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It is when our budding hopes are nipped beyond recovery by some rough wind, that we are the most disposed to picture to ourselves what flowers they might have borne, if they had flourished.
-Dombey & Son

What’s in the pot?

garden view

pots in the shade

In my summer garden, light is at a premium and even shade tolerant plants find it a challenge too far with dry soil almost dessicating  under the foliar canopy. Thus I resort to keeping many of the plants in pots and placing them in or at the front of borders.

Container gardening is hard graft, requiring constant watering but more so when the outdoor tap is in an outhouse away, up and down several flights of steps. I’ve been grateful for the torrential rains last week although at the other extreme, potted plants are in danger of becoming waterlogged unless trays &  saucers are emptied regularly.

The design rules of container gardening are to choose plants that blend with the style of container, selecting pots that co-ordinate and avoiding a mass of unrelated objects. Of necessity my style falls into the latter.

Alice Hoffman & Tom Thumb fuchsias

pots on garden steps

Fuchsias welcome me into the garden and dotted along the front of the shady borders, they draw the eye away from the uninspiring Spring beds. Since Fuchsias are quite thirsty plants, the less favoured ones have been ‘guinea pigs’  tested out for tolerance of my soil conditions. So far, they are bearing up which means more will gradually be moved into  in the borders. Despite the exotic gaudy flower shapes, bees and hoverflies relish them so they are a good plant for attracting pollinators.

Voodoo, Mrs Popple & Tom thumb fuschias in pots

brightening the shade border

lady boothby climbing fuchsia

Leggy lady Boothby

Lady Boothby has a lot of bad press for being a straggly faux climbing Fuchsia but I wrap the stems back on themselves round an arched bamboo cane and thus enjoy her beauty in plenitude.

snail in garden pots

snail in pot

Because pots require frequent watering they make perfect habitats for slugs and snails. Vigilant checking under rims, bases and interiors is necessary to avoid hosting  a gastropod haven. After cutting back the pansies, I discovered four of these beasties sharing the same space.

Squirrels also choose containers as easy-dig food stores – in the past I’ve found half a baguette buried! The tuberous Begonias in the vintage hand cart were all vandalised back in the Spring with one completely broken off at soil level. Despite this, it re-grew from base and is now putting on the first of its blooms. The broken shoot was kept in water for a couple of weeks or more until it produced strong enough roots to be planted on. It too is now flowering, in its own pot.

potted begonias

vintage cart & begonias

Herbs are ideal container plants although Borage seems to lack backbone. Still it will make a rather beautiful hanging arrangement once the companion Calendula start to flower.

borage in pots


Another reason for growing plants in pots is that less hardy ones can be relocated and protected in winter or even moved inside. A favourite herb of mine this year is sweet and tender Cinnamon basil with pale lilac flowers on maroon stems and a delicious flavour. It blends well with Purple Sage.

cinnamon basil and purple sage

Sweet and tender basil

hollyhocks and seedpods

seeds in the pot

Even I don’t put Hollyhocks in containers although their seedpods would make a great design for one. The Hostas however are kept  in  pots and then buried up to the rim in the soil. It enables them to tolerate the dry shade conditions they would not normally bear and in the process reduces slug and snail damage, as these avoid dry areas too. As winter approaches, I dig up the pots and put them to one side until new leaves ermerge and the Hosta plants are split and potted on again.

planted hosta pots in dry shade

planted hosta pots

reclaimed slow cooker as a cuttings pot

slow cook cuttings

The reclaimed slow cooker makes a roomy pot for cuttings, maintaining good moisture levels whilst the handles are ideal for attaching a plastic bag cover. Nothing very exciting cooking here, only Euphorbia, Sarcococca and a Salvia but I am pleased that the Moonlight hydrangea vine has ‘taken’.

potted annuals display

potted annuals display

potted purple petunias

purpe petunias

Where would our summer gardens be without annuals? Yet these have-it-all-now plants with their shallow roots tend to leech nutrients from the topsoil layer, ultimately eroding it. Soil needs attention after annuals have been and gone.

I grow most annuals in containers and having once been rather sniffy about Surfinias, now I treasure them as much as the hoverflies. Purple is fave colour this year and a ‘million bells’ mono planting provides a dark haze backdrop for a window-box style of more delicate shades.

potted petunias and lamium

potted petunias and lamium

A la Christopher Lloyd I’ve experminted with pink and yellow combinations. Bell-flowered Convulvulus sabatius with white and gold trailing Dead Nettles bind the display together and I especially like the way golden Lamium blooms mimic the veining of Surfinias.

Dicentra and Oxalis in red ceramic pot

what's in the pot?

