Cool-Weather Container Combos

Like most gardeners, I await the first planting of my outdoor urns and containers with anxious anticipation.

For early season plantscaping, I look for unique combinations of cool-weather flowers and foliages hardy enough to withstand the fluctuating spring temperatures.

Preferably, I like to use perennial varieties which are enduring enough to spend the later part of the summer in the garden and able to overwinter for the following season.

As a general rule of thumb, when creating a plantscape, start with the height in the centre of the container. Gnarly stems of curly willow look great when mixed with branches of pussy willow or dogwood.

Surround these branches with plants that achieve moderate height. (This would be a great place for spring bulbs such as tulips or daffodils.) Surround the edge of your planter with full spring plants such as pansies or violas.

One of my favourite plants to use as a trailing vine is heuchera “amethyst myst”. With unique bold purple and black foliage, heuchera has cool silver-veined leaves with a bright magenta underside.

This particular plant is also great to use in hanging baskets, borders and window boxes.

Later in the season, I replace these early season plants with heat-tolerant annuals, perennials and flowering shrubs.

In seeking out a collection of cold hardy colourful plants, my preference goes to tried-and-true early flowering and foliage perennial favourites such as bellis perennis “polar bear strawberries and cream” (English daisy), lysimachia nummularia “Aurea” (creeping Jenny) and festuca “blue crown” (blue fescue grass).

This compact moundy fescue grass adds a true blue take in any plantscape.

For early season annuals, one cannot beat the resilience of the pansy. In their multitude of colours, shapes and sizes, top early-flowering varieties for 2010 include: Pansy Carrera Tangerine, Pansy Dynamite and Pansy Fizzy Raspberry (for those who love the frilled fringe look).

If grown organically, these plants also make a great addition to salads and spring dishes.

If you have forced your own spring bulbs, or have purchased some at your local garden centre, these also look great when added into a spring planter.

Another favourite cool-weather spring plant is the primula polyanthus. I can never buy just one of these cool pleasure pots.

In their extraordinary colours of fuchsia, yellow, purple, red and blue, these little round treasures look great on their own or when added into a spring container combo.

Primula polyanthus loves the damp, cool spring temperatures which puts them high on my list of favourites. These small, durable perennials will, however, not survive the Yukon winters but are well worth the investment even if enjoyed only for one season.

This spring, why not spruce up your outdoor plants with a combination of cool-weather annuals and perennials? Easy to create and fun to make, spring planters are a great way to welcome the spring season.

Shari Morash is a gardening enthusiast and an accredited designer. Contact her at [email protected].

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