Create Long Lasting Foliage-First Planters

How often have you seen planted containers for sale at the grocery store – and walked straight past? Certainly they had a few flowers but what else did they have? Most likely it was a dull black cheap looking container with an unimaginative selection of plants that were chosen because….well why exactly were they chosen? Probably because that was what was on hand.

Short-term planters

It takes a very special nursery to acknowledge that while they know how to grow great plants they don’t necessarily know how best to combine them and create professional looking container gardens. Qualitree is one such nursery.

The owners have been analyzing my container designs on my website portfolio, blog and articles for some time before they contacted me and asked me to spend a day with them as a design consultant. Although they couldn’t quite identify what it was that I did differently  they could see that their own combinations were falling short. Rather than settling for average they strove for excellence – something that would set them apart from the competition and that they could be proud of.

After a tour of their state of the art growing facility, a PowerPoint presentation and a hands-on workshop the team was easily able to identify two key areas in which they could improve.

  1. Container selection. One size does not fit all and a cheap black pot looks like a cheap black pot. Marrying the container color, finish and style to the plant selection resulted in a completely different and far more enticing result.
  2. The use of interesting foliage. ‘ Flowers are fleeting, foliage is forever’ may be an oversimplification but the point is well made that if you rely on flowers to hold the design together you create a headache for production as you try to get everything to bloom at exactly the right time, hope they reach your customers quickly and trust that they get sold before the flowers fade. On the other hand if you create a strong foliage picture frame and add a flowering accent if one is even needed at all, you have a much wider window of time in which to assemble, ship and sell.

The day ended with my creating over a dozen combinations for them to use as new ‘recipes’ or as a springboard for designing their own.

Rather than a simple pot of annuals or a ‘perennial bowl’ Qualitree is now able to offer artistic, colorful, professionally designed container gardens that are low maintenance and offer year round interest.

You won’t walk past these.

Karen Chapman lives in Seattle, WA where she owns a design business; Le jardinet ( .  She is an international speaker and co-author of the gold award winning book Fine Foliage (

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