Pretty, low maintenance perennial combinations

poppies and zinnias

Eschscholzia californica ‘Apricot Chiffon’ with Zinnias

All of these are low maintenance, drought tolerant, long blooming, and handle poor or clay soils just fine.

monarda daylilies liatris

Monarda (Bee Balm) with Liatris and Daylilies

echinacea, lyatris, achillea

Echinacea, Liatris, and Alchillea (Yarrow)

Black Plants

persian shield

Persian shield and Sweet potato vine ‘Garnet Lace’

Black (and deep purple and maroon) plants give you everything: high impact, drama, mystery, and sophistication. They’re an easy way to add a focal point where you need one, and they intensify the colors of everything around them. All of these photos were taken in the gardens at Cantigny Park in Wheaton, IL.

dahlia mystic illusion

Dahlia ‘Mystic Illusion’ mass planting in front of a green hedge. This variety doesn’t need to be staked.

sambuca black lace

Sambuca ‘Black Lace’ (Sambucus nigra). It looks like a Japanese Maple, but it’s an actually an Elderberry!

persian shield

Persian shield with Coleus


A single black coleus adds depth and cools down this hot group.

Garden ideas: ways to pair white flowering plants

Two ways with white flowers: big bold contrast, or white on white serenity.

cosmos and mahogany hibiscus

White Cosmos and Hibiscus ‘Mahogany Splendor’ with Impatiens ‘Sonic Scarlet’ in the idea garden at Cantigny Park.

hydrangea and clematis

The opposite approach, in my mother’s garden. White Clematis and Oak Leaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia).

Container garden ideas: a touch of hot color

summer container

These gorgeous containers are at the entrance of one of my favorite home shops, Cocoon, in Geneva, IL. I’ve been noticing something about my favorite container compositions: a bit of orange. Even a small amount of hot color keeps things from looking too fussy. The black painted container sets everything off beautifully and can go traditional or modern (if you simplify the plantings a bit like this next container). I’m definitely painting my window planter boxes black.

summer container

More beautiful, colorful container garden ideas

mixed containers

Here are a few more of the gorgeous containers in my mother’s garden. The big pot in the back is Salvia guaranitica ‘Black and Blue’ underplanted with a green and gold variegated ivy. The pot in the front is Heliotrope ‘Fragrant Delight’ and Lysimachia nummularia ‘goldilocks’ (Creeping Jenny).


  1. Pick a theme each year. Here we have: green, chartreuse, purple, black, dark blue.
  2. Repeat plants from container to container or use plants that are very similar. Don’t make every container the same, but each container should have either a color or a plant in common with another container.
  3. For mixed containers, pick and upright grower, something that will spill over the edges, and a filler plant if your upright grower is thin or spiky.
  4. Group your containers by theme and watering requirements.

colorful containers

The front blue pot is more of that gorgeous chartreuse Creeping Jenny. Behind it is Salvia elegans (golden pineapple sage) and Sweet Potato Vine ‘Midnight lace.’ The salvia will get a LOT bigger and put out red tubular flowers that hummingbirds love, and the leaves smell like pineapple when you crush them. (Yep, that’s basil, a geranium, and a gerbera daisy in those other pots. There’s a WHOLE bunch of other pots!)

colorful containers

Here is the pot on the left in the above photo. This is Society Garlic (Tulbaghia violacea), Sweet Potato Vine ‘Golden Lace’ and Creeping Jenny.

Container garden ideas: mixed herbs and succulents

mixed herbs in hypertufa pot

Visiting my family this week – so I thought I’d show you some of my mother’s garden. Here is lime thyme and lavender thyme in a hypertufa container.

Herbs and succulents are the easiest things you can grow in containers. Just pot them up and put them in the sun. Green succulents can take a little shade, silver ones need full sun. Use whatever bag of potting soil is the cheapest. You don’t have to anything different with the soil for the succulents. Herbs get watered twice a week, and succulents get watered once a week. More on growing herbs here and growing succulents here.

lavender and thymes

Lavender and lavender thymes in a ceramic strawberry pot.

Mixed sedums and hens and chicks

Mixed hens and chicks and sedums in a ceramic strawberry pot. The varieties in the pockets were found in a nursery section for miniature gardens.