January, oh, January. Such a straddle of seasons. You, dear January, are so full of “new”. You give us the opportunity with all that “resolution” business and fresh start stuff to be mindful of our heart’s desires, our “original nature” – our ZEN of being more present right here, right now.
So we’ve packed away our outdoor holiday dressings and decor and entered the New Year. Our outdoor living spaces have gone from looking like a living holiday greeting card to containers laid bare. The quieting scene outside reminds of the importance of dormancy and honoring the season we are in (yes, yes).
Yet, for those of us who take nourishment from our #serenegreenscene, we’re hungry for a little foliiferous planting design snack to hold us over. One that offers that important calming benefit, with a dash of delightful with a side of beautiful. You know, restorative.
These little container gardens keep us aware. They are mini Healing Garden Happy Places that invite us to focus right here, right now. They are a respite during what some call the “bluest month” of the year. There’s a peace, grounding and ZEN practice in connecting with nature outside and our true nature inside.
So what to do this January for those bare containers? Pick plants, ZEN-fully!
10 Zen Plants for Your New Year Containers for that design resetting you crave.
You’ll notice a theme. Where there are blooms, expect the color to be white (with 1 exception). My design instincts assign white to the month of January. Its appeal of brightness that uplifts and the symbology of the color (purity, starting new, fresh and clean), makes white a perfect choice.
There’s more to these 10 Zen plants than what meets the eye:
All of these plant lovelies may function as a “2-fer” for you! What’s that?
Red Bird container design process: invest once, benefit twice. I design plants for client containers that, when time, can be moved into the landscape.
These 10 Zen have been selected using a Restorative Garden Plant Selection value rating. How’s that?
Design psychology evidence shows when plants have certain wellness characteristics, they are considered boosters to our healing and recovery process. That’s where your “Zen” comes in. These plants are not only beautiful, but they come with mind, body, soul benefits too!
For each plant listed, I’ve used Red Bird’s Restorative Garden Plant Selection value rating method for selecting plants to boost the restorativeness of your garden. I’ve also included a link directly to the plant for information (in most cases to Monrovia’s reliable website).
Cliff notes version: more icons = higher Restorative Garden Plant value of the plant and greater pleasure and benefit for you.
Here’s the cast of the 10 Zen Winter-white ensemble one by one:
I love the playfulness of this fringy flower that dance across the branches of this shrub come spring. Meanwhile, in the winter container, she plays the role of a terrific diva. A little on deciduous action may occur. No matter as the shape is lovely to rest your eyes upon, given her silhouette. I find that no two plants have anywhere near the same shape, really, with this specimen which is very exciting.
Evergreen clematis vine comes staked ready to trail. Plant in a pot that sits against a blank wall. Up and over and along it’ll go, vigorous, once establish, and a take no prisoners beautification machine. With blooms of white in February/March (depending on weather) and fragrance that is heady, this plant could easily be an evergreen stand-in for Wisteria. Telling the time of year with its perfumed blossoms in early, early spring, this plant also relays the truth about its micro-micro growing conditions (read: “feet in shade, head in the sun”).
If there was ever a green machine sheen plant to swoon over, it just might be this one. I use this plant in my shady containers for the evergreen appeal as well as the arching form of the branches. Now, a bonus (for some) is the fragrance. Often I tell my clients that come late, late winter into early, early spring, you’ll step out onto your patio and smell a divine fragrance forcing you to look high and low for the source. It’s this plant, quietly doing its thing with tiny white flowers. Upon its graduation from your container, it dancing nicely with a shady, dry garden.
Here’s your quintessential “specimen form” often mentioned in design publications. Dwarf Pagoda Japanese Holly is upright, remarkable with the loveliest, small, dark leaves and absolutely irregular in branching structure. This ain’t your red berry holly. Stays evergreen and so little care required – my goodness, very statuesque and could be a solo element, should you dig the minimalism approach.
Dramatic, moody, rich. That’s Black Mondo Grass. And strappy both in appearance and in function. This grass is so helpful in filling out the base of a container and offering a rich contrast to more diva-like plants. There’s an exotic flair to this baby and best planted in groupings to really get the full visual benefit.
This is a low, evergreen, golden grass-like plant that brightens the day and the edges of containers. And because we get a lot of rain (and apparently snow too), this plant can hang with wet soils. When you’re ready move it from the pot to areas along wet woodlands or ponds. In container design, the very nostalgic part of me pairs this plant with white pansies.
White blooming right now! Jacob hellebore is my fav. These blooms are so happy they sit upright as though to smile back at you. And this is THE white that I compare all other whites against. Pure, clean, fresh. Bonus: deer and rabbit resistant!
Hens and chicks will be your carpet or groundcover in your containers. There is so much versatility when it comes to Sempervivum. Look over your choices closely and consider if you want color change with new growth or with the weather’s chill. When I tire of these in containers, I pop ’em right into the ground as a sweet little accent here and there. You’ll want to look for hens and chicks grown by Little Prince of Oregon.
Newer in my repertoire is this rhododendron. What draws me to this plant is the variegated leaf which provides pop in the gray days of winter. This gal blooms in spring and can get quite large, so keep an eye on her in your container and invite a friend over to assist with the transfer to the garden when time. I love this plant is like shoulder pads and is a container pop-stop!
Like the annual primrose, this perennial shares its pop of (white) color on ruffled leaves. Well, the blooms are little, white, happy, fragrant candelabras of flowers. A perfect plant for containers that don’t dry out quickly and to repurpose in an area where it can hang out in wet soil and naturalize. Think: shady dells of England…
Here’s what to do next:
Use the Secret Decoder Ring when selecting plants for your special space. (Yes! Carry it with you for those trips to the retail garden store. It’ll help with impulsive plant shopping and narrow down all the pretties to those that will really rally to renew you.)
Remember: choose for the beauty AND the benefit to boost the Restorative Power of your garden.
Oh! And share your favorite zen plants in the comment section below.