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GardenSMART Episode

Show #15/7202. Making A House Your Home

Summary of Show

Changed Things-Getting Started
If we consider the TYPICAL HABITAT of our most popular indoor plants, we find that they naturally grow in the deep shade of a tropical rain forest. There they have adapted themselves to very low light, which is what makes them ideal indoor candidates. It also turns out that they're perfect candidates for containers in those shady spots in our garden. This opens up a whole new palette of color and texture for the designer because many of these plants sport bold, bright colors that work wonders in dark, dreary corners.
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Connected It To This Location
Pamela agrees - the first thing one needs to do when looking at a shade situation is to figure out HOW MUCH SHADE there is. Is there light shade, medium shade, dense shade. Light shade means you might be getting half sun, half shade, morning sun, something like that. And that's pretty easy to garden in. When you get to medium shade, the plants one can use diminish. When we get to dense shade, there are even fewer plant options. And, most of them are native to rain forest areas, they're tropicals.
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Front Of The Garage
Suddenly indoor plants have became FASHIONABLE again, especially with millennials. Pamela agrees the green industry has really revved up production. She went down to central Florida to visit one of the growers who is heavily into this and was absolutely floored by all the textures and the colors he had. Now granted, the colors are not going to hold up in this much shade. But the textures are great and another thing that's cool is every day garden centers in their shade section now have a good many of these plants.
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Plants In Containers
PAMELA STARTED with guzmania bromeliads. It is one of the bromeliads that takes the most shade. She didn't know if it was going to bleach out with this low light but luckily, it didn't. And then came in with interesting textures and some colors. She actually planted it randomly, which is odd because Pamela is so structured - "we're going to have this one and then that one, then repeat this one and that one." This is completely, randomly planted.
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Window Boxes Bring Color
They next take a look at some of the SPECIFICS in here. There are a lot of different ferns. Pamela is used to ferns, probably 20 years ago when she went in the shade section all they had were ferns and ivies. So she has a lot of ferns and different kinds of ivy. But look at the new one, this Hypoestes is fabulous. The idea that she's getting this much color in this much shade is uncanny. Then we have the aluminum plant that's giving us texture as well as that spark of silver. Then we have what is called the inch plant, tradescantia zebrina, then move over to Rex begonias.
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Indoor Plants
Eric notes, we are talking about using indoor plants in this planter. So, it naturally follows that when we start getting into the COOLER MONTHS, we should just pick this up, set it indoors and protect it. The only reason that they're not perennial is because they're not cold-hardy. In their native habitat they are perennial naturally. So, it is more investment, these are not as cheap as a flat of annuals, but we can get years and years and years out of these plantings.
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Vertical Gardens
These window boxes are SIDE-PLANTED, which means you actually plant some plants through the sides. That provides extra fullness. Another thing Pamela likes about this planter is it's flat on the bottom instead of being curved. That way, you can put it on top of a deck railing as she did here. The only reason why she put it on top of the deck railing was because it would not clear the chairs if she had hung it from the railing.
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Modular System
The NEXT CONTAINER is another wonderful example of what one can do with mostly indoor plants in deep shade. There are a number of repeated elements between the two containers, but additionally there are some splashes of really, really fun feature plants that Eric would like for Pamela to talk about. The focal point is the centerpiece. Pamela always likes to have a really dominant, splashy centerpiece. These are Anthuriums. They can take no sun whereas a lot of these shade plants can adapt to maybe morning sun. No, this one will really burn. Several other plants that Pamela thinks are significant - the first is aglaonema, which is another one that actually did hold its color in deep shade. She has a lot of different ivies, but one of the focal points that really pops up is the Dracaena lemon lime.
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Plants-Modular System
We've talked about the theory of using REPEATED THEMES in containers and how that really ties everything together, and it's one thing that Pamela has done wonderfully in this little corner of the deck. For example, the bromeliads are represented in all three of these containers. What Pamela was trying to do here was have a unifying factor other than just silver, thus incorporated other, different plants.
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Bold Examples-Modular System
Another really, really tough space to grow in is the BAKING, INTENSE, FULL SUN. Especially as we talk about containers. That can be, from a maintenance standpoint, a little difficult. On Eric's' back deck, it's 100% full sun pretty much from sun up to sun down. He has all these wonderful trough planters where he was growing herbs because it was close to the kitchen, plus was trying a lot of things that would provide more dense foliage because he wanted a really, really lush look. But the reality of life kind of catches up with us sometimes, when it's not practical to water those every day or every other day.
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Water-Modular System
There are some plants that can perform marginally well, but it's best to get the RIGHT PLANT IN THE RIGHT SPACE. If we can do that it takes so many of the headaches away from the gardener. More than any other single thing the difference between a green thumb and people who claim to have a brown thumb is siting plants correctly and working with the plants.
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Pamela Crawford
Great Landscape Artist - Landscape Designer - Gardens -Pamela Crawford

