In the Garden:
Upper South
June, 2013
Regional Report

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Silver foliage and a true cascading habit make easy-to-grow Silver Falls dichondra perfect for mixed containers or as a focal point planter.

Container Combos

One of the benefits -- and also one of the drawbacks -- of growing annuals in containers is that the possibilities for different combinations are truly infinite. While this can be somewhat daunting when it comes to decision-making, it's also lots of fun to have a clean slate every year, to let your mood and whim lead you wherever they might. No longer are we limited to the old standbys of petunias for the sun and impatiens for the shade (although both of those are still among the best annual garden plants). Now names like angelonia, bacopa, and plectranthus are becoming commonplace. (Note that some of the plants we call annuals are, botanically speaking, actually tender perennials. We use them as annuals because they won't overwinter in most parts of the country.)

Of course, any of these annuals also can be planted directly into the garden, but there's something about large pots, overflowing with color and texture, that really creates a focal point in the garden. With container plantings, it takes fewer plants to have impact. Plus, you can move them around the yard, combining planters in various ways, incorporating them with garden art or at different heights.

The keys to luxurious planters are to plant closely -- using more plants per container than seems reasonable -- then water and fertilize regularly so the plants continue to grow and thrive all summer.

Here are some plant combinations to consider this year.

  • Monochromatic color scheme. Combine plants with silver foliage, such as dusty miller, helichrysum, and plectranthus. Include some white-flowered plants, like white angelonia or snapdragon, for height. Setting several planters of various combinations of silver and white near a patio or deck will give pleasure to evening gatherings, especially with annual moonflower vine growing on a trellis nearby.

  • Warm colors. Start with a coleus with yellow and terra cotta-colored leaves, Add a trailing yellow-green ornamental sweet potatovine. Then fill in with flowers in shade of yellow and peach, such as 'Sun Chimes Peach' diascia, 'Terra Cotta' million bells, a golden helichrysum, yellow lantana, peach-colored dahlia, and 'Cheeky Salmon' impatiens.

  • Cool colors. Combine tall, striking 'Purple Majesty' ornamental millet with 'Misty Lilac' and 'Blue Wave' petunias. Pots of 'Purple Knight' alternanthera, 'Purple Lady' iresine, Persian shield plant, or the black-leaved colocasia would be perfect companions.

  • Pink and lavender. Combinations of pink, lavender, and rose shades are classic, especially if you add some of the silver-foliage plants for delicate contrast. Petunias, geraniums, nemesias, angelonias, dianthus, nicotiana, pentas, bacopas, snapdragons, verbena, begonias, and impatiens all have varieties with flowers in the pink-to-lavender spectrum.

    Whatever colors are your preference, take the time to wander around your favorite garden center, carrying plants to and fro until you find stunning combinations that please you.

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