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Spring 2011 Newsletter: Guest Writer Dennis Schrader
Dennis Schrader is one of the foremost experts on tropical plants. He co-owns and operates Landcraft Environments, a wholesale greenhouse in Mattituck, New York. He is the author of “Hot Plants for Cool Climates” and “Extraordinary Leaves.” www.landcraftenvironment.com
One of the best ways to make a statement in the garden is to add a beautiful structural element... I’m not talking about a gazebo, decorative fence or pergola but another type of element that offers some hard lines to a garden and gives it a focal point to boot. A beautiful structural element comprised of its most essential basic ingredients could simply be a plant in a pot. The location of the “Plant in Pot” can be just about anywhere; the most obvious place would be resting on a terrace or deck or flanking a set of stairs. A more imaginative location could be set into a garden bed or arranged out on a lawn. There isn’t any area of the garden that’s out of bounds…. the vegetable garden, perennial border, rock garden, pond or woodland glade can all benefit with a bit of “Plant in Pot” structure.
Sometimes the plant profiled is a special plant, that one of a kind beauty that deserves its own pot and needs to be showcased. Special plants may be special for other reasons besides being stunningly beautiful and rare; sometimes they have special needs in regards to water, light and soil. The “P in P” scenario extends its reach far beyond exquisiteness and dives into the realm of mixing plants with totally different needs into one harmonious vision.
Mid summer on a sunny bluestone terrace that can bake a plant at a sweltering 110 degrees is the perfect place to showcase a collection of drought tolerant, alien-looking caudiciforms…. but then add a large watertight bowl containing lush tropical blue flowering water lilies. They all love the heat and sun but the caudiciforms would rot if they were flooded with too much water and the lilies…. well they would be ready for the compost pile in just a few short minutes if they were ever exposed to dry Madagascarian conditions. In a trough garden alpine display wouldn’t it be fabulous to have a low dish planter overflowing with Lithops that could be plucked up and brought into the house just before a frost is due to strike. Or, how about combining some heat, sun and water loving tropicals with some heat, sun and drought loving succulents. Combining different plants with different needs together in satisfying arrangements allows for unlimited possibilities and countless horticultural displays.
A “Plant in Pot” display can be most effective and look its best when it is simply one plant in one pot standing alone. The plant has to be something that not only stands up to its surroundings and doesn’t become overshadowed, but complements its neighboring plants as well. A stunning agave in an urn placed in the center of a courtyard makes a stately gesture with a nod to formal elegance. Place the same agave out in a field of wildflowers and it becomes a very different look, more fanciful and less expected.
Overall, the “Plant in Pot” experience should conform to proper horticultural techniques as much as being an artistic and bold endeavor that stimulates the creative imagination.
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