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Thunbergia and petunias on the patio at Paon Restaraunt & Bar in Carlsbad. Photo by Jano Nightingale
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Jano’s Garden: For garden pizazz, go vertical

Considering that most gardens begin in a horizontal plane, the addition of a vertical element can transport a flat garden to one that is visually more exciting.

Since our gardens exist in three dimensions, for the best ornamental effect, there must be not only horizontal interest but contrasts in height as well.

While planning the current patio dining area at Paon restaurant in Carlsbad, local landscape designer, Chris Bany, chose a brilliant yellow Thunbergia vine (also known as Black-Eyed Susan Vine) to enliven the elegant French-inspired dining area.

Bright purple petunias fill the base of the design and spikey asparagus fern cascades over the side of the urn.

“We wanted to create a look that would highlight the French food and décor theme for the restaurant, so we used lots of color and stone urns.”

Vertical floral design with Thunbergia and petunias brighten the patio at Paon Restaraunt & Bar in Carlsbad. Photo by Jano Nightingale

Using the urn as a base for the floral design, he utilized a technique known to many landscape designers as “thrill, spill and chill.”

The idea of the “thrill” is to choose a plant that is taller than its companions and the showiest in height and color; the “spill” will add a graceful flow to the edge of the container and the “chill” is filler, usually a small upright annual.

Bany’s landscape design services are listed on Instagram @californiafoodscapes, or by calling (760) 421-9855.

According to Katherine Whiteside, “vertical elements give a sculptural form that makes a stand-alone element or a frame for vines to climb.” Her book, “The Way We Garden Now,” takes the reader through home and garden projects.

At this time of year, when we prepare our home for summer visitors, a quick and inexpensive answer to a patio garden that pops is to construct your own vertical planter.

A simple, but graceful teepee construction can be a homemade version of the expensive wrought iron obelisks featured at garden centers.

THE TWIG TEEPEE (Adapted from “The Way We Garden Now”)`

This easy project comes from Katherine Whiteside’s book and can be constructed in a few hours.


Large ceramic or clay pot (10-gallon size), 6 Bamboo or willow twigs (least 3 feet high), garden twine.


  1. Use pruners to cut one end of each of the 6 twigs at an angle.
  2. Beginning with three twigs, create a frame for the teepee, pushing the sharpened ends into the soil in a triangular shape.
  3. Gather the upright tips together, and using twine, tie the ends together. The teepee will look more graceful if you tie about 9 inches from the tips. If you wrap the twine nicely, you can slightly bow the twigs.
  4. Add the other 3 sharpened twigs to the teepee in between the existing upright. Tie together as in Step
  5. Plants: Purchase any of the vines suggested in the list below, and place one small plant at the base of twigs, and a larger showy vine in the center. The vines will grow quickly and you can train them, and attach the tendrils to twigs with green floral tape or wire. In a few weeks, you will have a showpiece for your patio or entryway.


Before you venture out to the garden center, think about the colors you would like to choose and the foliage your vines will produce.

Annuals for color and height: Canary vine, gourd, moonflower, morning glory, runner bean and sweet pea. All of these choices will produce quick-growing flowers and foliage.

Perennials: Clematis, ivy, honeysuckle, Mandevilla, nasturtium, thunbergia, trumpet vine and passionflower.

Many of these perennials can be placed in the center of your teepee to last throughout the warm season, with annuals changed out as they go to seed.

Vegetables: Cherry tomatoes, corn, miniature squash, pole beans and sunflowers can all be placed together to form a decorative and edible patio planter.

In “The Art of French Vegetable Gardening,” Louise Jones remarked that “Colette described sunflowers as having ‘hearts like cakes of black enamel’ and grew them draped with morning glories in her cottage garden in France.”

Have fun creating your own little French garden filled with vertical vines and brilliant colors, and tell me what you have found to work well in your own garden design work. You can also email me at [email protected] for more plant selections and sources.

Jano Nightingale is a horticulturist and Master Gardener and lives and works on community gardens in North County. For information on her upcoming classes at the Carlsbad Senior Center contact her at [email protected]