It's time to make those superstar container arrangements
Scoop up those standout annuals for your seasonal pots.
Setting up a single statement container of ornamentals or a grouping of bloom-filled pots on your balcony, deck or outside your front door (some gardeners refer to this as potscaping), is like displaying a season-long fashion show of flowers and foliage. A planted DIY project is a great way to show off your creativity to neighbours and guests!
While some garden centres carry pre-planted assortments, don't deny yourself the fun of putting one together yourself. Whether you have a green thumb or not, it's pretty easy to assemble an attractive grouping of plants. You could go for a riot of hues, a complementary colour combo (such as shades of purple and yellow) or one eye-catching colour wave. Select your flower and foliage elements based on your colour choice, and add leaves with interesting textures, accent colours and patterns (I enjoy both coleus and also herbs).
If you're new to container gardening, follow the thrillers, fillers and spillers rule for a balanced pot. Thrillers are plants with star power, fillers help to fill in those blank spaces and spillers will trail over the edge, making for one lush, striking container.
The star power of petunias
One of my favourite jobs as a kid was pulling the sticky spent blooms from my mom's petunias. As you get older and have more gardens to take care of, who has time for this (known as deadheading)? However... in the last few years, there have been some pretty spectacular petunias introduced to garden centres that are dazzling enough to make one forget about the extra maintenance. I love fuchsia flowers, so SUCCESS! Pink Star was a favourite in my pots last year. Other spectacular new varieties include Headliner Night Sky, Surprise Magenta Halo, Amore Queen of Hearts and Potunia Cappuccino.
Pair with: You want the blooms to be the star of the show, so pair with vibrant foliage. There are some lovely herbs that pair nicely with petunias. They're both fragrant and some, like French tarragon, rosemary and curly parsley, add different textures. Look for chocolate mint to go with the Potunia Cappuccino or pair pineapple sage with Amore Queen of Hearts.
A profusion of calibrachoas
If you really don't want to deadhead, look for self-cleaning plants, like calibrachoas. Also referred to as Million Bells, calibrachoas, which resemble mini petunias, are prolific bloomers, come in lots of great colours and look fantastic in hanging baskets, window boxes and pots. A favourite from a couple of years ago is a yellow and hot pink number called Superbells Holy Moly (a calibrachoa hybrid). If you're looking to combine yummy citrus flavours, the new Callie Orange Star from PC Lawn & Garden Centres will look great with yellows, oranges and reds.
Pair with: If these are in a hanging basket, pair a few vibrant colours together to form your own combo. Or, add a couple of verbena among plants for rings of contrasting colour.
Calocephalus is mouthful, but the foliage is great
The fluffy, silvery foliage of a calocephalus is a standout choice when paired with a variety of plants. It complements bold, darker hues, but also looks delicate in a more whimsical, ethereal mix. The plant is very heat, salt and drought tolerant, so a great choice for our hot, dry summers. Look for new variety Calocephalus brownii Bed Head.
Pair with: A deep dark flower, like the Crazytunia Black Mamba, a purple-ish/black petunia hybrid or Supertunia Bordeaux petunia.
Begonias are happy to be shady
Begonias are fantastic options for shady areas, especially if you used to plant Impatiens walleriana, whose sales have been obliterated by the downy mildew disease. There are some really pretty varieties available that trail over the sides of pots and hanging baskets. Begonia tuberhybrida F1 Nonstop Joy Mocca White has lovely dark foliage and bright white blooms, while Unbelievable Miss Montreal begonia hybrid displays sumptuous flowers in a delicate pink tint.
Pair with: Miniature hostas, like Bitsy Gold, Dragon Tails or Cracker Crumbs, would look quite sharp against the darker foliage of a begonia — and they're shade lovers, too. Add one other shade level to balance out your combo.
Nasturtiums: An edible and ornamental pick
I love planting nasturtiums in my raised beds, but they also look great in containers and hanging baskets. Look for trailing varieties that will creep over the sides of your pots. Both the flowers and foliage of nasturtiums are edible, and they are pollinator magnets! I love the serrated edges of the leaves on Climbing Phoenix, since petals are usually more rounded. And Orchid Flame is a pretty stunning new red variety.
Pair with: Edibles like flat-leaf parsley, chives and oregano, seem appropriate, given the edible nature of this plant.
Lemongrass: An unexpected centrepiece
Many gardeners will be directed by those at the garden centre to to use a spike to add height to a container. I like to use lemongrass. It loves the sun, provides that dramatic height, but it's also edible. Pull out pieces later in the season to make curries or dry it for tea. Add one in the centre of an arrangement or off to the side.
Pair with: Lemongrass works in an arrangement with any of the flowers listed in this article.
Tara Nolan is a freelance writer who covers gardening, décor, travel, and cycling, mountain biking and other outdoor adventures for a variety of publications. She is also one quarter of the popular gardening website Savvy Gardening.