All Decked Out

As a garden designer,  I have a confession to make: I don’t think of myself as particularly inspired when it comes to containers (planters, pots, whatever you want to call them). My colleague Kripa is the star at our company, and I always love to look at and photograph her creations. Here are two of my favorites.

annuals, plant combinations

A summer container with lantana, sweet potato vine, geraniums and style by Kripa. (Nikon D100)

plant combinations, shade

For a shady site, a blue glazed pot with white and pink New Guinea impatiens is simple but effective. (Nikon D100)

This year, however, I decided to lift my own back deck out of the doldrums. For Mother’s Day weekend, with no one to entertain but myself, I headed to my local independent garden center. First, I picked out some shade-tolerant flowers for the front, north-facing stoop, where two square concrete planters that are actually too small for the space flank the front door. I picked out white caladiums, white impatiens, Begonia ‘Benitochiba,’ and a dark coleus. I’m still waiting for this combo to start filling in, unfortunately.

On the east-facing deck, I decided to go for bright and bold. Coleus combinations are real show-stoppers if done right. I have a lot of sun on the deck so I could have opted for just about anything, but this year I decided to stick to the coleus theme. In one pot I planted a ‘Red Star’ cordyline for height and surrounded it with five different kinds of coleus. The eye-catcher that inspired me at the outset is Coleus ‘Alabama Sunset.’

Coleus 'Alabama Sunset'

Coleus 'Alabama Sunset' offers stunning gradations of orange and yellow. (Canon G11)

Around it, I added four other varieties . Clockwise from ‘Alabama Sunset,’ you see ‘Religious Radish,’ ‘Ruby Jewels,’ ‘Sky Fire,’ and ‘Red Ruffles.’ Later I stuck in one plant of ‘Pineapple Wizard’ below ‘Ruby Jewels’ and added a ‘Blackie’ sweet potato vine. Three weeks after planting, they are spilling out of the container, comme ca:

Coleus Alabama Sunset, Religious Radish, Ruby Jewels, Sky Fire, Red Ruffles, Pineapple Wizard

The coleus are about to engulf the poor Cordyline plant in the back. (Canon G11)

A second pot holds my annual herb collection of basil, thyme, and rosemary. (I gave up on cherry tomatoes on the deck several years ago after watching them be attacked on a regular basis by some unknown creature (squirrel?) who took ONE BITE out of each tomato as it ripened.) The third container is planted with four plants of Coleus ‘Indian Summer’ and is filling out nicely, thank you. Here’s a closeup of the leaves on ‘Indian Summer.’

Coleus 'Indian Summer'

Coleus 'Indian Summer' shines on its own on my back deck. (Nikon D300)

I also took a photo of the leaves with my iPhone camera and while I like the image (a little dreamy and soft), the color is off.

Coleus Indian Summer

The iPhone photo of the same leaves is beautiful, but the color is off.

I’ll never equal my fellow blogger Deborah‘s talent for creating stunning arrangements, but I think I’m making progress. Check in with me this fall, when my biggest challenge rears its annual head – window boxes for a client with a shady front yard. Who wants COLOR. Help.

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12 Comments on “All Decked Out”

  1. Jean Says:

    Melissa, I’m embarrassed to admit it; but when I think about container planting, I only think about flowers, not foliage. I learned the lesson of the importance of foliage in the garden long ago, but somehow didn’t apply it to containers. Duh! Thanks for adjusting my perspective on this. -Jean

    • Melissa Says:

      Jean, I hadn’t thought of this post as a lesson on using foliage in pots, because of all the color Coleus varieties supply – but you are right. I chose the different varieties for foliage characteristics as well as color, especially wanting a small, trailing leaf (‘Ruby Jewels’).

  2. I love your coleus Melissa! Great color combinations!

    • Melissa Says:

      Thanks, Carol. It’s almost hard to go wrong with this plant as long as you don’t choose only variegated varieties. Hope you’re staying cool on the farm!

  3. Edith Hope Says:

    Dear Melissa, I really feel that you are more than under selling yourself. These containers are exciting, dramatic, highly original, very colourful and definitely different. I, who fail miserably with all container planting, would give my eye teeth [as they say] to have come up with anything half so attractive. I am inspired to go away and [shame on me] copy.

    • Melissa Says:

      Here’s another confession – I saw a couple of planted containers at the garden center that gave me some ideas to start with! (There were pots that were planted with only ‘Indian Summer’ so I just bought four small 4.5″ pots of it and stuck them in my own pot.) So copy away!!

  4. minervasgardenwriter Says:

    These are lovely container ideas–I have some coleus that I’ve started from seed that are just about ready to plant out, so I’ll be using them in containers as well. They are really pretty and just fill in and get better as the summer carries on.

    Athena from

    • Melissa Says:

      So glad you like them! I’ve never tried growing coleus from seed, only from cuttings (which is ridiculously easy, almost as easy as using pinched tops of basil plants as “starters.”) You’re right that these plants just get better as the summer progresses.

  5. Melissa, first of all thank you for the lovely comment, I am blushing!
    And your containers are great! I love the monochromatic colour scheme of the coleus one, and I wish that you had included a picture of your “black and white”, so dramatic.

    • Melissa Says:

      Deborah, I wish my front pots (the black & white theme, how clever of you to pick it up) warranted a photo. I fear I should have planted more impatiens. It looks a bit thin, still. But seriously, as I wrote this post I kept thinking of how fabulous those Valentine’s Day non-rose arrangements of yours were!

  6. […] All Decked Out Sep15 Reblogged from Garden Shoots: […]

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