Spring Planting Guide

can-stock-photo_csp10120401_no_copyrightAn exuberantly planted container in the height of summer, brimming with colourful abandon, is enough to make anyone jealous. But a smart choice of plants in a fabulous collection of pots is the result of careful spring planning.

Planted containers are the icing on the cake and pay dividends throughout the summer and well into autumn. Plants grow for their lives, spilling out of their pots, filling the air with colour and scent, attracting wildlife and generally impressing all. Their value is extensive: hiding manhole covers, softening a sharp corner of hard landscaping, marking an entrance or simply breaking up a big terrace. To have good pots however, one needs to spend wisely,  and always buy quality.

A winter of research has enlightened me. There is no excuse for orange ‘terracotta’ or concrete ‘stone’ containers any longer: push aside such shameful errors, get down to the garden centre and embrace a new wave of affordable taste in pots. Wyevale (0800 413 213 www.wyevale.co.uk) stock a range of Italian terracotta by Derama, at truly jaw dropping prices; £20 will get you a 60cm-tall, perfectly faded, terracotta pot, so you needn’t scrimp on size. What is important however, is the depth inside – anything too cone shaped will compromise on the root space of the planting. A rather more serious investment would be a chunky stone trough from Architectural Heritage in Taddington, Gloucestershire (01386-584 414, www.architectural-heritage.co.uk).

Venture further than the bedding section and broaden your horizons when shopping for plants. Forget the geraniums and use some perennials that could be planted out into the garden afterwards. Plan your container plant list now – and get your hands on seeds of unusual plants. A star plant for the cutting garden, herbaceous border or container is Cerinthe major ‘Purpurascens’, an endlessly flowering, glaucous leaf annual with purple flower bracts that will freely self-seed after flowering. I was recently tipped off about Verbena tenuisecta, the purple form ‘tapiens’ being a warm, deep violet that will tumble over the sides of the pot and mesmerise in terms of colour.

My dream container would be filled with a merry mix of perennials and annuals: Melianthus major (honey bush) for its fresh green, boldly toothed leaves, aromatic Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’ with its silver filigree foliage, Salvia officinalis ‘Purpurascens’ (purple sage), Helichrysum petiolaris to send reams of tiny grey felt leaves tumbling down the sides, Marguerite daisies (Leucanthemum vulgare) to lift the colours, and for texture, the woolly leaves of a Verbascum – cutting off the garish yellow flower spike. The pretty, pinkish purple flowers of Malva sylvestris bloom from late spring to mid-Autumn and add an informal, cottage-like charm. I would also find it hard to resist its slightly odd look. It grows to one metre though, so this would work better in a container of rather grand proportions.

Pots add huge seasonal value to the garden; and are quick to come to fruition. Don’t be caught out in July with garish geraniums and busy lizzies in oak barrels: get planning now and spark plant envy amongst your friends.

— Zinnia Mulford

Zinnia Mulford is a freelance garden designer based in Hungerford
Tel: 07747-031 815

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