I also find this pink and yellow shade plant combination pleasing. Both were rescued from the ‘barely alive’ bargain shelf and planted in a ruddy, glazed container. Dicentra ‘Red Fountain’ has almost finished blooming but the little yellow flower is still trumpeting away. But what is it?  Unlabeled, with dark, fleshy stems and matching purplish clover-like leaves, I’d assumed Oxalis. And trawling the search engine listings,  think I’ve finally pinpointed it as Oxalis spiralis ssp. vulcanicola ‘Zinfandel’. A mouthful for a dainty delight.

It’s Fertiliser Friday time so I’m joining Tootsie for another fabulous Flower Flaunt

honeybee baskets full of marjoram pollen

honey pot

Pause for Thought: Scientists think ‘killer petunias’ should join the rank of carnivorous plants: Kew News
©Copyright 2011 Laura Thomas.
All rights reserved. Content created by Laura Thomas @PatioPatch

29 comments to What’s in the pot?

  • Cat

    Ha! Funny about the baguette! I use a lot of containers too as my garden is shady and dry (really dry this summer). Hostas are doing well and snail free ;) You have many beautiful blooms and the vintage cart makes a great, whimsical container!
    Cat read my post..Wordless Wednesday ~ Oh Susan, Susan, Lovely DearMy Profile

  • A beautifully put together post, Laura. I like pots but find they dry out so quickly at this time of year and/or I forget to water them. Most of ours are one of two colours or baskets.
    I think you should try hollyhocks (are they back in fashion?) in a pot. I believe it was Vita Sackville West who wrote that any plant could be grown in a pot!
    Janet read my post..Pitmedden Gardens, AberdeenshireMy Profile

  • Oxalis, but I wouldn’t have known which one.
    Elephant’s Eye read my post..Google Plus at Spirulino’sMy Profile

  • Laura – I’m still trying to figure out if clay pots or plastic pots are better. It seems like clay pots soak up water initially but retain moisture for longer.

    If the slow cooker cuttings don’t take, you will be able to console yourself with a nice steamed pudding.
    b-a-g read my post..Mid-Year Appraisal – still Thriving (23 JUL 2011)My Profile

    • clay pots look nicer, don’t blow over so readily in the wind but dry out much quicker. Tend to grow thirst resistant plants in terracotta. Was thinking of electrifying the pot but to sizzle gastropods not cook puddings ;)

  • - commiserations Cat, we have a tough time with gardening
    - Janet, Hollyhocks are one of the few plants that can cope here
    - yes Diana & what a time it took to identify

  • Very lively garden. love those fuschias coz hummingbirds loved those too.
    mommy mel read my post..Royal star gazer bloomsMy Profile

  • I love the fuschias! I planted some in my woodland garden, but unfortunately they disappeared during our June drought. Next year I will try them in a pot closer to the water hydrant. You have some beautiful plant combinations. Your photo even brings out the beauty of the snail shell!
    debsgarden read my post..Summer Garden PathsMy Profile

  • I enjoyed hearing your thoughts on container gardening. I have a few containers but not many, due to the frequent watering requirements. We do use a few pots that are “self-watering.” I like the mosaics you put together.
    Beth read my post..Travels Near and Far: New Monthly Blog Party!My Profile

  • You have quite a few beautiful photos today, but your one comment about not putting Hollyhocks in a pot was funny, because I saw them potted today. They were about 6 feet tall and in a rather small pot. Amazingly they were standing tall. I am not sure why they were potted, but there was about ten pots of them. It was a kinda strange sight.
    Donna read my post..Where the Wild Things AreMy Profile

  • I have heaps of potted plants scattered throughout my courtyard and shadehouse. It’s the only way I can have some colour as there’s just no digging possible around my place anymore. Water retaining crystals are essential in all my pots, especially in the heat and dry conditions we experience here.

    You have some fabulous potted plants. Loved the vintage cart planted with Begonias and the potted Fuchsias are beautiful.
    Bernieh read my post..It’s Another Mid-Winter Flower Flaunt On This Skywatch FridayMy Profile

  • Hollyhock seeds are one of the greatest pleasures in the garden – marigold and nasturtium seeds are pretty good too!

    Do you not find it difficult to grow healthy plants in a container with no drainage (like your slow cooker pot)?
    Lucy Corrander read my post..THE ONES THAT GOT AWAYMy Profile

    • did skewer some holes in the interior base, Lucy so not enclosed but there is an external layer which prevents water running away too quickly

  • Your potted plants look so healthy. I have a heard time with container plants – they often get forgotten by me, thus leading a slow and torturous death. I especially love your fuchsias.
    Holley read my post..Hey, Mister!My Profile

  • - no hummingbirds here
    - good luck with fuchsias in pots next year Deb. Snail shell is beautiful
    - Beth, have never tried self-watering containers
    - do potted Hollyhocks = avant garde gardening, Donna?
    - have always loved your potted courtyard, Bernie
    - good year for fuchsias, Holley.

