The best thing about growing plants in pots is the ability to have an ever-changing display of seasonal plants. If you have limited space, a dull corner that needs lifting or you just love pots, then get busy creating a wonderful collection of container plants.
Adorn your garden with small alpines
Go for bold symmetry
Make it edible
Growing edible crops in containers is relatively easy and looks stunning, as these elegant pots at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show demonstrate. Some vegetables have very large root systems, so choose a container that’s deep and wide enough to accommodate them and which won’t dry out. Using small pots can result in a lack of moisture and nutrients for plant roots, so go for a minimum depth and width of about 46cm. Keep your vegetable and fruit well watered. Plants such as tomatoes are greedy feeders and need a lot of water, so you’ll need to keep an eye on them if they’re in containers. There are lots of inventive planting you can do with fruit and veg. Try planting chives around the base of standard bay trees – other edible crops look better planted with similar varieties or on their own. Blueberries look lovely in pots but are acid loving, so make sure you use ericaceous compost. Fig trees, especially the variety ‘Brown Turkey’, do well in pots too, as restricting the root growth encourages fruiting.
Place a container centre stage
Make a statement on a patio by placing an oversized planted pot in the middle. This will not only add impact, but also create a central feature to look at – a similar effect to having a statue at the end of the garden. Use one variety of plant in your central pot for greater impact; the deep blue flowers of the salvias in this garden combine well with the aged terracotta urn. Another trick that adds height and interest to a border is to nestle a large pot among other plants. This works well in very wet and dark borders, where little grows and the area needs ‘lifting’ visually.
Tone it down
Choosing which plants to use in a small container garden can be hard, especially if you want your space to look after itself as much as possible. The plants used in this balcony garden, when teamed with the mellow aged wood of the long planter, help to make the compact space feel larger. This is because the muted greens of the plants and the subtle touch of burgundy from the heuchera don’t shout out or jar the eye, but instead soften the whole corner, making it appear to have more depth and space. Bright colours can make the eye stop and not follow the flow of the planting, so they can make a space seem smaller. Use bright shades with caution in a small area unless you really love bold planting.
Have herbs at your fingertips
If you like cooking, what could be better than having fresh herbs within easy reach? Herbs are perhaps the most rewarding of container plants and can easily be grown indoors or outside. Growing herbs is also a good way to start a container garden. To keep herbs healthy in pots, pick the tips regularly and feed with a liquid seaweed while they are growing. Rosemary, bay, thyme, sage, coriander and sorrel grow particularly well in containers. Basil needs warm sun if grown outside, and parsley will die after a couple of years once it has flowered, so you’ll need to replant it. Plant herbs together or mix them in with other plants in containers. Mint is actually better grown in a pot rather than in a flower bed as it tends to run and you will be forever cursing it – despite the lovely smell!
Pick the perfect pot
A courtyard garden is ideal for containers and can really bring the outdoors inside – especially in this verdant spot. The glass panels on the doors let the homeowners see the pots and plants clearly from inside – so choose your planters well if you’re likely to see them a lot from indoors. Planting in pots means you can have an ever-changing floral display, so your choice of pots is crucial if you want to create a particular look. Choose classic terracotta containers if you want a timeless feel or opt for sleek, angular concrete or metal pots if you prefer something more contemporary. You can even transform old decorative tins and olive oil cans into containers to create a boho, eclectic feel. The choice is endless. Don’t be afraid to plant large shrubs or trees in containers, this will add to the feeling of space and the added height will provide interest.
Showcase a single specimen
Using an individual shrub in a container can add real impact to your space. Here, a soft-hued hydrangea has been used which blends well with its glazed pot to make a statement at the corner of a building. If you go for hydrangeas, be sure to plant them in ericaceous compost as it’s an acid-loving plant. If you want to pot a single plant that has lots of fragrance, try Daphne x transatlantica ‘Eternal Fragrance’, a compact plant which produces scented blooms from April through to October.