscape Starts with a Better Flowering Shrub

Ball Horticultural
Ball Horticultural

Suntory Flowers
Home - Suntory Flowers

Southern Living Plant Collection
Southern Living Plants - Plants Selected For Southern Gardens

Plant List

Show #42/6603. Designing With Containers

Transcript of Show

In this episode GardenSMART returns to one of our favorite new gardens to discuss garden design and fun with containers. During our last visit we took a stroll through an exciting new garden that was designed by our longtime friend, Pamela Crawford, and discussed the design structure and things that make the garden unique. In this episode we take a closer look at the plant pairings that make for solid design as well as the placement and design of the many containers throughout the garden.

Our journey begins with gaining a better understanding of container design and the creative energy that goes into making a timeless work of art for the garden. Our friend Michael Carr has spent most of his life creating beautiful and iconic containers. Michael has the unique ability to take any design and improve that design from good to great.

Eric welcomes Michael to the show, it's so good to see you again. Michael is glad to be back, he enjoys it every time. Eric is pleased that we're talking about one of his favorite subjects, garden design, and we're talking about that in the context of GARDENING WITH CONTAINERS and how we design plants in containers. There's a lot that we've got to think about. Michael's world revolves around conceiving what the next great container going to be. And that entails different kinds of textures, colors - what is going to excite people? Tell us about that process. In running Michael Carr Designs he has a lot of different responsibilities but nothing is more fun and more enjoyable than creating new colors and new designs, new textures and stuff like that. Those are the most rewarding because that's what really fulfills what he does. It's a challenge because he treats his pottery business like a fashion business in the sense he feels a responsibility to create new things for whoever comes in each spring to view the new collection. Therefore each year there will be hundreds of items. For example, he’s created about 125 colors, designs, textures, glazes over the last 20 years. Some of them take years. You don't go to the paint store and get it, you actually have to take different recipes, some have recipes of 12 to 14 different ingredients that are mixed together, it just depends on what we want. Michael shows us a beautiful container in this garden, it appears there are two tones, two colors in it. There are different types of ingredients that'll make that paint run. Then there are ingredients to make the colors and the consistencies. Then there's the part where you take that actual glaze that the recipes make and determine how to apply it? How you apply it makes the pieces look a little bit different. Also important is the temperature that you fire it. You just have to do all those things over and over and over until you look at it and you go, “ Wow, that's it.” Eric finds it fascinating the role that containers are playing today and it is now fashion. As gardeners we have to consider that this is part of a canvas that we are painting. And the blue of the container plays into the very choices that we make plant wise. It’s very interesting to see how containers are driving the way that we think about plants as well as using containers to create focal points in the garden. It's so exciting, it excites Eric the same way all the new plants that come out every year do. There’s that sense of what new plants are being released in the spring, then in the same way we have new containers with a whole new range of colors, textures, designs, shapes, even utility in the way they might be used. It's fascinating and Eric thinks it's what makes garden design so much fun.

Eric next welcomes Pamela back to the show to share with us her decades of knowledge and experience designing great gardens and containers. She'll also share with us some of the designs from her upcoming book on container design. Eric is loving watching this garden come to together and today we're talking about garden design as well as designing with containers and containers in the garden. Eric would like to start with Pamela providing an OVERVIEW OF THIS GARDEN. Talk about what you were thinking about from a design and design theory standpoint when you approached this open space and made it into this beautiful garden. The purpose of this garden is color overall. And the color is coming from two very important sources that are quite different - the planters, or containers, and the plants. So she needed to come up with a coherent strategy for making them look good together. Also, she didn't want to be limited as to which plants she could use because they didn't fit. So she created four quadrants and four different color schemes. That way she had a place for everything, they would look nice and coordinated and could work in any planter she wanted.

