Summer Containers using Elephant Ears and Caladiums

GARDEN DESIGN, Landscape Design, Plants

May is providing us a progression of peony and iris blooms, but the life of a gardener is planning for your enjoyment a season or two ahead. Now is the time to plant bulbs for summer containers that will be large and impactful throughout the hot months. Here are two options of bulbs you can plant in containers for high impact this summer.


How to use Elephant Ears and Caladiums in containers for impactful summer containers. From from Thinking Outside the Boxwood




Just as their name suggests, Elephant Ears have oversized leaves and are the alpha element or “thriller” in any container combination. Elephant is blanket common name for the genus Colocasia and Alocasia.  One is not necessarily better than the other.  It just depends on the what characteristics you are looking for.  Recently, most of the breeding has been geared toward Colocasia so you are seeing many interesting variations like Colocasia esculenta ‘Mojito’ and black foliage Colocasia esculenta ‘Diamond Head’. The tubers grow quickly and range from 3 – 5 feet in height. In a 2 feet tall container, you will have a lush, stately 7ft container. Elephant Ears can handle a variety of sun conditions, so are a good placement for anywhere expect heavy shade.


Thanks to their long stocks, you get to have a lot of fun experimenting with the foundation plantings around the tuber. You can go for burst of color or play with textures in the same tones. In the example below, we stayed in the dark tone, but would also look great if you used silver foliage for high contrast. SHOP or EXPLORE additional varieties at Longfield Gardens.

How to use Elephant Ears in Summer Containers. Containers feature - 'Portodora' elephant's ear Alocasia 'Portodora' More at

A pair of containers flanking a walkway feature a single dark tone combo of Colocasia esculenta ‘Diamond Head’ and Setcreasea pallida ‘Purple Heart.’


How to use Summer Bulbs in Containers. Combo includes 'Portodora' elephant's ear Alocasia 'Portodora' against a black house. more details at

This grouping of three containers from my house last year features ‘Portodora’ elephant’s ear, Alocasia ‘Portodora’ with a mix of under-plantings. The Portodora provided a perfect foil against the black wall of the house.


How to use Elephant Ears in Summer Containers. This combo features Colocasia esculenta 'Black Magic' and 'Calidora' elephant's ear (Alocasia 'Calidora'). More combos and details at

This is a grouping of summer containers we completed for a client’s home a few years ago. The house was an impressive Georgian, and the elephant’s ears scale were great for providing the scale needed to match the home. Here you see Colocasia esculenta ‘Black Magic’ and ‘Calidora’ elephant’s ear (Alocasia ‘Calidora’) with a few other containers with summer plantings.



Caladiums have the same elongated heart shaped leaf, but offer smaller, delicate and more color variety than elephant ears. What they lack is size, caladiums provide impact from their saturated red and fuchsia foliage and create an explosion of color when combined with bright annuals. Other cultivars like ‘White Christmas’, provide a cooler palate mixed with silvers, blacks and purple companion container plants. They can also work between the “thriller” or “spiller” in container design, depending on your combination. Below White Christmas is used as the thriller, but mixed with an elephant ear could be the filler. SHOP or EXPLORE additional varieties at Longfield Gardens.  In general Caladium prefer some protection from the afternoon sun they work great tucked under a shady overhang or porch.

How to use Caladiums in summer containers. Combo Includes: Caladium 'White Christmas' Foxtail Fern Asparagus densiflorus 'Myers' Hedera helix 'Baltica' More at

This smaller container next to a side porch entry, features Caladium ‘White Christmas’, Foxtail Fern / Asparagus densiflorus ‘Myers’ and Hedera helix ‘Baltica’.


How to use Caladiums in summer containers. Combo includes Caladium 'White Christmas' with ferns. More at

This container features Caladium ‘White Christmas’ with a massing of Boston Ferns. This simple combo is easy to build and can be used with a wide variety of caladiums based on your color preference.


uilding Summer Containers with Caladiums. Combo includes Caladium ‘Florida Cardinal’ More at

This final combos feature Caladium ‘Florida Cardinal’ on the left and Caladium ‘Carolyn Whorton’ on the right, and both showcase how easy it is to add a massing of other annuals with caladiums even in smaller sized containers.


