Opinion: The beauty of these containers is that ultimately everything in them can go into your garden perennial or shrub beds.Opinion: The beauty of these containers is that ultimately everything in them can go into your garden perennial or shrub beds.Read MoreThe Vancouver Sun – RSS Feed

Opinion: The beauty of these containers is that ultimately everything in them can go into your garden perennial or shrub beds.

Plants in planter: Camellia japonica, Euphorbia Glacier, Euonymus Silver Queen, Heuchera Alabama, Heather Golden Starlet, Variegated ivy, Helleborus Pink Frost, and Narcissus Tete a Tete. jpg

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Despite March’s often fickle weather, it would be really nice to enjoy a stunning container out on our balcony or patio. At this time of year we must be a little more creative to ensure beauty and resilience to colder temperatures, but both are possible.

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Our fall and winter planters are, quite frankly, tired and outdated, so we also need to design a fresh spring look. If we follow the old “thriller, filler and spiller” formula, it’s best to start off with the thriller, which is the eye-catcher of your ensemble.

Camellias, either winter blooming sasanquas or early blooming japonicum, make beautiful focal points. You can often get these plants in a good size. Try to find one in a one-gallon pot, preferably with lots of buds that are just beginning to open, and you can have flowers for weeks.

My other favourites are the evergreen viburnum Spring Bouquet and early budding pieris japonicas with their pendulous lily-of-the-valley flowers in white, pink and red. With pieris, you also get to enjoy an explosion of colour as the new foliage opens in multi-shades of red to bronze.

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To accent your focal points you need to add your “fillers”, and some of my “go-tos” are the evergreen perennial euphorbias. They all play so nicely with other plants. The most vibrantly foliaged variety is e. Ascot Rainbow with its gold, red and green tri-colour leaves. I also like e. Glacier Blue and euphorbia x martinii Shorty with their rich blue foliage. All these evergreen euphorbias begin to gently droop at the tips of their stems, and then, surprisingly, they come back up with stunning, vibrant, chartreuse flowers that last for months.

Plants in planter: Euphorbia Shorty, Pieris japonica Mt. Fire, Acorus Ogon, Helleborus Molly’s White, Heuchera Cinnamon Stick, Viburnum Spring Bouquet. Variegated ivy, and Heather Golden Starlet. jpg

Today we have many new hellebore varieties available and some of them are just starting to bloom. The newer introductions like the ‘Ice Angels’ and the ‘First Kiss’ series are spectacular. The blossoms vary widely in colour, from deep purples, and pinks, to beautiful bicolours and are quite a large size. The ‘First Kiss’ series also have amazing, speckled foliage that changes in colour as the leaves mature. Hellebore flowers are also full of nectar and pollen, which is a huge bonus for the early bees that emerge as soon as temperatures are 10 C or higher.

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If you’re looking for a bit of winter perfume, the Himalayan sweet box, or sarcococca, is one of the most highly scented of winter plants. Coming in various sizes, from ground-cover types to small sized shrubs, they fit nicely into a container and can fill a whole patio with their fragrance.

My all-time favourite container plant is from the large nandina family. Heavenly bamboo, or nandina domestica, make great container companions. If you can find them in smaller pots, their colourful stems and feathery leaves will bring a softer appearance to your planting. This time of year you will also find that their reddish winter foliage adds an attractive variant to the other plants in your containers.

Often you will need a little spikiness in your pots to create even more interest. Acorus ogon, a resilient, evergreen, upright, gold variegated grass, fills that need perfectly. I also love the fact that the slightest breeze sets this beautiful plant in motion, adding another element to your creation.

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As for colour, the superstars are the winter ericas or heathers. Low growing Golden Starlet provides a nice contrast with its bright golden foliage and pure white flowers. Today, many growers are combining several colours in one pot, with the most popular combos being shades of purple and whites together. It’s a spark of colour that is much needed at this time of year.

Smaller-sized varieties of heucheras with vibrant foliage colours, like the hot lime green Proven Winners Primo, Pistachio, Ambrosia, the new Dolce series with Apple Twist, and Ball Gown, are so bright they add a spring look all by themselves! Hot lime is definitely one of the most important spring colours, but some of the luscious purple colours found in varieties like Dolce Wildberry also add a rich spring touch.

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Moving on to the spillers; sedum Angelina is my personal favourite. The foliage is a vibrant golden yellow, and it has a wonderful trailing habit. In colder weather, the tips pick up a nice red tinge. More importantly, it’s extremely winter-hardy and is just one of those worry-free plants you can enjoy for years. Variegated ivies also work well as spillover plants, as do some of the smaller-potted, trailing euonymous varieties.

Plants in planter: Camellia japonica, Winter heather, Helleborus Ice N’ Roses Rosado, Euphorbia Shorty, Heuchera Prima Pistachio, Choisya aurea, Acorus Ogon, and Sedum Angelina. jpg

Potted spring bulbs, especially those in small 10 centimetre pots, can be popped in to add an important spring essential. Tiny Tete a Tete daffodils provide some of the longest lasting colour. Grape hyacinths, or muscari, add a vibrant blue touch, and even crocus, in white, blue, purple or yellow, always lift spirits.

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Once all these plants are stylishly arranged and planted in your container, a finishing touch is the addition of some pussy willow stems, pushed firmly into the soil among the other plants. With a little luck, they will root, and you will have some new plants for your garden.

If the weather remains cool and wet well into the spring, these plant combinations will look great even when the weather warms-up. Many of your flowering plants will also attract pollinators and help support our beneficial insects, which are in decline.

The beauty of these containers is that ultimately everything in them can go into your garden perennial or shrub beds, but, most of all, these planters will give your spirits a much-needed lift at this time of year, and reaffirm the promise that spring is on its way.

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