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Creative Container Gardens

Gail Estka designs more than 100 container gardens each year for her Chicago-area yard. Here she shares some of her favorites.

Cascading color

Green, yellow and blue create a soothing color scheme in this garden urn. Calla lily, coleus and duranta offer vertical interest; ageratum, lobelia and lantana fill the middle ground; and trailing creeping Jenny drapes down like Rapunzel’s locks to steal the show. 

Think big

Bamboo palm underplanted with calibrochoa helps create upward movement and visual interest. “I try to do something that’s three times the height of the container,” Gail says. “I also like to add bamboo poles to make a simple container something special.” 

Sitting pretty

A long planter chock-full of flowers and foliage substitutes for a window box on a porch railing. ‘Goldilocks’ creeping Jenny, ‘Burlesque’ pigeon berry, Madagascar dragon tree, calibrochoa and coleus create a lush mix of upright and trailing plants.

Clever and carefree

Gail tucked a mix of succulents and moss into a trug on the patio table and simply watered once a week. “I like the way they grew and added color,” she says. “They don’t have to bloom to be beautiful.”

Tap into texture

The fleshy blue-green trailing stems of burro’s tail provide enough visual interest to stand alone in a small- or medium-size container. This succulent perennial offers pink to red flowers in summer. 

Bright spot

Versatile containers can easily be worked into a larger landscape to create a focal point or fill in a blank spot. Here, a glazed blue urn filled with petunias, coleus and lantana brightens up a corner of the garden. 

Solo appearance

Using just one plant in a container creates an uncluttered look that lets that specimen shine. Here, ‘Dragon Wing’ begonia‘s densely mounded form easily fills a 10-inch hanging basket and blooms continuously from May until frost. This shade-lover tolerates heat, especially if given sufficient water. 

Mass appeal

Large container groupings give the effect of a garden border at the front door. Plant choices include easy-growing geraniums, petunias, marigolds, creeping Jenny, sedum, coleus, ferns, grasses and croton.

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