Potted Perfection

How to make a statement with outdoor containers in your landscape design

Photos courtesy of Campania International

Outdoor containers have been ubiquitous for as long as we can remember.

Usually, they are used as the vehicle for seasonal color on windows, patios, terraces, front entrances and pool decks. The pots themselves often take a backseat to the plants potted in them. We are finally seeing a change in that trend—the containers are enjoying a rebirth as an integral part of landscape designs with year-round interest. Outdoor containers are finally getting their moment in the sun!


With this shift in thinking about containers from simple vessels for your annual plantings to veritable design components, we cannot forget our unforgiving Colorado weather. The most basic consideration when choosing a pot has to be whether it will last here. Unless you enjoy lugging your containers into your garage every winter, you should only consider high quality cast stone and high-fired glazed ceramic containers. This is one of those situations when spending a little more at first will save you from having to replace crumbling and cracked pots over and over again. 


Size and Plantings

Do not wimp out on size! Fill your space with the largest container it can fit, while keeping an eye on proportions. Too often, we see large front entrances with itty bitty pots flanking the door. Do not be afraid to make a statement—remember, you are making a conscious decision to make this pot a focal point in your garden. 

Size will often dictate what you can plant (or vice versa). If you have any chance at overwintering a perennial or tree, you have to commit to a pot large enough to provide appropriate insulation to the roots during the coldest months. Wishful thinking will not cut it! Hope for the best, but be prepared to lose some plants due to freezing, especially if your containers are in wide open spaces. Keeping them closer to the house or under a shade structure will offer more protection. Do not forget to water throughout the cold months as the snow fall is generally not enough.  

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Containers displayed as unique pottery or structural decor pieces in the landscape do not necessarily need to be planted. Large ones make a substantial statement as an accent piece thanks to the colors, shapes or textures. They literally become part of the house architecture, without any other needed enhancement.

But most of us still want to take advantage of the containers for our favorite plants.



Venture out from the four corners of terraces, decks or front porches. Build groupings, create some thoughtful asymmetry, arrange them around outdoor furniture to build backdrops, or lay out outdoor rooms—have fun and throw some imagination into the mix. 

Have a tricky perennial bed in front of your house? Stop replacing perennials and display a row of containers along the house foundation instead of planting in the ground. You get height, flexibility, color and added interest in one fell swoop.

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Create hedges with a few large containers aligned on the property lines instead of yet another fence or gate. This soft boundary is versatile and can lean either formal or informal depending on the container and plant material.

No one loves to look at those hideous A/C machines! Hide those with a few strategically placed pots and plant them with evergreen shrubs for a year-round barrier.

Have a neighbor who could stand to read a couple of these articles? Screen the unpleasantness of the neighboring gardens with trees planted in adequately large containers. Do not forget to winter water!


Install an alley leading to a classic pot on a pedestal. And with that simple step, your garden is now ready for its photo shoot.

Use a container placed in a perennial bed as a structural statement piece. Planted or not, the right container for your style and space is a piece of art in your garden. Take advantage of pedestals for more height above the garden plantings if necessary, or even to create levels. 


Annie Huston is the co-owner of Birdsall & Co., a home and garden boutique in Denver, Colorado that is considered to be one of the finest in the nation. View their profile or reach Annie at annie@birdsallgarden.com.

Content for this article provided by Birdsall & Co.

Categories: Landscaping & Gardening, Native Content