New Zealand Flax and Oriental Poppies

phormium and poppies

Saw this great combination today at a grocery store plaza of all places. New Zealand Flax (phormium) with Oriental Poppies (papaver). I love how the salmon poppies pick up the pink edges of the New Zealand Flax leaves. Both colors really pop against the flax and the orange poppies practically glow. New Zealand Flax is pretty indestructible and I love this idea of it in a container, surrounded by changing waves of annuals weaving up through its spiky form.

Annie’s Annuals has about every color of poppy you could want. They are annuals, but they will very happily reseed for you.

Garden ideas: complicated containers made simple

how to plant a mixed container

These beautiful pots look complicated but they all follow a basic formula. From the center radiating out to the edge, plant something:

  1. Tall, upright, and spiky in the center:
    Hollyhocks – here are some black and burgundy ones. So cool.
  2. Upright and bushy
  3. Upright and spreading
    Osteospermum (African Daisy)
  4. Mounding and compact
  5. And finally,
    Trailing, sprawling plants around all the edges:
    Calibrachoa (Million Bells). They look like tiny petunias. I’m in love with them, especially Tangerine and Peach Evolution.
    Verbena canadensis ‘Homestead Purple’

As far as containers go, you literally cannot go wrong with weathered terra cotta in a classic shape. And it will only look better with age.

how to plant a mixed container

how to plant a mixed container

how to plant a mixed container

A vintage modern container garden

charming container group

A charming vignette with a vintage, eclectic feel. This garden belongs to a friend of mine, a jewelry designer who restyles vintage pieces, and her garden definitely reflects her aesthetic.


  1. Weathered pavers and mix of containers, all with age and patina.
  2. Traditional, almost old fashioned plants: ferns, petunias, mandevilla vine, lavender, clover, and jade.
  3. All of the plant choices are lush and delicate.
  4. A soft feminine palette is modernized with a jolt of black and dark purple.
  5. The container palette takes the same approach: soft natural materials or painted black and dark purple.

black petunia container

Love this pairing of bold black and delicate white flowers.

delicate flowers and black clover containers

The delicacy of the large pot is offset and its colors amplified by the big black clover. Blue and yellow is classic, but then you throw that black clover in there and it changes the whole effect.

vintage modern window box

The bold black and delicate white theme is repeated here, and the window box is painted dark purple instead of black.

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.