Symmetry denied

Symmetry scares me a little. It especially scares me in the garden, because true symmetry is almost impossible to attain when you're growing things.

That's probably why I rarely (if ever) do matching containers. There's just too darn much pressure to make them look the same. But this summer I decided to go for it, because frankly, there was no option.

Just a few weeks ago, both containers were looking great. The one on the north end of the deck (the farther one in this photo) wasn't growing as fast as the other, but they both looked great.
I spent a lot of time (not to mention money) finding the right pots for the containers on my deck and an equal amount of time figuring out what to fill them with. And I was thrilled with how they turned out.

For awhile, all was going well. The northern pot (the far one) wasn't growing quite as quickly but I expected that. And then, a few weeks ago, I noticed that many of the leaves on the mandevilla vine were turning yellow. Then they were falling off. It had all the signs of overwatering.

This is what the mandevilla looked like when I pulled it out. Lots of yellow leaves, many of which had already dropped off.

I have to admit, I was a bit concerned about that because of how I planted them. To save on potting mix and lighten up the containers I filled up a garbage bag with broken up pieces of styrofoam to fill up half the container and then filled the rest with potting mix. I can't remember what kind of potting mix I put in (it wasn't my usual Fafard 3B Mix that I like to use as I ran out of that), but I was gavin a really hard time keeping it moist, so I was concerned that perhaps I had created a pool of water sitting on top of the garbage bag and rotting the roots.

So I waited a few more days. And the leaves kept falling off the mandevilla. All of the other plants were doing OK, and the other matching container was looking great. I figured I had nothing to lose and took drastic action.

After the replanting. And it only got worse from there.

I took all the plants out of the container. I dumped out all the soil, pulled out that styrofoam, refilled it all with potting mix and replanted everything. There was no pool of water. There were no rotten roots. There was no explanation for the mandevilla's decline. I've done a bit of googling and it seems that mandevilla (Diplandeni) can be prone to something called cerscospera, which is a foliar disease. That doesn't seem quite right either because the leaves were never wet, although this one did get less sun than the other container.

The other planter is thriving.

And in doing so, I put the last nail in the coffin that was my matching containers. The mandevilla never recovered. Most of the other plants, which had been doing fine, died.  There's really nothing to do now other than dump it and try again next year.

So much for symmetry.


  1. My mom always says to never do matching containers because one will always die. Year after year, my front porch planters prove her right.

  2. It's a horrible year for planters here too - my front porch hanging basket looks like it's on it's last legs all spindly and dried out from blazing sun and heat. All the watering in the world isn't going to help this baby. I'm patiently waiting for the fall blooming plants to come out so that I can start fresh.

    1. There is something nice about getting another shot at it come fall, isn't there? Sorry your containers have suffered this year!

  3. I had a friend who planted a pair of "lollipop" lilac trees at either side of the path leading up to her front door. One grew like a monster while the other was stunted. She pulled that one out and replaced it and they never matched so she finally pulled them both out. We're talking a lot of money here.

    I also never do pairs for the same reasons you mention. The one exception has been a pair of boxwoods on the deck. But they get put into the garden most years and we start fresh. This year we're using the same pair from last summer which we pulled out of the soil this spring and put back into pots. But a totally green plant is more background and you notice individual differences much less.

    1. I have to say, I'm a bit relieved to hear that even an excellent gardener like you has issues with matching containers, Linda! I think I'll have to rethink my planting plant for next year on the deck.

  4. And, I thought it was just me....I've never had luck with matching pots! My container plants have been a big disappointment this year. We've had lots of thunderstorms followed by extreme heat. Plants and flowers are withering on their vines in sodden pots. My friend always says,"friends don't let friends buy annuals". She may be right.

    1. She might be! And I'm thankful to hear I'm not the only one with matching pot problems!


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