Select an area, noting its light patterns. If possible, try to factor in the change in light as trees leaf out in spring and the sun gets higher during summer. In this case, New England Wild Flower Society horticulturist Pam Thomas chose a lightly shaded setting. She selected a variety of plants for their flower and foliage color as well as their height. To accommodate multiple plants, she decided on one large pot rather than a combination of smaller pots. She filled the pot to within 1 inch of its lip with a well-draining potting soil mix.
Thomas sited the plants in the container, moving them around to make sure the combination was pleasing from all angles. Once she was satisfied with the placement, she dug depressions in the mix and gently placed the plants in their allotted spaces, lightly firming them in. (If you incorporate plants dug from your garden, remove as much soil as possible from their roots because garden soil is heavier than a potting mix and does not allow for the aeration and drainage that roots need to flourish in a container.)
The finished display features the smoky purple leaves of ‘Chocolate’, a white snakeroot (Eupatorium rugosum) cultivar; the powdery, almost blue leaves of ‘Woodlander’s Blue’, a cultivar of dusty Zenobia pulverulenta; and the white-and-green variegated foliage of ‘Stairway to Heaven’, a New England Wild Flower Society patented introduction of Jacob’s ladder (Polemonium reptans). Thomas applies a diluted 20–20–20 liquid feed once a month and waters as necessary; weeding the tightly packed grouping is unnecessary.