You have a stunning container and gorgeous plants to go in it. You plant it carefully, stand back to gaze at your new masterpiece and you're . . . well, underwhelmed. Nothing's really wrong, but it doesn't say "Wow!"
Here are 10 design tips and tricks to help take your planters from merely pretty to pretty fantastic.
1 Mulch matters
Pots with a single upright plant—say, a rosemary topiary or a large hosta—leave a great deal of boring soil revealed. A layer of attractive mulch, such as washed river stones, terra-cotta pebbles, glass marbles or sphagnum moss, adds a finishing touch and cuts down on water evaporation. (Remember to keep mulches away from plant stems.)
2 Get a lift
To add extra height, place a plastic rose collar (used to protect hybrid teas over winter) in the centre of a large container already filled with soil. Fill the centre of the collar with additional soil. Now you have two tiers to plant in. If the collar is visible after planting is complete, camouflage the plastic using a few clumps of moist sphagnum moss.
3 Show no soil
Plant closely, fully and generously so your containers look gorgeous from the get-go. Gently squeeze root balls into thin, narrow shapes to make room for more plants. Don't worry about the tight quarters: careful watering, quality soil, regular feeding and deadheading will keep your display in top shape.
4 More foliage, please
Garden designers always sing the praises of contrasting shapes, textures and shades of green found in foliage plants. In containers, use at least one-third foliage plants to set off flowering plants to best advantage.
5 Set the stage
When grouping different containers, raise a few at the back by placing them on bricks or upside down pots. Not only does this add height to your scene, it improves air circulation, too.