Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Be Contained and Contented; Potting Up Your Summer Plants Won't Be Such a Chore If You Follow a Few Simple Insider Tips

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Be Contained and Contented; Potting Up Your Summer Plants Won't Be Such a Chore If You Follow a Few Simple Insider Tips

Article excerpt

Byline: Pattie Barron

GETTING summer containers right is child's play, once you know the insiders' tricks. Take polystyrene chippings, for instance take lots of them, because they make the ideal lightweight, disposable drainage material for pots, troughs and window boxes. You can find inexpensive outsize bags of them in packaging shops. Add a base layer to each pot before adding compost, and use them as filler for tall pots where the plants will only be getting their roots into the top few inches of compost. There is no need to buy John Innes soil-based compost a less dense, peat-free multipurpose compost will do fine for annual bedding, but don't let it dry out.

The pros mulch their plantings with pale shingle, slate pieces or, on larger plants, small pebbles: use to give each pot a good-looking finish that will also help retain moisture and avoid splashback from wet compost.

The key to a great display is to group pots together so they look like part of a border, each plant complementing the other. Raise some pots on bricks or even upturned terracotta pots to create different levels and make things a whole lot more interesting. That way you don't need to dream up artful compositions of multiple plantings, or worry about how much space in the compost each plant will need, but you can keep to one plant or group of plants per pot, moving the containers around to get the best combination of colours and shapes.

Thus a scarlet geranium in a terracotta pot might be highlighted by a feathery mass of lavender-blue felicia flowers, or be nudged by a trio of mahogany Aeonium Schwarzkopf, like miniature dark-foliaged palm trees. A bowl of caramel-coloured Serenity Bronze osteospermum could sit companionably alongside flowery frills of Black Cherry calibrachoa. Keeping to the "one plant type, one pot" principle also means that if one planting should fail prematurely, you can simply remove the whole pot and replace it.

Be wary of teaming deep, dark colours together. …

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