Combine colorful plants in containers
Lisa Freed, co-owner of Wells Medina Nursery in Medina, Washington (425/454-1853), has a knack for combining hardy plants in containers that deliver color from fall through winter.
She uses 24-inch plastic containers with a faux terra-cotta finish because they're lightweight and won't crack in freezing weather as ceramic pots do. She fills each one with potting soil, then mixes in a couple handfuls of controlled-release fertilizer to keep growing plants fed.
Freed's pots usually start with a shrub or some other tall accent plant (Phormium, for example) transplanted from a 2- or 5-gallon nursery can. Around it, she arranges annuals or perennials from 4-inch pots or 1-gallon cans, pairing plants with contrasting colors and textures.
Annuals. Pansies ('Delta Pure Red', 'Skyline Copperfield'), 'Rainbow' chard, 'Redbor' kale, or violas ('Clear Sky Rose', 'Starlet Yellow').
Perennials. Bergenia cordifolia, Carex hachijoensis 'Evergold', Festuca glauca 'Elijah Blue', Heuchera ('Bressingham Bronze', 'Green Spice', 'Plum Pudding'), or Phormium ('Amazing Red', 'Duet', 'Maori Queen', 'Rainbow Warrior').
Shrubs. Aucuba japonica 'Mr. Goldstrike', Calluna vulgaris 'Wickwar Flame', Camellia sasanqua 'Yuletide', Chamaecyparis pisifera 'True Blue', Euonymus japonicus ('Aureo- Marginatus', 'Aureo-Variegatus'), Ilex verticillata 'Winter Gold', Mahonia x media 'Charity', Nandina domestica 'Gulf Stream', or Osmanthus heterophyllus ('Goshiki', 'Sasaba').