Pots of Gardening Ideas

By Tamsin Westhorpe

On returning from a visit to RHS Chelsea Flower Show my enthusiasm for planting pots is sky high. This annual event that offers such inspiration is bound to see so many of us heading out to plan our container displays.

Growing in containers allows us to show our personality and go with a theme or mood different to a previous year. It’s our chance to be a garden designer and make a mark on the plot.

‘With careful placement of pots, you can completely fool a garden visitor into thinking that a garden is much bigger than it actually is.’

So, what is it about growing in pots that’s so addictive? For me it is the fact that I can reinvent a space quickly, move the pots around to change the flow of the garden and experiment knowing that I can easily make adjustments. With careful placement of pots, you can completely fool a garden visitor into thinking that a garden is much bigger than it actually is.

Small pots look great, but they will dry out quickly.

In a small garden one large group of pots or a giant pot will make if feel much larger. Pots are also the answer where soil can’t be turned. A balcony or courtyard can be completely transformed with container plants.

Growing in pots is the perfect way of trialling a shade loving plant in a little more sun than recommended knowing that you can quickly move it back to shade. Gardening in containers is versatile and allows even those with just a doorstep to garden. What’s not to like?

The only disadvantage to gardening in this way is the need to keep a close eye on watering. For me this isn’t much of an issue as I rarely, if ever leave my garden to holiday in the summer and I have a good collection of water butts. If this concern does hold you back, then consider grouping your pots together in a shady spot while you are away or grow plants that will cope with a lack of water. I’m slowly collecting up potted succulents that need little care in summer. Growing in larger pots is also a way to reduce the need for constant, daily watering.

What to grow?

Anything can grow in a pot. Some plants might need moving on after a while and others might start to flag if not given the right growing medium and feed but there really are no restrictions. My garden is a cottage country garden, and my aim is to create pots that are an extension to my mixed borders.

Perennials and annuals are planted together, and some pots are planted with just one type of plant. Many of my plants are grown from seed to keep the cost down and others have been with me for years having overwintered successfully undercover. My osteospermums and pelargoniums are now in their fifth year.

Amongst the best value container plants that I have experimented with is Alstroemeria ‘Indian Summer’. This hardy perennial flowers from early summer into autumn and looks totally tropical when coupled up with the orange Dahlia ‘David Howard’.

Dahlias are incredibly good value and after one season can be split so you’ll soon have double what you started with. A plant that you simply can’t beat for staying power is the hosta. They offer interest from the moment their foliage starts to unfurl in spring right into the autumn when the foliage provides you with autumn drama. I wouldn’t be without them.

Practical Planting

To keep your container plants looking good for months on end they need a good peat free compost and feed. I’m all for reusing half of last year’s compost but add in some home-made garden compost and some very well-rotted farmyard manure. To this you can add a slow-release fertilizer or even better than that is a home-made comfrey plant feed (you just can’t beat it for flower power).

A collection of succulents at Whichford Pottery – they cope well with minimal watering.

Anything can be used as a container as long as it has a drainage hole in the bottom.

Terracotta is a favourite but if you hope to have winter displays then a frost proof pot is essential. A good pot terracotta pot is worth the investment as it should be with you for life. The only other piece of advice I have is that anything goes – you are the artist and it’s your garden, so go for it.

Recommended course

Container Gardening taught by Chris Beardshaw

Chris Beardshaw teaches you Container gardening and gardening from pots. Perfect for urban gardeners.

View courseAll Gardening courses

Tamsin Westhorpe

With over 25 years’ experience in the horticultural industry, Tamsin has plenty of practical, hands on advice to share. Her career has seen her edit The English Garden magazine for six years, write scripts for TV gardening, lecture at Kingston Maurward College in Dorset and care for parks and gardens. She is now a freelance writer and curator and gardener of Stockton Bury Gardens, Herefordshire (listed by The Times in the top 20 gardens to visit July 2017). Tamsin is also an RHS Chelsea Flower Show Judge, co-Chair of The Garden Media Guild and a prolific speaker at many high profile events. She has recently written her first book ‘Diary of a Modern Country Gardener’ published by Orphans Publishing and is the voice of the popular Candide Gardening podcast ‘Fresh from the pod’.

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