Planting up a pot is such good fun! You can grow a huge variety of things, as long as you adhere to a few simple rules regarding container, soil/compost, aspect and maintenance. (What are the chances Caroline is paying attention?)
You can use almost anything as a container but you MUST have drainage or your carefully-planted darlings will end up sitting in soggy sour soil that will eventually mean failure. Lots of people prop their pots up on little ceramic feet to aid the drainage, and I always add some extra grit to any potting mix for that reason as well.
Move a big pot to its chosen position before you fill it, and I usually shove some old polystyrene trays or cardboard in the bottom, so you don’t have to use so much compost – the plants don’t seem to mind. A mix of peat-free compost, John Innes or leaf-mould for ‘body’, a few handfuls of grit/perlite and some slow-release fertiliser – it adds up to a comfy summer home for your plants.
The ‘Aspect’ thing is just a matter of common sense really – don’t put shade-lovers by a sunny front door, Mexican firecrackers like dahlias will sulk in a ferny grotto….and if you’re planting a mixture of things, don’t put the shady customers with the sun-worshippers. Duh!
‘Maintenance’ isn’t rocket science either – all you have to remember is that once those plants are in your pot, they are relying on YOU for everything, especially water. This is where planting into a big pot can work to your advantage – it won’t dry out half as fast as a little one. Feed the container once a week, using a high-potash fertiliser (as for tomatoes) if it’s full of flowery things.
Okay, that’s enough technical stuff. Let’s get planting! You just know that Laura is not going to go simple with this and will tire you out with her specialist ‘drama queens’, but I’m very happy to embrace ‘bold and colourful’ for summer pots and you really don’t need to spend big money, to make a real splash – nasturtiums, dahlias, marigolds – all bright and easy – indeed I used these very plants to create a jolly pot about a month ago – and look at it now! Want pastels? Cosmos, annual lavatera, verbena bonariensis make a gorgeous combo, and tuck in some night-scented stock – a rather dingy plant but oh boy, the fragrance on summer evenings……
But your pot doesn’t have to be decoratively flowery – I’ve got luscious lettuces growing in one, peas in another, herbs for my cookery-loving husband in another……
Laura is itching to impress you with her strange choices, and Caroline won’t have listened to a word………
Oh dear, it’s even worse than I anticipated. Whilst E’s tips on preparing your pots for their new inhabitants are sound enough her plant choices sound like she consulted with Skippy the Kangaroo – we’ll have a bit of this and a bit of that and shake it all about, and if you can’t think of anything else, bung in a few nasturiums (see our feature picture this week…)
For the more discerning amongst us who still consider gardening to be an art form, much more considered thought is necessary. I actually prefer just a single plant species in a pot, or at the very most two so that their true characteristics can be appreciated close up and undiluted by neighbours. The pot shape and size needs to be balanced with the size and habit of the specimen you are planting.
For something gentle yet elegant for this Tulbaghia violacea, which will flower absolutely non-stop until the first frosts. It’s from the onion family so don’t expect a fragrant scent, in fact it’s common name, society garlic, might give you a clue.
For a beefier, more vibrant look, Anna Dalrymple got it right with Tithonia ‘Torch’ coupled with a creamy Argyranthemum ‘Jamaica Primrose’ planted in an old dustbin at her garden ‘Broadwoodside’ in East Lothian.
A summer bulb that looks great in a pot is Eucomis bicolor. Its pineapple shaped flower doesn’t appear until late summer, but the emerging stems have a beauty of their own.
And full marks go to Growbag subscriber Elizabeth Ellison from Horsham, who took Louise’s advice and grew her Geranium palmatum in a large pot with spectacular results.
All very tasteful but most of us just want a few things at the door to jolly things up, don’t we?
You might think I exaggerate how patronising my sisters are but I honestly don’t (well not Laura anyway). E & L came up to see me in Scotland in November and I asked them, excitedly, if they were impressed by my winter containers (as I recall a triumph of berried skimmia, hellebores, purple heuchera and some very early wallflowers lighting up the whole affair). Laura said ‘Mehhhhh, they look a bit plonked in’.
Firstly, how bloody rude, and secondly, er, isn’t that the whole point of containers? You plonk…the…plants…in, right?
Never mind Laura’s drab single plants (as you have read, grown for their interesting stalks), ignore Elaine’s untidy collection of randoms, this is how you plant a container.
a/ Read Gardener’s World Magazine b/ See what plants Carol Klein recommends c/ Get down to Dobbies d/ Buy them e/ Plonk them in.
This is how it turned out for me. Modesty forbids me to ask you to compare it with Laura’s.
NB: Louise is in summer rose mode so click on her tab below to find out which one she has chosen to tell us about this week.
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