Once your perennial gardens are established, they look pretty much the same from year to year -- give or take a few winter kills. So what do you do if you develop a sudden hankering for the color purple? Or fall for the latest Wave petunia? Why, you put them in a pot. Containers are a fun, easy way to expand your garden beyond its borders, to experiment with new plants and to show your personal style. But choosing the right mix of plants can be a trick. That's why we asked the designers at three local garden centers to create some eye-catching containers. Their expert tips come in handy, now's that it's time to swap pansies out for heat-tolerant plants and to replace any container plants that were demolished by the recent storms.

ø Colorful contrast

• Planter: Corrine du Prez, manager of annuals and perennials for Gertens, 5500 Blaine Av., Inver Grove Heights, 651-450-1501, www.gertens.com.

• Inspiration: Du Prez choose a large teal-colored pot with an "architectural" stature, then went color crazy with a vibrant collection of yellows, blues, reds and oranges. "I wanted juicy colors," she said, "anything that's bright and happy and has some punch."

She also paid attention to texture and size, contrasting the big blooms of a hibiscus with the tiny flowers of the verbena.

• Materials: For height, du Prez selected a strappy New England flax (Phormium 'Apricot Queen'). For a trailer, she used a Livingstone daisy (Dorotheanthus bellidiformis 'Mezoo Trailing Red'). Then she filled her pot with bright yellow lantana, deep-blue verbena, burgundy petunias, day-glo orange hibiscus and a multicolored coleus.


º Enchanted evergreens

• Planter: Terry Cohen, assistant greenhouse and perennial manager for Halla Nursery, 10000 Great Plains Blvd., Chanhassen. 952-445-6555, www.hallanursery.com.

• Inspiration: Taking a cue from the natural-looking resin pot, Cohen created a lifelike miniature landscape that uses texture rather than color for impact.

"I wanted to show the different textures of the tiny shrubs and evergreens with the wispy whiteness of the euphorbia," she said.

• Materials: Instead of relying on annuals, Cohen chose a selection of miniature shrubs (Mother Lode juniper, Bagatelle barberry), which she arranged around a dwarf Alberta spruce. To add a "lacy, open feeling," she added some Diamond Frost euphorbia. Then, she topped off the arrangement with mini-Montana bark and added a few fairy garden accessories.

• Take-home tip: Design before you dig. Put some dirt in your container, arrange your plants (still in their pots) in the container, then "walk away, look at it from a distance and see if the arrangement needs tweaking," said Cohen.

º Going for green

• Planters: Owner Peggy Poore and manager Bonnie Stinson of Uncommon Gardens, 5750 Lyndale Av. S., Minneapolis, 612-866-3033.

Inspiration: "We both loved the color and the shape of the pot," said Poore. "It just has a great presence." Instead of choosing colors that contrasted with the lime green pot, they selected foliage-first plants in colors similar to the pot. "We're color people," said Poore. "But you don't always need contrast."

• Materials: This pot gets its pop from foliage, including the coral bells (Heuchera 'Marmalade' and Heuchera villosa 'Mocha') as well as the bi- and tricolored geraniums ('Contrast' and 'Crystal Palace'). Even the trailer, moneywort (Lysimachia nummularia 'Goldilocks'), is lime green.

To add height and texture, Stinson wove in a small grass (Carex testacea "Prairie Fire'). And for a hint of contrast, they added that popular pot plant, potato vine.

• Take-home tip: "Don't be so worried about screwing up," said Poore. "It's yours. Go to the garden center and see what jumps out at you. If you love yellow, go for yellow."