what’s cooking in your pots?

I AM DOING SOME SLIGHTLY LATE POT-PLANTING, piecing together plants gathered from here and there this spring into some impromptu designs I think I’ll like once they grow in. You? How about a show-and-tell?

The Acalypha ‘Giant Leaf,’ splashed with pinky-peaches, gold and green, and my beloved Calibrachoa ‘Terra Cotta’ that I’ve grown flats of each year since it was introduced not long ago, seemed an obvious pairing. The Acalypha, a tropical shrub in its native haunts, will get 2 or 3 feet tall by summer’s end. You probably know what the million bells will do, much like a tiny petunia. I love how it, too, has a mosaic of color…two chameleons in a single big pot.

The barrel below, beside by barn, is barely getting started. But in it is a canna called ‘Grande’ with red edges and giant green leaves (I remove the flowers if they ever form), a couple of gold leaf Helichrysum and two of my favorite Pelargonium, ‘Vancouver Centennial,’ with chartreuse and red leaves and the hottest of orange-red flowers. I tucked a ‘Terra Cotta’ million bells in for good measure. Stay tuned.

I’m going to post some more photos of combinations I’m trying in our Urgent Garden Question Forums, where you have photo-uploading privileges, too, in the hopes you’ll share some design concepts of your own with all of us. Then we can watch our pots together this summer and see what we’ve all cooked up.


  1. Andrew Ritchie says:

    In my biggest container, I’ve got Pieris japonica ‘Red Head’ which is shrub-like and so lovely. Around its base I’ve planted my favourite English ivy that hangs over the edges. I’ll have to give it to someone with actual land eventually, since they get pretty big. In the small containers I have cyclamen and African violets. I also have a really fan-like maidenhair fern in one of them, which I just recently transplanted from my parents’ cottage. I’m always concerned about transplants, so we’ll see how this ‘operation’ goes.


  2. margaret says:

    Ah! The fickle heart of a gardener…sounds like you have some real treasures, so no wonder it’s hard to decide which one to love most of all.

  3. Keith Alexander says:

    I’ve got lots of Japanese Rohdea cultivars and Amorphophallus in pots this year. The Amorphs don’t get the love from me that they used to – though I do still love them. The passion that used to be theirs now belongs to the Rohdea.

  4. I just found your blog via the article in the NYTimes. It is wonderful! I garden in very different country from you (SC) but you still have much to say to me. As for pots, that is the only way many people in the south (not me, but I’m from Wisconsin anyway)garden. They don’t like to mess in the dirt. So I have just started learning about pots, but so far only one plant to a pot. This piece has inspired me to begin thinking about more than one plant in a pot.

  5. margaret says:

    Welcome, Peg, to A Way to Garden. Glad that you are going to try multiples. I do a lot of single-plant pots as well, and like both ways. And I like multiples of a single kind of plant in one big pot…so many possibilities!

  6. Jim says:

    Margaret, what’s been your experience with potted Bay Laurel standards. I have two I’m living with here zone 6. They stay outside most of the year except when the temperature dips below 26 degrees. Do I have to do some root pruning eventually? If so, what time of year? The older one seems very happy in its 20″ plastic pot.

  7. margaret says:

    My issue w/bay laurels was always insects, especially scale. Yuck. I would root prune every third year when I repotted just as active growth was about to begin in earliest spring.

  8. Ted says:

    This year we’ve been jiving on magenta and deep flowers with burgundy and brownish foliage, plus a few pops of silver.

    Some plants are eyelash salvia, brownies heuchera, zwarttop (sp?) aeonium, silver senicio plus some verbena, bedding dahlia and calibrachoa. For me the best thing about containers is starting with a whole new concept every spring. I think Acalypha is on my list for next year. Keep us up to date on its progress.

  9. Mary Collier says:

    Hi, Margaret. I, too, am one of the lucky ones who read about your blog in the NYTimes. I garden here in the foothills of the California Sierra Mountains at about 2,800 ft. I share many, many plants with the deer, jackrabbits, moles and other fauna that pass through. Beginning in early March, my place is also the host to tree frogs that hang out everywhere, including in the steam shower in the pool house!

    I wanted to share one of my pot combos with others. I combined a hot pink verbena that trails over the side of a terra cotta pot with a smallish, creamy pink carnation and filled in the pot with lamium which now has a nice pale pink blossom. It’s a combo of greens, grays and pinks. Nice. This combo sits on a brick patio that gets morning sun and is next to a pot filled with creamy pale yellow gerberas (I know, gerberas are everywhere, but until 3 nites ago they also were a flower that no creature seemed tempted by.)