Eric would like to talk about the DESIGN ELEMENTS OF THE FOUR DIFFERENT QUADRANTS. We see something new or different in each one. There's a formality to this, but there's also this really whimsical fun element to this garden that he thinks the containers bring in as well with all of these really, really bright colors. The formality is the Touch of Gold that frames each one of these four gardens. Talk us through the design elements of each one of the quadrants if you don't mind. Pamela explains, we have four color schemes. The first one is pastels. It has colors that are purple, white, pink, and blue, which are very soft. It's accented primarily by white planters with the same color plants inside the planters. Also, importantly Pamela looked for plants that provided the most amount of color for the least amount of care. The second quadrant is dark and light, it's completely different from the first quadrant. What she wanted was once again an opportunity to use different colors, but an area where she could show people how to use plants that are very dark, like loropetalum and very light like abelia. Don't just put them up against dark green be a little creative. And this quadrant provides those ideas. Quadrant three is very much Eric's speed he doesn't mind it looking like a little ruckus, it's got some energy to it. Pamela agrees quadrant three is wild, it's bright, bright color's contrasted. It’s orange, it's hot pink, it's red, it's yellow. And then she was also able to use fun pots, like bright red ones. In juxtaposition to quadrant three, quadrant four seems more of a soothing cool design, it's a little bit softer. It is softer and also Pamela's patriotic garden because it's primarily red white and blue. She chose those colors because they go well together and because she had some red, white, and blue plants that she wanted to show off. Eric likes the way that the formality plays well with all the colorful interest. With a lot of formal gardens one sees a lot of repeated themes, a lot of the same plants, that's not what we have here. Every different quadrant is a completely different experience. And there's a reason to revisit each one of the quadrants throughout the seasons, because you have different things in bloom at different times of the year and it's going to be so much fun seeing all of this mature, come back and see this garden next year and just see the way that the colors, and the textures are playing off each other. The way we know this is going to grow into a great garden is because it was rooted in great design.

Eric thinks one of the most important things to contemplate when looking at designing a garden is the way that humans are going to interact with that garden. And a huge part of that experience is through THE PATHS. They instruct people as to where one is going to walk as well as instructing what the views are going to be from the path. Imagine a garden like this if all of these quadrants ran together. Then the only way the garden could be experienced would be from the perimeter and you would miss out on these beautiful elevation changes that creates a much, much wider canvas. So the paths are super important. Eric would like for Pamela to talk about the path design for this garden. The path design for this garden is basically something that broke up the four quadrants. Pamela made them curved because she thinks curved paths in an informal setting, like this home front yard, are more pleasurable, and they have a better sense of fit. The paths in this quadrant are three feet wide. Many people out there are not going to be able to put a garden in that is this large. This is a four acre lot so if people are planting smaller front yards they can make the paths much smaller. In this area the pathways average three to four feet wide. One pathway is three feet wide, one could go down as far as two feet wide. Pamela has one path that is only two feet wide and it is constructed with very inexpensive stepping stones, and mulch. This entire garden is only 20 feet wide, which might be more suitable for a lot of people's houses. There are other paving options out there, flagstone is a more expensive paving option or you can just use concrete pavers, not as expensive as flagstones, but they last forever.

We next move beyond the paths and whether or not they're functional or ornamental. In Eric's garden his path is a flagstone path, but it's only about 16 inches wide, maybe. He is wanting the plants to creep in between the stones, it's basically a gardener's path. He's not trying to design something like this garden which could accommodate many, many people in the garden at the same time.

When we look at, especially some larger gardens, there are some really neat elements that we can add, like this circle. Eric would like for Pamela to talk about this design element. Pamela always likes to INCLUDE CIRCLES if she has the space when two paths intersect. One reason for that is when you're standing at the beginning of the path, it gives you something that pulls you along, it's an accent that you see and it makes you want to walk to get closer to it to get more information. Once again, the circles could be a lot of different sizes. One is about six feet wide, another circle is larger, it's about eight feet wide, but when you get close to it and you see the beautiful pottery that's in it, then you can see why they put that much space into the circle. It's a wonderful way of creating that focal point. When paths are done well they're leading you through the garden towards something that is like a little pop or sometimes even a surprise. You follow a path, you go around a corner and then boom, there's this amazing container or a small water feature. And the circle at the center of the garden conjoins all the paths, it creates this wonderful centering focal point in this garden. The idea of keeping people walking along is the purpose of all these accents one sees along the different paths, because if you see a bench in the middle of a path or if you see planters in the middle of the path or see the circle in the middle of the path those are things that literally keep you walking. The idea of using a bench, or a water feature, or even a bird bath as a destination for a path is so much fun.

