THE MODERN MINT BLOG
Container gardening is probably where most people who want to grow their own food start, especially if they live in the city and have no more space for soil to grow plants in than a windowbox.
(Although those who are a little more creative may turn a car park into a pot garden…)
Even with all the books written on container growing, it seems to be difficult to do – we often visit a client and see a random assortment of pots housing half-dead plants in desperate need of attention.
What is to be done about this?
Here are what we think are the most important thoughts on growing plants in pots and containers – and we are happy to hear about your experiences or your views if you don’t agree… (Contact us now.)
Drought tolerant plants need more water than normal when planted in pots.
In the ground they can get their big roots down into the earth and find water, but in pots they don’t have a chance to help themselves. Logically, this means the compost you need for growing in pots must be…
Great compost. Find it, use it.
When we gardened in Hampshire we would buy bags of Penwood Nurseries own potting mix for our clients. It would feed the plants for about 8 months, retain moisture and keep the flower displays looking great. We only realised just how important this compost mix was when instead this year we used a garden centre compost – the words ‘epic fail’ spring to mind.
Water ran straight through, rendering the act pointless, the plants looked starved within a month and within three months the soil had lost all of its structure. Replacing it was the only way to go – so please go to your local independent nursery (try these if you need somewhere to start) and yes, you may pay 3 times as much per bag – but using garden centre compost to garden in containers is a false economy.
Have less pots, but make them bigger.
Give the plants a chance to let their roots spread – then you can cram them full of lovely flowers. It also looks better -3 pots on a patio that have happy plants in is better than 24 pots of different shapes and sizes full of brown sticks. Pots can be made of anything. We like the wooden ones in the picture above, as well as these Zinc planters…
A Versailles planter was the traditional way to grow citrus fruit in a pot. You can see here the designs are ridiculous (do we need all the knobs on?) but the idea behind them – that you can remove the sides and so replace soil and check the health of the trees roots – is an important one.
Good luck with growing in containers. More and more in our garden designs we are creating planting pockets in the patios so that plants can be grown in the ground, where they can look after themselves rather than need fussing over. But we do like a low maintenance life…
(For more information on container gardening see these far more extensive books below…)
Guanock House needs a trainee topiary artist! Some of you may know it as the first home and garden of designer Arne Maynard, but is now owned and maintained by Michael Coleman and his wife Michelle. They offer meditation workshops and retreats there and it is as beautiful a house and garden as you could wish to visit. They called me in last Autumn to help shape up some of the topiary as it was all getting out of hand, but what it really needs is someone with a steady hand and lots of patience to take over the clipping …
Here are some photos of work I have been doing at the garden of Charlotte Molesworth in Kent. Snow and ice brings out the depth of the different planes and angles carved into the boxwood. A garden has to look beautiful in winter – and topiary (green architecture) helps do that! For more topiary pictures, click here.
How To Use Topiary In The Garden is my new talk, which I first gave last year via Zoom for the European Boxwood And Topiary Society. Returning to Zoom again, there are two dates available to see and hear the talk: March 16th – Book your ticket here April 6th – Book your ticket here The talk is great fun, perfect for keen gardeners or people who want to know how to improve their garden with hedges and architectural plants. How To Use Topiary In The Garden looks at how to move away from the idea topiary is twee or old-fashioned, …