Gone to pot

Charlie Wilkins writes that when it comes to gardening nous less is more

Hosta ‘Gold Standard’ delights from March to November in its large glazed pot. This variety (and most others) enjoy cool, shady conditions and as such are ideal for apartment balconies and the like. Remember to water often as the large leaves can act as a kind of umbrella.

In gardening, less can sometimes be more, and many beginners tend to over-plant and over-ornament. It is a mistake to introduce too many ideas, objects, or plants into too small an area. Most properties are small these days and there’s a natural tendency to want everything that takes one’s eye in other people’s gardens.

Ease up I suggest on over-heavy planting but increase the number of stopping points, and places of interest where you can sit and rest.

An easy way to create interest near garden seats and rest areas (and especially on balconies), is to use pots containing appealing and engaging plants. Herbaceous perennials are often neglected as suitable subjects, yet many lend themselves to simple pot culture. Let me give you a few examples.

Perennial wallflowers are made-to-measure container plants. Although they belong to the cabbage family (which make tap roots), in pots and containers their roots spread and divide. These evergreens often flower continuously through winter as well as summer but they’re probably at their best now. Many have dark buds opening to paler flowers that become more colourful as they age. All are wonderfully fragrant.

Erysimum Bowles’ Mauve is probably the best but 'Plant World Lemon' has flowers fading from pale yellow through bronze to mauve. Others are easily and cheaply sourced at garden centres.

Another good perennial is the hosta. One plant on its own in a simple hand-thrown or glazed pot makes a spectacular sculpture, moving through a series of different forms from tight, sharp spikes to huge open leaves.

Hosta ‘Gold Standard’ (illustrated) is a classic in our garden, its elegant green/yellow foliage has a grape-like bloom from early spring to late autumn and elegant blooms in mid-summer. Needless to say slugs would love it any night but to keep these rampaging gastropods away, the pot is stood in a shallow tray of water to make a moat.

Heucheras, which I have covered in recent months are also ideal when cultivated in pots and they have a range of qualities with which to bamboozle us. Apart from the fact that this family of ornamental foliage plants came through the last two winters here at Villa Marie without as much as a damaged leaf, their foliage is endlessly colourful, it has a good texture and the foam flower, (its colloquial name), always looks elegant and stylish. Generally, heucheras do best in light shade during the hottest part of the day for full sun would burn and discolour its foliage during very hot spells. The worst insect pest on these is vine weevil but they’re easily controlled with Provado Vine Weevil Killer. My personal choices include; ‘tiramisu’, ‘lime cordial’, ‘marmalade’ and ‘electric lime’ but no variety will be found less than good.


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