Eight Rules for Creative Container Gardening (Page 2)
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by John Richmond
Rule 4. Containers look better in a group. Unless your container is exceptionally decorative a group of containers makes a far better feature than a single pot. Pots can be added and replaced as required, the group refreshed as plants go over, and new combinations tried when you get tired of seeing the same arrangement. You can easily make changes in a single container, replacing plants two, three or more times a year. Try bulbs, wallflowers and pansies in spring, summer bedding for the hotter months, autumn and winter interest from chrysanthemums and foliage plants.
Rule 5. Grow permanent plants in their own container but combine single season plants. This is one of the rules that can be considerably bent but it is worth remembering that plants grow at different rates and some could easily overwhelm their companions. This is rarely a problem with summer bedding (although Surfinia and other modern strains of Petunia have an astonishing growth rate) but combining perennial plants in the same container can cause problems. Better to use one plant per pot and group the pots.
Rule 6. Provide winter protection and guard against spring frosts. I live in a mild area and most of my permanent container plants will survive the winter outdoors. I still have to guard against the containers - and the plant roots - freezing in the occasional bad spell so I pack the pots tightly together under the house walls, use sacking to insulate the sides and cover the plants with fleece if frost threatens. In harder winter areas your pots will need to be brought under cover and the plants hardened off as spring turns into summer.
Rule 7. Don't plant permanent plants in overlarge containers. In order to prevent the roots sitting in water repot only when the rootball reaches the sides and begins to mat. Then move the plants to containers one or two sizes larger. For slow growing plants - pieris and camellias for instance - it may take a couple of years before the plants reach their final size. Once they do, root and top pruning every few years will help to prevent deterioration. Think of it as bonsai on a larger scale.
Rule 8. Don't be frightened of using containers extensively.
As I said earlier, it's your garden. One of the loveliest small gardens I have ever visited was a tiny patch behind a town house. About 400 different plants were grown; lilies, roses, peonies, clematis, camellias, rhododendrons, crinodendron and countless others. They were all superbly grown and arranged. One of the climbing roses had reached the second floor and small trees and large shrubs gave height. All were underplanted with flourishing perennials and bulbs. Every plant was in a container, usually a simple plastic pot, but arranged in such a way that foliage and flowers were the only things visible. The effect was magical.
Eight simple rules - but enough to give you year long colour and interest in your own container garden.
John Richmond is a keen gardener who lives and works in the South West of England. He has a scientific background as a professional ecologist. He has written occasional articles for gardening and other magazines in Britain since 1984, specializing in garden wildlife issues and hardy plants.
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