I'm in the process of preparing a large container to stand in mixed sun and shade and have put in a chartreuse sweet potato vine and some variegated ivy. I was looking for something more vertical for contrast but couldn't find an annual I really liked.
What kinds of perennials are tough enough for containers? We get some really hot weather in August and I've had a lot of container plants succumb during that time, even with ample water and part shade.
Rebecca, have you thought about using a small tree in your container? We use them year after year, placing them in the unheated basement of an out building here during the winter--a good watering before they enter and no more water until we take them out for the Spring. Some trees do especially well in pots. We have found certain maples are particularly receptive to containers: amur maples, snakebark maples, and trident maples in particular. We buy a small tree and underplant it every Spring with annuals or other perennials. Some of our maples have been in their pots now for over 8 years. The ones I listed above actually seem to thrive on their container conditions.
Followup: perhaps we're doing something wrong, but we have found that while Japanese maples do well in pots for a few years, they eventually scream for ground. The one we have that has been happy for over 5 years now is our "Lion's Head" maple. A real surprise was that a variegated Zelcova has been happy as a lark now for 5 years or so in its container. You might also consider black bamboo. We over winter it as well in a large pot and make sure to cut out 1/3 of it every Spring (makes the other canes much larger and blacker). We keep it in its original pot and then sink that pot into a larger container in the Spring and then underplant it. Great vertical effect.
What a truly beautiful tree! You are so wise to have it sturdily staked - we have had some plants and trees damaged by wind recently. You get VERY hot weather in your area, right? Is your JM somewhat shaded?
The house faces North, so the porch is shaded from about 12:30 in Summer. Didn't have it staked for the first month. Then we had wild winds and it seemed prudent to find a big stick. :-) interested to see how it does the next three months. Running almost 10 degrees above normal already. Doesn't bode well for a mild season. :/
rebecca, you can grow a lot of perennials in your containers. Look for gaillardia, african daisies, lilies, roses, achillea, coreopsis, butterfly bush, rudbeckia, goldenrod, verbena, grasses. Anything you can grow in the ground you can grow in a container. Just keep it well watered during your hot season, sometimes that means twice a day.
Perhaps I've been too narrow in my thinking about what would work. I've had some plants growing in "Earth" boxes, like tomatoes and lisianthus, that were doing just beautifully until we got to the end of August and then they just got pale and listless and quit blooming and bearing, so I've been nervous about trying other things in containers. Do you use a particular kind of soil?
I tried the Miracle Gro this year in my containers, and I don't think things are performing nearly as well as in what I was using before. I used ProMix, just plain peat, and Osmocote that I put in myself. I'm going to start using ProMix and Osmocote again next year. The MG just didn't do it this year. I also put water crystals in the mix..