    I will look forward to your daily blog as a reward and inspiration after a hard day’s work in the yard. Thanks for your sharing your green thumb and your life’s work. Awesome!!

  10. Wendy Erickson says:

    What a lovely site- I found it through a friend who read the NY Times article. This spring I planted an unusual grouping in a decorative oblong concrete planter almost 3ft long- Some eucalyptus (from a garden center, rounded leaves) in the middle, some love-lies-bleeding that I started from seed, a little splash of blue with some lobelia, a little lemongrass plant which looks feathery (plus I can cook with it!) with a few hens and chicks in the front. It’s in full sun in my NJ garden, so I’m hoping it will soon be an interesting crowded mix of textures and green/blue colors with a little pop of fushia from the love lies bleeding. What fun!

  11. Dan Gates says:

    Living in Zone 3 as I do combined with a somewhat unhealthy facination with agaves,phormiums bamboos and amorphophallus makes pot gardening a must. Almost 200 and counting. Our last frost date was only 10 days ago and I have spent the past week placing the pots throughout the garden where I feel they look the best. Now I walk through the garden with flats of various annuals I have started from seed along with pots of tender perenials ( at least for us! ) such as origanum ( Kent Beauty my new favorite ) tricolor sages, mondo grass etc. I look at each pot and its surrounding and then decide what will look best. And then just as a safty net tuck a few trailing nasturtium seeds here and there.
    Its funny what seems like perfectly natural behavior seems a tad obsessive when I write it here! LOL

  12. margaret says:

    Welcome Wendy and Carol.
    Wendy, it sounds as if you are an adventurer, with an unusual mix under way in that pot. Hope you’ll upload a photo tothe Forums when things grow in…
    Carol, in East Tennessee you have so many choices for climbers (compared to up this way)–is there a color you are hankering for?
    And Dan, all I can say is “Uh-oh.” I think you are in deep. (Pot, tee hee, calling kettle…)

  13. Carol McConnell says:

    Hi Margaret…I will join the crowd who found you by way of NYT..I live in East Tennessee and love to be outside..so much good advice and information on your blog..so I will settle in with a cup of tea and read away..I would love information for a good climbing rose…have a great day…


  14. Carol McConnell says:

    Margaret…probably a light color..and maybe repeat bloomer for the season..would have to be easy care..so is there one rose for me ?

    Thanks and I’m having so much fun on your site..


  15. Sandra Iden says:

    Dear Margaret: Planters are the knicknacks of the garden. They don’t have to be dusted but love to move around and grace a dull spot. I tuck nasturtiums into many of the pots that have already been established. The planters are like a good stew using what is around and then follow the simple steps of something tall, medium and droopy.

  16. diana says:

    My nephew left his red converse all*stars (which he outgrew :)) here so I filled them with hens and chicks and portulacas.

    Last fall at nursery blowout sale I got a huge pot filled with various perennials and annuals for 75% off and it flourished for two months or so. This spring only the lovely large coral bell came back so I added some lantana with shades of yellow and orange and a kent’s beauty oragano, it looks really great.

    I recently bought a teensy pot filled with about 10 different succulents which I’m gonna split apart and intersperse with some orange and apricot portulacas in a couple of broken pots set overlapping each other.

    Oh, and in the shade I have a blue pot with pink impatiens, periwinkle blue lobelia and chartreuse sweet potato vine. Can you tell I love pots? diana

  17. Carol McConnell says:

    Thanks Margaret for the suggestion..looked up pictures and love it…will be off to my local garden center tomorrow to see if I can find one.. will check back often..


  18. margaret says:

    Jim, thanks for suggesting ‘New Dawn’ (a real beauty) to Carol…I think you made a sale! I love the books by old friend and top rosarian Stephen Scanniello, and here’s an article from a few years back about his own garden mentioning some of the roses in it. I have all his books…even though I grow hardly any roses!

  19. robert says:

    So glad to see your photo of that acalypha… it’s my favorite plant of the season (so far) even though I say I don’t like tropicals and I say I don’t like splashed variegation… such is the seductive charm of plants! I put mine solo in a nice Guy Wolff pot and may train it as a standard. Right now it looks terrific in a big group of mixed succulents in pots that are summering outdoors…really picks up some of their subtle pink and coral undertones.

  20. Carol McConnell says:

    Jim missed that you sent the suggestion..so thank you also…will let you know how my search goes today…


  21. romy says:

    Hi, old friend. I planted blue salvia and white cleome and one other plant (name escapes me, I’ll find it and re-post my comment) all in one pot. The mystery one is doing great but the salvia are wilting. My guess is they are a) crowded and b) baking in too much sun. Should I take something out? Advice?

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