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Raised Garden Beds vs Plant Pots

Susanna Newhart



When we start the planning process, one of the first things we plan out are Raised Garden Beds vs Plant Pots. Lets work through some tips and ideas on how to achieve the space that we are looking to fill. In this blog I will give you some options to help you decide what you would like to put in your yard, and where a good place for it will be.

Use of the space

Before we begin, we should figure out what we want to use the space for. Are we having family gatherings, with lots of space for BBQ’s, or are we looking for a more quiet and private place for ourselves. If you don’t like gardening, try to plan something a bit more low maintenance. With clients like this I often suggest using someone to help with pruning and maintenance. I liken it to buying a car, you typically don’t do your own oil changes.  Your size of yard will also impact what you can and cant do, but small backyard designs are often the best, as you can make use of all that space.

Trees, Deciduous vs Evergreen

For my own designs, I start with where the trees are going, which ones will fit into the space, and my clients requests.

You should try to have 30% of the plan to include evergreens, and keep in mind they generally are quite large. Some grow up to 60 feet tall!  There are a few species that stay small and are very slow growing, these fill garden beds nicely, but don’t overwhelm the yard. Evergreens stay green all year, so put them in places you want to block a view (like your neighbours window/patio) or help to keep traffic noise down. Junipers and cedars make wonderful garden bed friends, but they are a bit more thirsty, and may suck up all the water and food, kinda like teenagers. There is a great deal of selection for evergreens, they add a great deal of character to any garden.

Deciduous trees come in all shapes, sizes and colours. Some bloom early in the spring, and others change colour in the fall. Leaf trees are great for shade around a paver patio, or wood decks. Depending on what zone you are will determine what you can plant, but you can also use fruit trees in your yard. They are multi-purpose, not only do they bring shade but they also produce food!

Perennials vs Annuals

Annuals need to be planted each year, while perennials just once. Depending on size perennials may be a bit more.

There are four important things to consider when planning your Raised Garden Beds or plant box, size,height, sun and shade. This determines how well your plants will grow. Another important detail is when they bloom, and any other special attributes. As an example Prairie Fire Dogwoods bloom in the spring, but the most striking attribute is that the branches turn bright red, and look amazing in the winter.

Key Landscaping Ideas

Depending on where your raised garden bed or plant box is will dictate what size you plant. When filling plant pots, I suggest something larger in the centre, with small annuals on the outer rim. If its going against a house or fence, then put the taller plant in the back, and smaller or cascading plants in the front.

Not all perennials are leafy, don’t forget about cedars and junipers, they also add a lot of colour in the winter time. Its always nice to see the green poking through the snow!

Sun and Shade will also play a role in plant placement. There are a ton of varieties for either, you can find plants for the most shade, as well as for the most hot. Reach out to your local greenhouse to decide what will work best, they will be able to help you the best. Each zone is a bit different, and they will know more about the micro-climates in your area.


Decorative grasses are a fun way to fill space. They come in so many different sizes and colours, and some like Karl Foresters can be left standing in the winter to give a bit of a visual. My favourite place for them are with evergreens in decorative rock beds. The grey from the rocks, really let the blues from fescues shine. And they are the ultimate in low maintenance.

Heights, texture and Colour

At this point in the planning, we can now decide if we will be using a Raised Garden Beds, plant pots, or maybe both!

I see a lot of plans and landscapes where everything is on the same level. Its all flat until you get near the house. Creating a Raised Garden Beds with a couple of different levels let the eye slowly move up, while taking in all the different plants and colours. There are a number of different materials that you can use, wood, metal, concrete wall blocks and even just large rocks. There is something for every budget. In this picture I used a Rosetta Kodah Wall Product from Barkman, along with a custom galvanized metal. The deck was built with a composite product.

The cool thing about pots is you can fill them with annuals, and change them each year. They can bring that vibrant colour, and you can change that every year too with a bit of paint. With a little help, those with mobility issues can fill them sitting at a table, everyone can help!

As well they can be put everywhere, you can put them on steps, on the corners of paver patios, or right in the middle of the bed. I have seen some wonderful ideas, including using that old stump!!

Your local greenhouse will have a lot of great ideas, the pot in this picture is from Barkman , one of my favorite suppliers.

The artist in you!

I hope I was able to help inspire you! There are  no hard and fast rules for design, its up to you and your design, and what you will use the space for.  For more information or if you would like to book a consult, please reach out to us at Newhart Landscape and Construction Ltd. We are located in Sherwood Park, Alberta Canada. Looking forward to seeing what we can create in 2020!