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Tuesday, October 24, 2017 AnnualsHouseplantsPerennialsSummer

Containers, Chicago Style

Chicago streets are overflowing with creative and colorful containers. This Midwestern city is one of the greenest cities in the country. The parks, the gardens, the street-side plantings. Plus there are 5.5 million square feet of rooftop gardens. As soon as the weather warms up in the spring, more than 50 diverse city neighborhoods dig into planting. Containers, courtyards, balconies, and beds bloom along traffic-crammed streets. On one hot summer day, I walked north from Streeterville through Old Town to Lincoln Park, crisscrossing through neighborhoods and snapping photos. I discovered an ever-changing landscape of urban plantings with some creative twists and mixtures. Here are some of my favorites.

Basic Black Planter + Mixed Color
Apartment buildings, condos, and businesses dress up their front entryways with splashy containers. It’s super-fast and super-easy curb appeal. Take this container: it starts with a large square planter in basic black. (Black goes with everything!) A spiky cordyline in the center is surround by red pentas and the green spiky shoots of succulent senecio. The outside of the planter features a frothy edge of variegated ivy that cascades over the edges. Tucked around the container rim are red-and-yellow coleus with some little pops of blue fanflower (aka scaevola).

Concrete Pot + Foliage Festival
If you want to add a dramatic bit of color to any container garden, set a flaming red ti plant in the center. Wow! Then add little dabs of color by planting pink begonias, then scoop in a dollop of variegated ivy and green sprays of asparagus ferns around the edges. As you can see here, foliage plants do all the heavy lifting in this container. The combination of flowering and foliage plants will look stunning all summer, through autumn. Then the show is over. The tender annuals (ivy, asparagus fern and the ti plant) can be popped out of the pot before frost and given a second life indoors as houseplants. Using houseplants in containers is a great way to get double duty from your plant purchases because you can enjoy them outdoors in the summer and indoors in the winter. Get tips for saving your tropicals before winter.

Traditional Pair + Snake Plant Focal Points
A pair of stylish traditional planters (with inset panels) flank the front door of a condo. They are tall, elegant, high style — oh and very easy to pull off for your own front porch. The sword-like leaves of a snake plant create an eye-catching centerpiece (which is also known as a “thriller” component in container-planting circles). The snake plant, a popular houseplant, grow tall while the draping tubular blooms of fuchsia hang down (they are the “spiller” which stretches out the amount of color. The middle of the planter (known as the “filler) is another showy houseplant — green and white caladium. Bronze oxalis also fills in, scampering amid the flowers and foliage.  

Dig into more on container gardening.

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