Plant List

Show #15/7202. Making A House Your Home

Transcript of Show

In this episode GardenSMART talks specifically about how containers can do wonders for your home's curb appeal. Plus, shows you how to make the most of every view. Whether gardening on a sprawling estate or a busy city townhouse, containers are a great choice for adding interest and pops of color to create a grand entryway. We're visiting a newly purchased home where garden designer Pamela Crawford has endeavored to add interest and beauty wherever possible. There are many neat ways to crank up your curb appeal and Pamela shows us how to think outside the box to get amazing results.

Eric greets Pamela, it's great to see her again and what a wonderful home. Pamela thanks Eric, it’s her home in the woods. Eric realizes that Pamela has done so much work and appreciates that because in the last year he bought a new place and has had the incredible joy of starting a new garden. It can seem a little overwhelming, at times, but looks at it as an opportunity to look at everything from more or less a clean slate. And sometimes when starting from scratch on something it can really get the creative juices flowing and allows you to do something that is really a true expression of your own creativity.

And that's what Pamela has done here. She has really CHANGED THINGS. Pamela agrees, she has and kept it true to what she thinks a woodland home should look like. The house originally did not have wood trim. So she thought, okay, woodland, I'm going to go with stone, but then after getting the estimate for the stone and picking herself up off the floor and she said, no, I'm going to go with cedar. She has worked with cedar a lot in her landscape architecture career - with a lot of lattice, a lot of trellises, that type of thing so it just seemed a good choice to dress up the entryway. Large lattice is something she has used a lot for the purpose of having a backdrop to which she can attach containers. She dressed up the entry columns, made them chunky and large.

It was a very attractive home when Pamela bought it, but Eric thinks the changes Pamela made make the home so much warmer and also CONNECTED IT TO THIS LOCATION, gave it a sense of place, made it feel like it's a home in the mountains or home in the woods. So from a curb appeal standpoint, when Eric pulled up today and saw the house, he was like, wow, that's a huge difference. There are so many wonderful elements that Pamela has added. Eric would like for Pamela to give us a quick overview and then we're going to take an up close and personal look at each one of them. She did not do this the way she does for clients. When working with clients Pamela always has a plan. With her own home she wanted to do it piece by piece because she had the luxury of doing that.

She did the columns first, had them made, then stood back and looked at them and felt, they looked disjointed. So then had the lattice put in the middle. She then addressed the deck. The deck originally had been three materials - a little wood deck up by the front door, then a concrete slab and then an asphalt slab that went from there out to the driveway. Pamela made it all one big deck. But then looked back and thought the garage looked very plain so put the trellis above the garage. Then looked at it and thought, gosh, wouldn't it be pretty if it had some pots around the garage doors. So, she did that, added new lights and that was it. It really turned out well.

Pamela has just finished the landscaping. She did that very simply because she has so much going on with everything else and didn't want to over-do it. Eric comments that she went with a pretty simple pallet, ferns, cephalotaxus and then some acorus which once it fills in is going to just enhance that woodland vibe. Pamela feels it's going to look lush, like a lush woodland.

Eric notices that there are a number of places around the home where it can be a little bit of a challenge to try to figure out how to get a pop of color to bring interest. Of course in FRONT OF THE GARAGE is always one of those spaces where it's hard to figure out exactly what to do. He loves the idea of using really tall, vertical containers that accent the architecture of the garage plus they make it possible to put some plants up at almost eye level and that really sets the space off. Pamela agrees it makes a big, big difference as one can see in the before and after shots. This is something Pamela has routinely done on garages, it provides a little accent and the difference containers make on garages is really extraordinary. Eric comments on one particular container, it is a bit of a departure from a typical Pamela Crawford container. He know she loves bold, bright colors, but she has gone with something a little more muted here. And, it really, really works. Pamela says it works because the copper color ties in with the wood above. Looking at images of houses/ projects she did in Florida she didn't use bright blue pots in front of those garages either. She used copper pots because the garage door was wood that resembled copper. In another project she used black pots in front of the garage doors because they were the best accent color for that particular environment. Eric comments that on this site Pamela used the same kind of copper pots on either side of the front door as well. That's a really nice tie in, as you're coming down the driveway, all of this looks very cohesive. Once Pamela figured out that she wanted the pots to be colored the same as the wood she repeated that theme at the front door. But, she doesn't know how long these are going to last. Previously she has used copper pots that were actually glazed planters that were copper and those will probably last a lifetime. But she thinks these are actually aluminum then covered with a copper color on top, thus has no idea about longevity.

