A Four Season Pot changes seasonally, remaining attractive throughout all four seasons of the year.
It requires a little thinking ahead to pull this together, but is well worth it. I prefer to begin a Four Season Pot in the autumn, when spring bulbs come on the market.
Bulbs are an important part of this ever changing display. Ephemeral spring bulbs keep the arrangement fresh and interesting from late winter through early summer as the bulbs develop, bloom, and then begin to fade. when the foliage is finished and begins to brown, it can finally be removed as the pot settles into summer.
A Four Season Pot can be designed to last for several years with only minor changes. Begin with a large pot, of at least 18 inches, in a material which may stay outside year round in all sorts of weather.
The primary element of the planting is a shrub or small tree. This is where the design gets interesting.
You may choose an evergreen or a deciduous shrub. You may select for interesting foliage, flowers, or both. This primary plant stays in the pot as annuals come and go throughout the next several seasons.
When the shrub outgrows the pot you may choose to prune it, pot up to a larger container, or plant the shrub out into the garden and begin again with a new shrub.
Within the potting philosophy of , “thriller, filler, spiller;” your shrub will usually be the “thriller” or largest and tallest element.
Although I’ve done this scheme with evergreen shrubs, I prefer to create a Four Season planting design using a deciduous, spring blooming shrub or small tree.
Bringing attention to a lovely shrub, up close to daily traffic, so it can be observed as it transforms itself season to season is far more interesting to me than watching geraniums bloom.
This little design, constructed last autumn, is built around a tiny hybrid Redbud tree , Cercis canadensis, which Jonathan Patton and Dustin gave me at the end of the season last year. Homestead Garden Center was closing out its deciduous stock and they didn’t want to store this little shrub over the winter. A tiny little shrub in a small pot, with its golden fall leaves still clinging to its branches, it was perfect for my needs.
Underplanted with a combination of daffodil and grape hyacinth bulbs, I filled the pot with a perennial Heuchera and annual Violas. The Violas have bloomed all winter long, bringing color to the pot long after the Redbud’s leaves blew away. The Heuchera also kept its color all winter, escaping the deer who found other Heuchera plants around the winter garden.
The only plant in the pot which has not yet filled in is the Autumn Brilliance fern planted from a tiny 2.5″ pot. It didn’t get established before cold set in, and its few leaves are rather bedraggled from winter yet. New fronds will unfurl any day now, and will grow perhaps as tall as 18″.
So the total expenditure on plants for this pot was a little under $15.00. Constructed in late autumn, the pot has been attractive for a little more than six months already.
The only plant I’ll remove and switch out will be the Viola, when the heat gets too much for it.
I could replace it with an Ajuga division from the garden; a small annual like Ageratumn from a six-pack, or even a Caladium tuber or rooted cutting. For a little or no additional investment, this pot will keep growing and changing throughout the remainder of the season.
My hope was to see the Redbud bloom this year before its leaves emerged. It seems it is too young to bloom. Even without blooms, its tiny chartruese heart shaped leaves are still a lovely addition to the pot. This arrangement can survive at least one more winter in place. The annual will get switched out for a fresh Viola next November, and this pot will continue growing in partial sun, with only regular watering and light feeding, into 2015 and beyond.
Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014