What are fashion-forward gardeners planting in their containers this summer?

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When it comes to container plantings, the most sustainable-minded dirt gardeners have been known to resort to high-gloss pots, fleeting annuals and surreptitious doses of Miracle-Gro. Even if our gardens are the equivalent of 501 jeans and a black turtleneck, containers are the baubles that spiff up the outfit. So what are fashion-forward gardeners planting in their containers this summer?

For a style watch, I sought out Kelli Curtis, owner of Pots2Go. Curtis started out selling pots of flowers at a farmers market five years ago. Now she composes dozens of pots for clients’ condos, decks, docks, boats, bars and restaurants. As a former software techie, Curtis began gardening for sanity’s sake and ended up turning her pastime into a thriving business.

When I pulled into Curtis’ Kirkland driveway, it was as if the ground had opened up to reveal springtime growing beneath. Hundreds of fresh little plants blanketed the concrete in a patchwork of foliage and flower. Her raw materials of dark elderberry and hebes, chartreuse euphorbia, pink geraniums and coleus in shades of purple, peach and orange were waiting to be popped into pots. Curtis sorted plants and loosened up tiny root-balls as she dispensed container-gardening wisdom:

Trends. Edibles in containers. “I do herb and lettuce pots, of course tomatoes, and blueberries grow well in pots. Also aquatic pots and sedums in containers look fresh. Yellow is popular in clothes now, so I’m sure it’ll be showing up more in gardens.”

Pots. “Bronze and matte black pots are popular. It looks so good to group pots of the same color in a variety of sizes. I plant high-glaze Chinese-red pots with chartreuse foliage plants like nandina, euphorbia and Carex ‘Gold Fountain’ trimmed with Heuchera ‘Peach Flambé.’

“Color is crucial. I look at the whole composition, the color of the house, landscape and even interiors when choosing pots. At home I use rustic brown pots because they look good with everything. I try to gradually wean my clients off their collections of mismatched pots because the results just won’t be as good. If their containers are all the same size I bring in larger ones for contrast. I never use a pot under 16 inches, as they dry out too fast.”

Plants. “I use a rough formula of 70 percent structural plants, like conifers and hebes, and 30 percent annuals like geraniums, coleus and calibrochoa. Conifers are the agaves for our climate, they have such amazing color and texture. I use grasses like carex, Mexican feather grass and blue fescue for a different texture.”

Color. “I never use more than three plant colors, most often just two colors. That doesn’t count green unless it’s lime.”

Potting basics. “Don’t put anything in the bottom of pots, no shards or peanuts, which prevent water from draining freely. I use Cedar Grove potting soil, because I love buying local. I fertilize just once at the beginning of the season with Hendrikus Organics fertilizer, also made locally. Watering is crucial. I tell my clients to water until liquid that looks like compost tea comes out the bottom.”

Mistakes. “Planting dracaena, or any one plant right smack in the middle of the pot. Too much symmetry looks rigid. Skimpy pots are a miss; just pack the plants in so the pots are full when you’re done. You want the pots to look good in June, not wait until August for them to fill in. Sometimes I split the root-ball with my thumb to get a few more plants in there.”

What’s in her own pots. “Sambucus, caladium, banana trees, gunnera — I’m going tropical.”

Valerie Easton is a Seattle freelance writer and author of “A Pattern Garden.” Her e-mail address is valeaston@comcast.net. Greg Gilbert is a Seattle Times staff photographer.