A relatively new feature in gardens is the planter. Contemporary houses are frequently designed with built-in planters, and traditional types have them at entranceways, on terraces, and beside garages. On the West Coast especially, many houses and gardens include planters of such durable materials as concrete, brick, or blue stone.
There are two types-the permanent planter attached to the house and the movable one bought or built to suit a particular need. Some gardeners maintain several for replacement as plants pass their prime. Planters are rectangular, square, oblong, triangular, hexagonal, circular, or free form. Like pots and tubs, their value is largely architectural.
Stationary planters outdoors must be planned with care. Those attached to entranceways or the front of a house should be designed in proper scale and proportion, and with good drainage facilities at the start, for unlike the portable type, they cannot be moved or easily replaced. It
is important not to place them over ledges or other obstructions through which water cannot easily pass. Usually these planters are open to the ground. If the soil is clayey, some should be removed and replaced with a layer of stones or cinders to insure drainage.
Mobile planters can be carried, pushed, or wheeled to various positions. Desirable construction materials include wood-with redwood, cedar and cypress heading the list-metals, fiberglass, plastic and various synthetic products. Whatever you buy, make yourself or have made, be certain beforehand that you know what the material looks like, how it behaves under your weather conditions and how durable it is. A greater investment in the beginning will pay off in the end.
Choosing the Plants
When selecting the plant material, give thought to scale. In large planters, trees and shrubs, including needle and broad-leaved evergreens, should be grown. With annuals, rely on tall kinds, like cosmos, African marigolds and cleome. If planters are long, repeat one of the plants for unity and harmony. Usually some trailing plants are needed along the edge to soften it.
The permanent planter requires trees and shrubs for year-round effect. Except in the very large planters attached to big buildings, rely on small or dwarf types. Among trees for colder climates, consider Japanese maple and its varieties, ornamental magnolias, flowering cherries, including the weeping forms, Tatarian maple, flowering dogwood, birches, dwarf forms of Scotch, red, and Japanese black pines, upright arborvitaes and junipers and fastigiate trees, as the upright European hornbeam or linden. The flowering crabs are superb, especially the white-flowering Sargent, which remains low and spreading.