ISSUE 4  |  Herbs and Potions

Container of the Month: New Life for Old Plants

January 29, 2014 7:30 PM

BY Julie Chai

I’m not big on resolutions, but I do spend time thinking about how I envision the months ahead and I like making a fresh start in January. I go on a mad cleaning spree, purging anything that doesn’t fit into how I hope we’ll live in the coming year, making space for what may come, and keeping what works.

This extends to the garden, too: I’ve predictably collected a hodgepodge of plants and containers by year’s end, so I dump out crowded planters and toss into the compost anything that’s past its prime. But I always save plants that still have utility, and love repurposing them in new designs.

Remember our June container of the month? All those plants still looked good come January, but had totally outgrown the pot they shared, so I separated the plants and gave them new homes where they could stretch out. The ‘Glacier Blue’ euphorbia and lamb’s ears got new container buddies, below.

Photographs by Meredith Swinehart.

Above: I love how the euphorbia filled out, so I made it the centerpiece of this 12-inch square planter (which might look familiar as it was repurposed from our September Container of the Month). With the euphorbia now taking up more room, I kept just a small chunk of lamb’s ears. If you’ve grown lamb’s ears, you know how quickly it fills out, and how easy it is to divide–you can literally pull apart sections with your hands, and keep those that have a healthy amount of roots. ‘Big Ears’, a variety with oversized leaves, is available from White Flower Farm for $12.45.

Above: For a dramatic color contrast, I added Dolce Licorice heuchera, one of the most beautiful varieties I’ve seen. Along with rich plum leaves, it has wine-hued undersides. 

Above: Side by side, both the silvery-blue-and-white euphorbia and dark heuchera look even more distinct. Morningsun Herb Farm carries ‘Glacier Blue’ Euphorbia for $9.

Above: Because it has creamy white edges, this euphorbia is an especially useful in part-sun locations.

Above: Plants can get crammed on nursery shelves, so when planting something that I’ve just brought home, I’ll often fluff and loosen the leaves a bit so they look more filled out.

Above: To spill over the edge of the container, I added ‘White Nancy’ Lamium which has silvery leaves edged in bright green. Lamium can fill in pretty quickly, so I started with small seedlings from a six-pack. If you want bigger plants, you can get them from Bluestone Perennials for $9 in spring.

The silvers and whites of this all-foliage combo will brighten even the darkest winter days, while the rich burgundy adds just enough contrast to make the other plants pop. For more easy container ideas, see Frosty Winter Whites, Rich Fall Hues, and Tough Beauties That Won’t Die.