GardenComm Members Give Advice: When a planter is both a garden and a privacy screen

By Keri Butler 

The historical referencelong view

As a prelude to my life’s encore, I took up condo living nearly two years ago. I’m done with hand-weeding a tiny lawn, thinning perennials, edging beds, and tumbling compost, but I still wanted a green space, just one a bit more time friendly to my post corporate and on-the-move life.

GardenComm members including Beth Botts have assisted me with the transition after I asked for their suggestions in their group, GardenComm, on Facebook.

Browsing gardening centers, I found myself drawn to planters, pots, and options for softening the new deck life. I discovered that balcony green spaces are an open pallet for creative expression and that I need privacy. Layering these desires with the condo association rules and requisite approvals and I’m challenged to bring on my green.

To soften my building’s trendy industrial look, I started with corner planters: a white pine with heather and pansies; another with hops, hellebores and asters; a smattering of seasonally inside-out plants including an inherited rubber tree, oxalis, gardenia, and Dracaena trifasciata. Note to Bill Dawson: I’m still working on the association’s rules for the common beds.

Now the third growing season approaches and I have firm must-have criteria: more plantings!
the challenge

The challenge

My newly retired neighbor’s French door has a great view through my dining room double window, creating the need for screening. With a narrow four-foot wide deck, finding a long, slim and visually appealing planter with a small footprint was a scavenger hunt. I finally settled on a two-foot-high by 12-inch-wide by 40-inch-long all-weather trough.

Next, I searched for tall perennials, shrubs, or grasses that would not topple the chosen vessel nor demand excessive watering, yet would thrive in morning east as well as afternoon north sun. My wish list targeted regional native plants, unusual options, and visually appealing color pallets to complement my outdoor décor.

Bamboo, flowering and berried shrubs, and grasses made the short list. Serviceberry, witch hazel, feather reed grass, fountain fire Japanese pieris and Indian grass narrowed the field. I was ready to forage and support my favorite local garden center.

planter visualThe spoils

I’m always intrigued by what a good browse does to my wish list: lost in endless possibilities, I altered my plan and landed on the finalists. My default color theme of greens and purples merged plants offering alternative whimsical styles. Maria Zampini:  Perhaps you have thoughts since you’ve experienced the gardens at my previous home? For me gardening is a tapestry of what was planted in the past, where décor needs to be enhanced, and plants can be adjusted seasonally. The final planting will be seen from my living area.

I loaded my car with dwarf Alberta spruce, Gracillimus Maiden grass, Matrix Blue Blotch pansies, Colorata Euonymus, and Pasque flower. The spruce made the cut when I was distracted by a video on pruning topiaries. Given the current edict for staying in place, I decided it would be a distraction and a challenge when I was bored.

The planter is soothing, filtering, and a visual site resting spot when I glance out. I envision its growth filling in, up, and out. The perfect close to a spring weekend: mini gardening on a balcony.

Keri Butler consulted several GardenComm members looking for advice about her new plantings.

*Corner planters by Algreen, Trench by Veradeck

Meet the Author


Keri Butler now is an urban gardener. She moved from a century house to a condo and learning to garden in pots and planters.  Keri volunteers while recovering from 20 years in corporate America. Her first gardening experience was deadheading in her grandfather’s garden. Grandpa George who preferred growing produce, was known for his rose and iris beds.

Author: GardenComm

GardenComm, formerly known as GWA: the Association for Garden Communicators, provides leadership and opportunities for education, recognition, career development and a forum for diverse interactions for professionals in the field of gardening communication. GardenComm members includes book authors, bloggers, staff editors, syndicated columnists, free-lance writers, photographers, speakers, landscape designers, television and radio personalities, consultants, publishers, extension service agents and more. No other organization in the industry has as much contact with the buying public as GardenComm members.

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