Magazine article Sunset

Containers for All Seasons: Start with an Evergreen Shrub, Then Add Seasonal Flowers. (Garden)

Magazine article Sunset

Containers for All Seasons: Start with an Evergreen Shrub, Then Add Seasonal Flowers. (Garden)

Article excerpt

Container plantings that look good all year long are floral designer Jean Manocchio's specialty. Manocchio creates many such plantings every year for her clients at Belli Fiori in Redwood City, California, so she has developed strategies for simple but spectacular living bouquets that need sprucing up just twice a year.

She starts by anchoring the arrangement with a single plant that can live year to year and look attractive in every season-a weeping blue Atlas cedar, Japanese aralia, or sago palm, for instance. To accommodate the rootball (such plants are typically sold in 1- to 5-gallon pots) , Manocchio sets it in a container partially filled with potting soil. She then builds a composition around it using annuals, bulbs, ground covers, or perennials.

Some arrangements feature foliage plants with interesting textures and forms; adding a few bulbs or annuals for a spot of color every spring and fall is usually all that's needed. For added drama, Manocchio sometimes also packs in colorful, long-blooming plants, then replaces them at the season's end.

Steps to an all-year show

To create your own long-lasting living bouquet, follow Manoccbio's guidelines:

Determine the site. Locate the pot where it will be most visible--by the front door, on a patio, or in view of a window.

Select a container. It should be in scale with its surroundings (a large pot can overwhelm a small entryway), and in a style and color that go with your house's architecture. Be sure to choose one that will look attractive with the existing plants that grow nearby. Make sure it has drain holes.

Design the planting. Colors that match the flowers and foliage already growing in your garden have a unifying effect; contrasting or complementary colors create a visual diversion. If the container will be viewed from indoors, you may prefer to take color cues from your home's interior. Also consider style. Do you want a casual planting or a sculptural one? Bold or lacy? Vertical or horizontal? Tall or short? Choose plants accordingly; group them on a cart at the nursery to see how they'll look together.

Container care

Potting mix. Use a high-quality mix (price is a good indicator); blend in a controlled-release fertilizer according to package directions. Where water supplies are limited, consider adding soil polymers (such as Broadleaf P4) to the mix. …

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