Indulge your fantasy of a tropical garden, even if you live in a frost zone.
Add dazzling azure blue and Moroccan red to your garden, even if the colors don't exist in nature. And, banish any annoying backyard blemish from sight.
Potscaping - landscaping using container plants - allows you to do all that and more. Originally an alternative for those whose balcony or patio couldn't accommodate a full plot, this style is capturing gardeners' imaginations. It offers flexibility and color within any budget.
Instead of being limited by your climate, potscaping allows you to escape the seasonal tyranny of gardening.
For example, you may regret that you can't cultivate banana, bird of paradise or ficus plants outdoors. You love the lush look, but know you'll destroy your exotic plants in one chill breeze.
"With potscaping you can think outside the box," says Alissa Shanley, a landscape designer.
You can put anything in the pot during the summer and bring it in during the winter. "Include orchard and tropical plants in your pots. You don't have to think like a cold-weather person," says Shanley, owner of B. Gardening in Denver, Colo.
Although most gardeners are used to a little trial and effort when they introduce new plants, potscaping makes experimentation easier.
Perhaps the miniature conifer doesn't look good next to the patio. There's no need to dig it up, if you're potscaping. Just put the pot on wheels and move it to a better location.
Like most gardeners, you turn to plantings for color. But you can also bring a riot of color into your garden by the pots you choose.
Right now high-gloss pots imported from Vietnam are very popular, according to Katie Bloome, at Monrovia Nursery in Azusa, Calif.
She sees a lot of interest in either cobalt blue or a very rich red.
"These are really bright. A lot of gardens don't have color during certain times of the year. The cobalt blue stands out in winter," says Bloome.
Although you can invest hundreds of dollars in imported pots and exotic plants, you can find beautiful arrangements on any budget. In fact, some gardeners prefer it for price savings.
"It's a very inexpensive way to get a big bang for the buck," says Alissa Shanley, a landscape designer.
"You fill a couple of pots, put them in a spot and you've got an impressive array. If you did that with plants and shrubs it would cost a fortune," says Shanley,
And, if you've got an ugly tree stump or bald patch on the lawn that would be expensive to remedy, you can cover the eyesore with a grouping of pots.
But, as advantageous as potscaping can be, there's more to it than rolling pots into the yard. Too much clutter and you'll look as if you're living in a garden center. Here are some tips from garden designers.
Use pots to set the tone
"When you want a formal look, such as an entryway to a home, you want balance. Use the same size and the same number of pots on either side (of the entryway)," says Shanley. She arranged two pots, each with the same plants, on either side of the entrance of her front porch.
For the backyard, which is casual, Shanley has clusters of pots in different sizes and textures, but all colored either bright yellow or turquoise.
"Get as many pots as you can in the garden and pack them full of flowers. You'll get a step look when the flowers and pots are different sizes," says Shanley says.
Bloome applies the same rules to potscaping that she does for any garden design. She recommends putting larger pots in the background and smaller pots with smaller plantings in the front.
"Bring pots into areas where there's a lot of hardscape (such as patios or pathways). If you have a patio you can soften the area by bringing in greenery," Bloome says.
Keep the pots in a design family
"Don't mix a lot of pot styles, such as contemporary, Asian and Mediterranean. Give the pots a little forethought," says Bloome.
Match the plants to the pots
"Get a piece of pottery that will highlight the plant. That's a huge key people are missing," says Shanley.
She suggests using blue pots to bring out the intensity of orange or yellow flowers or deep purple with white flowers. She also urges you to play with monotones.
"I had huge yellow pots last summer packed with yellow daisies. The splash of yellow was stunning, Shanley says.
Select a theme so the pots and plants are coordinated
Add rosemary or a trailing thyme plant to a Mediterranean designed pot, a tropical plant to a hot pink Caribbean pot or a topiary to a Chinese jade green pot.
Your potscape doesn't have to be permanent to be pleasurable. You can splurge on single-season plants, experiment with new colors and shapes and start fresh next year.