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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’.
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.
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.
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