You won’t find garden-variety black-eyed Susans, coneflowers and phlox in Scott Endres’ distinctive gardens. He fills his beds and containers with exotic specimens like iridescent Persian shield, gigantic elephant ears and ruffled ‘Madame Queen’ begonia.

The co-owner of Tangletown Gardens in Minneapolis shares his strategies for creative containers and garden compositions. Try some of his tips next spring, to add drama and flair to your own garden creations.


For containers, choose a tall bold “thriller” plant with interesting foliage and shape, add a cascading “spiller” plant, then add “fillers” with a variety of foliage and flowers. “But remember to introduce contrast in colors, textures and shapes to keep it eye-pleasing,” said Endres.


Try tropical plants such as elephant ears and banana leaves, and common houseplants such as Mother in Law’s tongue for “thrillers.”


Place lushly planted pots on the porch to welcome guests.


For porch privacy, Endres planted a prolific ‘Limelight’ hydrangea in front.


Design garden beds to create “little windows” that frame different views. Endres has a high bird’s-eye vista from the front porch and a longer view from the boulevard. “You can appreciate the garden from different levels,” he said.


Repeat “gestures” such as color, texture and form to make beds look composed and cohesive. For example, he clusters dwarf white zinnias in his boulevard gardens and larger white zinnias in the terrace gardens. Coleus shapes and colors are repeated in both gardens.


Create depth and layers with different heights and forms throughout the landscape.


The boulevard gardens gave him “extra elbow room” to add more plantings on his compact city lot. Since the area is vulnerable to salt and snowplows, he plants “bulletproof perennials” such as peonies, allium, heuchera and sedum, then fills in with annuals. He picks plants with orange and red hues to complement the cinnamon-colored trim on his house.