A Shrub Combination

Fall is upon us and soon it will be winter. Many container gardens may be filled with the abundant colors of fall utilizing colorful mums and other cold hardy plants, but another wonderful and long-lasting option is utilizing a combination of evergreen shrubs and conifers.

In this installation story, I started with the planting of a gorgeous Honey Maid Holly in a beautiful stone-gray container with a round shape. This shrub is hardy to -20 degrees F and tolerant of shearing or hand pruning, but these are not the main reasons I selected this beauty of a shrub for a grouping of containers for my clients. It was the plant’s amazing golden yellow colors mixed with the dark greens of the leaves which attracted my eye.

Honey Maid Holly features a rich green color edged in golden yellow and buttercream colors, each slightly unique and unusual. This broadleaf evergreen was a thriller and there was only one remaining in stock. I had to have it for this container gardening project, and I knew it would be beautiful in the setting of a group of containers on this balcony.

Adding amazing color contrast to a mix of container gardens with plants’ special features is one way to achieve visual interest. The colors of the Honey Maid Holly set off the design choices from there. And utilizing various textures is key as well, as was done with this grouping of shrubs.

I added touches of vibrant yellows around the base of the Holly by utilizing smaller sized shrubs with delicate thread-like foliage. And a golden cypress with frond-like feathery foliage was added to an adjacent container. Finally, miniature shrubs were used in the smallest of pots. I had seen these miniatures before and I knew someday, I would have the perfect fit for them.

Working with shrubs requires a special focus on mixing textures, not only by considering how the pots will be grouped together, but also by the way those textures move in the wind or create a balanced look.

The holly has an upright form so it drew the eye up, in addition to setting off the color pops. Yellow is one color that is seen from afar. However, I wanted to make sure there was a darker tone below as well. Adding a heavier darker color below helped balance the overall look of the grouping by creating a visual anchor color.

Notice how I used a very dark green cypress, a true dwarf Hinoki, in the middle below container. This smaller evergreen adds winter beauty (or year-round beauty) in a small-scale pot. It is a tight mound of foliage, each fan cluster held close together, creating a non-perfect globe shape. It adds a visual darker contrast to the vibrant yellows of the other shrubs in the grouping. It grows only 1-3″ per year, and could last as long as the soil would support it’s growth in the container.

Another wonderful feature about this installation story is all of these plants may be adorned with small glitter lights in the winter months to add a certain elegance to the clients’ evening view. This will be a nice feature when the holidays arrive in December.

If you are seeking a planting of outdoor container gardens for a long term or even a fall-to-winter’s term with shrubs, this is just one example of my installation stories where this was accomplished for my clients.

Thank you for visiting,

Cathy Testa
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