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Perfect plants for a patio! Gardening tips for early April

Image of Elaine
Elaine

Spring has well and truly popped its cork now – hurray! But oh boy!

Suddenly there is not enough time in the day – lucky the clocks go forward this weekend, and we can stay out there a bit longer in the evenings…..let’s get on with planning our pots for summer, putting in supports for taller plants and sorting out the seedlings, amongst other things…..

Perfect plants for patios

It’s too early yet to be thinking about planting up your patio pots for summer – I expect, like mine, lots of them are still full of tulips, primulas, wallflowers etc. anyway. But definitely start planning what you’re going to put in them. Think about exactly what you want from your outside area – are you craving the calm of greens and whites, the wild pizazz of flamboyant colours, the buzz of happy insects, or perhaps even the fun of picking something to eat for supper from a pot by your garden chair?

I am a bit of a ‘colours’ girl myself, and have had a lot of enjoyment out of tithonias and zinnias (sown indoors now) and romping merrily through the whole of July, August and into September against a grey stone wall (I daresay the zinging colours might argue with red brick). I had no idea that zinnias were so popular with bees and hoverflies either!

Zinnia ‘Orange King’ – a fabulous plant for a pot in a hot spot….

I think that they would make a lovely combination with the clematis in a Thomson & Morgan competition package, that we 3Growbags are launching today – C. ‘Little Lemons’. This looks a perfect compact shrub for a patio pot, covered in little nodding yellow blooms followed by charming fluffy seed heads. Or the fabulously bright sunflowers – ‘SunBelievable Brown-Eyed Girl’ – , which are also part of the competition offer – I told you I’m a ‘colours’ gal! Click on the link at the bottom to enter the T & M comp. 

I would add some white Cosmos ‘Purity’, because I can’t do without them, and some white Nicotiana alata for glorious scent particularly in the evening. You could start sourcing Eucomis bulbs now (see our lovely feature pic), they make wonderful and slightly unusual patio plants and last well into late Autumn.

Nicotiana alata
Caroline’s pots of Nicotiana alata were a huge success, pretty by day and heavenly by evening with their sweet nocturnal scent

Laura has views for pots in shadier spots:

Yes, with our overheated climate it’s actually nice to have a little shady bolt hole in the garden, but don’t worry you can still have pots around you, as there are plenty of plants that will be happy there with you too.

Heucheras and grasses such as Carex make fantastic muted base plants for a shady pot, against which you can drop in some colour in the form of begonias (‘Glowing Embers would be a great choice), impatiens (busy Lizzies) or a fuchsia (the Thompson and Morgan patio collection have a good variegated cultivar ‘Tom West’ which would fit the bill 😀)

Heuchera ‘Lime Marmelade’
A Heuchera like this ‘Lime Marmalade’ makes a great foil for other shade loving pot dwellers

Let’s be supportive

It is important that you get your tall-plant supports in early, to avoid the ‘hauled-back-up-and-hung-by-the-neck’ look, but they can be terribly expensive and there is a cheaper way of doing it. You don’t have to blow the children’s inheritance on something that you hope won’t even be visible by mid-summer. Get hold of some steel rods (we used 6mm in 2 or 3m lengths mostly) from a builders’ merchant and make them yourself – get a range of sizes, and use the thicker ones for tougher things like tree-peonies and crocosmias.)

Use builders’ rods to make your plant supports

Persuade a handy partner or pal to help you, or just do it yourself. Bend them into a hoop (under your foot, or round a tree), lay them flat on a board with the ends sticking out one side, put another board on top and stand on it. Then just twist the ends upwards towards you. Bingo! They make super plant supports at just the height you want them, and at a fraction of the price for the ready-made ones. You won’t get the curlicues and style of the designed ones, of course. But as I said, plant supports are SUPPOSED to ‘disappear’ anyway!
This is a great job for right now, so you’ll have them stacked and ready to pop in the ground soon; and they’ll last you for years.

Gardening shorts

  • If you’re transferring seedlings into their own individual pots or modules, (known as ‘Pricking Out’ ……behave yourselves in the back-row……), NEVER touch their stems which are very fragile and liable to damage. Loosen the roots with a dibber or a pencil, then hold the seedling by one of its leaves, and gently transfer it to its new position. I have made a short video of this task – click on the link at the end.
Handle those little seedlings carefully!
  • Your mixed borders will be bursting into life this month, and now’s the time to sprinkle some fertiliser over them. I sometimes use pelleted chicken manure or Growmore…. anything like that. The recommended dosage is 1oz per square yard, but I am afraid I don’t get too particular about that. Growmore is what they call a balanced fertiliser, with Nitrogen (for leaves), Phosphorus (for roots) and Potassium (for flowers and fruit) in equal parts – the plant-health equivalent of an avocado and blueberry salad sprinkled with bran and nuts. Yum! Hoe the granules in lightly, and let them replenish all the goodies that has washed out of the soil in the past year.
Sprinkle fertiliser over your flower beds to put some oomph back into the soil
  • Start sowing seeds of tender veg like beans, courgettes and sweet corn in a propagator or greenhouse.

If you might like a few more suggestions for our favourite patio plantings, including tactile plants, do check out the section on this topic here, as well as our earlier blog-piece ‘Pots for coffee Spots’.

This is my short vid on pricking out seedlings.

And finally don’t forget to enter our Thompson and Morgan collaboration raffle by clicking on the box below and that bundle of patio plants could be yours!

By the3growbags

We're three sisters who love gardening, plants and even the science of horticulture but we're not all experts. We'd love everyone even remotely interested in their gardens to be part of our blogsite.

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