Recently a friend asked if I’d written about container gardening. Her question started me thinking about how the plants on the decks around our house have changed over the years. I pulled out old photos to see if my memory was accurate. Yes, the choices I made had changed. And while that wasn’t really surprising, what I noticed most was that the differences year to year reflected changes not only in my experience but also in my emotions and moods.
Decks surround Glen Villa, our house and garden in Quebec, offering lots of space for containers. The deck beside the living room ends in a sharp point and shortly after moving into the house, I began to fill this corner with plants in pots. The earliest photo I found was from 2005.
Two years later, I was feeling more adventurous and more cheerful. Or at least I think I was — there certainly were more pots in the corner and all together the arrangement was more colourful.
By 2009, I must have been in really high spirits. I mean, just look at the array of plants — full blown technicolour.
Two years later still, in 2011, was I feeling less enthusiastic? There were fewer pots and fewer flowers …
… but only because I was planting another area on the deck as well.
By 2015, a mustard coloured Chinese pot added a focal point, reducing the number of plants. And I seem to remember that by that time, after ten years of planting the point on the deck, I was getting tired of doing the same old thing, again and again.
The following years confirm that suspicion, since the number and variety of plants I used kept going down. Now, in 2019, white Mandevilla vines are the only plants on the living room deck, and their white blossoms are cool and serene.
The same sort of arc, like a bell curve mounting from enthusiasm to exuberance to restraint, occurred on the deck beside the dining room. It morphed from this in 2006 …
…to this in 2014
to this a year or two later.
The planter by the kitchen door is shaded for most of the day, so over the years the flowers I’ve chosen to plant there have, of necessity, been shade lovers. Is it because of that limitation that the overall design of the planter has remained relatively consistent? The colours and textures of the plants have changed but not the composition — two or three annuals or perennials that caught my eye at the start of the season, with at least one bright colour to light up the dark.
Sometimes the random nature of my choices means that the planter was successful throughout the summer….
…and sometimes it didn’t. The planter below looked sparse when first planted but nicely full by the time of my son’s wedding in July. Then for most of August, it just limped along.
This year’s plants have been a pleasure all summer. Touches of white on the yellow begonia complemented the starry white flowers beside it, and the bird’s nest found in a branch pruned from a nearby spirea added the off-centre focal point that I like in a rectangular planter like this.
Now, three months after planting, the leaves have disappeared from the spirea. The begonia is starting to look past its best but the planter as a whole is still just fine.
Looking back through the years, I found only one set of pots I miss… a simple planting with Ricinus.
Maybe next year, I’ll plant these again.
Do you plant containers? Do you change what you plant from year to year or do you repeat a design you are happy with?
Are you on Instagram? I’m posting there now and would enjoy seeing your photos. You can follow me at glen_villa_garden for photos of what’s happening in the garden.