Container Plants for Formal and Modern Schemes

Knot garden are part of a Formal Scheme
Please share this with friends and family

In this article, we will be discussing container plants for formal and modern schemes. Formal gardens conform to a scheme, which is symmetrical in nature whilst more modern designs follow a scheme that is not as formal but is asymmetrical in nature; two different schemes but both employ similar plants.

Clipped hedging is a common feature in formal schemes, where it is used to screen plants or to provide level landscapes to show your ornamental flowering plants. You can even create a knot garden.

A knot garden is a garden of very formal design in a square formation, where a variety of aromatic plants and/or culinary herbs are used. This includes herbs like marjoram, thyme, lemon balm, hyssop, rosemary, and chamomile, along with germander, southernwood, calendula, viola, and Santolina. The square designed is normally highly symmetrical.

Knot garden are part of a Formal Scheme
Knot Gardens are great for those looking for a modern look.

In formal schemes, boxes and yews are traditional choices. Boxes can be planted in containers, whilst yews cannot, so you are limited to box and some other shrubs if you want to create formal hedges in your design.


This is not your only choice as Lonicera (Honeysuckle) or Berberis can be used in more updated designs. Modern scheme normally have blocks of plants noted for their leaves, such as bamboos, grasses, sedges, or hebes. This will provide areas of colour and texture interest.

Also popular is pleached trees where stems are left bare and the branches trained horizontally to form a formal hedge. The branches are interwoven together so that no person can pass through the hedge.

Formal Gardens can look spectacular
Formal Gardens can look spectacular

This scheme is unsuitable for container gardening and only recommend for those who have plenty of room for tall specimens. These tall specimens often cannot be planted in containers.

In both schemes, flowers are used sparingly and only used to add splashes of colours, amongst the greens.

What follows are plants that are recommended for these schemes:


Box plant as part of a modern scheme
Box plant as part of a modern scheme

This is a compact, slow-growing, evergreen shrub that produces woody stems of small, oval green leaves. The leaves and branches are ideal to practice topiary on, where you can clip away to your heart’s content.

Grow this 1m tall plant in a large container full of multipurpose compost in full sun or partial shade. You can use long raised bed to form a formal hedge, as long as they are planted 50cm apart from each other.

Look out for Buxus sempervirens ‘Suffruticosa’ as an alternative.


Berberis thunbergii
Berberis thunbergii

This is a deciduous shrub with spiny shoots, bearing long oblate, green leaves that turn red and orange in autumn. In spring solitary yellow-red flowers appear, which are followed by scarlet berries.

Grow this slow-growing shrub that grows up to 1.5m high in a well-drained, moisture-retentive, multipurpose compost in full sun or partial shade. You can use it in raised bed in groups in a line to form a formal hedge.


Hebe topiaria
Hebe topiaria

This is a compact, rounded, evergreen shrub that has dense small, greyish-green leaves. This is another shrub that can be clipped to shape. This 60cm tall plant produces clusters of small, white flower that appear in summer, Great in the edges of geometric schemes. Grow it in a well-drained, multipurpose compost in full sun or partial shade. For an alternative plant use Hebe ‘Pewter Dome’


Hydrangea Macrophylla

A 1.5m tall deciduous shrub that has broad, oval green leaves. In summer, clusters of flat-headed tiny, pink or blue flowers are surrounded by large white flowers.

Grow this plant as an edging for paths in a well-drained, multipurpose compost in full sun or partial shade.

As an alternative, you can use Hydrangea paniculata.


Laurus nobilis
Laurus nobilis

This 12m tall evergreen tree produces branches of aromatic, dark green leaves. The leaves themselves can be clipped into various designs and shapes. Grow this plant in a sheltered area in large containers of well-drained, multipurpose compost in full sun or partial shade.

LONICERA NITIDA (Shrubby Honeysuckle)

Lonicera nitida
Lonicera nitida

This evergreen, m tall, bushy shrub has arching stems of minute, dark green leaves. It is best if this plant is clipped to knee height or waist height hedges, depending on your preference. It can be trimmed into various topiary shapes.

Look out for ‘Baggesen’s Gold’, which has golden-yellow leaves. Grow it in large containers full of well-drained, multipurpose compost in full sun or partial shade.

