Flowers in containers

Planting summer containers

By Paul Hervey-Brookes, May 30

Planting summer containers

When planting containers for the summer try to choose plants that flower over a long period of time, are tolerant of container cultivation and respond well to deadheading.

The mainstay of summer containers are tender perennials. These include annual bedding plants, fuchsias, pot marigold, scented leaved pelargoniums and easy from seed annuals such as nasturtium.

There are several different ways to plant up containers and it all depends on personal choice what you do. A structural plant in the centre surrounded by bedding plants, is the easiest option, colour wise, either a mix on one colour, say lavender or colours which co-ordinate like yellow and blue are always harmonious on the eye. Don't forget to add a few herbs for 'brush past' scent and trailing plants to bulk out the underside of baskets or add a luxuriant feel to containers on pedestals.

As hanging baskets are usually placed in direct sunlight try to ensure that you use water retaining compost, or add a ring of plastic to stop water from passing through very quickly. You could always try drought resistant plants such as cacti or sedum for a contemporary feel. Peppers or tumbling tomatoes add an entirely different look to the hanging basket and are easy to reach for picking! Place a couple outside your back door.

It is always a good idea to group containers for a focal point and they can also be used to enhance an unused corner in the garden or on the terrace. Apart from the usual containers that you buy at the garden centre, try planting in other things to add a sense of personalisation. Old tea tins look great with succulents or some trailing geraniums, Empty wooden boxes, old tin buckets, watering cans, a painted tyre hung on the wall, old canvas bags or sacks, the list is positively endless and can really bring out your creative side. It's a good way to get everyone in the family outdoors as well seeing how can be the most creative!

Foliage plants are the ultimate accessories as the colours can be strong enough without any other plants. A container full of the striking Fountain grass or the tall Silver grass such as Pennisetum can really add wow factor . The rich bronze of Carex commons looks particularly good in containers and whilst your at it don't be afraid to mix in a few permanent planting to your group of containers to give valuable structure.

Whatever container or combination of plants you decide on, be adventurous with them and bring colour and variety to your pots!


Paul has his own highly successful landscape design business, and has also designed a range of gardening gifts for Marks and Spencers.

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