Bright Evergreen Color For Raised Planter Boxes

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I worked with a client recently to change the landscaping in front of her newly remodeled home, including the three tiered planting boxes that framed in her front steps. Like other large planters this one held remnants of miscellaneous flowers, and a large amount of ‘Blue Rug’ Creeping Juniper, but weeds were filling in the open spaces, and the homeowner wanted something more formal and low maintenance.

Large planting boxes can be intimidating because whatever is grown in them becomes such a focal point. The wrong combination of plants necessitates frequent trimming to keep any growth off  nearby walkways, and when near an entrance, a regular schedule of deadheading, and weeding is necessary to maintain a neat appearance. Rather than struggling to contain flowers and shrubs in these architectural pieces, I recommend using combinations of evergreens around front entrances, to provide formal and easily contained color.

Before renovation there was little other than Juniper in the stair-step planter boxes.

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Two sketches later, I had two organized options for plant placement, and three dwarf plants to fill in the tiers with year round color. With the homeowners selection of their favorite option, I dug a few holes in between the roots of the Juniper, and placed in the boxes three ‘Tom Thumb’ Globe Arborvitae, two ‘Crimson Pygmy’ Barberry, and four ‘Dwarf Butterscotch’ Euonymus bushes.

Globe Arborvitae                    Crimson Pygmy Barberry                   Dwarf Euonymus.

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After the renovation there are three differing patterns of three shrubs in each tier.  The dwarf and small sized plants will fill in the boxes within two years, and fill out completely to a size that will not exceed the planting box’s footprint.  All the shrubs will max out at about 2-3 feet wide and 2-3 feet tall.

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Want to try designing in raised planter boxes yourself, try these quick tips to perfect your own designs!  Maintaining these common boxes can be one less thing to add to your to-do list if you try a few key design tricks.

Great Ways To Maximize Your Planter Box Potential:

  1. Work with your home’s style. If you have a formal exterior, use evergreens that hold a particular shape, and those that have more architectural appeal. If you have an informal style mix those that have a shaggy shape with some that hold a particular shape, or those that can be trimmed into a shape you like.
  2. Use a solid evergreen groundcover to keep the weeds at bay. In the design above I took advantage of existing Creeping Juniper to limit the weeds.
  3. Make use of dwarf plants, to keep the size of your shrubs permanently manageable. Don’t set yourself up for years of maintenance pruning if you can choose a similar variety of shrub in a naturally smaller size.
  4. Pick only a few colors and shrubs and repeat them in differing patterns several times to create continuity. Try designing by yourself, and sketch a few colors and shapes on paper to see what looks best with you home. Sketch ahead of time to see which pattern you like, and once you have decided on the shrubs you want to plant, you’ll already  know exactly what quantity to purchase.
  5. Mix classic evergreens like Arborvitaes with those that have a more deciduous appearance, like Barberry. A variety of leaf shapes are more pleasing on the eye than large amounts of one type of shrub, and can mask the fact that what you have planted are all easy care evergreens!

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