Decorating the Outdoors Using Container Gardens

Container gardens help you to decorate the outdoors living spaces of your home by bringing color, texture, and the beauty of living things into them. When you are decorating the outdoors using containers, consider what the function of the containers are in relation to the space they will occupy. Where a container is placed and the purpose it will fulfill will help you to determine it's size, style, and color.

These two containers pull your eye to the fireplace with their bright green color which stands out against the neutral colored background, and by their height. © Starletdarlene |

Containers gardens can often function as much more than just a place to hold an arrangement of beautiful flowers! Containers can draw attention to an architectural feature such as a door, window, or gate. They also are great for concealing features you don't want to be seen—downspouts, water spigots, electrical plug-ins, hoses, or garbage cans, to name a few. They can brighten a dull area of your house or yard, or they can fill an awkward nook or cranny and turn it into an area of interest.

This small pot not only brightens up an awkward spot on this wall, it also draws your attention to the protruding ledge so that you won't run into it! © Joy Fera -

They can be used to divide or partition spaces, making a large space more intimate or private. They are often used to connect adjoining spaces, such as a covered area and it's adjoining patio, deck, or terrace. They can also emphasize the transition between the house and the yard, especially if they echo elements of both, such as a container that matches the color of your patio tile filled with some of the same flowers that are planted in your flower beds.

Notice how the planters filled with marigolds not only separate and the patio space from the hot tub area, but they also provide some privacy to whoever may be inside the tub! © Ross Chandler-istock photo

Container gardens act like accessories in your outdoor living spaces. When you decorate the outdoors, containers accent your house and furnishings the same way a rug or pillow or vase does, especially if you use containers that reflect other features of your home, such as the color of the shutters or your table's umbrella or chair cushions. This also helps to bring continuity and a sense of tranquility to your outdoor decor.

In this small patio area, the owners have used the colors of the fountain and the furniture not only when choosing their containers, but also in their choice of plants! © Starletdarlene |

Container gardens can also act as an artistic statement in and of themselves, as a painting or sculpture would. Some containers are so beautiful that they can stand alone, without flowers or plants. A large container could perhaps be made into a pond or other water feature.

This outstanding container would look beautiful filled with plants, but would be equally as beautiful if made into a water fountain, especially when filled with some colorful rocks or stones. © Inna Felker -

A container can become a beautiful holders for magazines. And I've seen a medium ceramic pot hold a collection of a friend's dog's balls and toys! A small pot could hold some fragrant candles or or potpourri, or when filled with sand, hold citronella sticks to keep the bugs at bay. Whether you use them as a focal point or an accent, containers can be used in many ways to enhance and decorate your outdoor living spaces.

This duo of tall containers is sure to be the focal point of this area of the yard! The red flowers and branches complement the green of the house in the background, while the white of the containers mirrors the white of the trim. © ti_to_tito -

Just as you would inside your house, look for special areas of your yard or patio that would be enhanced by the addition of a unique or beautiful container (or containers!) that would become the outstanding feature of that area. Take into consideration the plants or other features surrounding the area that you are thinking of enhancing with your container(s), and choose containers and plants that will both complement and stand out from those surroundings.

With this container garden in close proximity to the table and chairs, not only can the fragrance and beauty of the flowers be more appreciated, but the dark greens of the background plants and the white wall set off the red, white and blues of the containers blossoms. © Starletdarlene |

Choose places to put your containers that are often or easily seen for your greatest enjoyment of them! Think about the activities you enjoy in your yard, and when you eat outside, or relax on your terrace or deck, place your containers close enough to be enjoyed with out being in the way. Put containers where they can easily be seen from inside your home.

Be sure to keep in mind the space you are trying to fill when you are decorating the outdoors. The openness inherent in outdoor living spaces, especially when there is little or no vegetation in the form of trees and bushes (on a rooftop or balcony, for instance), tends to visually shrink items displayed with that openness as a background. Therefore smaller containers are apt to get lost in larger spaces. Save these containers for smaller areas, such as an alcove in a wall, where they will become a focal point. Use larger containers, or larger groupings of containers, to fill or define a spacious area.

Between the size of this deck and the openness of the sky, these containers are visually getting lost! Larger and/or taller containers, filled with taller plants, would help to make them more visible. Raising the containers off of the floor of the deck, either with plant stands or by attaching the planters to the wall or railing, would also help by bringing them up closer to eye level. © Chuck Schmidt-istock photo

Also be sure to think about the scale of your containers and their plants in relation to the features you place them next to. An example of this would be a smallish window holding a planter or window box planted with large or tall flowers that would grow up to block the light, air or view from the inside. Next to a well used entryway, be careful about planting anything too full that will widen and spread into the path of people coming and going. But against your home's foundation, or along your patio wall, a larger, taller container with full or bushy plants will look better than a small container, which could be overwhelmed by the size of what is in the background.

The geraniums in this window look great against the gray of the wall, but the plant has become so large that it covers more than half of the window and certainly blocks using the window either from the inside or outside. © Convisum |

How you display your containers is generally up to personal preference, but to achieve the best effect think about what you're trying to achieve (dividing a space, creating a focal point, softening the edges of an architectural feature, etc.) and imagine the size and/or number of containers you will need to fill the purpose. Will a grouping of pots work better than one large pot? would the area work with multiple pots on different levels? Are you trying to fill a tall space, or a wide one? Are you looking to create a visual background with your container garden, or are you wanting an arrangement that will serve as the inspiration for your entire outdoor living area?

The blue color of these pots against the yellow background, and the variation of sizes on the two different levels makes the entire container garden stand out while also allowing you to see and appreciate the flowers of the individual containers. The empty pots contribute as an interesting accent. © Robert Lerich |

When you have a picture of your container garden in your mind, make it come to life by taking color swatches and samples of the materials you have used (flooring, stonework, etc) with you when you begin shopping for your containers and plants, and use them to help you choose your container colors and plant selections.

Decorating your outdoor living spaces has become somewhat similar to decorating your interior, what with the availability of such typically indoor furnishings as rugs and lamps made specifically for outdoor use. Let the judicial use of container gardens serve as garden ornaments and they will greatly enhance the livability of outdoor rooms whether you're using them for entertaining, recreation, or relaxation.

The colors and materials used on this terrace's furnishings are beautifully reflected in the colors used in the containers against the far wall. All it needs is to have the three pots in the center filled with flowers in the same color combinations, choosing plants that are tall enough to be seen from the seating arrangement but not so tall that they will hide the pattern of the wall behind them. © Wayne Howard

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