Gardening With Tony
BEVERLY HILLS—Large pots, urns and planter boxes filled with ridiculously colorful blooming annuals are certainly nothing new. However, more small perennials and even a few small shrubs and trees are being planted along with the annuals, and allowed to stay indefinitely as fewer annuals get replaced around them as the seasons change.
These plants only need to be tolerant of confinement, regular watering and the comings and goings of the annuals around them. Upright plants should go in back, behind the lower annuals. Cascading and ground cover type plants should go in front.
Small forms of New Zealand flax and trunkless dracaena palms (Cordyline spp.) add texture, form and motion to large planters, but may eventually get too big if not properly pruned. Larger shoots can be pruned out to allow smaller shoots to take over. Alternatively, overgrown plants can be removed and put out in the landscape when they get too big.
Hollywood and Rocky Mountain junipers have striking form if pruned to show it off, and are easier to contain with selective pruning than reputed. Even without the interesting branch structure of junipers, arborvitaes are appreciated for their similar finely textured foliage and their rich green or yellow color. 'Blue Rug' juniper, a grayish ground cover juniper, cascades nicely from large planters.
Large succulents that tolerate water, such as good old fashioned jade plant and various aeoniums, offer bold texture and form in the background. They are easy to prune as they grow, and do not have aggressive roots. Low clumping aloes do the same in front.
Euonymous fortunei, English ivy, various iceplants and other ground cover plants do well cascading over the edges of large planters.
There really is not much limit to the variety of perennials and small shrubs and even trees that play well with others in planters of blooming annuals, and do not mind the confinement and regular watering. Annuals are still the best for flashy floral colors. Yet, the other plants excel in form, texture, foliar color and motion in the breeze.
foliage of the week: Euonymus fortunei
Like ivy, Euonymus fortunei creeps along the ground while juvenile, then climbs as a clinging vine where it finds support, and finally produces shrubby adult growth that can bloom and produce seed when it reaches the top of the support. Most cultivars (cultivated varieties) are juvenile plants that make good small scale ground cover that will eventually climb and mature to adulthood if not contained. As vines, they work nicely on concrete walls, but should not be allowed to climb wooden walls or painted surfaces that they can damage with their clinging rootlets. Cultivars that are grown from cuttings of adult growth are strictly shrubby.
The finely serrated, paired leaves are about three quarters to two inches long and about a quarter to one inch wide. The most popular cultivars of Euonymus fortunei that are grown for their variegated or yellow foliage do not grow too aggressively or get too large. Those with green, unvariegated foliage can slowly but eventually climb more than three stories high. Docile variegated plants can sometimes revert to unvariegated and become more aggressive. (Reversion is mutation to a more genetically stable state.)
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