In the time of the small garden & apartment living, of which we have plenty in Berkhamsted, I’m increasingly asked to provide container gardens & planting. In fact if I look around my clients’ gardens I can see the colour right now is mostly provided by plants in pots, troughs, raised beds, sinks, metal pails, wine crates & the like.
Most folk around here haven’t got time to transform the claggy, flinty medium (which passes for soil) with manure & compost, so container planting provides a simple & easy solution to providing colour, form & texture to your outdoor space throughout the year. In times of hot weather, the pots can be moved to a slightly shadier part of the garden & they can be grouped together to avoid water loss. Of course, hot weather is such a rarity in this country, I can’t envisage much pot moving happening. My containers have been outside on a sunny west facing breezy hill for two summers now & I haven’t had to move them once.
And because pots can be situated on raised platforms, I find the maintenance so much easier than bending down to ground level. In fact smaller pots can be lifted up to a work surface for pampering & then rearranged alternatively in another part of the garden to suit. Some plants benefit from a bit of winter protection & those growing in containers can be moved to a south/west facing wall of the house. It’s then easier then to pop a piece of fleece over the plants should the white stuff arrive.
I have a small collection of aloes & echeverias in containers which get moved into a leaky greenhouse over winter. The sempervivums which are as hard as nails stay outside to face whatever gets thrown at them. I find all these beauties form an integral part to the design of my summer display & their upkeep is minimal. I grew Ricinus communis ‘Impala’ for the first time this year which I’ll overwinter in the green house-it may or may not provide me with some red interest in the form of a small shrub until next spring when I’ll plant fresh seeds.
Another benefit to container gardening is you can adjust the compost you use to grow acid loving or ericaceous plants. I’m not a fan of camellias, rhododendrons, azaleas etc in pots-they can often look bedraggled & old school but a few heathers or Callunas well placed can add something especially to autumn & winter planting. Of course, the totally gross dyed heather plants one sees in the shops are to be avoided. Period.