Connect the spots
Like fluid ribbons of color, Mediterranean-style clay pots connect a garden's many spaces
By Debra Prinzing | Produced by Debra Prinzing and Scott Johnson | Photographed by Laurie Black
Better Homes & Gardens | August 2013
You’d think that a lot of containers could clutter up a place, but that’s not the case in Susann and Gale Schwiesow’s Pacific Northwest garden, where no fewer than 175 pots of mostly gold and green foliage plants, including clipped boxwood balls, connects four distinct outdoor rooms and draw the eye through the landscape.
Susann, partner in Schwiesow Drilias, a residential landscape firm in Bellingham, Wash., uses mostly terra cotta pottery and many shades of green foliage to give her garden a common design language.
The relationship between one area of the garden and each adjacent outdoor space relies on Susann’s artistry and use of color, especially evident in her selection of apricot and coral flowers and foliage plants to echo the clay pots.
Terra cotta containers populate the home’s front steps, line the patio’s edge and are grouped informally on several terraces. Widely varied, the pots are planted with dwarf evergreens, succulents, tropicals and other lush, heat-loving varieties.
“I like repetition,” Susann says. “It carries your eye around the garden. Each space has a focal point, which leads you from one garden room to the next.”
The intimate look and feel of Susann’s patio relies on the successful way she places her many pots. Follow her design tips to create your own potted landscape:
- Select a pottery color, finish or glaze and use it consistently. It’s okay to mix styles and sizes, but stick to a single palette. Susann uses high-quality terra cotta, which means the clay endure winter frosts.
- Create groupings of pots for impact. Susann starts with a symmetrical layout, then she adds accent pots on one side to lessen the design’s formality.
- Vary the height of pots in a group. Elevate short pots on a stack of concrete pavers or an upturned saucer.
- Create an informal edge to a patio by arranging similar pots in a straight or staggered row. Susann uses medium and large-sized terra cotta pots, planted with common boxwood balls, to give a sense of enclosure to her back terrace.
Each of Susann and Gale’s garden rooms is a special destination where they gather to observe the garden and enjoy a little R&R. Susann uses several easy techniques to tie one to the next.
- Choose a theme color and an accent color, then repeat throughout the garden. For example, the foliage plants are mostly dark green, but Susann uses trees, shrubs and perennials with chartreuse-foliage as accents.
- Give each space a focal point to lead you from one room to the next. The focal point is an eye-catching moment of drama, such as a singular pot, a specimen plant or a furniture grouping.
- Define transitions. “Show where the garden room lets you in and lets you out,” Susann says. For example, she places pots to emphasize pathways, steps and transition points.