I like cart watch. During the annual planting season, I'm interested in seeing what plants people choose. I try to imagine what they want, how the plants in their carts prove. Light and airy? Intense tropical? Structured? Moody? Lush? I could see Rob's cart in a greenhouse full of it from four aisles. There will be herbs, perennials, annuals that look like perennials, ferns, subtle colors, a hint of peach and light lime white or light yellow, grassy elements, self-extinguishing shapes and unusual microtextures. His car looks like a cross between a more moderate version of weed by the roadside and ingredients that are common in Mediterranean cuisine. If this sounds complicated, remember that I've been exposed to his work and the development of his work for decades. I know when I see it. Some people buy plants with no rhyme or reason that I can determine. I'm not a fan without rhyme or reason, so I'll skip that. Other gardeners buy plants with color as the primary organizational element – I would be one of them. Setting a color scheme for a collection of pots is one of the great joys of the season. I'm embarrassed to say how much time I spend going through a color scheme for my pots at home and the plants that can represent that. We occasionally receive a request for a very specific range of colors. In this case, a special event planned for August came asking for pink and white flowers. It is more difficult to do this job than you can imagine. There are many shades of pink, from peach pink to blush to rose pink and carmine. Some pinks are dirty, others ring like a bell. I think of the classic medium pink petunias "Cotton Candy". The result is that there are many shades of pink to choose from. Make your choice. White tones are common in the house paint industry, but not as common with annual flowers. Porcelana roses, which are common in the cut flower trade, are quite creamy. Some white zinnias are creamy. White marigolds are decidedly on the yellow side. But most of the season's white yearbooks, from Mandevillea, snapdragon, trailing verbena, Supertunia White, New Guinea Impatiens, and Boston daisies, are pretty bright white. The variety is determined by the shape of the leaves and the growth form of the plants as well as different shades of pink. It is certainly easy enough to vary the volume of pink and white in a particular container, but planting a series of containers that stand out individually from a restricted color scheme is a fascinating challenge.

Regardless of whether the planting project is large or small, I provide my crew with a photo of the pot or area in question and a planting scheme. These sheets come in a waterproof envelope. That is her invention. A construction site is equally known for dirt, water, hands and boots. These sheets provide a sequence and direction. A street map, so to speak. There is no discussion about the shades of pink or the volume of white. The whole design comes before planting. Years ago I accompanied my crew to the job and went through all my design decisions in real time. Until the very end, my crew hated that. They announced that I had to make a call and log out – so that they could do their part, unhindered by any hand that was wrestling on my part. They want to fill pots with soil, grab the leaves, assemble, plant, clean up and water the plants. Do I have empirical evidence to suggest that my second guess led to a better design? No.

I never go to a container installation again. I am undesirable and my fear of design is great. Just ask my crews. Now I play my cards, mark the sheets, hand them over and get up. Of course, I will not know if my pink and white scheme will be beautiful, dynamic and adorable for some time. The plants have to grow. But the images that come back to me on multiple phones during installation and at the end of the day are a clue to the future. In my favor – it's hard to go wrong with plants. These unloved plants can shine in an inspired society. Rob is able to make marigolds look fresh and beautiful despite their stiff habit and spherical flowers.

shrubby pink mandevillea and twister pink trailing verbena

planted container

Shadow container

Kingwood coleus, pink and pinkish pink polka dot plant


colorful Algerian ivy topiary planted with pink Solenia begonias

This planting was carried out beautifully. The ivy at the base of the topiary was integrated into the planting of begonias.

Place plants

shortly before the goal

Terrace planting


At the end of the day, birdie pours. I have the theory that plants get angry and are thrown back by the transplant process. I think a good shower helps wash away some of that insult.