What to do with containers?
Everyone loves containers. They are everywhere: garden centers and catalogs, favorite dining and shopping places, your neighbor's patio. So how do you get them in your space? There is lots of vague advice out there. One popular website suggests you use complimentary colors or contrasting colors, and then it suggests you keep it simple and use a variety of heights, forms, and textures (in the same paragraph!). We are going to try to offer some more concrete advice.
So let's divide the problem into bitesized pieces. The most obvious problem that we can help with is how many plants to buy. Honestly, a decent looking pot stuffed with the appropriate number of geraniums or begonias will look fine. There is a minimum that will grow to fill the pot, and a maximum that will give a lot of impact right away without strangling itself by August.
The second problem is which plants to buy, and that is the meaty part of all this. Oh, this gets complicated! We have to deal with the container within an overall design, the light conditions, the plants that thrill the gardener, the level of maintenance that's going to happen, the patience of the gardener. I am a huge fan of perennials and small shrubs in containers, but I am more interested in horticulture and I have a very long term perspective. I am also a fan of selling the plants we have!
The third problem is maintenance. Containers are basically plants in intensive care. They are generally a bit crowded, and their attractive features usually make them heavy feeders. I am not a huge fan of fertilizers, but containers usually need really great soil and some additional goodies. The one thing I can say unequivocally is that container watering must be monitored.