These few recommendations will give you amazingly beautiful containers for your ourdoor areas, patios, garden landscapes. The same principles used to make these containers will also work well for and ‘in the ground landscaping! First think about what kind of effect you are trying to get. (If you are not familiar with this kind of thought process, just look at any gardening magazine and see what pictures you like with container subjects, or plant groupings. Then go and visit a nursery, just do some browsing and see what catches your eye, gets, your attention…. in other words, gravitate toward plants that you like. Pay attention to colors (flowers and leaves) and the combinations (complementary colors as well as contrasting colors). The next step is an enjoyable one, choose one plant you like and bring it along with you to see what another plant you like looks like next to the first choice. That is the basic way to compost any grouping of plants in regards to color and textures. The details about each plant can be answered by your nursery specialist. That will help you make your decisions and narrow down the choices. Additionally, do not forget to ask about other plant choices that may not be in stock/inventory at the nursery at that time you visit, or that bloom at other times of the year! Many more choices will broaden your perspectives when you ask/do these simple things.
Some tips on putting together a wonderful display. Find a first choice that pleases you, then build the compostition around that plant. That is done simply with putting another plant side by side to your first choice, but also think of the cultural needs, sun or shade or both, etc? water needs, etc. Those factors will help you plant several plants together that have similar needs and so will perform well together.
Some examples: for sun, Cordyline ‘Festival’ with any of the variegated canna hybrids (choosing dwarf cvs. will give a smaller sized combo, larger cvs. will be bolder and create huge impact.)
adding things like Aloe ‘Johnsons Hybrid’, Lobellia laxiflora, Calendrinia spectabilis, etc. will give you a very long display of blooms to complement that wonderful foliage effect.
For shade, the many Hostas will give dramatic ‘WOW’ impact. Bold foliages in blues, yellows, greens, chartreuse, whites, and their different textures and leaf shapes, provide dramatic impact, but then they also bloom! in hues of blues, purples, some being also fragrant. Larger ferns (western sword, chain, etc. even small yound tree ferns) group well with these, and shade perennials like Astilbe, Aquilegia(columbines), Thalictrum, Dicentra, etc. will give you seasonal colors.
For graceful effects, Dierama and Hakonechloa are hard to beat, as are many of the grasses, *I particularly like Muelenbergia dumosa and Stipa ramossisma(pillar of smoke, purple smoke that is!)
For seasonal impact, the many spring and summer bulbs give a bold, eye catching effect, especially if you use one cv. or possibly 2 en masse.
Abutilons with salvias are also a dramatic combination, You get lush foliage effects with a profusion of blossoms! Sun to shade.
There are so many choices, and they are all fun and pleasing, especially so since you built the display with your choices to make it personal!
Almost any plant can be used in containers, even many trees as youngsters. So your choices are almost limitless.
Plant at least 2 kinds of plants in each combo container. Alternately, you can plant singly in individual containers, and group those containers to make a nice group display! Advantages to this method is that you can move waining performers out of the display and add in something else just coming into peak bloom!
Visiting a nursery to see what is available is key, that will give you all kinds of ideas when you start experimenting with plant combinations together. The dtails of culture are minimal after you make your selections!
Best thing during this process is to have fun, and you gain much satisfaction from the enjoyable work you have done!