Any garden, with or without pots, needs to break away from the idea that everything is geared toward flowers. Yes, they count. Yes, they can lift the spirits. But so does foliage. There is a great variety of shapes and tints and textures. The invaluable evergreens last all year.
The enormous range of foliage shapes and textures falls into three categories: one for thrusting, vertical foliage; one for tiers and mounds; and one for trailers. The first is the most exciting, and includes bamboos and grasses. Arundinaria falconeri grows to 7 ft (2.1 m), and has thin, swishing stems. For a grass try Arundo donax which has 10 ft (3 m) high jungly stems. Alternatively there are pencil-thin conifers, which can be used to frame a scene. Juniperus communis â€œCompressaâ€ growns just 2ft 8 in (80 cm), being 18 in (45 cm) wide.
For a tiered effect try Cornus controversa, sometimes called the wedding cake tree. For a high yellow mound you need one of the conifers, ideally Chamaecyparis pisifera â€œFilifera Aureaâ€, and for a marvellous, monster look-alike there is Cedrus deodara â€œGold Moundâ€. It needs a big tub but has wonderful shaggy â€œarmsâ€. In shady areas try hostas. They actually look incredibly smart in pots, the compost topped by pebbles. For trailing plants you cannot beat ivies.
ABOVE: Actinidia kolomikta has purpletinted new foliage, turning green with a white then pink tip. In fall it is red
ABOVE: Spiraea, hosta, and sage offer a range of size and texture
RIGHT: An array of neatly juxtaposed foliage plants, featuring a variegated hosta, fine-leafed fern, and a smooth, neatly clipped ball of Osmanthus x burkwoodii.