August 17, 2011

Let's All Go to the Ex (and see my planter)

One Toronto gardener's very amateur attempt at container gardening

I joined the Riverdale Horticultural Society earlier this year and was asked/begged if I wanted to enter a container in this year's Ontario Horticultural Association's Patio Planters competition at the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE). I thought, "what the hay", why not submit something that is guaranteed an honorable mention and could land the top prize of $100. Subversive little me would really love to play with the judges' sense of design so I created the container you see below.

If you know a little about me, I absolutely hate axial symmetry, especially in containers. Asymmetry all the way baby! Thus, I loaded the lower left side with the Golden Japanese Forest Grass and thrust the energy diagonally to the "Jade Princess" Ornamental Millet flower in the upper right quadrant. The croton and "Pewter Veil" Heuchera provide an unsettling contrast to the limes of the grasses. I chose the Tricolor St. John's Wort to the lower right as it has a touch of hot pink to upset the viewer more  add more visual tension.

I had no input about the container as it was loaned by the RHS but I think it is perfect. The conventional thinking is to throw in a "thriller", "filler", and "spiller" for a "perfect" container, design-wise. You might expect, therefore, a canna or lantana standard for height, maybe zonal geraniums and coleus as blocking material, and perhaps potato vines as trailers. (I can see it in my mind too!) The black urn practically begs for such an arrangement so what did I do? Created a disconnect between the viewer's expectation of what this wannabe cast-iron urn should hold versus what it actually does contain.

I would love to see what the other 3 competitor patio planters look like but I'm out of town during judging. But if you are in the Direct Energy Building during August 19-26 during the first week the Ex is open and are horticulturally inclined, take a peek.

I suggest you look at my planter, though, before you visit the food building.


  1. My usual instinct is "Let's NOT go to the EX". But this changes my mind.

    Good luck with this Paul, I think you have a winner ( although there's no way of second guessing the taste of the judges).

  2. Hi Barry,

    thanks for the well wishes, we'll see if the judges go for an all-foliage presentation. Maybe I should have hedged my bets and throw in a red geranium!