Everything is in the details. You have bought the plants, lined them up, rearranged and tweaked them, but it's the special features that make the ordinary "superb." And you don't need exotic or unusual plants to do it.
Plants can be given a huge visual lift by planting in an elegant, stylish pot or a big, fun container; likewise, collections of plants are boosted by clever groupings. This certainly applies to inexpensive annuals, such as the petunias, Swan River daisies (Brachyscome) and asters, shown here. Pot them up in inexpensive plastic pots and pack them into a fruit crate that has been given a lick of colorful weatherproof paint. Provided the plants are watered, fertilized and deadheaded, they will flourish and by midsummer the pots will be hidden completely beneath a veil of flowers.
The best plants for covering an empty wall include bushy fuchsias with spreading, dangling stems that are weighted down when smothered in flowers. There is a huge choice of cultivars, including the white and purple 'Fiona' and the all-red 'Marinka'. Make sure that the flower colors stand out against the background.
Trellises are traditionally used to cover an entire wall, for tying in spreading climbers and supporting plants with arching growth. But they can also be used in narrow, vertical spaces with pot plants fastened to them, as here. Make sure that the pots are securely attached, or fix them to the wall behind with screws, to cope with the weight of the soil after watering.
When designing your summer-flowering patio, it pays to think hard about the shape, size, color and texture of the foliage, as well as the flowers. Leaves play a key part because they act as a backdrop, a linking element and, in the case of evergreens, essential structure that stands out when the flowering plants are dormant or not in full bloom. Leafy plants to look for include the shapely and glossy, those with variegation and the large and handlike. Also include plants that combine flowers with interesting foliage, such as begonias.
Image 1: Hosta
Image 2: Fatsia japonica
Image 3: Skimmia japonica
The prime ingredients of a cottage garden include a fun, carefree design with plants merging into one another, plenty of scent, butterflies and bees and a sea of summer color. Although cottage gardens have a relaxed feel, the most effective are carefully planned, so mixing up a batch of potted plants and letting them get on with it may simply not work. You must stay in control. Make sure that the spreading plants, such as lavender, are in their own pots where they will not overwhelm their neighbors. Check that the big attractions can be clearly seen, although they do not have to be in the foreground. Remember that there’s no such thing as a "cottage garden plant," but the emphasis is decidedly on the old-fashioned, not the brand-new. Good choices for pots include daisy-type flowers, dahlias, campanulas, clarkia and cosmos.
Image 1: Argyranthemum (marguerite)
Image 2: Lavandula (lavender)
Image 3: Clarkia amoena
Excerpted from Simple Steps: Containers for Patios
©Dorling Kindersley Limited 2007