  • We have complete opposite gardening conditions here. All sun, with hard, dry, clay soil. But this summer we are having unusually rainy weather, so it’s been a little easier. I like to keep my more premium annuals in pots so that they can be overwintered in the basement.
    RobinL read my post..Hot Hot SummerMy Profile

  • Yes, that is the challenge isn’t it? Keeping them watered enough, but not too much. But potted plants add so much character to the garden.
    PlantPostings read my post..Don’t spill the smoothie!My Profile

  • Hi Laura,

    Tku for sharing your pretty garden.
    Container gardening is indeed very hard work, but well worth the effort. It gives one a chance to change plantings each year and bring a whole new look to the summer garden.
    I love to see Hosta’s in pots. They are beautiful plants….I love the leaves, also the beautiful flowers, which are often overlooked.

    I love the yellow pink combination. Christopher Lloyd is a favourite of mine. I was sad in his passing. Great Dixter is a 30 minute drive from my home, as is Sissinghurst.

    Happy Sunday Laura, enjoy your day.
    cheryl read my post..Sunday safariMy Profile

  • Hi Laura, You are lucky to be able to grow fuchsias outside – they are a year-round greenhouse plant for me. Also, do you protect your terra-cotta against frost?
    kininvie read my post..Flowers of CantalMy Profile

    • these are mostly hardy fuschias which withstand our southern winters without protection…so far. Just move the terracotta pots to more sheltered spot.

  • Hi Laura, I really like your pink and yellow combinations, but there again, I suppose I would say that! You do amazingly well for variety and colour in such a challenging environment. I find I get remarkably fed up of watering pots when I get to around this part of the year and things tend to suffer – apart from the tomatoes. This year I – and they – have been saved by the early rising TNG having taken on the task. Your use of fuchsias is helping me overcome my general dislike of them, which is good as FIL loves them so I will need to find room for them in our next garden.
    Janet/Plantaliscious read my post..End of Month View July 2011My Profile

  • Dear Laura, Your planters may be hard work, but are obviously worth it, as you show some stunning potted plants here. I love your fuchsias. Some unusual, but effective containers, too. You have inspired me to post about my potted plants … soon. P. x
    Pam’s English Garden read my post..How I Beat the HeatMy Profile

  • Hi there! Firstly I apologise for not always leaving a comment when I stop by to read your blog. I am always impressed by your lovely photos and the layout. Your garden is looking good, thank you for sharing it. Ronnie
    Ronnie read my post..Weekly Photo Challenge – BrokenMy Profile

  • I also plant most of my annuals in pots…makes it much easier. I really like your potted annuals display…beautiful!
    The Sage Butterfly read my post..My New Herb GardenMy Profile

  • What a pretty post!!! Your photos are just lovely!
    Once again I am just loving the tour of all the gardens that have linked in to my little party! I am so excited to visit each and every post…they are all so inspiring and I am NEVER disappointed! The creative gardens and colorful displays that I am lucky to see are inspirations that I would never have found had I not found each of the gardeners I see online! Thank you so much for sharing your garden with my Friday Flaunt this week…I do hope you will link in again soon!
    ¸.•´¸.•*¨) ¸.•*¨)
    (¸.•´ (¸.•´ .•´ ¸¸.•¨¯`•.

  • always playing catch-up with blog visits and thanks:-
    - at least clay soil holds nutrients, Robin
    - not only watered but fed as well, PP
    - the watering is the worst part Janet but an accessible tap would help
    - look forward to your potted post, Pam :)
    - without potted annuals, my garden would seriously lack colour SB
    - appreciate you stopping by Ronnie – a comment is just extra
    - and thanks for hosting this Tootsie

  • Now what a great use of an old slow cooker Laura. Top marks for ingenuity. Had to laugh at the squirrel stashed baguette but at least baguettes do not grow ~ my squirrels specialise in hiding conkers so I have baby chestnuts sprouting in my containers come spring.
    Anna read my post..End of Month View ~ July 2011My Profile

  • I do agree about container gardening. Some years ago I decided to have lots of flowers in containers and gave up when I realised the time and commitment it took. Now I just have topiary in pots which is less time consuming except for watering and top dressing in the spring.
    Barbara read my post..Garden and FamilyMy Profile