For containers this summer, we have a wide variety of both elephant ears and caladiums to plant and are working on some unique combinations to share once they have matured. Let me know if you have any questions about planting or caring for your summer bulbs.


Plant Crush: Aquilegia

Perennials, Plants | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Every September I make a plant order from Holland for us to grow in our nursery the following year. I create the list based on the plants I have seen in inspiring gardens throughout the year (either through Pinterest, traveling or reading) or just those that catch my eye in the catalog. The plants then arrive at the tail end of winter for us to plant and nurture in the greenhouse until they are rooted and can start planting outdoors. There is a good six months between ordering the plants and when they arrive, and then another two months before we get to see them in all their glory.  Before the end of the year, the plants I order normally find a home, but if not we add them to the gardens around our offices or at my home. The result of my ordering process results in a lot of excitement around the greenhouse in April/May as we get to see what unique items we have to play with this year.   Plant Crush: Aquilegia vulgaris 'Black Barlow', Thinking Outside the Boxwood

Aquilegia vulgaris ‘Black Barlow’ is an example of a plant I saw in a Pinterest pin and ordered 100 plants without a specific project to use.  The image that spurred my purchase is from a garden designed by Wilson McWilliams for the Chelsea Flower show. The link for the image does not go back to a site with any information, but with more research ‘Black Barlow’ was used in the Cloudy Bay Discovery Garden in the  RHS 2013 Chelsea Flower Show.   Plant Crush: Aquilegia vulgaris 'Black Barlow', Thinking Outside the Boxwood     With my order of bareroot plants, we got a surprise with an additional cultivar and species of Aquilegia plants; Aquilegia ‘Chrysantha’ and Aquilegia vulgaris ‘Rose Barlow’. The ‘Chrysantha’ is a beautiful yellow with delicate yellow cup flower surrounded by five long, pale outer petals, while the ‘Rose Barlow’ is a pink with white tips flower matching the ‘Black Barlow’. We only have a few of these plants so will either use them in a container design or in our gardens around the shop. Plant Crush: Aquilegia vulgaris 'Black Barlow': Aquilegia vulgaris 'Black Barlow'Aquilegia 'Chrysantha' and Aquilegia vulgaris 'Rose Barlow', Thinking Outside the Boxwood

I will share photos of these planted in the garden later this year. With only 100 plants I think these will go pretty fast.

Six Chartreuse Perennials and Shrubs for your Garden

Perennials, Plants | Tagged , , , , ,

A few weeks ago I posted about a garden in Cheshire, England I visited awhile back and one of the key features of the garden was the use of chartreuse perennials throughout the gardens. When viewing a garden you can appreciate the hue spectrum found in green foliage. In particular, chartreuse is a great color to add to the garden given its distance from “grass green” in the color spectrum.

ILady's Mantle - Alchemila mollis ,Chartreuse Perennials and Shrubs for your Garden, Thinking Outside the Boxwood


I have curated a group of six perennials and shrubs with chartreuse foliage you can in corporate into your garden and container designs. These are all plants I have used in my designs and have had great success with. Also, the list is limited to perennials and shrubs because the list of annuals would be endless.


Six Chartreuse Perennials and Shrubs for your Garden, Thinking Outside the Boxwood



A successful garden and container design is created by the relationship of the plants selected and how the play with (or against) another. One of my favorite combos with chartreuse plants are those with black/purple green foliage. The high contrast of the two shades, highlight both colors’ uniqueness.

Heuchera 'Obsidian' and Hakonekloa macra 'Aureola' : Six Chartreuse Perennials and Shrubs for your Garden, Thinking Outside the Boxwood Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens' and Sedum 'Angelina' : Six Chartreuse Perennials and Shrubs for your Garden, Thinking Outside the Boxwood



Here are links to plant profiles and growers for the six plants profiled. You can use these links to confirm if a plant will work in your zone, sun exposure and soil conditions. (CLICK ON THE PHOTOS TO LINK OUT)

Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola'Cotinus coggygria 'Ancot' - Golden Spiritalchemilla_mollis_ladysmantleSagina subulata 'Aurea' - scotch mossHumulus lupulus 'Aureus' -  Golden HopsPhyscoarpus opulifolius 'darts gold'