The summer show is the big one. The range of colors and shapes is huge. You can have anything from snappy hothouse colors to yellows and blues, white with black, and even a collection of jungly, floppy-leaved plants.
Lilies are fabulous summer plants. There are basically four different flower shapes â€“ trumpets, funnels, bowls, and swept-back turkscap. Mix them up, the flowers stems at different heights, including some with a very strong scent, such as the gorgeous white Lilium longiflorum. Colors range from the near black-purplish-red to whites speckled with maroon.
For quirky color surprises try ornamental kale with its bright center surrounded by a ruff of vivid green. But for the really startling look try the tender Gloriosa superb â€œRothschildianaâ€. It has bright red and yellow flowers, about 5ft (1.5 m) high above ground, and looks far too exotic for most gardens. If given a minimum winter temperature of 46^F (8^C) you will not have any problems. Stand it outside over summer. Colorful hardy geraniums are easier; they flower well all summer long.
LEFT: This stylish scene works, thanks to a repeat planting of standard trained box, with scented pink patio and climbing roses, and criss-cross ironwork patterning.
BELOW: To keep your pelargoniums all year long, grow them in pots and bring them indoors in winter. Fronts and cold wet soil are lethal
A BALL-TOPPED MANGER
LEFT: A clever use of bright marigolds, above a mass of variegated catmint, lobelia, and petunias.
RIGHT: The low-level planting means no bare gaps are to be seen in this ebullient show of roses, bougainvillea, kalanchoe, and gray helichrysums.
WHITE AND GRAY
BELOW: This cool composition in a single pot features the wonderfully architectural Melianthus major, with ferny-leaved Artemisia, white marguerites, and Malva sylvestris â€œPrimley Blueâ€
For pot plants with interesting shapes, standards are essential. This involves reducing a plant to one vertical stem, with all the flowering taking place high up, often in a great ball of growth. The 6 ft (1.8 m) high South American brugmansia x candida â€œGrand Marnierâ€ is one of the best. Bring it indoors over winter. Standard fuchsias or marguerites are equally attractive, and can be used in pairs to frame seats and statues. And if you want something bizarrely engaging, grow one lettuce per pot. Instead of picking them, let them go to seed, they will send up long, thin, twisly stems. For the ultimate in chic, though, grow succulents and cacti. Colors range from shiny purple-blacks to olive-gray, and shapes from tiny balls to obelisks for the Wild West look.