The last time I was downtown, I was very impressed with the plantings in containers and in sidewalk beds. No, not Cleveland, unfortunately. Chicago!
I usually find myself in Chicago at least once a year and I am always blown away by the beauty of the plantings. The city is financially committed to making downtown beautiful because it attracts tourists. Much thought is given to the design of the combinations and to ongoing maintenance.
Eleven years ago, Niki and I were there in April with our two oldest granddaughters who were seven at the time. We have a wonderful picture of them with their American Girl dolls in front of a huge bed of tulips on Michigan Avenue.
This time, we were there in early October. Some of the containers still had summer plantings that were going strong and will continue on until frost. Others had been replanted for fall color.
The summer combinations for very large sidewalk containers used either Cordyline or Alocasia ‘Mayan Mask’ as the prominent element and then supplemented with fountain-like Begonia ‘Dragonwing Pink’ and upright mounds of white begonias. In windowboxes, Caladium were used instead of Cordyline or Alocasia ‘Mayan Mask’ since the scale is smaller.
The huge planters in the medians of Michigan Avenue (The Miracle Mile) were stunning. This year’s color scheme was yellow, orange, and purple. This time Cordyline and Alocasia ‘Lutea’ were used as the prominent elements. The other plants varied but there was always a relationship between each of the neighboring containers. Some were planted with Impatiens Fusion Glow Yellow, purple Verbena, Setcreasea ‘Purple Heart’, and both purple and white Lobularia. Others used Salvia farinacea instead of Verbena, Coleus instead of Setcreasea and orange Lantana.
Sidewalk beds had some permanent elements such as boxwood, trees, and a few ornamental grasses but the majority of the plantings were annuals. Technically, chrysanthemums are perennials but unless planted in spring rather than fall, they usually are not. In these beds, large pots of budded mums had been installed along with some of the following: flowering kale, purple cabbage, hay bales, pumpkins, crotons, Coleus, and Chard ‘Bright Lights’.
These containers and beds may provide some inspiration next spring when you are planning your combinations. And by the way, if any of you readers know someone in the Cleveland administration, you could send them this post.