Container planting is an excellent way of
creating a garden environment even if you do
not necessarily have one. It is also a solution
for when you have a garden where there is no
provision for planting or growing a particular
plant that is not suitable for your soil.
Think carefully before you start, and get
ideas from what other people have done
rather than buying on impulse. Think about
which colours blend well together, with
the smaller the pot, the simpler the design.
It is important to choose plants that suit in
both size and depth.
You also need to consider when planting
perennials that have roots that spread, that
you are able to take them out. This can be
done by making sure that the container does
not have a smaller top than the body. You
also have to consider where you are going
to place it. A south-facing wall, for example,
where the wall will retain heat, could
become very hot.
Use potting or container compost that
retains moisture and provides nutrition.
Peat-based compost used to be standard,
but now you can also get the peat-free
types which will work, but tend to be freedraining,
which means that water passes
through very quickly.
As such, you will need to water more
frequently. Feeding is important, and
it is worth adding slow release fertiliser.
Drainage, too, is a priority otherwise the
roots can get waterlogged. Always check
that there are holes in the bottom of your
containers, and make some if there are none.
These then need to be protected so that
they do not get clogged up. During the
winter months, the chances are that you
will have several clay pots which will have
cracked. These can be broken up and used
to cover and protect the holes. If using a
big container, filling it up with compost
can be expensive.
This is where old plastic plant and
polystyrene containers come in useful –
scatter these higgledy-piggledy at the
bottom. Break up the compost through
your hands to aerate it and increase its
volume before you add it.
When planting, start from the middle
and plant outwards, making sure the level
of the plant is level with the compost. If repotting,
take off the dead leaves and bits of
dried-up compost. If the container is to be
placed on a stone surface, it is a good idea
to have it slightly off the ground, which
can be achieved by using pot feet to allow
the water to escape.
Once you have planted your
arrangement, it will need watering, and
again a second time once settled. If you are
buying plants from a garden centre, they
will need to get acclimatised to your
conditions. Leave them outside for about
a week before replanting, and if the nights
are cold, cover them with fleece. Once repotted,
putting pebbles on the top can look
pretty, and will conserve the moisture.
Nothing can be more disappointing
than buying a beautiful clay pot and finding
– particularly if you plan to leave it out
during the winter months – that it has
cracked. Check that it is frost-free, especially
if it is imported or you are buying it abroad.
The Royal Horticultural Society
produces a print-out of plants which
are suitable for patios.
Web site created by Mark Griffin