REVIEW: Container Gardening with Chris Beardshaw

By Jemima Armfield

Create a container that will make your plants sing!

Is your patio full of mismatched containers, overgrown plants and waterlogged lavender? Are they all unhappily stuffed in the same multipurpose compost?

When it comes to container gardening, I've gone with the philosophy of more is definitely better. Instead of learning from my gardening fails, I just keep buying more.

I would choose plants for my containers based on which shouted the loudest to me in the nursery. Or had the showiest petals or the bushiest leaves.

"My container choice would be a total afterthought"

My container choice would be a total afterthought. If it was cheap and cheerful that would invariably do. I would never think about how it would fit into the rest of the patio. Neither would I have given a second thought to where the plant was from or what compost it might prefer. Now, I've said it out loud - I'm really a very inconsiderate gardener. Or was!

After a frustrating afternoon spent juggling kids and wrestling with pots I had an email popped on my phone. As if sent by the gardening gods, Container Gardening with Chris Beardshaw appeared.

I’m not exaggerating when I say “Halle-gardening-lujah.”

Very few things change my mind or how I do things, but after the first 10 minutes of listening to Chris, I had seen the light. The error of my container ways was suddenly clear.

“Find a really clear design vision and stick to it," Chris states authoritatively. "And don’t deviate.”

The whole course is designed to equip you with an in-depth knowledge of how to pick the perfect container and fill it properly. But it's not just about selecting plants. This course literally gets down to the nitty-gritty of how much grit your plants might need. to the perfect compost mix to selecting the right leaf shapes to create depth to your design.

Each assignment really made me think about what it was I wanted to achieve from my containers and how to choose the right plants to fit that vision.

Assignment 4: "Create a mood board"

I spent some very happy hours immersed in leaf shapes, colour wheels and plant habitats. Could I create a Tuscan hillside in a complex container, what about an Irish meadow, or a French potager pot?

By lesson 4, Chris’s hands are stained black from the rich soil and compost mix he’s using. Meanwhile, I've created mood boards overflowing with ideas and also come up with an ambitious and over-the-top design for a planter inspired by Frida Kahlo. It's a design where I, not the local nursery, has decided what's going in it. The result is a design where I have actually thought about the heights and depths each plant will occupy and how the container will help enhance my Kahlo-esque floral headband vision. I still can’t believe I came up with it. Garden design has always seemed ethereal and the preserve of gardening geniuses, but yet Chris had helped me actually make something artistic - and more importantly something that would survive and thrive in its container.

Frida Kahlo inspired planter

This course was so good, I’ve made my equally eclectic, container hoarder of a mother take the course as well. I’ve also started lecturing friends on the error of their containing ways.

I’ve done a lot of online courses and even degrees in my time and this one was the perfect length with top quality materials and videos - even with the constraints of filming in lockdown.

So 5 stars for the course structure and design. And - 10 stars for Chris. He has such a calming yet informative presence on screen that you will want to pot him up to keep him on your patio.

His type of plant genus needs a deep terracotta pot fired at a high temperature - in case you were wondering.

Review by Julietta Watson. You can find out more about her gardening journey at

Jemima Armfield

Digital marketing manager, content creator and head of tutor relations, I'm here to make sure everyone is getting the support they need throughout their studies at Learning with Experts.

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