Eric would next like to talk a little bit about the PLANTS. Pamela went with just a very simple, bold statement that's mirrored across all of these plantings. What did she choose? First, the dracaena. This is the lime colored dracaena. Pamela has them here and also has them at the front door. They are relatively neutral. She has so much going on at the front entry with the lattice and the planters on top of it, thus is trying to keep it simple so it doesn't look like you're pulling into a plant nursery. Eric notes there is a very nice uniformity to this. And when trying to accent architectural features if you have a cacophony of color, you don't really achieve that end. So oftentimes keeping just strong, vertical, clean statements at each one of these pillars with all the same plants is a really, really nice way of setting off a building.

Eric thinks the WINDOW BOXES are such an easy and great way to bring color to what might be just a large swath of a duller color on the front of the house. Pamela has all of this khaki in the building but with a little ray of sunshine right in front of the window with window boxes they really stand out. And if the shades are up you can also enjoy them from inside the home. Pamela agrees plus these window boxes are side planted. What that means is the planter has holes in the sides, flexible holes. Just dip the root balls of the plants in water then slide them through the flexible holes. The holes then close to keep the plants inside the box. What that provides is a lot of extra fullness. And that is what she is trying for here, she wants one to see the plants rather than focusing on the material of the window box. For the centerpiece Pamela used Sansevieria, they were the right size. What she is playing with here once again is, what she will call shade plants, although this one will take sun or shade, they are different textures, different colors of green. So Pamela included great looking plants, which are actually baby palm trees and baby bamboo palms. She happened to find them and thought they had great texture. Pamela comments on how different it is. Then she came in with some other foliage plants, some ferns and then decided to put lysimacia or Creeping jenny around as much as she could because she wanted to light it up, like turning on a light bulb.

One thing that Eric finds really exciting about so many of these new plantings is that Pamela is experimenting with a lot of INDOOR PLANTS. These are plants we would typically think belong indoors. But they worked so well in containers and especially in areas that are more shady, it opens up a whole new pallet of plants that we can use. Pamela totally agrees, they made it possible to get into some of these viney things like the calathea and things like that. She had never used them in this much sun. So, this is a great experiment to see which of these plants will do well. And they are getting direct sun right now but the direct sun stays here for only about two hours. Amazingly enough, they all have done very very well. Eric thinks trying new plants, in new situations is basically how we learn about plants in the context of our own garden - through experimentation. So with every year that clicks by and Pamela tries new plants in this site she will know more and more and more. It’s the evolution of a garden and the evolution of a gardener. Pamela agrees, these are her trial gardens, this is where she try things to see what works and what doesn’t. She writes books about container gardens and that provides a lot of opportunity to test plants, to see how they do and then write about the ones that work well and the ones that die along the way.

Eric feels the VERTICAL GARDENS are one of the most impressive parts of Pamela’s front entryway. He would like for Pamela to show us this feature, then tell us how she did it because every time he sees vertical plantings, he thinks, wow, that's a wonderful way of bringing a living collection of plants to a wall. And in this case, she has used it to frame the entryway and it makes for a really magnificent entry point to the home. For our viewers who may not know how to go about doing this, walk us through the process of putting together a vertical planting. These are called side planted living wall planters. Pamela designed these because she was seeing these big, huge living walls on the sides of buildings and she thought how nice it would be if we could have little ones we could use at home.

It is a MODULAR SYSTEM. To plant, it has flexible holes so you dip the root ball in water, squeeze it and just slide it through the sides. The side holes are flexible so that once you slide it through the plant stays in the wall. Then you layer it like lasagna - another layer of soil, another layer of plants, another layer of soil, another layer of plants. These are modular, if you have a larger space, you could put one right next to it and it will be a horizontal planter. If you have a larger place still, you can put four of them together. They're a lot of fun to work with. Eric thinks this a fun and easy way to really, really spruce up your entryway.

