Archive for April 13th, 2010

Flower Power – The Potted Garden

Since spring seems to have sprung very early this year and we can’t help ourselves by wanting to start planting our urns and containers, there are a few questions you should ask yourself about where you are going to put the containers. First decide whether they will be in full sun all day, shade or exposed to heavy winds. Once you have decided this and have picked the container your next step is to make sure the container has proper drainage.

Some containers come with pre-drilled holes already.  If not, you can quite easily drill these yourself. To prevent the soil from washing out, use screen or clay shards and line the bottom. Next make sure you use potting soil as this tends to be easier and looser for houseplants and potted plants to grow in. You should leave half an inch to one inch of room at the top of the pot for water to sit before it settles into the potting soil.

Keep the soil evenly moist even on those cool days; sun and wind can speed up dryness. Although primrose, pansies, daffodils and tulips can thrive in cool weather and can withstand light frost, they don’t like snowfall and ice. So if we get caught out again this spring, move them into the garage if you can. If not, place three or four tall stakes just inside the container and drape a light sheet over top to cover but not rest on the plants. Remember to remove it the next morning.

Once you start to place your plants think first about your focal point, tulips and daffodils grow tall.  Those wonderful hellebores that I spoke about a while back would look great and can be transplanted into your garden later. Look in your garden for interesting branches.  Those just budding out offer more texture.  Curly willow or blossom branches can be bought at your local florist. Trailing ivy can survive at this time of year too, and gives a nice flow to your containers that will last right through till the fall.

Try to use a generous amount of plants per container as this will give you a nice lush look, and multiples of the same plant gives a dramatic effect. Sphagnum moss which can also be bought at your local florist gives a finishing touch and hides the bare soil. It also helps support floppy stems and keeps water from spilling over the sides.

Plants in window boxes dry out faster than in the ground, make sure they are not too heavy to support the brackets.  Using fiberglass window boxes can significantly reduce the weight. Leave at least ½ inch between the window box and the side of the house for water to drip through. Trailing plants like white bacopa, ivy, and trailing geraniums in the summer months look wonderful in these.

Containers usually look good for 6 to 8 weeks depending on the weather of course.  If it is sunny and hot it could be 4 weeks.  Remember to dead head faded blooms to prolong flowering. There is no need to totally strip your container once they start to fade.  Pansies can survive until mid summer and your ivy will last as a good base, so just replace gradually as needed. Look around for a nice topiary or the diplodemia vine which can be your focal point for the summer container and build around that.

When the weather warms up I will talk about growing vegetable and herbs in containers too. So go out and enjoy planting your spring urns, just be cautious of what you are putting in the container because of the weather.

Nicola Bishop


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