There are times in a landscape when we need something tall and thin. Maybe we have a tight corner or section of wall that needs to be softened. Perhaps everything in the garden is low, and what’s missing is a higher focal point to tie the earth to the sky. Many people automatically think of an arborvitae, a ‘Skyrocket’ juniper, or a ‘Sky Pencil’ Japanese holly in such situations, and these can be appropriate plants. But there are other alternatives that might work better depending on the situation. So before you decide on the standard evergreens, consider that there are other plants that are nice, and sometimes the best plant for the job isn’t a plant at all.
I wish I could say that I planned this, but frankly, it was a happy accident. This annual Amaranthus self-seeds around my property and this particular year it chose my large pots to settle in. I decided to leave the seedlings, and to support them with bamboo tee pees as the summer went on. This partnership worked beautifully to create two dramatic containers that flanked the path leading to my front door.
Sometimes you need a tall element, however, and it’s either too late to put in a plant or not appropriate to do so. I took this photo at Soares Flower Garden Nursery in East Falmouth, MA. The burlap-clad wire figure was the perfect upright element in this display. You might not have a wire dress-form in your own garage or basement, buy you probably have a broom, rake or shovel that could be dressed up. Start looking around your storage areas for random things that are tall and thin, with the following question in mind: “What can I make THIS into?” You might be amazed at all the materials you already have on hand.
This clock planter at the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Pittsburgh, PA is another example of thinking outside the pot. Manmade structures like this provide a good contrast to the textures of foliage, and this one does triple duty as an upright element, planter and focal point structure. Maybe you have an old piece of furniture that could live the end of its life as a creative, stylish garden ornament? Think about planting that hat rack, lamp or tall, thin dresser.