Masters of Design: Anthony Paul


Masters of Design: Anthony Paul, Thinking Outside the Boxwood




“The way a garden sits in its landscape is my main concern. I sometimes feel that I fill in the foreground like a stage, and the background is done by a far bigger hand than mine…”

-  Anthony Paul,


Website: all photo are located there

Masters of Design: Anthony Paul, Thinking Outside the Boxwood Masters of Design: Anthony Paul, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

Recognized style:  Contemporary design of restrained, natural perennial plantings which enhance the grander landscape. I admire his designs of hillsides and mass blocking of plantings.  He often uses natives in the design, but not in the native planting style. Also his use of decking and water provide a contemporary relief to the plantings.

Masters of Design: Anthony Paul, Thinking Outside the Boxwood Masters of Design: Anthony Paul, Thinking Outside the Boxwood Masters of Design: Anthony Paul, Thinking Outside the Boxwood




Paul often designs the containers for each project and uses their placement in the design to highlight scale. In many of his designs he includes a decking plinth under the container, which I have not seen used before. Masters of Design: Anthony Paul, Thinking Outside the Boxwood Masters of Design: Anthony Paul, Thinking Outside the Boxwood Masters of Design: Anthony Paul, Thinking Outside the Boxwood


I also admire Paul’s use of circles in his design. For decking to containers and water features.

Masters of Design: Anthony Paul, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

Masters of Design: Anthony Paul, Thinking Outside the Boxwood


Accolades:  Torsanlorenzo International Prize 2009 1st prize for a private garden, FRANCE. (image below)

Masters of Design: Anthony Paul, Thinking Outside the Boxwood


Gardens of Note: The Black & White Cottage and Hannah Peschar Sculpture Garden  is Anthony Paul’s personal garden with his wife Hannah Peschar. The garden combines their mastery in horticulture and sculpture into one garden. Open to the public in Surrey.

Masters of Design: Anthony Paul, Thinking Outside the Boxwood


Additional Reading: Paul is the author of four books, all of which are out of print. I have a copy of his “The Garden Design Book” in the mail, and will be adding “Creative Ideas for Small Gardens” and “Designing with Trees” to my next Amazon order.

Selecting Containers: Size and Scale

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Here is my third installment on container gardens with selecting a container based on size and scale. This post has taken me over a week to write as I found explaining scale outside a specific environment tricky.  You see images of amazing containers, but its difficult to judge the exact size of  a container based on the size of plants alone. Since you want the investment in your vessel last for years, getting the right size is important. Hopefully below I am able to give some guidance in selecting a good size.

Selecting Containers: Size and Scale, Thinking Outside the Boxwood


First, in selecting a container there are four features to evaluate, including size. All of these are factors you need to evaluate before you start with the artistry in building the plant pairings for your container.


  • MATERIAL. There is a wide range of materials to select from including metal, wood, pottery and composites. The choice of material will also depend on where you live and if the containers need to remain outdoors year round in addition to personal preference.
  • STYLE. From modern to Victorian, rustic to mid century there are no shortage in container style choices. These can either reflect the architecture of the surrounding buildings/gardens or be chosen for a distinct contrast.
  • PLACEMENT. The beauty of containers is their ability to be placed anywhere. Given their dramatic quality, containers are often used to highlight key areas like focal points and entrances or hide other flaws.
  • SIZE/SCALE. This is the trickiest factor in selecting container, especially when ordering from a thumbnail.  Larger containers allow you to add mature plants and more plantings compared to smaller containers. They also take up a bigger footprint so are harder to place. You need to consider the depth and opening width of the container and if it will work with the planting style you like.


For size you have to evaluate both the WIDTH and HEIGHT of the container.

WIDTH: Start with measuring the area you want to place the container. If next to a door, this would be the landing or steps. You are often limited with space on porches so the width will need to stay with in this area. If on the edge of a patio or large area, you have more range in the size you can use. Pick a width that allows some movement around the container to accommodate traffic.


HEIGHT: There is more flexibility in the height of a container. Look for a height that will be noticed in your chosen location, low bowls next to doors might be outside visitor’s sight lines. (Note that you will fill with plants so the height will be even taller). Also consider the best depth for the root structure (trees like deeper containers).



Here is a comparison of eight different containers next to a standard door (the door to our nursery). Using a standard door, you can see how the size of each container compares. If you have a specific container in mind, you can compare against these to see what it will look like next your door.

Selecting Containers: Size and Scale, Thinking Outside the Boxwood


Here are two items to keep in mind while selecting the container: 

A MINIMUM SIZE: Generally, I stay clear of containers smaller than 12″ wide. The smaller containers require more frequent watering and do not make a big impact on their own. If you are looking to make an impact, look in the 20″ wide range or bigger. You can then add smaller containers to make a grouping, but I recommend starting  with the main focal container first and then add on with the smaller containers.


RULE OF THREE: If you are going to make a grouping, aim for three containers in three different sizes. The three containers will make a bigger foot print. Play with three different heights and a mix of shapes or material.




GOOD RESOURCES: Here are some great resources for purchasing containers if you are looking for vendors that are easy to order/purchase and have a great selection of quality and unique containers. There are also great to the trade resources that are available at your local garden centers, but the five listed below are accessible to everyone and a good place to start your search.