This garden does a wonderful job of demonstrating what containers can do. There are so many different ways that containers can be used in the garden. Where Pamela and Eric are standing now is a wonderful example of how containers are used to MARK AN ENTRYWAY. It's kind of this grand gesture of - come see my garden, look at how amazing this is. It's a wonderful way of using containers. Pamela feels you have two options. You can keep it simple and that would go particularly with gardens that are a little bit more modern. Here, because this was a very informal garden she decided to just blow it out with very, very strong containers at each entry. There are four different entry ways to this garden and each one of them is different and kind of gives a nod to what the experience is going to be walking through these different quadrants. From whatever side of this garden you enter, you get a very different kind of welcome. Eric thinks it's wonderful and the containers are the things that are making that statement. Pamela has used them in other gardens. One was a garden in Florida with very, very simple plantings in the containers and that works equally well. Some of it has to do with using beautiful planters. Put simple plants in a beautiful planter and it's going to have a lot of design impact. Especially with large planters. Most of the containers Pamela used to mark the entryway are pretty big. There's no way they're not going to catch your eye. And then using these really bold colors really, really sets off the entryway. When you look at the main entry where we used those huge turquoise pots Pamela started out with different pots that were smaller. She looked at it and Michael looked at it and it just didn't give the kind of impact they wanted. She asked him to come up with something that's huge, then they put the big basket on top, that's what both were looking for.

Eric would like to talk about using containers as a GARDEN ACCENT. That’s the way he uses them in his garden. Oftentimes he likes to use a container that's almost like part of the landscape or the garden, just perched out there. It's something that draws the eye into the middle of a planting. Eric thinks those accents are equally powerful. Pamela agrees, here where they have the apex of the curve, where the curve is the curviest or where the curve goes in the most amount that's where Pamela put the planters. They have a sense of fit there, and she was not shy in this garden with any of them. They're smaller to a degree than the entry planters, but they're equally as dramatic. And she used the bright red ones in the bright quadrant and white ones in the pastel quadrants and even the dark ones in the dark quadrant. And she used blue and turquoise once again, in our red, white and blue quadrant. Eric thinks it looks fantastic. One thing those accent planters do too, is provide varying heights. So a lot of the plants that were used in this design are more dwarf, compact plants and the ones that are going to be big one day are not yet. So the container also gives you some variability in the height, and it really makes the garden just that much more fun.

Eric would next like to talk about using containers to accent architectural features like say a GARAGE OR CORNER OF THE HOME. He thinks that they're also super impactful in that setting. Pamela agrees, the first place she likes to see them in every house is on either side of the front door. That provides a big welcome. And she likes to see those tall columnar pots there, she thinks they just look better than the really short ones. It's proportion, they look better. A door is rectangular, it's a tall, horizontal architectural feature so it would seem less appropriate to use a short squatty pot there. When we think about even the style of container that we want to use, think about ones that also accent the architectural features that we're basically framing with the containers and that's where the tall, more cylindrical thin pots just do a better job of accenting that feature.

Another place that everybody forgets but it's been one of Pamela's most successful uses of containers is around the garage. On every upright of the garage, put a planter. People love that. Suddenly the garage becomes part of the design element of the front of the house. Eric likes that idea, that can be a less exciting side of the house. Oftentimes containers have a way of breaking up that monotony and integrating the garden into what oftentimes is not horticulturally a very exciting part of the house.

Finally Eric would like to talk what he thinks is one of the most practical and pragmatic uses of containers. And that's the use of CONTAINERS ON THE PORCH, PATIO OR THE COURTYARD. Not everyone has four acres like Michael does. Many homeowners have just a very small area or they're in a condo and what they have is a little courtyard or maybe a little front deck. And that's where containers are a lifesaver, in many cases, it's the only way that you can garden and bring nature closer to your dwelling space thus a very, very important category for sure. Pamela comments, from the beginning she will say go bold and go large. When first starting in landscape design she worked on a lot of jobs with the same designer. She would be going over what she chose before ordering them and every time he saw her pots, he say, get those pots, but make them the biggest ones they have. And Pamela would say - they're going to be too big. He said, nope, get them in here. I'll take care of sending them back if it doesn't work but they're going to be great. She did that and learned it really worked. So if working around a patio, any place she sees a fence or a wall she's going to use containers as an accent to break up that fence or wall. If it's a 30 foot fence, sometimes she'll use three sets of containers or three large containers, which coordinate, but aren't necessarily the same. If looking at a house that has a pool Pamela is going to first look at the pool. A lot of pools now have walls behind them, with water coming out, without question she'll put beautiful planters behind those fountain walls that coordinate with the tile that's placed on top of the wall. Another area is the corners. Soften the corners of the pool by using containers at every one of those 90 degree angles. The same thing with patio furniture, put planters next to each chair, it completely changes your patio, it turns it into a garden patio instead of a concrete patio.

