Garden Variety

Plants in containers add visual appeal to a home’s décor, inside and out.

Container gardens filled with brightly blooming plants create a colorful focal point on the steps of Stephen Pategas’ Winter Park home.


Container gardens are cropping up all over the design landscape as natural decorative elements, adding lively interest to homes.

In addition to the merely ornamental ones, container gardens that incorporate edible plants such as colorful peppers, artichokes, squash and herbs are growing in popularity. “A huge trend this spring and summer is edible container gardening,” says Jennifer Nelis, spokesperson for the Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association in Orlando. “Many varieties have been especially bred to fit smaller spaces.”

With edible plantings or not, container gardens can be a tasteful part of home décor, both inside and out. Landscape architect Stephen Pategas of Hortus Oasis likes to use unusual receptacles for the more than 100 container gardens he tends at his Winter Park home, including a coquina fountain salvaged from The Peabody hotel, an architectural fragment from China, ancient Turkish amphorae, and antique chimney pots and drain tiles. Pategas likes the mobility of container gardens—when something’s in bloom, move that pot to an attention-getting spot, for example—and says they provide greater versatility than standard in-the-ground gardens. “It’s possible to put a group of containers together and grow a wide diversity of plants; you can’t do that in a bed,” he says. The separate containers allow for customizing the soil mix and addressing specific watering and fertilizer needs.

When choosing containers, pick pots that relate in some way to your home, advises Pategas. If your home has a Mediterranean look, terra-cotta and glazed pots work well; homes with a European influence would be best complemented by Chippendale-style wood planters or formal Greco-Roman stone containers.

If you’re lucky enough to have a Florida vernacular-style home, Barbra Wickliffe Osborne’s work can serve as inspiration. Osborne has been designing gardens in Central Florida for more than two decades. She chooses vessels for her container creations that complement her late 19th century home, including a milk can, a metal water pitcher, a wheelbarrow and a washtub.

Just about any kind of plant can thrive in a container—at least until it outgrows the space—so consider a garden variety of plantings. Cacti, succulents, flowering annuals, fruit-producing vines, and even small palm and citrus trees are good candidates for container gardens. Choose plants with interesting colors and textures, plant them in equally interesting containers and enjoy how beautifully they enhance your home.




Edible herbs, like the thyme planted in this enameled metal pitcher, are popular elements in container gardens.










Fluted drain tiles are repurposed to make a grouping of compact plants in containers.









An antique wheelbarrow serves as a rustic container for a profusion of verbena at Barbra Wickliffe Osborne’s historic Maitland home.

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