Tricks and tips from a Northwest gardener on turning heat-loving plants into unforgettable containers for your patio

Jim McCausland

"Bling for the garden" is how Jill Goodsell describes the captivating containers she uses to dress her property in Woodinville, Washington.

"I want a garden that invites people to linger, and containers play a role in that," she says. "People stop, point them out, and stay awhile."


Rosettes of frosty pink Echeveria gibbiflora 'Metallica' flank icy blue chalk fingers (Senecio vitalis), while string of pearls (S. rowleyanus) cascades down the pot's sides. Common heliotrope (Heliotropium arborescens), with sweetly scented purple flowers, rises in back. The pot (9 inches wide and 12 inches tall) sits on a rusted iron pedestal.


Why do you like to display pots by themselves, rather than in clusters? Bunched pots can look contrived and overwhelming. I'd rather use single pots to punctuate the landscape.

How do you choose plants for containers? I know that certain plants always work. If I see a really sweet red Ricinus for sale, I buy it. Or I put plants together in the nursery; if they dance, I know I've got a winning design.

What about pairing plants for color? I usually choose colors that are opposites on the spectrum: green and purple, red and blue, or tangerine and blue. I really like blue! I'm also inspired by harmonious color blends, like subtle blues and greens you find in succulents. Sometimes I punch up that palette with brighter foliage or flowers.

Any planting tips to share? Most pots need more drain holes, so I drill out the existing hole to make it bigger, or drill more holes. Then I cover the holes from inside the pot with a coffee filter to hold in the potting soil. To keep plants well fed, I mix Dr. Earth Organic Flower Garden Fertilizer (707/448-4676 for store locations) into the soil at planting time, then supplement it with a little liquid fish emulsion during the growing season.

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