Eric loves Pamela's point about GOING BIG WITH PLANTERS. From a growing standpoint there's enormous benefit in having a larger soil reservoir. The smaller the container, the faster it's going to dry out and if you get a container too small it becomes impractical to manage. Not only do the big containers make a bolder statement there's so much more that can be done from a design and planting standpoint. And, importantly you save yourself a lot of potential headache having to water that planter constantly. Another thing Pamela has been doing a lot more in the last, maybe, 10 years is instead of just using one pot she is using sets of containers. Most of these planters come in sets of three and she's found that using the entire set gives everything much more impact. Pamela wants to make another point - look for great pottery, she loves these, they have wonderful, shiny glazes and the glazes are consistent. But, have fun with it, go for something that makes you smile. Eric compliments Pamela, those are great tips, thank you so much.

Last but not least Eric would like to talk about designing with PLANTS IN CONTAINERS. We've talked about containers and all the amazing things that can be done with them and how they work as accents and focal points. Let's talk about approaching the plant design side of working with containers. This is something that Pamela has done for her entire career, she's written many, many books on it Eric would like for her to demystify it. When we go to our garden center, we find this beautiful container, next we're looking to select some of our favorite plants and make them work in a dynamic combination. What do we need to be thinking about? If you're in a garden center - for step number one sit there and scope out that garden center and look for one big plant that completely dazzles you, it's just gorgeous, it’s the plant that you just have to have. Next you take your big dazzler, push it around and look for a smaller plant that looks nice with it, then look for another smaller plant that looks nice with it, if all three of them go together you've got it. Think about the way plants just naturally work together, for example we have plants that are companions. They are similar from a standpoint of texture, and color. Then we have other plants that are contrasting and they would be meaningfully different in most cases, like on opposite sides of the color wheel. What purple is to yellow, they're contrasting. Eric believes we also need to think about contrasting textures, it's why sometimes the center plant in a planter is a big ornamental grass. Another thing that is really important is to understand that you need to consider your light conditions, simply go through, look at the tags, or if you have the name, google the plant, find out what the light conditions are. It’s very easy to get mounding, spiking, whatever you're using with gorgeous shade plants. It's as easy for shade plants as for for plants that take sun. Plant tags also provide a ton of information, they're very helpful. Make sure that the water needs match, also consider the sun-shade requirements. Once aware of the information that the plants are compatible it will make growing the plants in a container much easier and you’ll be much more successful. Containers have an amazing way of elevating any garden design and creating beautiful pops of color that draw the eye through the garden. Eric thanks Pamela as always we learned so much today. Thank you for spending the day with us. Pamela was glad to be a part or this show, she’s enjoyed it.

LINKS:

Michael Carr Design
Home - Michael Carr Designs | Wholesale Pottery and Decor

Pamela Crawford
Container Garden Photos | Pamela Crawford | Landscapes

Color Choice Flowering Shrubs - Proven Winners
A Better Landscape Starts with a Better Flowering Shrub

Ball Horticultural
Ball Horticultural

Suntory Flowers
Home - Suntory Flowers

Southern Living Plant Collection
Southern Living Plants - Plants Selected For Southern Gardens

Plant List

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By Dan Heims, president, Terra Nova Nurseries, Inc.
Photographs courtesy of Terra Nova Nurseries, Inc.

So many perennials have faded, lost their verve, stopped blooming. Enter the coneflower! In the opinion of Dan, the author, of this article Terra Nova has created, in form and function, the best coneflowers on earth. To learn more click here for an informative article.


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