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Inspired Container Design with David Mattern of Chanticleer


Inspired Container Design

When it comes to creating beautiful and unique container gardens, David Mattern, the horticulturist at Chanticleer, a public garden in Wayne, Pennsylvania, is a master. His innovative and inspired designs are a testament to his creativity and expertise in using plants to create stunning combinations that capture the attention and imagination of every visitor. In this article, we'll explore David's approach to container garden design and how you can apply his principles to create your own inspiring container displays.

Embracing Creativity and Experimentation

David Mattern is not afraid to push the boundaries of traditional container gardening. He believes that containers provide an excellent platform for experimenting with different plant combinations, textures, and colors. According to David, the key to creating inspired container designs is to allow yourself to be creative and think outside the box. By embracing experimentation and thinking beyond the conventional, gardeners can elevate their container displays to a whole new level.

Considering Plant Combinations

One of the hallmarks of David's container designs is his keen eye for combining plants in a way that creates visual interest and harmony. He pays close attention to plant textures, colors, and growth habits to ensure that each combination is visually appealing and balanced. David recommends considering the following factors when creating plant combinations for containers:

  • Thriller, Filler, Spiller: David often follows the "thriller, filler, spiller" approach to plant combinations, where a tall, dramatic plant serves as the thriller, medium-sized plants act as fillers, and trailing or cascading plants play the role of spillers.

  • Contrast and Harmonization: To create visual impact, David looks for plants with contrasting colors, textures, and forms. He also considers how different plants harmonize with each other to create a cohesive and well-balanced display.

  • Seasonal Interest: David designs his containers to provide interest throughout the seasons. He carefully selects plants that will offer a succession of blooms, foliage, and even seed heads to keep the display engaging and evolving.

Focusing on Containers as Statement Pieces

In David's approach to container gardening, the containers themselves are an integral part of the design. He takes into account the material, shape, and color of the containers to complement and enhance the plants they hold. David's containers are not merely functional; they are statement pieces that add another layer of interest and beauty to the overall design.

David's tip: “Don’t be afraid to think beyond traditional pots and planters. Consider using unexpected vessels such as vintage containers, repurposed objects, or even salvaged architectural elements to create unique and eye-catching displays.”

Embracing Sustainable Practices

Sustainability is also an essential aspect of David's approach to container gardening. He emphasizes the use of environmentally friendly practices and materials, such as using compost-based potting mixes, incorporating native plants, and choosing long-lasting, durable containers. According to David, sustainable container gardening not only benefits the environment but also contributes to the overall health and vitality of the plants.

Tips for Creating Inspired Container Designs

Drawing from David Mattern's expertise at Chanticleer, here are some tips for creating your own inspired container designs:

  1. Start with a Vision: Before selecting plants and containers, envision the overall look and feel you want to create. Consider the colors, textures, and styles that appeal to you and how they can be translated into a cohesive container display.

  2. Consider the Context: Think about where your containers will be placed and the environment in which they will be situated. Consider factors such as light exposure, climate, and the surrounding landscape to ensure that your plant selections are well-suited to their location.

  3. Experiment with Plant Combinations: Venture beyond traditional plant pairings and experiment with unexpected combinations. Look for plants that provide a range of heights, textures, and colors to create dynamic and visually captivating displays.

  4. Focus on the Details: Pay attention to the finer details, such as the selection of containers, the use of complementary accessories, and the integration of sustainable practices. These details can elevate your container designs and make them truly inspiring.

  5. Embrace Seasonal Changes: Plan for seasonal interest by selecting plants that will provide a succession of blooms, foliage, or structure throughout the year. This approach ensures that your container displays remain captivating and engaging in every season.

By following these tips and embracing the principles of creativity, plant combinations, container selection, and sustainability, you can create inspired container designs that rival the artistry of David Mattern's work at Chanticleer.


David Mattern's approach to container garden design is a testament to the potential for creativity and innovation within this art form. By embracing experimentation, focusing on plant combinations, considering containers as statement pieces, and embracing sustainable practices, gardeners can create inspired container designs that captivate the eye and inspire the imagination. Whether you're an experienced gardener or just starting, drawing inspiration from David's expertise at Chanticleer will undoubtedly elevate your container gardening endeavors to new heights of beauty and creativity.

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