Eric would like for Pamela to talk about the PLANT SELECTIONS she made, because everything really, really ties into this woodland theme. There are bunch of ferns and a bunch of soft foliage, a number of things that provide kind of a tropical feel, which is what we feel like when in the shade and around shade plants. Eric asks Pamela to tell us how she came up with the ideas for each one of these. This was a big test for Pamela, to see what would work and what wouldn't work. She started simple with a planter with all ferns. She was pleased to find lime green, ferns and maiden hair ferns, and rabbits foot ferns, all kinds of ferns. Then she got a little bit bolder with the next planting and added Pilea, Pilea Glauca Aquamarine. It's a great plant. Pamela is always talking about using different leaf sizes, she did that here. The Pilea is so tiny next to the white fittonia, which is quite a bit bigger. That's how you see these plants, that's what differentiates them one from another. Then the wire vine is cascading down below. When we get to the container on the top she got really wild and added some color with the Tradescantia sabrina. The other plants in this planter are pretty much similar to the ones down below. Eric finds that the three containers offer so much interest from one to the other, it's very interesting for him, as a gardener and a horticulturalist, to see the progression of how Pamela was thinking about these different compositions and how she added to them in the different containers. She obviously started going down a thread where she stared adding more bold colors and more texture. And for some, if you like a very conservative design, the first container may be more your speed. Also, it depends on what the architecture of your home is and what colors you're trying to draw on. Eric does love the fact that in all of these containers, there's this theme of chartreuse and green, with some mild variations, that also tie all the other plantings and this landscape together. Pamela agrees, she's trying to unify everything. She doesn't want something to look like it sticks out and doesn't fit.

And Pamela has some really, really BOLD EXAMPLES and Eric wants to look at those before we leave. Pamela is ready, let's look at the wild ones now. Eric loves how exciting these are, each one of them feels like it's its own individual little compartmentalized garden. When you look at it, it's got almost like its own ecosystem going on. Pamela has done an amazing job putting these together. Pamela confesses it's so not like her, the consummate designer - the idea of repetition, repetition. There's no repetition in these, she just had fun. She planted things where they went and got wilder as she went up. For example, one is mainly variegated and green. It’s combination of things we know like fatonias and pileas then some ferns that have some rust colors to them. There is pepperomia in one, for color she came in again with the zabrinas and with the aluminum plant. She then went pretty berserk in the top container using orange acalasia and a strawberry geranium. One thing Pamela finds cool is all the little branches started coming out, it's as if it's its own little garden there. It’s not manicured.

Eric thinks all of these plantings look amazing. A question he's sure many or our viewers will have is oftentimes containers can be a little more difficult from a maintenance standpoint, especially when it comes to WATER relationships, which is why Pamela often recommends using a large container as opposed to a small one. Now these are relatively small. Are they difficult to maintain? Pamela responds no, not at all. Because number one, this is in sun right now, but only gets about two hours of sun a day. Luckily they have survived. She thought they were shade plants, well here they are. She thinks the key is how one waters them. She does not water them until she puts her finger into one of these holes up to the second knuckle and feels it's dry. She is very surprised, sometimes she'll go five days without them needing water. When they do need water she uses a hose with a really, really good attachment that provides a very slow flow, then goes back and forth across the top of the container and waits until water streams out the bottom. Then she knows they're all really, really wet.

Eric thinks that’s a good tip. In the garden we know how important mulching is and how it holds moisture in the ground. One thing about the design of these baskets is that the coconut husk along with the moss added to the outside really acts the same way as mulch does in the garden. It really holds the moisture close to the roots and that allows a much longer period of time one can go between waterings. So it's a much more efficient way from a watering standpoint of looking at doing these kind of planters.

Eric thanks Pamela, as usual we've learned so much and it's exciting to see her in her own element, at her own home, doing amazing things. It’s amazing how much impact a simple yet inspired design can make. Eric will be thrilled to see her new book when it comes out. Once again, thank you so much for sharing all of your knowledge with us. Pamela thanks Eric sharing his knowledge with her.


Pamela Crawford
Great Landscape Artist - Landscape Designer - Gardens -Pamela Crawford

Plant List


GardenSMART Featured Article

Photos and story by Monrovia Nursery Company

Lavender is the on-trend plant for gardeners this year. Click here for an article that details a top-tier selection of lavender that ensures success.

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