MISCANTHUS SINENSIS (Maiden Silvergrass)

Miscanthus sinensis
Miscanthus sinensis

This is a 2m tall, herbaceous clump-forming perennial. The grass-like green leaves can grow up to 75cm in length, where above it flowers with purplish heads appear. Grow this perennial in well-drained, multipurpose compost in full sun.

PELARGONIUM (Scented-Leaved Pelargonium) ‘Lady Plymouth’

Pelargonium 'Lady Plymouth'
Pelargonium ‘Lady Plymouth’

This perennial, often grown as an annual, has scented, silver-margined green leaves. In summer lavender-pink flowers appear. Grow it in a container as part of the ornamental flower scheme as part of a formal deism. It prefers to be grown in well-drained, multipurpose compost in full sun.

ROSA (Roses)

Roses are great as part of any formal or modern scheme, where colour splashes will stand-out through all the green hedging.

Roses like to be grown in well-drained, enriched multipurpose compost in full sun.

Rosa 'Graham Thomas'
Rosa ‘Graham Thomas’

‘Graham Thomas’ is a 1.2m tall climber that has green leaves that are disease resistant. In summer to autumn, highly fragrant, full double cup-shaped, yellow blooms are borne. Ideal growing up an arch.

‘Kent’ is a spreading, ground cover rose that has glossy, disease-resistant, mid-green leaves, In summer to autumn, flat white, semi-double flowers appear. Grow this 0.8m tall rose as an edging plant in a large container.

Rose 'Penelope'
Rosa ‘Penelope’

‘Penelope’ is a 1m tall shrub rose with long, arching stems of dark green leaves, In summer and autumn, fragrant, semi-double, cream-pink flowers appear, Great as part of any formal border scheme.

‘Warm Wishes’ is a bushy, hybrid tea rose that has mid-green leaves that are disease resistant. Grow this as a specimen plant, where in summer to autumn, fully double, scented orange-pink flowers are produced.


Salvia splendens
Salvia splendens

This 25cm tall, tender upright perennial that is often grown as an annual. It has spear-shaped, dark green leaves, where in summer, spikes of tubular, pink, red and purple blooms are borne. This will ass splashes of colour to any formal schemes. Grow it in well-drained, multipurpose compost in full sun.


Salvia x sylvestris
Salvia x sylvestris

An 80cm tall perennial that has small, dark green, aromatic leaves, In summer, branched stems of violet blooms are produced. Great for adding colour and height in ornamental flowers schemes as part of a formal design. Grow this perennial in well-drained, multipurpose compost in full sun.

TULIPA (Tulip) ‘Queen of the Night’

Tulip 'Queen of the Night'
Tulipa ‘Queen of the Night’

This late spring flowering bulb has grey-green leaves, where dark purple cup-shaped flowers appear. Best to plant in groups in containers filled with well-drained multipurpose compost in full sun. ‘Angelique’ and ‘Greenland’ make good alternatives.


In this article, container plants for formal and modern schemes have been discussed. Although a lot of hedging is used, you can still use colourful plants to give splashes of welcomed seasonal colours. You are not limited to boxes or hebes but can use other shrubs to give alternative interest to hedges.

It does not matter if your preference is for a symmetrical formal schemes, or an asymmetrical, modern scheme, as the plants I suggest can be used.

If you have any questions or comments you wish to make, please do so in the comment box below.

Be asymmetrical or asymmetrical in your designs. Go crazy.


16 thoughts on “Container Plants for Formal and Modern Schemes”

  1. Wow what a great article, I think I just found a fellow gardener here, personally I do the plans some flowers along the walk path to my gate and also at the balcony, of which I use different containers at the balcony, but I believe this is the right time to upgrade to modern ways by using modern containers for a formal scheme, having gone through your post I have learnt alot on different ways to work it out, and am looking forward to subscribe to your newsfeed to learn more from you, and also receive the book as stated on the content hahaha… Thanks

    1. Hi Joy

      Thank you for those glowing and warm words. I am glad you enjoyed the article and got a lot out of it. You can apply this technique to update your garden.

