Debra Prinzing

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Plant a conifer in a container for evergreen appeal

October 7th, 2011

Check out pages 122-128 for my "Evergreen Appeal" story featuring Jean Zaputil's container designs

The October issue of Better Homes & Gardens features a container design story that I created with my talented BFF Jean Zaputil of Seattle-based Jean Zaputil Garden Design.

This story began when I pitched the idea of a feature about using ornamental and dwarf conifers as the focal point of a fall container . . . that will then transition nicely through the winter months. My editor in the garden department, Eric Liskey, and his art director Scott Johnson liked the idea. But then they asked me to find a good location for photographing the fall story.

I immediately thought of Jean’s intimate Seattle garden, which is planted for all-season interest and has beautiful seating areas both in the front yard and back garden.

Once Scott and Eric signed off on the location, our challenge continued. Scott thought that a purple palette was both uncommon and a great foil for the evergreen needled foliage. So, needless to say, much of my energy producing this story was spent scouring the greater Seattle marketplace for plum, lavender, aubergine and purple containers. We ended up with a grand total of three pot styles – a small lavender ridged pot; an egg-shaped pot (in 2 sizes) and a classic olive jar shape (also in 2 sizes).

Thank goodness for some wonderful importers here in Western Washington who came to the rescue, including Washington Pottery and Aw Pottery! Our friend Gillian Mathews of Ravenna Gardens was extremely helpful in making those connections for me.

The tiniest pot, measuring only 7 inches, looks quite sweet in Jean's entry garden.

Jean used many of her favorite wholesale and retail nursery sources to come up with the conifer “stars” for each pot, as well as their companion plants.

The idea was to use only two or three accent plants in the container so as to show off the Hinoki false cypress, juniper and other conifers in their full glory.

We hope that this piece inspires readers who never before viewed a conifer as a container plant to do something fun and different this fall. I quoted Jean in the story saying:

“Use the golden glow or silver shimmer of an

ornamental conifer to catch the fall light.”

And Jean color-coordinated with her pots!

Here are some of the tips we outlined:

1. Use a large pot, if possible.

A 12-inch diameter pot is a good minimum size.

2. Start with a small juniper, cypress, or other conifer.

Then combine it with two or three complementary or contrasting cool-season annuals and perennials.

3. Flowering plants might fade after the first frost.

You can replace them with foliage perennials that will last through fall, even well into winter.

Here is the best of the best – from our photo shoot a year ago this month! Kudos to the very talented Laurie Black, who took the magazine photos, such as the one above. The photo of Jean and Pots 1, 2, 3 & 4 are my photos.

Pot 1

POT 1: Sadly, this gorgeous purple egg-shaped pot was left on the cutting room floor! But here is the recipe:






Pot 2

POT 2: A miniature garden in a pot – perfect for a side table or the front porch:







Pot 3

POT 3: This might be my favorite! We photographed it on Jean’s front porch, against her beautiful green screen door:


Pot 4

POT 4: This copper red “turnip” pot is one of two Jean already owned and we thought the color and shape looked autumnal, while also complementing the purple pot tones:

A few more tips, from the story:

When, and whether, you leave containers out all winter depends on where you live. In Zones 8-10, most conifers and cool-season annuals will survive outdoors in pots. In Zones 7 and lower, few annuals will overwinter in pots, and some evergreens won’t either, depending on hardiness. So before the ground freezes, transplant them to the garden or move the pot into a shed or unheated garage. Water pots as needed to keep soil moist throughout the winter. For outdoor winter use, pots should be glazed, hard-fired clay. Terra-cotta and soft-fired clay do not withstand freezing.

6 Responses to “Plant a conifer in a container for evergreen appeal”

  1. Debra Prinzing » Blog Archive » Plant a conifer in a container for … | ASA Container -For Afghanistan Says:

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  2. Lydia Plunk Says:

    My containers thank you. Out to visit them to plan some needed refreshment):-

  3. Anna Says:

    All of them are beautiful, although my favorite one is POT no. 4. my front door would definitely need some fresh-up, I might create one of theses beauties. Thanks for the tips and especially for those Latin names!

  4. debi Says:

    Love it all! SO glad to find your blog, hope you come visit me! I finally got to Georgetown (live in Snohomish) and decided I’d like to live there 😉

    Happy Autumn,
    Deb @ Garden Party

  5. Margaret Says:

    The conifer pots are beautiful. I would definitely want those in my garden. Thank you for sharing the recipe on each of the pots, it shows how much quality are placed into each them. I love them all and I already have an idea where their designated places will be.

  6. Barbara Says:

    I love how you arranged each of the pots. They look so nice! I’ve been wanting to plant potted plants for a long time now but never knew what to put in them to make them look good. Thanks for the informative post and all the nice pictures!

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