Containers can be employed in a variety of ways to enhance the architecture of the house and the garden itself. In this chapter, all the possible situations for displaying containers are examined, and their particular attributes and constraints are discussed in detail. Patios and roof gardens, entrances and steps, paths and alleys, balconies and verandahs offer many design opportunities for large and small containers, and for container groupings. Choosing an appropriate container style, creating a balanced plant display that is in scale with the architecture of the house, and massing together color and shape in attractive and interesting ways are all key elements in achieving a successful scheme.
Before planning your display, it is important to assess the practical constraints of the situation as part of the overall design consideration - for example, you might want to train your plants to provide shelter on a windy roof terrace or employ tough plants as a screen for more tender specimens, or achieve a good vertical display of plants in a narrow space by using climbers or wall pots. This chapter provides useful guidelines on these more practical questions, as well as inspiration for attractive planting schemes.
Entrances and Steps
First impressions are extremely important, and nowhere is this more true than for the entrance to a house or apartment. Very often the path to the front door or the steps leading up to it offer no actual space for the soil. Containers of plants make the perfect solution, providing a splash of color in what otherwise be a monochromatic area of brickwork or paving. In addition, foliage and flowers can have the effect of softening the hard texture of the stone and concrete walls or paving, creating an altogether less forbidding approach to the building.
The architecture of the house provides the backdrop to the container planting and you should take this into account in deciding what container to use. Brick, stucco, shingle, tiles and stone are all used for house walls, while the doorway itself can be in any number of styles from classical to rustic, gothic or colonial. Pick containers that blend with it - not only in shape, color and material, but in size as well so the scale is right. The geometric simplicity of most townhouse doorways is enhanced if you position a container on either side, planted up with identical plants, whether in the form of, say, a pair of clipped box balls or large displays of ox-eye daisies (Leucanthemum vulgare). For a country home with a rustic door or porch, a looser style of planting combining climbing plants with some perennial would look charming.
Aromatic plants are particularly valuable for entrances. Sweetly scented climbers are always a good choice, as they provide such a wonderful welcome and take up relatively little of the available space on the ground. Among the most popular are honeysuckle, (Lonicera spp.), jasmine and many forms of rose (although some