Crate & Barrel: I have used personally and for clients containers from Crate & Barrel. The feature modern shapes, and from year to year include some larger scale containers. They also offer a range of materials. It is also nice since you can see these often in person at a local store before purchasing.  This photo features Crate & Barrel containers purchased a few years ago.

Selecting Containers: Size and Scale, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

This is a series of six Crate & Barrel containers purchased three years ago that are placed along a low retaining wall in a pool area. 


West ElmI like West Elm containers for the same reasons as Crate & Barrel; modern, range of sizes, can see in person and range of materials offered at great prices. This season in particular I really like the shapes and range of sizes offered. I have also used these at home/clients and they have lasted season to season.

Selecting Containers: Size and Scale, Thinking Outside the Boxwood, Monstera deliciosa- Swiss Cheese plant

We planted a Monstera deliciosa in this West Elm container, and bring in doors every winter. He has been happy in this container for the past three years with his in/outdoor lifestyle. 



Detroit Garden Works: This is my go to resource for unique and quality containers for clients. We make the drive north 1-2 times a year to buy something for a client. Deborah and Rob have an amazing eye for finding the best items from the USA and Europe. We are really fortunate to have such a great resource close by. They ship across country, but their site is a great resource for window shopping for types of containers you like.

Selecting Containers: Size and Scale, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

Here a photo is the same container from Detroit Garden Works in the summer and fall that is planted with a Japanese Maple Tree and grouped with smaller containers. The scale of this planter very tall (about 10 feet with the tree), but matches the scale of the home. The clustering of smaller seasonal containers gives freshness, for the year round container design.  



Restoration Hardware: I have used Restoration Hardware containers for both clients and currently at my in-law’s home, and the quality for metal containers is really great. We can leave these containers outdoors year round (with below freezing temperatures) and they hold up for going on 5 years. The styles offered are more traditional and come in very large scale sizes that are often needed depending on the scale of the home.


Selecting Containers: Size and Scale, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

This is a pair of the Restoration Hardware Estate Zinc Paneled Planters flanking the front stairs of this home.  These are the Large size at 28″ sq., 28″H. We planted with a tall banana to bring the height of the container in line with the front door that is four steps higher.  This sizes also allows us to fill with plenty of under plantings to keep the container full. 


Terrain: Terrain carries the vintage and exclusive containers that showcase the, Oh I have had this container forever (but really just purchased). They are also plants people so offer a range of containers for different plants and uses. If you are privileged enough to live near the Glen Mills or Westport locations, you have the added benefit to build your container with plants while you are at the store to take home and plant.

Selecting Containers: Size and Scale, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

Here is a pair of 16′ x16′ Fiberclay Barrel pots designed based on the difficult to come-by (unless you want to pay $200 plus) zinc Dolly Pots.  I have had great luck with Fiberclay pots holding up to our freezing temperatures from year to year, and at $78 for the large is a good value. 


I hope you find information on scale and size helpful in selecting a container. It’s most important to select something you love and will enjoy, and if that breaks all rules who cares.

reimagined: LOTUSLAND

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My container gardening rant continues with my “ah ha” moment that you can use containers to recreate famous gardens at home, even when you lack the weather, soil and temperatures of the admired garden. (Look at my previous post here for more details on my container garden crusade).


I have long admired California native gardens such as Lotusland, in Montecito, CA or the work of Grace Design Associates, in Santa Barbara, CA. The region’s climate is a sharp contrast from the Midwest, were we have a large spectrum in rain fall and temperatures compared to their mild temperatures and prolonged drought.  However, controlling the right variables in a container we can recreate our own Lotusland in Ohio. The same can be said for those in Santa Barbara, where a mid-west prairie style container would thrive and would use considerably less water than an entire prairie garden.  Below is an example how I have taken Lotusland’s blue garden and succulent garden (zone 10) as inspiration and paired with container gardens planted in zone 7.


reimagined: LOTUSLAND, Thinking Outside the Boxwood


Lotusland Image credits: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Container designs by McCullough’s Landscape &  Nursery


The art in translating a fabled garden outside it’s native climate and region is in understanding the scale, shapes, colors and textures seen in the garden and finding similar characteristics in plants that thrive in your area.  In the example of Lotusland, for the main focal point I have used succulent and agave plants that thrive in our hot summers, but die in our sub-freezing winters. We treated these plants as either annuals (plant new each year) or winter-over indoors; in a greenhouse or in a sunny room at home. With the agave, this is tricky since moving the plant each year is an occupational hazard, but the succulents are happy in sunny window.  We then build on the succulents with grasses and other drought tolerant plants that thrive in our summer conditions. In the case of the Blue Garden, selecting plants in the grey/blue color group, with long slender foliage from the nursery will also create a similar feeling.


Reimaginging a garden into a container takes a lot more thought than just shrinking a planting plan down into a 2′x2′x2′ box, but with taking the time to appreciate and understand the principles of a garden and the planting combination, you really recreate just about any garden at home. I am interested to hear if this type of container gardening interests people. I understand homeowners generally build their containers based on the local nursery’s availability, but challenge looking beyond the “thriller, filler, spiller” formula in the plant selection.