“Add panache to your patio with potted herbs, cheery annuals, cacti & succulents or a collection of potted bulbs.”
In most gardens – contemporary or classic – you will usually find a few pots. These might be planted up or left empty as focal points. As well as aesthetics, the use of pots is mainly driven by practical issues such as poor soil….. or a lack of it.
There are plenty of reasons why we like to use pots in a well-designed plot. Container gardening is one of the best ways to kick start a love of gardening, particularly for children, and is the ideal solution for green-thumbed renters who want to take their favourite plants with them if they move. Time poor gardeners often find they can happily manage to look after a few potted plants. Plus pots are portable. You can move pots around for a fresh new look, to catch the sun as the season changes, or out of sight when the plants have finished flowering. Container gardens are also incredibly versatile. You can grow almost anything from veges to violas. You can also have fun with the many different styles, shapes and colours and materials available.
Your choice of pots and plants should compliment the overall look of your home, garden or courtyard. For example if buying pots and plants for the balcony of a contemporary apartment, a collection of terracotta pots planted with pansies would look out of place. Whereas one large fibre-clay container filled with textural or structural planting would be perfect. Don’t rush the selection process, as it takes time to match the form, texture and colour of plants with the right container.
THE DESIGN RULES
Sophisticated gardens require a thoughtful approach to pot selection. A random mix of mismatched containers just doesn’t cut it these days. Think instead about using one beautiful large pot and place it at the end of a path as a focal point. Aim to be consistent with any theme. Even if you opt for cheery annuals in brightly coloured pots, it will look more effective if you repeat this idea throughout your garden.
When pairing pots and plants the common mistake is to allow your plants to dominate their pots. Both should complement each other in colour, shape and style. Think about the relationship between the colours and materials of your pots, the paving material they are sitting on, and any walls or screens nearby. The larger the pot, the better it is in most cases as large pots don’t dry out so quickly and give more space for plants to spread their roots and thrive. If its too big though, your pot might overwhelm the plant inside it, and make it look out of scale. When planting fruit trees now is the time to get the pot size right. It’s going to need plenty of good potting mix and water so you get a bumper crop of fruit. Weight can also be an issue for roof gardens and apartment balconies. Be sure to check out the vast selection of lightweight material pots available today.
It’s important to match the conditions of your courtyard, balcony or garden to the plants you select. There’s no point in buying shade loving plants for a sun-baked, north facing, courtyard. Pots are ideal for plants that need specific soil conditions, such as acid-loving daphnes, camellias or rhododendrons. Special potting mixes are a must for these plants. Choosing plants which have the ability to store water in their leaves or stems, such as cacti and succulents, are an obvious choice for containers in the hottest parts of your garden. But if you are over agaves, aloes, echeverias and their mates, then drought hardy natives such as dwarf flaxes and tussock grasses are a good bet. When planning your container garden it’s often a good idea to rig up an irrigation system. For porous terracotta pots seal the inside with a good waterproofing sealant otherwise they dry out much more quickly than their glazed cousins. Even Mediterranean herbs can’t hack too much heat, so keep any terracotta pots close to your garden tap or watering can. While you can modify some environmental effects by using screens, shade devices, humidity misters and so forth, its much less work in the long run – not to mention better for the health of your plants – if you work with the conditions.