Create a cottage-garden feel with terra-cotta, distressed-looking or recycled containers. The more unusual, the better anything goes, from rubber boots to buckets. Fill them with old-fashioned plants and flowers in lively colors.
Keep to an earthy theme with terra cotta and wood, and place the containers at varying heights. Use plants with striking foliage, such as ivies (Hedera).
You can use almost anything as a container, provided you can make drainage holes in the bottom. Kitchen rejects an old saucepan and an olive can make eye-catching pots for the contrasting show of blue campanulas and red-tipped sempervivums.
Rustic baskets are ideal for chrysanthemums in punchy or pastel colors. You can fill a basket with several small pots, or one large one, or line it with bubble wrap with drainage slits in the bottom before pouring in potting mix and planting it. A liner with drainage holes prevents damp soil from rotting the basket.
This shows how, more or less, anything makes a terrific container.
One of the best ways to display ornamental pots is on a large, spruced-up old bookcase or wooden shelving. This will need to be treated before being used in the garden so that it does not disintegrate and rot in the rain. If you have a quirky space to fill, it is more sensible to hammer together your own customized display. Check that the shelving is sturdy because the pots become heavy after watering. A quick alternative is to arrange two or three treated planks of wood like steps on upturned clay pots or piles of bricks, with the lowest level at the front. When covered by pots, the foliage and flowers will hide the shelving and create an instant border that rises in height.
Wooden crates or old storage containers can be stacked on small pots to provide instant height. Keep the look informal by arranging them none too neatly.
A Different Angle
There are gaps in most garden borders that can be filled with old, chipped containers. Leave the containers empty and set them off by surrounding them with gravel topped with empty clam, oyster, and sea shells, and pieces of driftwood, or interesting items such as stained glass.