Sarah Raven is a Sussex-based author and lifestyle expert who has mastered the art of container garden. Her Color Cutting Garden, displayed at the Chelsea Flower Show last year, is a perfect example of her unique talent for color. She manages to squeeze in study days at her idyllic home, and they are full of practical (and achievable) ideas. We spent a whole day with her, learning about pots and jars.
Restrict your palette
It is not worth going to a nursery or garden center to pick a random assortment of plants. (Unless you know how to make your random selections work together.) Sarah says limiting your palette is the first step to creating beautiful pot displays. She has identified three key palettes for pot displays:
Cool pastels like white, pale blues, and soft pink.
Deep jewel tones such as magenta, tangerine, and lime are dazzling.
Warm shades, including apricots, bronzes, and deep plums.
Above: An ice-blue color palette enhances an excellent gray background of a galvanized pan.
Tip White can kill certain combinations. Its starkness can make it a deadly color. White can be paired with pastels, silver, and soft blues.
They can be crammed in
The density of the plants is also essential in creating a pot full of flowers. Sarah recommends that you halve your border-spacing in pots. You will have a stunning display of plants, but you must also maintain them. Add a slow-release feed to the pool, and give it a foliar feeding, such as liquid seaweed, once every two weeks. In warm weather, these pots should be watered daily in the morning or evening.
Focus on Form
Colors and shapes are equally important. The contrast and complementing forms of some of the most beautiful pots are responsible for their stunning impact. Sarah’s mantra is Thrillers. Spillers. Fillers. When planning your pot recipe, consider plants that fulfill these three roles.
The thriller is usually something vertical and dramatic. The spiller, or trailing plant, will cascade over the edge of the pot. The filler, on the other hand, is the plant that binds the whole thing together. This is illustrated by a bank with a “thriller,” Pelargonium Attar of Roses, with its heady scent of roses and the pretty pale pink flowers. The trailing spiller, Buddleia Dreaming Purple, and the deep violet Heliotrope Midnight Sky (another rich aroma).
Create the perennial pot
Constantly emptying, refilling, and replacing plants is one of the most challenging things with heavy pots. The perennial bank is an excellent idea for large containers you wish to keep.
Preparing containers that will not be replanted for several years is essential. Make sure that there is good drainage, and use a loam-based compost. This will give your plants a great start. Perch Hill’s most stunning combination is Panicum elegans Frosted Explosion, Dahlia Tangerine, and Salvia â€ “Amistadâ€ (as shown). Mulch them nicely and place them in a protected area. They should be able to survive mild winters. Dahlias make excellent pot plants for Sarah: they are low-maintenance, floriferous, and cost-effective.
Extend your Season
You can get many months of color if you carefully consider what you plant in each pot. Perch Hill uses Iris Reticulate George as the top layer in every pot for spring. This gorgeous, glamorous, violet-purple dwarf iris will bloom in early spring and provide color when little else is in flower. Two separate layers of tulips will then emerge successively to ensure continuous flowering. This will work if you have crocks at the bottom of the pot and plenty of grit or sand mixed in with the compost. Layer tulips with the newest flowering bulbs at the bottom, 1 1/2 inches apart. Allow a few inches of compost to settle before adding the next layer. Venetian tulips (pictured) are available in September and can be planted as early as November.
Create color zones
You should think about the pots that will work well together, just as you plan what colors to use in your banks. Keep pots with very different color themes separated. For example, a showy yellow flower won’t look good against a brick wall in red. Blue tones that contrast can be stunning. When in doubt, try holding flowers up against a wall.
Reduce the workload
It can be a chore to move pots around in your garden. Not to mention, it’s a strain on the back. Perch Hill uses pot liners, which are black plastic pots that fit neatly into larger pots. You can remove the upper pot after your spring displays have ended without moving the base pot. If you live in a windy area, fill the main pot’s bottom with sand or polystyrene. You can also reduce the work by using perennial pots. In spring, you only need to remove the compost on the pool and add a fresh layer with a slow-release fertilizer.