      Kind Regards


  2. Your article is amazing and modern for yet another time. As I said before, my Parisian house is in a village and has a huge 90 square yard garden. I have been taking care of him lately. I have planted in one part of the vegetable but the larger part of it I want to make it just look beautiful in a modern style. I got some great ideas from your article. My lady will be especially excited to see her designs and colorful fragrance flowers. I only hope to find some rare in Greece here.

    1. Hi Water Life

      You should be able to find these plants in Greece, with no problems at all. I am glad you enjoyed the article and hope you will apply it to your large garden with great success. It is not too difficult but should take time.

      Kind Regards


  3. Thanks for this article it has been enjoyable from its start to its end because by it have got to know about container plants for both formal and modern schemes and in addition I have loved how formal gardens look like because they are amazing and am looking forward to create one in my compound thanks very much for this article 

    1. Hi Mugalu

      Thank you for these kind and thoughtful comments, as it is very much appreciated.  it is simply making a choic eto see what your preference is.

      Kind Regards


  4. I like the information. Thanks for sharing your list of choices of container plants. I think it’s a good way to go both ways, as you said, be symmetrical as well as asymmetrical in design. I like that. Laurus Nobilis is very popular in the area where I’m from (Mediterranean Sea). What is your best recommendation for planting hedges? 

    1. Hi ivan

      Thank you for stopping by and commenting, These designs are all about how much symmetry you want yo introduce into your designs, No matter what all these plants can be used in both formal and modern designs.

      Bay leaves make great hedges but my favourite is box, as it can be clipped into any shape you like.



  5. Formal gardens certainly look like they need a lot of work compared to a more wild type of garden theme. I wouldn’t mind turning a section of my garden into a maze and leaving the rest a bit wild looking. 

    Which hedge type would you recommend for the hedge. I would like something that I could mix with roses, preferably white ones?

    1. Hi Michel

      Formal gardens seem to be alot of hard work but I can rest ensure that it is not. All you need to do is clip them into shape, feed and water,

      My personal favourite for hedges are wither Box or shrubby honeysuckle, as these are the easiest to look after. They will both go well with white roses,

      Thank you for stopping by.


  6. Hi Antonio, Thank you for this informative article.

    I am a new gardener and have been looking for inspiration to start my garden next year so that it is a place of tranquility as currently, it is a little bare.  I love the suggestions you have made and wondered if once planted are they fairly easy to maintain or would some of them need professional maintenance?  Could a novice like me successfully grow them and look after them?

    1. Hi Andrew

      The beauty of modern and informal schemes are that they are low maintenance. All you need to do is clip once in a while, feed and water. It should not take up a lot of your time, so go for it, Andrew.

       Good Name, as my brother is called Andrew.

       Kind Regards


  7. Thanks so much for the new plant ideas! I love your articles; You always inspire me to create new garden areas!

    I especially love the purple tulips. Purple is my absolute favorite color and I had no idea tulips came in this variety. The photo you shared of the formal garden with the very tall poplar trees is spectacular! I only wish I had the space to create a similar scene. 

    Do you think creating a garden area that is grown partially in containers and partially in ground is feasible? I have been considering creating the illusion of steps into the side of a hill using plants but I wasn’t sure how to accomplish it. Thanks again!

    1. Hi Shan

      I am glad that you enjoy reading my articles and I have got your head spinning with new ideas. I bet it is so surprising that there are so many garden types, and I have only scratched the surface,

      Yes, tulips can come in deep purple and they looking stunning in any garden display. There is a rule of thumb that any plant that will grow in containers will grow well in open ground, but not every plant in open ground can be grown in containers, I think I should make that my motto. 

      Yes, you can use a mixture of containers and beds, which can look astounding if it is done right. There is no set rules in gardening. You can even plant containers into a garden, especially if it is an invasive species. So Gofort it!.

      Kind Regards


  8. Hi Antonio. Thank you so much for sharing these container plants for formal and modern schemes. A garden is beautiful; I love gardens… I’m not very familiar with these plants but I love them.

    Roses are beautiful. We have another colour of roses? I always think that roses 🌹🌹 are red! 😍. It is cool to see another rose that has yellow colour; ROSA (Roses).

    1. Hi Techie

      It is great to add splashes of colour to these schemes, where often so much greenery is seen. Roses add so much colour and can be scented, great in these schemes.

      Thank you for stopping by.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *