Landscape containers have moved beyond the patio table and front step. They’re often an integral part of many landscape designs, says Susan Cohan, principal of Susan Cohan Gardens, Chatham, New Jersey, which specializes in residential landscape design. “It’s a way to add verticality, a way to add color, a way to add a counterpart to natural textures, a way to continue a design scheme all the way through,” she explains.
Although a single container or two won’t make or break a landscape design, Cohan says “containers can add an incredible amount to a project.” As an example, she describes a massive container she saw on a recent visit to a garden in Florida. “It had one beautiful plant in it,” she describes. “It made such a strong statement, it was almost as if it was its own garden.”
Whether containers host a focal point plant or are accents within a spacious outdoor room, they’re serious attention grabbers. Here’s a roundup of what’s hot with containers for 2015.
Traditional is still timeless. Traditional materials, such as cast stone, cast iron, glazed terra-cotta and regular terra-cotta, remain popular year after year, says Peter Cilio, creative director for Campania International. They offer long-lasting, classic style that can’t be beat. Based in Pennsburg, Pennsylvania, the company designs, manufactures and distributes garden accents to independent garden centers.
Old is in. Antique containers continue to draw attention. “There are containers around in the vintage and antiques market that are 300 to 400 years old and are still beautiful; they are actually more beautiful because of their age,” Cohan says. Rustic surfaces, in particular, are popular for 2015. Cohan is seeing renewed interest in metal containers, such as old zinc or galvanized pots, with a distinctive patina.
Simplicity stars. On the other end of the spectrum, Cohan and Cilio agree that clean-lined, contemporary containers are a big draw. Modern shapes – think boxes, cubes and simple cylinders – are expected to be big sellers for Campania International this year.
Colors go bold. Containers with color are in. Garden Media Group’s “2015 Garden Trends Report” cites everything from bold colors like pink and teal to natural palettes and pastels as having the potential to show up in gardens across the country this year – and you’ll likely see some of those hues also on the containers themselves. The NewPro Containers “2015 Interior Design Trends Report” predicts that cooler, softer hues with subtle warm tones will be big.
“There’s new interest in containers that make their own statements in terms of color so that you’re not limited to blue or terra-cotta or green,” Cohan adds. “I’m seeing containers that are very bright or mid-tone.”
Size is key. Right now, Cohan is all about simple, spacious containers. “You want to get the biggest, beefiest container your budget will allow that is appropriate to your space, because little containers are too much work,” Cohan explains. “I like big, oversized, simple containers that don’t compete with the plantings but complement them.”
Portability is a plus. Size may matter, but so does portability. Garden Media Group’s report predicts an uptick in portable gardening with adaptable, flexible planters made of lightweight materials, as well as containers that, thanks to wheels and handles, can be moved with ease.
“We’ve seen increased interest in our modular, lightweight products. They’re simple cubes and boxes with an infinite number of configurations,” Cilio adds. In particular, sales of the company’s fiberglass, polyethylene and composite products are spiking. Cilio says they’re durable, lightweight and perfect for rooftop gardens or anywhere maneuverability is needed, particularly in four-season locations where containers that aren’t frost-resistant or frost-proof have to be moved inside during colder months.
Plantings switch with the seasons. Frost-proof, metal or wooden containers can stay outside and be filled with plantings year-round, even in areas with cold temperatures. In the Northeast, Cohan is seeing more emphasis on changing seasonal plantings. “You can fill these containers with items like sculptures so they’re beautiful all winter long. You can do spring, summer, fall, holiday and winter containers. It’s not a thing that’s permanent.”
Containers get creative. Not all containers used in the garden are manufactured and purchased expressly for planting. Cohan expects to see items not originally intended for outdoor plantings showing up in increasingly creative ways. “I’ve seen containers made out of really big industrial colanders from a kitchen supply house,” she notes. “Another big trend that will probably continue are antique zinc olive baskets. They were never meant to be a container, but people are using them all over the place.” Cohan says designers can use things that aren’t necessarily meant to be planted in as long as they have proper drainage.
Green materials matter. Reusing random items as containers is certainly one way to go “green” in the yard, but even people who are purchasing new pots are looking for more natural materials. Cilio says requests for green materials are booming now. Whether homeowners are interested in reducing their environmental impact or contractors are seeking LEED certification for their construction projects, the “2015 Garden Trends Report” agrees with Cilio that green products are here to stay.
Campania International offers a variety of natural materials including cast stone, terra-cotta and lightweight natural fiber cement (a biodegradable version of cast stone made from jute fiber). Some manufacturers create planters from recycled materials ranging from copper and plastic to rubber.
Small spaces abound. Dennis Smith, director of Campania International’s project division, notes the resurgence in people using rooftops and balconies to display more plants.
“Containers are the perfect vehicle to green up urban spaces,” Cilio adds. Further emphasizing the interest in small space gardening, both Garden Media Group and HGTV identify compact plants as a trend, particularly for millennial and boomer gardeners who live in apartments or condos and have limited outdoor space.
Edible gardens are in. Along with small space gardening comes an increased interest in small-scale edibles perfect for growing in pots. “People are using containers to grow vegetables – taking a small deck, balcony or outdoor space and filling pots with herbs, lettuce, tomatoes,” Cilio notes.
A lot of this year’s trend spotters, including the National Garden Bureau, Neave Landscaping in New York’s Hudson Valley, and Four Seasons Garden Center & Custom Landscape Services in the metro Detroit area, all tout edibles as a top contender for 2015 trends. Mixing edibles and ornamentals in the same container is popular, too.
Outdoor rooms rule. Cohan says one reason landscape containers have grown in popularity in recent years is because they’re increasingly being used as accessories for completely designed outdoor spaces. “People are creating outdoor rooms and accessorizing in the same way they’d accessorize in an indoor space, so they have the opportunity to add more containers and containerized plantings,” she explains.
Garden Media Group points to what it calls “garden-tainment” as a way to further personalize outdoor spaces – containers, whether positioned for privacy or as accents, help complete personalized, home-like outdoor entertaining spaces.
Smith says, “There’s an increase in the popularity of finishing outdoor spaces so they’re more livable.”
The recent upswing in container popularity isn’t all that surprising to Cohan. “The whole market for containers has expanded so much that there’s virtually a container to match every client’s style, every house style,” she says. “The best thing about a container is that it has a sense of impermanence. If you don’t like it, change it.”