We have plenty of containers of all shapes and sizes in our garden – some full of Tulips and other spring colour and some empty, waiting to be used. From a gigantic pot containing an aged Hosta which dominates a shady corner through spring and summer, to tiny terracotta pots inherited from relatives and other gardens - only large enough to accommodate one bedding plant, they are all useful. I prefer plain terracotta containers as they look better with age once the algae and weather set in on them, but we have a mixture of glazed pots as well and these always look good grouped together when they are planted.
Firstly I must deal with the Tulip pots, which have been beautiful this year. Some, such as the Lily Flowered variety ‘Ballerina’ are in their first year, so I will ‘hide’ these in a dry part of the garden out of site and hope that the cat keeps an eye on mice and voles which may eat the bulbs before they appear next spring! Those that have flowered for the second year will be congested, so I will empty them from the containers and heel them into a spare piece of ground before planting them out in late autumn. November is the best time to plant Tulip bulbs both in the ground and in pots.
There are always some casualties amongst my pots and these need to be replaced with new ones but the old ones live on in the form of ‘crocks’ – broken pieces of terracotta which are placed in the bottom of other containers to help with drainage. Once I have decided which containers I will use for summer bedding plants the agonising over colours and the types of plants to use begins!
Some are always on my list and Lobelia richardii is one of them. This beautiful half hardy perennial makes traditional bedding Lobelia look like a cheap firework and once you have grown it you will see why! The glossy, waxy leaves are borne on vigorous spreading stems and the china blue flowers look stunning against them. There are other varieties of half hardy Lobelia available including ‘Waterfall Blue Ice’ with royal blue blooms that have a bold splash of white to the centre – perfect for a shady spot and you will only need two or three to fill a medium sized pot that will be packed with colour for months.
Calibrachoa is another favourite of mine. The trailing ‘Surfinia’ Petunias are all very well in a big basket or container on their own but will come to dominate a mixed planting, pushing out many smaller plants. They need a lot of feed, plenty of watering in dry weather and regular removal of dead flowers to look good all season. Calibrachoa are the smaller cousins available (like the Surfinias) in a huge range of tempting colours including white, beautiful bright yellow and terracotta shades, searing reds and deep blue along with ‘Hot Pink’ which was a winner in my pots last year. Many have a contrasting deep eye to the centre of the flowers which only adds to their charm.
The rise of Bacopa is amazing! This reliable trailing plant is excellent to lace through the front of a sunny border or for use to hang down the sides of pots or in baskets. The ‘original’ white variety ‘Snowflake’ is still justifiably popular and has been joined by larger flowered white varieties including a lovely double called ‘Snowball’. There are other colours as well including one of my favourites ‘Colossal Blue’ with its orange-eyed soft mauve flowers -stunning to tone down the hot colours of Cape Daisies (Osteospermums) and Marguerites.
I’m off to round up my pots and get planting!