Tipsy Topsy Garden Design


Okay, so I’ve been told I’m a little more “off kilter” than most, and over the years I built my company on the unique differences that make me, well, me—Mar Jennings. It took a while to fully embrace the idea of allowing myself to build on my creativity, but when I did the Mar Jennings the brand was born. Since then I always try to pull out creative and interesting ways to rethink, repurpose and redesign the traditional, using my own home as inspiration and perhaps sometimes even a laboratory of creations. I always try to stay away from the cookie cutter styles and break the molds that conform us to the norm.

For a recent garden tour, I pushed myself to do just this for part of my outdoor space, and thus created an idea that was both easy, visually interesting, and never done before at Rosebrook Gardens. I figured I could make being a little “off kilter” work for me. And this project is a pretty literal adaptation! As a collector of all sorts of containers, for years I had been taking my set of Greek urns and square shell-motif stone containers and filling them in the spring with a variety of flowing perennials. For example, one year I filled them with dwarf boxwoods surrounded with grape hyalites; another year I filled them with ferns—I loved that look too. This year I dared to rethink this staple of the design idea, so I transplanted the boxwoods currently in the containers to the garden and began to come up with a new idea.

While the containers were empty and lying on the gravel driveway I had a spark. Their positions spoke to me. How could I get that slightly tilted look with flowers cascading out and down? I took one planter and placed it upright, took the other and placed that on top but on its side. The impact was instant and I knew just then what I was going to do. Thus the “Tipsy Topsy” garden design was born.

This project is so simple and can be done with just about any matching set of containers.

What will you need for this project:

  • A matched set of planters
  • A package of moss
  • Three cascading perennial plants
  • Potting soil

Bottom container:
• Start by taking one planter and filling it with soil. Then take one plant, divide in half, and place ½ on each side of this planter.
• Leave a space in the middle to accommodate the matching planter on top lying on its side. The idea here is to have your plant grow to cascade down to the sides; the center will be covered with the planter.
• Next, add moss to cover the entire surface for a finished and professional look.

Top Container:
• Now let’s take your matching planter and fill with soil, but make a gradient so that the surface of the soil only comes up to the lip of the container on one side. This is the side that will be closest to the bottom planter when the container is tipped on its side.
• Place the remaining plants into this soil, again closes to the side you want to touch the bottom container. If you selected plants that already have growth, you might already have some overflow over the edge. You’re on your way.
• Take moss and cover this surface no soil is exposed.

Stack Them:
• Now carefully place your top planter on its side, on top of your bottom planter. Center it, and move any leaves or stems out of the way before it settles.
• You will notice that the moss helps secure the top planter from moving around and also keep the soil in place.

• An alternative idea to stacking the containers is to do one upright, fully planted on top, and tip the second planter next no it. But why not do both? I prefer adding these together for bigger impact and variety.
• If you have followed any of my previous outdoor living design ideas, you know an outside mantel is just as fabulous as an indoor mantel, thus the perfect place to house this design detail. In my garden, I placed these planters there.
• However, you can place these wherever you wish; my preference would be for somewhere not on the ground unless they are grouped; without being grouped the design might look like someone accidentally tipped your plantings!
• If you want to do this with larger containers you can do this in your garden as the scale allows them to anchor a garden bed.
• Try placing a set on either side of a garage door; it’s the perfect place for something unexpected.

This is a fun and great design tip that is easy and will have you tipsy with delight and whimsy in no time—no alcohol required.

And there you have it.