In many gardens pots and containers are merely a feature for the summer months when filled with seasonal bedding plants.
However, they can be much more than that if you choose subjects with a much longer period of interest. Many of the best plants that grow well in pots will last from season to season providing year round interest in just about any area of the garden.
Astelia ‘Silver Shadow’
Astelia ‘Silver Shadow’ is a striking, architectural evergreen perennial with spiky silver leaves. Its appearance is deceptive. Although it looks like a sun lover, it is happiest in shade; the perfect choice for a pot in a shaded corner where its reflective foliage will really shine in the shadows. Astelia hails from Australian woodlands, so it will not tolerate extreme frost. Site it close to the house where it will get some protection in cold winters.
Convolvulus cneorum is a charming silver sun lover with narrow silky leaves and shining white trumpet shape flowers in summer. It will tolerate some shade but is perfect for a warm, sunny spot where it can withstand some drought. Lovely in a container alongside lavender and woody herbs such as rosemary, sage and thyme.
Eriostemon myoporoides (myricoides)
Eriostemon myoporoides (myricoides) is a relatively new arrival on the temperate garden scene. Commonly known as the narrow-leaved wax-flower it is an aromatic shrub with fine stems and narrow deep green leaves. Tiny buds, carried in every leaf axil, burst into starry white flowers, pink on the undersides of the petals. The flowering period starts in spring and continues into summer, often reoccurring later in the season. Another Australian native that is frost tolerant, but dislikes extreme cold.
Hakenochloa macra ‘Aurea’
Hakenochloa macra ‘Aurea’ is perhaps the best grass to grow in a pot. Like a short bamboo in leaf and stem the bright yellow foliage has the benefit of softness and movement.It soon fills a pot where the summer foliage gracefully overflows from late spring through to autumn when the leaves turn to parchment. Cut back in midwinter, as the leaves start to fall, and wait for a mass of fresh green shoots to appear in spring. Easy to care for and stunning.
Hosta ‘June’, a perennial with elegant blue green leaves edged with soft gold, is one of the finest hostas. Generally varieties with blue leaves are more resistant to slug and snail damage and growing in pots makes them easier to protect. Although they die down in winter they have a long season from early summer through to fall. The late summer flowers are a bonus.
Nandina domestica ‘Gulfsteam’
Nandina domestica ‘Gulfsteam’ is a popular dwarf cultivar of the sacred bamboo.This is one of the best evergreens to grow in a container. Compact, but graceful in habit it grows slowly to 60cm or so in height.The fern-like evergreen foliage is olive green with rusty highlights through summer, the new growth soft orange. In cold winter weather the upper leaves can turn to scarlet in winter. A good all-year-round plant that lasts for years in the same container.
Nemesia ‘Amelie’ is often sold as a seasonal bedding plant, but it is really a perennial that will often overwinter. There are many varieties of these charming little plants with tiny snapdragon-like flowers carried on upright stems throughout summer. Many, including ‘Amelie’, are sweetly fragrant. They mix well with aromtic herbs and sun-loving shrubs and perennials. If the flower display looks tired, cut back anytime during summer, feed and water and they will reward with renewed vigour.
Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Golf Ball’
Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Golf Ball’ is one of the best alternatives to box, especially in pots. Naturally rounded in habit, light clipping will make it denser and more spherical. Shining bright green leaves and fine black stems make it an altogether lighter and brighter subject that traditional box. Surprisingly hardy and tolerant it is excellent in sun or semi-shade.
Sempervivum, the house leek is the container plant to grow for the artistic, creative and forgetful gardener. It will survive, even thrive without regular watering and can be used to produce some of the most imaginative planting ideas in any garden. Use it to enhance old boxes, broken flowerpots, roof tiles or tin trays. There are numerous species and cultivars in a variety of sharp and soft forms. Succulents are trendy indoors and out and the “semps” are the hardiest and most tolerant.
Ugni molinae ‘Flambeau’
Ugni molinae ‘Flambeau’ is a delightful form of the Chilean guava. A loose, small shrub with slender stems and small narrow evergreen leaves variegated with cream and pink.Grown in a sunny spot white summer flowers ripen into small, delicious aromatic fruits by early autumn.It’s loose, almost trailing habit is perfect for a taller container where it can flow over the sides.It is surprisingly hardy for a relatively exotic shrub.
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